Marilyn Monroe {180 Tag}

My friend Kate of Silents and Talkies started a tag last week that I think is pure genius.  I liked the idea so much, I’ve decided to tag myself with it.

Here’s Kate’s criteria: “Name an actor, actress or director that you started out despising (or just really not liking) but ended up loving. Or vice versa, someone you started out loving and ended up despising (or just really not liking) — and explain why.

I’m sure I’m going to shock some people with my choice for this tag, but I love shocking people so here goes – My choice is Marilyn Monroe, “a star I started out despising and ended up loving.”

“But how can you dislike Marilyn?” you cry incredulously, the indignation rising. I’ll try to explain.

When I was a budding early teen film fan, I saw snippets of Marilyn in Bus Stop and Clash By Night. I don’t think I ever watched either film totally through until much later. I did make it through Some Like It Hot, and while boosting my crushes on Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, it did nothing to alleviate my prejudice against Marilyn.  When I saw Marilyn on screen, her sexy whisper grated on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard. The dumb blonde image she often embodied offended me to no end.  The entire idea of Marilyn as nothing more than a sex symbol put me off in every way. I’m a modest creature by nature (probably very modest according to modern standards) so at the time, the whole “in your face” sexuality Marilyn oozed just made my skin crawl. She reminded me too much of the modern culture I was vigorously fighting against.

After many years of living in “Marilyn Despisal,” I had my epiphany last year. The Film Noir Classic Collection box sets were on sale at Amazon, so like a good Noir fan, I snatched them up right away. Looking over the films included in each set, I saw Clash By Night was in Volume 2. It was disappointing, not only because it wasn’t a favorite of mine, but because I couldn’t understand how it was considered Film Noir. Despite these objections, I bought it anyway. My mom and I made our way through each box set, one by one. When it came time to watch Clash By Night, I wasn’t expecting much but decided to give it chance. The result was a complete turnaround on my views of Marilyn.

Maybe it happened because I have matured, maybe I was just in a weak moment, or maybe it was just my time to become a Marilyn fan. No matter what the reason, Marilyn disarmed me with her fresh honesty, sweetness, and down to earth manner. Marilyn was gorgeous, but she acted like she didn’t know or care. She was (or at least seemed) blissfully ignorant of her physical beauty. It’s a truly remarkable quality found in few. I get so annoyed with modern female film stars who walk around virtually screaming “Hey, look at me, I think I’m drop dead gorgeous!” And, it’s practically never true, anyway.  Marilyn comes up tops against them all.

Clash By Night is one of my favorite Marilyn films for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned plus one more.  The chemistry she has with Keith Andes is electric. If you ask me, Marilyn and Keith steal the whole film from Barbara Stanwyck and Paul Douglas (I say this even as a huge Paul Douglas fan). It’s obvious Marilyn and Keith’s characters have a strong physical attraction to each other, but they also share a meaningful friendship which allows them to kid around and just be silly. It’s easy to imagine their characters having a successful marriage, still being able to laugh with each other even 50 years on.

So, now as a Marilyn Monroe convert, I seek out every film she made, finding that each and every one has merit of some kind and is a wonderful film. She’s one of those actors who guarantees the success of a picture by her very presence. I recommend all of her films I have mentioned in this post. Her whisper has grown on me over time, and I now see it as a reflection of her shyness. The dumb blonde cliche which offended me so much before now only serves to remind me of the real Marilyn, who was not dumb at all. In fact, she was smart enough to figure out a way to escape her type-casting that studio heads would be forced to accept. And while I can recognize the image of Marilyn as a sex symbol, I have learned to look past it and see her as the kind hearted, fragile person she actually was. I suppose, in the end, Marilyn has the last laugh on me. And you know what? I don’t mind a bit.

And with that, I hereby tag the following bloggers with the 180:

Nicole at Classic Hollywood Nerd

Laura at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings

Matthew at Movietone News

(Have you ever noticed how I tag a lot of the same people? I hope they don’t get mad at me!)

If you would like to do a 180 of your very own, go ahead! Don’t be shy: write it up, post it and let me know. I’ll link it for you here as one of my tag-ees.


Filed under Film Bloggers, Noir, Tags & Awards

11 responses to “Marilyn Monroe {180 Tag}

  1. I’m glad you’ve converted over to the league of Marilyn Monroe fans. I wasn’t put off by her, but didn’t seek her out until I saw Niagara then was hooked. Her child-woman sexuality is something that’s offputting at first, but then fascinating later.

    I have watched almost every single Marilyn Monroe film except for 3, so let me know if you need recommendations.

  2. Hmmm… I’ll have to give this some thought. Meanwhile, the headers are up!

  3. I can understand Marilyn coming up as annoying actually. I´ve always likes her, but I can understand where you were coming from.

    I am not sure I agree she was totally ignorant of her beauty. I think very few women are, and she was a start. But, she didn´t seem over confident about it, and that probably gave her part of the charm.

  4. I meant she was a star, not a start :P

  5. Hi Mara, Thanks for commenting! I appreciate your thoughts on Marilyn. You’re right when you say Marilyn was not overconfident of her beauty. When I compare her to other stars of the era, like Rita Hayworth for example, I feel that Marilyn rises above the others because her sexuality is not her main concern. There is an innocent quality about her that is appealing. Whether that quality was real or part of her star image, it was effective nonetheless. I’m a fan now! :)

  6. A belated thank you for this tag! Life has been kind of crazy trying to get back to normal after our trip (grin). I thought this was a very interesting topic and I have someone in mind I could write about. I hope to do so before too much longer! :)

    Have a great weekend!

    Best wishes,

  7. Hi Laura! You’re so welcome! I’m relieved to find you were just busy. I thought you didn’t like tags and I was offending you by tagging you. I’m so glad I was wrong! :) Can’t wait to see who your 180 will be! :D

    Happy weekend to you, too!


  8. Oh, no, I wouldn’t take offense from a blogging friend! :) So sorry you were worried about that! !

    Sometimes I just can’t keep up with work, homeschooling, etc., and this month was more of a challenge than most. I fear my number of posts per week has gone way down of late!

    Best wishes,

  9. I’m so glad. :)

    I totally understand how busy you must be. I’m constantly amazed at how many posts you write! You leave me in the dust by a mile. :)

  10. Pingback: Irony and The Seven Year Itch | Noir Girl

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