Marilyn Monroe – Still an American Icon?

By Larry Teren

Back in the 1950’s and very early 1960’s, Marilyn Monroe was the reigning sex goddess and became an American icon. She was more than just someone whose picture had staples coming out of its navel as the centerfold in a girlie magazine. She could sing and act. At least, I think she could sing. That was her singing in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as well as Bus Stop, right? And she did justice to Happy Birthday at President Kennedy’s bash.

Although a method actress, she was equally adept at comedy as well as drama. More than just a pretty face in Niagara, she held her own with Joseph Cotten. And she liked to be wed to educated and talented guys such as Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio. She was a most beautiful creature who earned her keep. Yet, her talent and adoring fans could not keep her away from the pitfalls of fame. She died for her own sins.

Another sex goddess, Jayne Mansfield as well had a couple of good performances on film. She was a talented concert musician who decided it was easier to make lots of money in cheesecake rather than playing a violin. And no one deserved to die the way she did.

Other great performers caused their own downfall such as the legendary Judy Garland and the way too young James Dean. Let’s also not forget John Belushi They all left us with awesome memories of their talents captured on both audio and video. The Greek Mythologists would have loved them all.

What do we have today for female glamor celebrities- Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton? Give me a break. Other than looking anorexic, what else has Paris done? Sure, she gets the tv ratings and maybe that is all that matters. Pardon the pun, what is her body of work?

Jessica appeared in a movie or two and she posed better than she spoke. Even Raquel Welch from 1965 through the early 70’s showed us she could act a little even if she was tough to deal with on movie sets. Okay, Raquel was a sex goddess for a few years but got bored with it and drifted off to counting her money.

Am I just an old fogie who cannot relate to new symbols of sexuality? I think back to what it must have been like in the 1950’s when Marilyn Monroe burst out onto the scene (sorry). My father was in his thirties and happily married with multiple kids. But he still was breathing. He had to find Marylin Monroe interesting to watch. Still, young ladies did not expose their attributes by wearing v-shaped thongs. The one piece bathing suit pretty much protected a lady’s virtue. Men still made passes at girls who wore glasses even though Marilyn Monroe scoffed at that notion.

How did the fifty and above crowd of males relate to Marilyn Monroe on screen? Did they compare her to Jean Arthur, Barbara Stanwyck, Irene Dunne, Myrna Loy, Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard and the like? Or did they lump her into the category of Jean Harlow, Jane Russell and Virginia Mayo- cheesecake who could act a bit? Did they analyze the artistic merits of her performances or just go to enjoy and have a good time? Unfortunately, my sample audience is gone and unable to answer.

I guess I’ll just forget about it and concentrate on more important things like what’s going to happen when Michael leaves The Office next year? Does Dwight take over as branch manager (shudder)?
Or if Chevy Chase immediately disappeared after being zapped by a laser ray gun, would it make much of a difference to the continuity of the weekly Community scripts? And in thirty or even fifty years, is some guy who was just born last week going to be lamenting about what ever happened to the quality of celebrities with the passing of Paris and Jessica?

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