As excited as I am to see Michelle Williams’ portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn” (in cinemas 25th Nov) I’m also very apprehensive. I have always loved auld MM and it was Andy Warhol’s screen prints and the wind-up-skirt shots that first caught my attention around age 8. I soon became obsessed with all of the Norma Jean mythology; the rare photos of her reading or shooting a bow and arrow, stories of her difficult childhood, her husbands and affairs, any info I could get my hands on made me feel like I knew the REAL Norma Jean instead of the Marilyn Monroe facade.
Unfortunately, I soon discovered that this intimate relationship I thought I was having with Norma Jean was in fact being experienced by millions of other Norma Jean fans around the world (Elton John included). Andy Warhol’s colourful screen prints, a commentary on the mass consumerism of Marilyn’s image, began to be mass consumed all over again. Those “rare” photos began to pop up on bags and t-shirts. Countless “biographys” perpetuating fantasies about Marilyn’s eleven toes, plastic surgery and all those conspiracy theories surrounding her death abound. It’s impossible to know all the private things about Marilyn so people just make it up themselves. Secret husbands come out of the woodwork armed with only one photograph but 20 years worth of anecdotes. Transcripts of conveniently destroyed tapes recorded be Marilyn’s analyst surface with lurid details of trysts with Joan Crawford. As if the Marilyn Monroe myth wasn’t constructed and packaged enough in her lifetime, it just keeps snowballing.
This somewhat cannibalistic appetite for all things Marilyn does concern me a little, and surely with the sheer volume of Marilyn “experts” knocking around these days a screen portrayal is next to impossible. People are so surrounded with Marilyn evidence that they’ll be able to see every flaw in Michelle’s appearance, voice and mannerisms. Michelle has received some alright reviews so I will reserve judgement until I see the movie, but for now, here are some of my favorite “rare” photos of Norma Jean and Marilyn Monroe.