When I saw the headline in a recent NY Times article:
I thought, fantastic…maybe some misplaced or forgotten footage of an interview with Ms Monroe was found.
Alas, such was not the case. Not to take away anything from the lengthy article about lost footage of the “the shot seen around the world” from the movie The Seven Year Itch…. but how much more of Ms. Monroe can be “seen” that hasn’t been seen previously?
My interest in Ms. Monroe, aside from her undeniable beauty, is what made her tick. I don’t proclaim to have any expertise about her other than being an admirer. I enjoy her movies, most of them anyway, but always thought or had a feeling that she wasn’t the dumb, beautiful bombshell that she portrayed in so many of her movies – and even aside from that obvious conclusion – I thought there was something more that I should know about her.
I’ve read various notations of her reportedly having an IQ in the 160’s (noted here and here) and on other sites on the web. She enjoyed reading – a lot, it seems. Having a library of over 400 books on a variety of subjects, maybe she read all of them, or as is the case with my library, read maybe half of them. Regardless, she had the desire, an intense desire, it appears, to better herself and that’s what I admire about her. She wanted to be smarter, be better, advance, expand her thinking and intellect – she was hungry for more knowledge.
From the article – Not Just a Dumb Blonde by Neil Norman
Although she was often asked by photographers to pose with a book as if “suddenly” caught in the act of reading James Joyce or Dostoyevsky, they were more than just props. She was reading them.
“We worked on a beach on Long Island,” photographer Eve Arnold wrote. “I asked her what she was reading when I went to pick her up… She kept Ulysses in her car and had been reading it for a long time. She said she loved the sound of it and would read it aloud to herself to try to make sense of it but she found it hard going… When we stopped at a local playground to photograph, she got out the book and started to read while I loaded the film. So, of course, I photographed her.”
…and from the same article
Susan Strasberg, daughter of her acting coach Lee Strasberg, said: “When she wasn’t an expert on a subject but wanted to be, she got hold of someone and picked their brains… She collected experts, one on the stock market, one on poetry, one on the world situation.”
As Lois Banner concludes: “These are not the habits of a vapid woman. The realisation that one has more to learn and the thirst for knowledge are the hallmarks of the most intelligent. She may not have had formal schooling but Marilyn was a woman not only self-educated but brilliantly so.”
This thirst for knowledge, which is also a thirst for truth, is a wonderful trait to have. Most don’t have it, especially those who we think should have it above everyone else.
To have a passion for the printed word, whether it be reading James Joyce’s Ulysses or kicking back reading Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass , as Ms. Monroe apparently enjoyed reading, or any of the thousands of other classic’s is something we all should aspire to. While we here at the Asylum certainly don’t have the IQ of Ms. Monroe, we greatly admire her intellect, and even more so, her thirst for knowledge.
Feminist biographer Oline Eaton has a great rant on her Finding Jackie blog about the phrase “Marilyn Monroe reading,” and the 5,610,000 search engine results it yields when typed into Google:
There is, within Monroe’s image, a deeply rooted assumption that she was an idiot, a vulnerable and kind and loving and terribly sweet idiot, but an idiot nonetheless. That is the assumption in which ‘Marilyn Monroe reading’ is entangled.
The power of the phrase Marilyn Monroe reading’ lies in its application to Monroe and in our assumption that she wouldn’t know how.
Would that everyone searching that phrase did so in the belief that her passion for the printed word rivaled their own. Imagine legions of geeks loving her for her brain, bypassing Sam Shaw’s iconic subway grate photo in favor of home printed pin ups depicting her with book in hand.
And to conclude – a few quotes from Mr. Monroe:
“Men are climbing to the moon, but they don’t seem interested in the beating human heart.” ~ Marilyn Monroe
“Everyone’s childhood plays itself out. No wonder no one knows the other or can completely understand. By this I don’t know if I’m just giving up with this conclusion or resigning myself — or maybe for the first time connecting with reality. How do we know the pain or another’s earlier years, let alone all that he drags with him since along the way at best a lot of leeway is needed for the other — yet how much is unhealthy for one to bear. I think to love bravely is the best and accept -— as much as one can bear.” ~ Marilyn Monroe
“Fame has a special burden, which I might as well state here and now. I don’t mind being burdened with being glamorous and sexual. But what goes with it can be a burden. I feel that beauty and femininity are ageless and can’t be contrived, and glamour, although the manufacturers won’t like this, cannot be manufactured. Not real glamour; it’s based on femininity. I think that sexuality is only attractive when it’s natural and spontaneous. This is where a lot of them miss the boat. And then something I’d just like to spout off on. We are all born sexual creatures, thank God, but it’s a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift. Art, real art, comes from it, everything.” ~ Marilyn Monroe
Photo credit: By Trailer screenshot Trailer can be viewed here. There are no copyright marks. (Some Like It Hot trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: By Marilyn_Monroe,_Korea,_1954.jpg: USMC Archives derivative work: César [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: By Macfadden Publications New York, publisher of Radio-TV Mirror (page 23) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: By Dell Publications, Inc. New York, publisher of Modern Screen (Page 37) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons