Thursday, October 20, 2016

Breaking Down "Secret Life" Part 5/10

Episode 1 continued: Marilyn’s early acting career

For this post, we wrap up the first episode of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe!

Special thanks to April for helping me a bit with the Gladys timeline

This is a continuation of my series of blog posts titled “Breaking Down ‘The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe’ the movie.” If you have not, please check out the other parts of this review.

Links are here!
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This area in the movie is a bit confusing, chronologically, to any Marilyn historian. So rather than try to organize it, I’m just going to explain the events depicted in the film and contrast them with what happened in real life, no matter what order they’re in. To make it a little less hard to track! And I even thought of a new way of breaking things down that I’ll start doing. I’m going to begin listing film bits as “the movie” and real life as “real life,” so it’s easier to separate and a little more comprehensive. Let me know if you like the new format of if it's too confusing.

(1) THE MOVIE: Kelli as Marilyn is very tipsy by this point and after an award exchange with her psychiatrist, Dr. DeShields, Marilyn expresses her concern that she is afraid of “becoming her mother.”

  > (1) REAL LIFE: Marilyn lived her entire life in constant fear that she would end up like her mother. She was afraid she would inherit her mother’s mental illness and be locked up in an institution. Much speculation about Marilyn’s mental state has been presented by Marilyn fans and scholars. Some think she in fact had bipolar disorder, and some just think she suffered severe depressive episodes. While it’s important to consider certain aspects of her health, she cannot be diagnosed. You cannot diagnose a deceased person. Marilyn was not diagnosed as bipolar, split personality, or any type of mental imbalance while she was alive. What needs to be kept in mind is that she, for the most part, had a horrible childhood. She was constantly abandoned, shuffled back and forth between numerous foster homes and families, suffered an incident of sexual abuse, and lived her life in constant question of why she wasn’t wanted or loved. That’s more than enough to spark lifelong depression upon anyone.

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

 (2) THE MOVIE: Gladys has another episode of being frightened that people are following her, and she starts closing the curtains and running about the house with worry. Grace attempts to restrain her on the sofa. Marilyn hurriedly shows Gladys a gift she got her to calm her down. Inside is a white nurse’s uniform and hat.  Gladys snatches it out of her hand and leaves the room to change into it, and Grace and Marilyn are relieved that Gladys is now preoccupied with the gift.

  > (2) REAL LIFE: This incident appears in the book The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, but lacks any substantiation. With the confusing chronology of the movie, it’s difficult to place the date the supposed event occurred, but if it is keeping time with being after Marilyn posed for Tom Kelley in 1949, then Gladys would be married to John Stewart Eley and living elsewhere in Los Angeles. Throughout June and July of that year, Marilyn was off in other states promoting her film Love Happy. In August through October, she was on location in Durango, Colorado filming A Ticket To Tomahawk.

(3) THE MOVIE: Kelli as Marilyn arrives at the home of Natasha Lytess, played by Embeth Davidtz, who was suggested to her by Joe Schenck. Lytess looks Marilyn over, evaluating her and asking her questions. Marilyn stats that she is afraid of loneliness and that she just wants to be loved.

 > (3) REAL LIFE: This is all, for the most part, true. Only Marilyn met Lytess through Columbia. In 1948, Marilyn’s 20th Century Fox screen test was sent to Columbia pictures for consideration for signing. One lady in the small group of people in the room viewing that test was Columbia’s drama coach at the time, Natasha Lytess. Lytess, herself, was unimpressed with Marilyn, but nevertheless agreed to work with her. Many people thought that by working with her, Lytess was wasting her time trying to teach this young starlet, but Marilyn paid for and attended her classes for several weeks, and improvements were quickly showing. She was signed to Colmbia Pictures in March of 1948 at $125 a week. She would work there for just six months, completing just one picture, before they dropped her.
From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"
Marilyn with Natasha Lytess, 1952.

 (4) THE MOVIE: Marilyn is at another party with Joseph Schenck. This is an important one because this is the party where Schenck introduces Marilyn to who would soon become one of the most important figures in her life and career: Johnny Hyde.
> (4) REAL LIFE: Johnny Hyde was one of the biggest names in Hollywood at the time. He was the vice president of the William Morris Agency and  he represented notable names such as Rita Hayworth and Bob Hope. Marilyn and Johnny first met in 1949, Marilyn in her early 20’s and Johnny in his 50’s. The two were introduced at a party at the Racquet Club in Palm Springs. Marilyn was there on a modeling assignment. Johnny convinced Lester Cowan to view her rushes from Love Happy. Shortly after, she was signed to the William Morris Agency. For the rest of his life, Johnny would beg Marilyn to marry him, so that she could inherit all of his money after he died; he had a fatal heart condition. Marilyn loved and respected him, and stayed loyal to him, but she refused to marry him. She would not marry someone she was not in love with just to receive money as an incentive.

Marilyn with Johnny Hyde.

(5) THE MOVIE: Susan Sarandon as Gladys is getting ready to leave Marilyn’s home, shortly after Marilyn informed her that she has landed a role in the upcoming star-studded Fox production All About Eve. Gladys explains that she is going to stay with Aunt Dora in Oregon for the time being.

> (5) REAL LIFE: If Marilyn had just received word she was to have a role in Eve, this would place this point in Secret Life the film taking place in March of 1950, when Marilyn first signed her contract to appear in Eve. She would work on Eve from the end of March to May 1950. Gladys’s whereabouts in 1950 aren’t really known, she was for the most part off by herself. According to Berniece Miracle, she stayed in Oregon late in 1946.

(6) THE MOVIE: Kelli as Marilyn is seen at Natasha Lytess’s home rehearsing a part in All About Eve. She is visibly nervous and breathing heavy. She suddenly interrupts her reading in a panic. She is afraid that people are listening in on her. “They’re talking about me,” she yells. “You don’t hear that? I can’t do this while they’re out there!” Natasha pulls back the curtain and surveys the outside, trying to explain to Marilyn that there is no one out there. Marilyn then collapses into a ball of nerves in Natasha’s lap as Natasha tries to soothe her and comfort her.

(6 )REAL LIFE: Marilyn often stayed at Natasha’s home to rehearse lines and attend private coaching. As we determined earlier, Marilyn was terrified of inheriting her mother’s mental illness. Gladys was schizophrenic. Marilyn was not. By no accounts from anyone who knew her personally did she ever “hear voices” or think people were “listening in on her.” Marilyn never displayed this type of behavior, which is constantly being mentioned in Taraborrelli’s The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe and is simply not accurate. So it’s safe to say that all of the dramatic and psychotic episodes that are portrayed in this film never happened, so I will be avoiding further detailed discussion about them, assuming you get the point.
From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"
(7) THE MOVIE: Kelli as Marilyn is in the midst of filming a scene for All About Eve. Johnny Hyde appears on set to hand her an urgent note. The note reads that Gladys, although gone for a few weeks, never made it to Oregon. This immediately stresses Marilyn out, who becomes worried for her mother’s whereabouts. Johnny Hyde is surprised to find out that Gladys is alive, as he and the entire Hollywood world were under the impression that her mother had died a long time ago, and that Marilyn had grown up an orphan. Hyde promises to find Gladys, and hands Marilyn some pills to calm her down, which she reluctantly accepts.

> (7) REAL LIFE: As a rising starlet, Marilyn had always informed the press that she had been orphaned at a young age. This was done to protect Gladys’s privacy, only the truth came out eventually. Fortunately, she received much sympathy for this, rather than criticism for lying. In addition, it’s no secret that Marilyn was addicted to sleeping medication for much of her life. Had she been provided proper help, she might still be alive today. Johnny passed away from his heart condition in December of 1950. He was like a father figure to Marilyn, and she was devastated when he died. Natasha recalls an event in which she returned home one day to find Marilyn unconscious in her bed, after an apparent suicide attempt from sleeping pills. She had to be rushed to a nearby hospital to have her stomach pumped.

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"
Marilyn with Johnny Hyde, 1949.

(8) THE MOVIE:  Johnny Hyde walks up to Marilyn during a promotional photo shoot, informing her that her mother’s new husband, John Stewart Eley, has a wife in Boise, Idaho, and that Gladys was not aware of it.

 (8) REAL LIFE: John Stewart Eley and Gladys Baker wed in April of 1949. Eley was an electritian from Boise, Idaho. There is nothing to substantiate the story about Eley being married to a woman in Idaho at the time he was married to Gladys. According to his obituary from 1953, he only left behind his sister and Gladys. The wife story may have come directly from Gladys, who would likely have created it and worried about it as a result of her mental illness.

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

(9) THE MOVIE: Kelli as Marilyn is seen rehearsing her big musical number, Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, for the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She soon receives a note from Zanuck stating that they have granted her request for a dressing room, but that they declined to increase her salary. “The picture’s called ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,’ and I’m the blonde! If this picture’s a hit, things are gonna change around here.”

 (9) REAL LIFE: For the production of Blondes, Jane Russell was loaned out to Fox for $200,000. This was a much smaller amount than Marilyn was getting paid for. Marilyn’s contract at 20th had her earning just $500 a week. She had equal star billing to Jane, so it’s understandable she would be upset and feeling like she deserved more money for an equally important performance. In her last interview from July 1962, she said: “She, by the way, was quite wonderful to me. The only thing was I couldn’t get a dressing room. I said, finally –I really got to this kind of level – I said ‘Look, after all, I am the blonde and it is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes!’ Because still they always kept saying, ‘Remember, you’re not a star.’ I said ‘Well, whatever I am, I am the blonde!’”

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

(10) THE MOVIE: Marilyn is with her team getting ready to attend the Photoplay Awards. She is surprised when Gladys suddenly barges in the room and begins frantically closing the curtains.

(10) REAL LIFE: Gladys stayed at Rockhaven sanitarium from 1953 to 1967. Before this, she was staying with the Bolenders, the first foster family that took care of Norma Jeane. In October of 1952, Grace McKee wrote Marilyn suggesting that Gladys be transferred to Rockhaven, which ultimately wouldn’t happen until February of the following year. Gladys was admitted there on the same day as the night of the Photoplay Awards (February 9, 1953), although some evidence suggests that may have been the day before, on the 8th. Whatever the case, Marilyn did not see her. The whole fiasco with Gladys at Marilyn’s house depicted in the movie never happened.

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

(11) THE MOVIE: Kelli as Marilyn arrives at the Photoplay Awards looking exquisite in a replica of one of the most famous dresses in Marilyn history: the gold one used in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and designed by William Travilla. I didn’t notice this little detail until watching the movie this time around, but you can see Marilyn walk right past Giacomo Gianniotti, who plays Jim Dougherty, Marilyn’s first husband. He is a cop holding back the screaming fans. Next, while being interviewed, Kelli as Marilyn says “With the right pair of shoes, a girl can conquer the world!”

 (11) REAL LIFE: Marilyn looked beautiful this night as she received the award for “Fastest Rising Star of 1952.” The part about Jimmy being a cop is true, but he was not there that night. The last time Jim Dougherty saw Marilyn, then Norma Jeane, was at the end of their marriage. Dougherty had joined the LAPD not long afterwards, and was in fact part of the security team controlling the crowds at the premiere of The Asphalt Jungle in 1950. That would have been the only opportunity for him to see her, only she did not attend. Lastly, the quote about giving a girl the right shoes is fake, a misquote. Didn’t come from Marilyn. It actually came from Bette Midler, and the original quote goes something like “Give a girl the correct footwear and she can conquer the world.” Didn’t know? Now you do!

Image result for marilyn monroe photoplay awards
Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards, 1953.
From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

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