Sunday, January 21, 2007

If Genius is Kept Down, Does It Turn to Madness?

I was surprised to learn that many critics consider Marilyn Monroe not only a comic genius but a great actress. She was so overcome by her rolls that she tackled them with an intensity that sometimes scared the other performers. Due to her beauty, her incredible figure, blonde hair and out of control popularity early in her career, the good roles didn't come her way easily. The studios wanted to pay her to be the dumb blonde or the eye-candy behind the "big" talent which she found unchallenging and demeaning. After making, The Seven Year Itch, where she was filmed in the famous sewer grating scene with the wind blowing her dress up and showing her panties, she left Hollywood in a personal search. The film of the scene not only took four hours to film, but took place in front of a NY City street crowd of rowdy and sometimes obnoxious fans. Her husband at time, Joe Dimaggio, got so infuriated by the incident, many believe it lead to her hospitalization at his hands later that day and to the couple's eventual divorce. The marriage lasted under a year (the damned Yankees).

The Seven Year Itch was the last of such films. She fled Hollywood for the Actor's Studio in New York even though she had a contract for four more of these films. Her time among the New Year theatre world (where she met her third and last husband, playwrite Arthur Miller) not only helped her refine her acting craft, but helped her get some leverage from the studios in Hollywood. They needed her to make money. Her new contract was for more money and gave her the ability to chose which films she would make. This was unheard of at the time in Hollywood. It was in this time that she made her best fims with her best performances, including Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot and The Misfits (based on the Arthur Miller play).

Unfortunately for her, this success came too late. Many years of insonmia, paranoia and the popping of sleeping pills (Nembutal).... the outrageous demands on her time and energy ... contributed to making her quite mad. She was unruly and late to the sets of all her later films. She was enventually found dead in her own bathtub at age 36 from an overdose of Nembutal.

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