So you may have noticed that during the month (and a little more) that I've been writing on here, I have not once mentioned a name so frequently linked with Old Hollywood -- Marilyn Monroe.
You may find this strange, usually because Marilyn has become over the years (unfortunately) the poster child for Classic Hollywood. The platinum blond hair, red lips, and beauty mark (or you could. call. it. a. MOLE. I mean, that's what it is, isn't it??!!) have become an icon of sorts that is frequently the only common link between today's generation (with the exception of those of us who watch classic film) and Yesteryear.
Which is, I guess, why I have neglected to mention her.
Before I continue: don't get me wrong. I most certainly don't hate Marilyn Monroe or anything and I don't want to offend any of her fans. It's only, I often wonder about her popularity. Does this spark from the somewhat scandalous life she lived - Happy birthday, Mr. President - to her early death, which was, of course, above all a tragedy... but still, attention getting? Is it because people find her a good actress?
I think that I can surprisingly find Marilyn a good actress, more than a sex symbol, etc. when you watch her at some of her very best in the films. But why do we remember her as the iconic dumb blond, then, or the skirt flying up above the subway grate??
Here's my opinion on Marilyn: she's not an awful actress and I have been known to enjoy her movies. I think she was pretty, but I have to admit there are other actresses of the Golden Era that were more beautiful. So I don't hate her or anything and I'm not trying to write a bashing Marilyn post here.... but I must admit, I do find her a little overrated...
But, in fact, I think people are often unfair to Marilyn by remembering her as the girl who first posed nude for Playboy or had an affair with JFK because she did not come into Hollywood with the intent of being a media toy - she came to act, didn't she?
I'm a little all over the place, so let me try to make my point a little clearer. I happen to know a girl.... She claims to really like Marilyn Monroe and has a picture of her on her bedroom wall. But the thing is, she doesn't know anything about her life or career. And she hasn't even seen one of her films. I think this a very good point of someone liking Marilyn simply because they find her iconic and not because they enjoy her movies - and personally, as someone who loves Old Hollywood so much, it does make you kind of annoyed, doesn't it?
I think all of this has got a lot to do with being an "icon."
I think all of this has got a lot to do with being an "icon."
I wouldn't call Marilyn the only victim of this whole "icon" business, either. What about Audrey Hepburn? Now, you all know that I really love Audrey (it's kind of impossible, not to). But through stills of Breakfast at Tiffany's in that gorgeous (but most certainly overused) black dress, with the cat and the diamonds and the long cigarette holder, she has, too, become an icon to hang on teenage girls' bedroom walls without a clue to who she really was.... or to the fact that she made other films....
I happen to have a big decal of Audrey on my bedroom wall myself. But before you call me a hypocrite: I actually know a lot about Audrey's life and career. I've read several books and I've seen plenty of her films. I don't love her as an icon, but as an actress.
Another icon: James Dean. He did about three films before his death in a car accident and he has henceforth gotten the "iconic" treatment, too. It's a little different with the guys. The girls (like Audrey and Marilyn), find themselves plastered on bedroom walls, t-shirts, and jewelry. I have yet to find James Dean's face on a coffee mug, but gets the celebrity treatment of not a legend but a modern day star. Take a look at his website, for his example - www.jamesdean.com. If you wouldn't have known better, you think it was a prospering, up and coming male model (at least, that's what I would have thought.)
I mean, the man only did make three movies...
Take Humphrey Bogart, for example. He, too, has become an icon of sorts: a "Bogie", with the trench coat and the fedora hat, speaking in that ever so memorable lisp. Maybe his icon has dimmed in recent years, but I can still remember that episode of "The Brady Bunch" - "Pork chops and apple sauce," Peter says.
Don't get me wrong. I don't have anything against these particular actors. Audrey and Bogie are two of my own personal favorite actors. I'm not really the world's biggest Marilyn fan, but I don't hate her and James Dean was probably okay, too.
I'm not trying to bash the whole "iconic" deal, either. In a couple ways, it's a good thing. "Icons" help the newer generations remember the stars of the past, even if it is through posters on their bedroom walls of celebrities they could know less about.
What makes a person iconic? Why is Marilyn Monroe the iconic of them all? Why... why not Ava Gardner? (Just pulling someone random out here).
Some may argue that Lucille Ball is an icon, too. I agree that she most certainly is an icon... her flaming red hair and humongous blue eyes won't be forgotten for decades to come. But she is an icon in the way that Elizabeth Taylor is -- both still popular with the public after their deaths and regarded as icons, you're not likely to find them stamped on merchandise the way you would with Marilyn or Audrey.
Is that it? Do these icons sell money? Once I remember watching a TV special on dead icons and how much money they bring in. (Among them were those I've mentioned, including Lucy... as well as Elvis Presley, which is another good example, but I won't get into that because that kind of detours into the music industry... and that would bring me to the Beatles, and then I'd go on forever.)
I'm also not trying to say that it's unoriginal to have one of these icons as your favorite actor. That would be totally hypocritical considering how much I love Audrey and Bogie. It's just... I don't know. I kind of hope I made myself clear otherwise this would totally become a rambling post.
What is your opinion on turning particular stars into icons (and not others... Case in point: why Marilyn, not Ava? Or to even go farther, why not pick someone randomer... like, Marilyn vs. Susan Hayward??!!)? Does it overpower what good actors these people actually were and instead turn them into nearly a brand name of sorts? Or does it keep the memory of Golden Hollywood alive? And also... is there any explanation for why some become icons and others don't? Which icons do you love - any of the ones I mentioned?
Okay, so screw that whole "fairly short" thing, because I did go on for way too long. But I would love to hear your opinions on this... and if I make any sense at all. * smiles sheepishly *.
Well, I've got to go and write a book report now. But thanks for reading this random rant...
(Oh, and by the way -- I finally threw my hat into the ring for the Carole-tennial [+3] blogathon, as the new banner on my sidebar should tell you. It's sponsored by Carole and Co, and it looks like it's going to be great fun!)