Marilyn Monroe — Her Character, Personality, and Temperament.
You never hear people talk about the personality and character of Marilyn Monroe. So what was she really like?
The Speedy Gonzales Biography of Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1st, 1926 and she died, either accidentally or by suicide, on August 4, 1962. She was 36 years old when she passed — deemed probable suicide by the L.A. Coroner’s office. My initial personal opinion was that it was an accident, but the number of barbiturates taken (40), and a second investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney in 1982 ruled suicide for the second time.
Monroe grew up in orphanages and foster homes, as her mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she was eight years old, and she seldom saw her mother again. She had a brother who died when she was seven, and a half sister, Berniece Baker Miracle, who is still alive. Monroe never knew who her father was.
Monroe showed an aptitude as a writer during her school years and she contributed to the school newspaper. She decided early on that she wanted to be an actress as she loved movies and didn’t like the real world. When she was sixteen, her foster parents had to move state, and child protection laws prevented her from being removed from California. So she married her 21 year old neighbour, factory worker James Dougherty. Dougherty was deployed during the war years, and Marilyn was bored. She met a photographer while he was away, became a photographic model and signed with the Blue Book Model Agency in August, 1945.
Monroe was used mostly for men’s magazines and pin-ups, so as she was ambitous, hardworking and wanted more work — according to the agency boss — she died her head blonde. Within a year, she had appeared on 33 magazine covers, and within two years, she signed with an acting agency. It was at that time that she chose the stage name, Marilyn Monroe. She divorced her husband a few months later.
Initially, various studios thought she had no talent, and as she was shy, this didn’t help. However, she was determined to become an actress, and she continued studying the craft at the Actor’s Lab. Reading between the lines, Monroe had no issue with sleeping with movie executives in order to push her career forward. Throughout the 40s, she had small screen parts — none of which were successful. When she didn’t have screen roles, she returned to modeling.
It was in the 50s that Monroe’s career took off. During the next decade, she starred in 23 movies which grossed $200 million (equivalent $2 billion in 2019), and she received a Golden Globe award for Best Actress in 1956 (Bus Stop). In 1957, she received the Italian David di Donatello award, the French Crystal Star, and was nominated for the UK Bafta award (The Prince and the Showgirl). She also earned a Golden Globe for best actress in Some Like it Hot in 1959. Although there were many conflicts on the set between Monroe and the film director, Billy Wilder, Some Like it Hot was voted was voted one of the best films ever made by three different polls.
On a personal level, Monroe was married three times to three very different men. They were her initial marriage at 16 to her next door neighbour, baseball star Joe DiMaggio, and playwright Arthur Miller. None of her marriages worked, and she divorced all three men. She also had numerous affairs.
By the early 60s, Monroe’s career was beginning to sink — due to frequent absenses from the set, arguments with directors, forgetting her lines, a drug habit, and failing physical health (gallstones and endometriosis). It didn’t help that her last film, The Misfits, was written by Arthur Miller, and he took some of it from her life which she didn’t like. It has never been clear which parts he based on Monroe’s life.
Marilyn Monroe’s Character and Personality
Much has been said about Monroe’s state of mind. She was insecure, and many of her coworkers and directors commented on this. She was also difficult to work with. She also knew this when she said, “I’m selfish, impatient, and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I’m out of control, and at times, hard to handle.”
Marilyn was probably an introvert. It would be reflected in this statement she made in 1953, “I restore myself when I’m alone.” While extroverts draw their strength from other people, introverts restore their strength from their inner being. Another quote would be, “It’s better to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone.” The idea that she was extroverted because she could easily talk to people is a misunderstanding of extroversion. Intraversion and extroversion have nothing to do with a lack of social skills. It has to do with whether one is able to restore one’s energy internally or whether one needs input from others to do so.
Monroe was probably a sapio-sexual as demonstrated when she said, “The real lover is the man who can thrill you just by touching your head or smiling into your eyes.” She was probably also intellectually gifted according to her natal chart in astrology. She has moon in Aquarius — the sign of genius — if you believe that sort of thing. Arthur Miller was not exactly a sex symbol, so she had to be attracted to his intelligence.
Her willingness to break the social mores of that time indicate that she had no fear of society and certainly no respect for it. She married and divorced three times. Even in the late 60s, divorce was scorned. She posed nude in 1949 because she was behind in her rent payment and her car was about to be repossessed. She definitely put practicality above conventionality. She also had numerous affairs, not the least of which was rumoured to be with President John F Kennedy.
Monroe had a wonderful smile, and while she stated on occasion that she believed in always smiling, Jane Russel had said that there was always a degree of unhappiness underneath. This may have been the result of remaining angry or holding a grudge against those who would not give her the opportunity of having serious film roles. She didn’t want to be perceived as a dumb blonde — the role most commonly allocated to her. As Monroe was known to be highly intelligent by those who grew close to her — for short periods of time — this was understandable.
She also had a shrewd insight into other people, no doubt as a result of the many different experiences her life had presented her with. Comments like “Success makes so many people hate you. I wish it wasn’t that way. It would be wonderful to enjoy success without seeing envy in the eyes of those around you” and “Jane (Russel) tried to convert me to religion and I tried to convert her to Freud.”
The fact that she couldn’t remember lines and that she was frequently two or three hours late for her scenes on movie sets indicate that while she desperately wanted to be a serious actress, there was something not quite right. When she sung Happy Birthday to John Kennedy, the master of ceremonies announced her as the late Marilyn Monroe — she was late to walk onto the podium.
Jane Russel, who worked with her on Gentleman Prefer Blondes described her as shy, nervous about going on set, hardworking, and ambitious. She also mentioned that Monroe always knew her lines — something that doesn’t tie in with the statements by others that she forgot her lines constantly. That said, Russel worked with Monroe early in Monroe’s career, and the reports of her lateness and lost lines were much later — possibly the result of drug addiction. It’s also possible that her nervousness made her late — she was simply too scared to go on set.
According to Russel, Monroe was extremely sensitive and had an exceptional level of intelligence.
Marilyn did not have any lifelong friends, and the circumstances and people in her life kept changing. So while this may possibly have meant that she didn’t bond deeply with people, there are those who have said that she had sympathy, compassion, and empathy for others. She was also seen as sweet and friendly, rather than having a confident, powerful personality.
What seems clear from the many comments about her on various videos by people who knew Marilyn was that she was sweet, shy, senstitive, friendly, had a charming sense of humour, and that she didn’t cope well with any sort of pressure — whether negative or positive. She had no life-long emotional support from anyone, and there was no one to turn to in times of rejection and confusion. In the last years of her life, she took uppers (dexedrine, benzedrine, and others) to help her to cope and downers to make her sleep.
Monroe, it would seem, had a sufficiently strong character to push herself from nowhere to the very top. Her personality was charming, friendly, and sweet. Her temperament, however, was darker — insecure, a below-the-surface unhappiness, and, eventually, a desperation to take the pills to get through the day when things got too much for her.