Marilyn Monroe: Her complex Inner Life – Part 2

> Continued from Part 1



This poster is for the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. An image of Marilyn Monroe with a birthday cake was selected to help mark the festival’s 65th birthday.

Cannes released a statement about the choice: ”Fifty years after her death, Marilyn is still a major figure in world cinema, an eternal icon, whose grace, mystery and power of seduction remain resolutely contemporary.

“The Festival poster captures Marilyn by surprise in an intimate moment where myth meets reality — a moving tribute to the anniversary of her passing, which coincides with the Festival anniversary.

“She enchants us with this promising gesture: a seductively blown kiss. The Festival is a temple of glamour and Marilyn is its perfect incarnation. Their coming together symbolizes the ideal of simplicity and elegance.”

But don’t believe all quotes attributed to Monroe herself.

“Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

This is a widely circulated quote, supposedly by Monroe, but the webpage Janie’s take on Marilyn Monroe – part of the Immortal Marilyn site – says “There are five quotes assigned to Marilyn that are exceedingly popular… However,  not one of them has a discernible source. There are no records, (whether in interviews, writings, or press conferences) of Marilyn ever saying any of these, and when explored most of them seem highly unlikely.”

The very popular quote above, the writer continues, “once it’s parsed it does not sound like Marilyn at all. ‘Imperfection is beauty’? Marilyn was well known as being an absolute perfectionist, asking for take after take on the movie set until she felt she got her scene just right. She refused to give moviegoers anything less than what she felt was her absolute best.

“She would apply her makeup only to wash it all off and do it over again, taking hours to prepare so that she presented herself to the public as nothing short of absolutely perfect. After a photo shoot she would pore over contact sheets, destroying any images that she didn’t approve of.

“In a 1960 interview, she did say: ‘My one desire is to do my best, the best that I can from the moment the camera starts until it stops. That moment I want to be perfect, as perfect as I can make it.’ Hardly seems that someone so hard wired to perfectionism would say ‘Imperfection is beauty.’.

“As to the second part, “Madness is genius”, this seems even more unlikely. Marilyn’s mother suffered from severe mental illness that traumatized the actress when she was a child. As an adult, Marilyn’s biggest fear was inherited madness like her mother’s. Considering her first hand account with what madness truly was, and her deep rooted fear of it, how likely is it that she would declare it ‘genius’? Not very.”


Monroe commented about her occasional infamous delays in coming to a set to start shooting: “I believe you shouldn’t do anything in life until you’re ready.”

Director George Cukor said “Marilyn’s delays are neither irresponsible not careless. She doesn’t want to do a scene until she is ready for it and can give it her best.”

[Daytona Beach Morning Journal – Jul 17, 1960.]

This reminds me of another of my favorite actors: Nicole Kidman. In working with her on their film “Portrait of a Lady,” director Jane Campion was quoted: “She can be quite murderously challenging in her perfectionism.

“Take Twenty: ‘Are you sure that’s good enough?’ [she says]. We’re going, wearily ‘Yeah.'”

From my article Perfectionism.

Also see posts on my High Ability site on Perfectionism.

[Photo: “Marilyn Workin’ It” – available from and]

Another source book of quotes is “My Story” by Marilyn Monroe with Ben Hecht [see link at bottom, in the list of books].

The author of the webpage Janie’s take on Marilyn Monroe [mentioned above] notes, “While there has been heated discourse on just how much Marilyn contributed to it and how much was ghostwriter Ben Hecht, Marilyn did sit for interviews for the book, and did approve the final writing before abandoning the project over printing issues.

“Also giving it some credibility is that the anecdotes presented in My Story are echoed in Marilyn’s own voice in her 1960 interview with Georges Belmont.  These are some quotes found in My Story that we can safely attribute to Marilyn:

“Hollywood’s a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents.”

“I knew I belonged to the Public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful, but because I had never belonged to anyone or anything else.”

Another quote:

“When you’re famous, you kind of run into human nature in a raw kind of way.”

Ayn Rand wrote a commentary in the Los Angeles Times, two weeks after Marilyn Monroe’s death on August 5, 1962.

Referring to the “sordid and horrifying childhood of Monroe, Rand wrote: “To survive it and to preserve the kind of spirit she projected on the screen – the radiantly benevolent sense of life, which cannot be faked – was an almost inconceivable psychological achievement that required a heroism of the highest order.”

From my Inner Actor site post Actor’s Privacy and The Dark Side of Fame.

A final quote from “My Story”:

“I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But, my God, how I wanted to learn! To change, to improve! I didn’t want anything else. Not men, not money, not love, but the ability to act.”

Her statement of “a lack of talent” is more about her insecurity, rather than an objective evaluation of her abilities.

In Part 1 of this article, I quoted acting teacher Lee Strasberg :

“In her eyes and mine, her career was just beginning. The dream of her talent, which she had nurtured as a child, was not a mirage.”

Here are a couple of my posts on this topic, which impacts so many high ability people:
‘I’m a Fraud’: Gifted and talented with insecurity
Artistic confidence – Insecurity and acting



Marilyn & Me: A Photographer’s Memories, by Lawrence Schiller.

Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters – by Marilyn Monroe, edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment.

The photo above is used for the cover of that book.

Marilyn Monroe-The Last SittingThe photo at right is by the late Bert Stern, probably used in one of his books: Marilyn Monroe: The Last Sitting.

“Stern did portraits of many celebrities, including Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn and Lesley Lawson, also known as Twiggy. ‘Women are everything,’ he said in the documentary about his life’s work. ‘Man is just a muscle.'” – From article: Bert Stern dies at 83; made iconic photographs of Marilyn Monroe.

See the documentary trailer: Bert Stern: Original Mad Man.

“The library of Marilyn Monroe contained over 400 books on a variety of subjects, reflecting both her intelligence and her wide-ranging interests.  No surprise to those familiar with Monroe, they were the books of a well-read and inquiring mind.  Works of Literature, Art, Drama, Biography, Poetry, Politics, History, Theology, Philosophy, and Psychology covered the walls in her library.” From website: “Man’s Supreme Inheritance” – A Book from Marilyn Monroe’s Personal Library.

Marilyn Monroe, by Eve Arnold. – “Following a 1952 photo shoot for Esquire magazine, Monroe and Arnold forged a wonderful friendship. Marilyn Monroe chronicles the six photography sessions that took place over the course of their 10-year bond, including a two-month-long session while Monroe was shooting The Misfits.” [ summary]

Blonde: A Novel – “Joyce Carol Oates boldly reimagines the inner, poetic, and spiritual life of Norma Jeane Baker — the child, the woman, the fated celebrity and idolized blonde the world came to know as Marilyn Monroe.”

My Story – by Marilyn Monroe, with Ben Hecht.

Video – Marilyn Monroe – The Final Days, Narrated By James Coburn


What do you think about these topics?