(KTLA) — Whether it’s the famous blonde hair, sultry stare, breathy voice, iconic movie scenes or famous gowns, everyone knows Marilyn Monroe.
Thursday marks 60 years since the Hollywood icon’s overdose death at her Los Angeles home, but her legend hasn’t faded.
Long before social media and viral videos, Monroe was able to become a global phenomenon through the persona she created.
“I always say, you don’t pick Marilyn, Marilyn picks you,” explains Scott Fortner with the Marilyn Monroe Collection, which boasts the world’s largest privately held collection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia.
“I think what is really interesting about Marilyn is she became famous before this era of social media, where people have the opportunity really to promote themselves and have a post or a video that would go viral,” he continued. “You’re just kind of drawn for whatever reason to the mystery, the mystique, the legend, just the character that she created because, of course, Marilyn Monroe wasn’t a real person. That was someone that she created.
“She was Norma Jean always and then turned into Marilyn for public appearances and films,” Fortner says.
Monroe was ahead of her time
While many see Monroe’s legacy tied to the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown, facets of it are still very much relevant today.
“I’ve always felt Marilyn was way ahead of her time,” explains Greg Schreiner, president of the Marilyn Remembered fan club. “She formed her own production company, which was unheard of back then. [She] gave the (middle) finger to the studio and said, ‘I’m not going to put up with what you’re giving me. I’m going to make my own pictures.’ She just had this amazing spirit. She believed in what she believed, and she didn’t care what other people thought.”
According to Hollywood legend, Monroe used her privilege to help out legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, who struggled to get into the Mocambo, a famous L.A. nightclub.
Many said it was due to Fitzgerald being Black. Others claimed it was due to the club not deeming her attractive enough. It has been said Monroe promised the club’s owner that if he booked the crooner, she would be in the front row every night to draw in publicity and other famous names.
Fitzgerald later gave credit to Monroe years after her death.
Misperceptions of Marilyn
While she didn’t graduate high school, the “Some Like it Hot” star was no dumb blonde. Monroe focused on her own educational growth and was actually quite the bookworm.
According to Fortner, the starlet had a library that consisted of over 400 books. They weren’t easy reads either. The topics consisted of religion, philosophy, psychology and self-help.
“She wasn’t just someone who thought, ‘I’m going to be a movie star,’” he said. “She really wanted to be the best that she could be as an actress. So she was constantly trying to improve her craft.”
Schreiner explains just how hard Monroe had to work to achieve her success.
“If you start studying her, you realize that she was an incredibly intelligent, witty, driven woman who worked so hard to improve herself and came out of, really, the most humble of circumstances and rose to be probably the most famous movie star of all time.”
Marilyn Monroe’s biggest fans are also likely aware of just how generous she was. Some acquaintances who complimented the star’s outfits may have even received them the next day.
“Her stand-in double, Evelyn Moriarity, mentioned once that she had admired something Marilyn was wearing and the next day at her doorstep was a package containing the item because Marilyn was so generous that way,” Scheiner recalled. “And this happened several other times to other people I talked to. Marilyn never had a materialistic side to her.”
Monroe died at age 36 but managed to make an enormous impact.
“She’s certainly remembered more than any star of the past and continues to be remembered more than a star of the past,” Schreiner continued. “For 36 years, she accomplished a lot. I mean, that’s a pretty short life, really. And yet she really is remembered so well.”