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My Week With Marilyn: When Innocence Was Sexy

The times do change: contrast Norma Jean's classic "Some Like it Hot" with Paris and Kim's XXX-rated career-launching sex tapes.

by
Phyllis Chesler

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December 4, 2011 - 1:08 am
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The movie My Week With Marilyn both saddened and charmed me. It brought me back to 1956, to an era in which a kittenish, impish, slightly naughty, only slightly undressed, whispery-voice child-woman was considered the world’s biggest sex symbol.

I am talking about the incomparable Marilyn Monroe and the very good actress Michelle Williams who now plays her. She does not “impersonate” Marilyn. Williams really acts the part, carefully re-creating Marilyn’s childish, playful, giggle-of-a-wriggle, her incandescent screen presence, her calculated but spontaneous sauciness, her little-girl-lost real persona.

Contrast this innocence to Paris Hilton’s decision to use a sex tape  to launch her celebrity “brand,” or to Kim Kardashian’s XXX-rated video of her own. Compare this to the stream of prostitutes and porn stars who enjoy 15 minutes of fame because one of their clients was a governor or a major athlete. Stop and consider the dirty sex language people use on the internet and how many untold hours of pornographic films are available free of charge with only the click of the mouse.

The film is based on two books by upper-crust Brit Colin Clark (played by Eddie Redmayne) who, for nine days when he was 23 years old, had a platonic-erotic romance with Marilyn, a woman whom he viewed as a “Greek goddess.” He was the “third assistant director” working for the great Laurence Olivier on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. This great, great actor, played by the brilliant Kenneth Branagh, was bested on the screen by the American pseudo-Method actress who perpetually came late, kept forgetting her lines, and who needed countless retakes and the aggressive protection of acting teacher Paula Strasberg. She was “unprofessional” and yet even Olivier conceded that the camera loved her, not him.

So far, at least ten actresses, including Ashley Judd, Mariah Carey, and her impersonator, Susan Griffith, have played Monroe. Countless books about her “secret lives” have also appeared with never-before-seen photos, written by Donald Spoto, J. Randy Taraborrelli, Sarah Bartlett Churchwell, Bert Stern, and Norman Mailer. Donald H. Wolfe wrote a book which suggests she was assassinated.

So, who was she, really?

Next: Why Marilyn had abandonment issues…

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