Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The truth about Marilyn Monroe






INT. CLOSET - GASKELL HOUSE 

The dull PURR of a COMBINATION LOCK is HEARD, a DOOR
opens, and a triangle of LIGHT falls on a PHOTOGRAPH of
MARILYN MONROE and JOE DIMAGGIO on their wedding day.

GRADY and James Leer stand in the doorway. Just below the
photograph of Marilyn and Joe--hanging next to a PIN-
STRIPED JERSEY bearing the number 5--is a SHORT BLACK SATIN
JACKET trimmed with an ERMINE COLLAR.

JAMES LEER
Is that really it?

GRADY
That's really it.

JAMES LEER
The one she wore on her wedding day?

GRADY
So I'm told.

James, in the presence of the holy grail of suicide
garments, stands speechless.

GRADY
Go ahead.

JAMES LEER
Really?

GRADY
Really.





James swallows, then goes to the jacket. Carefully, he
reaches out his fingers and touches the yellowed collar,
barely making contact, as though it might crumble to dust.

JAMES LEER
They're glass. The buttons.

GRADY
Like the lady herself.

GRADY says this airily, ironically, riding his buzz a
bit, but James nods solemnly, eyes transfixed on the
jacket, as if Marilyn herself were inside it.

JAMES LEER
She was small. Most people don't know that.
The shoulders are small.
(touching the satin)
It looks so perfect. I bet it's the only time
she wore it. That day. She must've felt so
...happy.







GRADY studies James as he takes the fringe of the jacket,
lifts it lightly.

JAMES LEER
It's feels unreal, like butterfly wings or...
something. It must've cost Dr. Gaskell a lot.

GRADY
I guess. Walter never tells Sara the truth
about how much he pays for these things.

JAMES LEER
You're really good friends with the
Chancellor, aren't you?

Grady's eyes slide, paranoid, but James' face remains
unchanged, consumed with the jacket.

GRADY
(carefully)
Pretty good. I'm friends with Dr. Gaskell,
too.








JAMES LEER
I guess you must be, if you know the
combination to his closet and he doesn't mind
your being here in their bedroom like this.

GRADY
Right.

A DOOR SLAMS downstairs and GRADY and James jump. The
CLICK of a woman's HIGH HEELS sends GRADY to the bedroom
window, where he watches Sara slide into a WHITE CITROEN
DS23, turn on the ignition, and motor away.

GRADY
We, better skedaddle. Close that closet--
James? You all right?

James is slumped on the Gaskell's white linen bed,
knapsack between his knees, head in hands.

JAMES LEER
I'm sorry. Professor Tripp. Maybe it's seeing
that jacket that belonged to her. It just
looks...really lonely. Hanging there. In a
closet. Maybe I'm just a little sad.






GRADY
Maybe. I'm feeling a little sad myself
tonight.

JAMES LEER
You mean, with your wife leaving you and ail?
Hannah mentioned something about it. About a
note.

GRADY
Yes. Well. It's complicated, James. I think we
should go now.

Without thinking, GRADY flicks out the bedroom light,
leaving James Leer in the dark for the second time today.

James just sits there, a shadow in a room of shadows.





The story behind this: I saw the movie Wonder Boys way back in 2000 (though it cannot be possible it was 17 years ago!). Most of it was convoluted and a bit of a mess, but I do remember the “Marilyn Monroe scene”. It was an important subplot of the movie. probably representing something-or-other, some deep symbolism about identity, dishonesty, etc. etc.

Michael Douglas plays a washed-up university professor/blocked writer with a young protégé, a very strange, fey, even creepy student played by (the strange, fey, even creepy) Toby Maguire.

The Marilyn scene involves Michael Douglas sneaking into the Chancellor’s bedroom to show his protégé a valuable collection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia. Needless to say it doesn’t stop there, as Toby Maguire steals Marilyn’s wedding jacket which ends up in a stolen car, then on someone else’s back. Interestingly enough, we see one of the minor characters wearing it at the end. It looks like an exact replica of the black, fur-collared Monroe jacket with the small shoulders and the chic ¾ sleeves.




But the part I couldn’t get out of my mind were the Marilyn-obsessed Maguire's lines: “She was small. Most people don’t know that.” They stuck like a burr, though I couldn’t find them in any of the YouTube clips. I had to hunt it down in a transcript of the screenplay, but it was (surprisingly) not hard to find.





And it’s true. People weren’t talking about it then – they were still saying things like, “Marilyn Monroe was a size 16”, mostly to make themselves feel better about being fat. Though her weight fluctuated, in most of her photo shoots she looks to be around a size 6, though perhaps on the buxom side. Based on her surviving vintage dresses, couturiers have estimated her statistics as 35-22-35, though I have also heard 34-22-34 (which, during thinner periods, she may well have been).

The point is, these are not “fat” proportions. At all. Most women would envy them, particularly their symmetry (which is really more important than being thick or thin). Like the immortal Elizabeth Taylor, she had a very small natural waist, giving her a voluptuous shape which androgynes might call "fat" (but which isn't). Liz famously didn’t need much corseting for her Southern Gothic roles (such as in  Raintree County, one of my all-time favourite movies).




I’m not a man or anything, or at least I don't think so, and not particularly a Monroe fan (though I crush on Liz in some of her movies, big-time, and believe she was nothing short of brilliant as an actress). But I can see that Marilyn had just about the best breasts ever seen on a woman, breasts that would be ruined by a bra.




I also remember a movie – God, my mind is a junk drawer – called Soldier in the Rain, and I think it had Steve McQueen and Jackie Gleason in it. The two of them were fantasizing about women – Polynesian women, or something – and one of them referred to their breasts as “tilting up”. That’s what I’m talking about, a magnificent natural structure with no visible means of support.




I do remember the strangest things.




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