Friday, July 23, 2010

MM@M: Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962)

You may have noticed I'm Mad Men crazy this week. I'm just trying to cram it in before Sunday's premiere. I'll calm down Monday.

<-- Betty's terrible advice to Sally! I never fail to get a kick out of what a horrible mother she really is.

I'm so excited I'm about to grab one of the T-Shirts from the Mad Men shop on CafePress. I'm already having trouble choosing but they made it easier for me by denying me some of the designs in men's sizes. Excuse me but what if I want a "Mark Your Man" t-shirt with lipstick prints all over it? I mean, I might. I have been known to embrace the girlie. I think I might go for the "Who's For Dinner?" shirt because I love Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton). Nobody else loves Ken but I do not care. I will read any short story he wants me to.

Anyway CafePress is very excited about the premiere on Sunday as evidenced by this Mad Men blog post with Season 4 conjecture and trivia questions and new merchandise. And no, I'm not getting a commission on sales just a T-shirt. I am a firm firm believer in Ts.

Where were we... oh yes...

The final MARILYN MONROE themed episode.

Episode 2.9
"Six Month Leave"
Bad news... this episode of Mad Men opens with it. Marilyn has been found dead. The upsetting morning headlines disrupt the mood and particulars to such a degree that the usually silent elevator operator Hollis (La Monde Byrd, doing fine background work), speaks without being spoken to.
Hollis: You hear about Marilyn? Poor thing.
Don Draper: I can't say I'm surprised, the few things I know about her.
Peggy: You just don't imagine her ever being alone. She was so famous.
Hollis: Some people just hide in plain sight.
Peggy: My mother and sister keep calling.
Don: Suicide is disturbing.
Hollis: I keep thinking about Joe DiMaggio...
As soon as their conversation begins, it splinters into three, none of them responding to each other but lost in their own specific Marilyn opinions and thoughts. Celebrity culture may be a unifier with co-workers, strangers and loved ones, but our personal feelings about each celebrity can just as easily divide us again. The elevator opens, ending the disjointed conversation. Peggy isn't much ruffled, though several other women in the office are shown crying, and is immediately back to business, expressing relief that Playtex didn't pick up the Marilyn campaign.

George Barris (left pic) and Allan Grant (right pics) were reportedly the
last photographers to shoot the screen icon (both in summer '62)

Marilyn's grave in Westwood, CA

Marilyn photographed by Lawrence Schiller in May '62 on the set
of the unfinished film Something's Got To Give. She was fired in June.
Though rehired before her death, filming never resumed. The movie
was a remake of the Irene Dunne movie My Favorite Wife (1940) and
was eventually reworked with new script, director and cast as Move
Over Darling
(1963) with Doris Day.

Marilyn's death in August 1962 has long been the subject of conspiracy theories and speculation: Accident? Suicide? Murder? Just about everything involving Marilyn gets disputed, even her talent. I didn't know this myself but apparently Monroe was vocal with the press about her unhappiness with the powers that be. We overhear a radio broadcast in the episode.
"In an interview just weeks before her death, Miss Monroe angrily protested to a reporter about attacks on stars. "We're what's okay with the movie business," she said. "Management is what's wrong with the business."
No MM themed episode of MM would be complete without commentary from their resident Marilyn, Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) who is discovered crying on the couch in her boss (and former lover's) office.
Sterling: What's wrong Red? Do you miss me?
Joan: She was so young.
Sterling: Not you too.
Joan: Yes, I'm just another frivolous secretary.
Sterling: It's a terrible tragedy but that woman is a stranger. Roosevelt. I hated him but I felt like I knew him.
Joan: A lot of people felt like they knew her. You should be sensitive to that.
Sterling: [Grabs her arm intimately]
Hey... you're not like her.
[Attempts to lighten the mood.]
Physically a little but don't tell me that makes you sad.
Joan: It's not a joke. This world destroyed her.
Sterling: Really? She was a movie star who had everything... and everybody. And she threw it away. But hey... if you want to be sad.
Joan: One day you'll lose someone who is important to you. You'll see. It's very painful.

Just as in their Season 1 fight over The Apartment (1960), this conversation is not exactly about what it's about. This Marilyn farewell doubles as an obit for their own broken romance. Too many narrative artforms use doubling too literally but this writing team tends to handle these things with some delicacy, rarely forcing the parallels into absolute mirrors. The episode's self-destructive A plot (Freddy Rumsen's alcoholism and forced exit), for instance, plays superbly within the context of the Marilyn's self-medicated ending. It's not an obvious mirror, but a foggy distorted reflection.

True story: I had this Marilyn poster on my bedroom wall growing up
(baby film buff!) and my Mom thought it was "obscene"

Other references in this episode: (Music) Mitch Miller | (Literature) Katherine Anne Porter's Ship of Fools |(Unspecific Entertainment References) Gypsy, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit | (Celebrities) "The Champ"


Jorge Rodrigues said...

Not related to this: have you checked out 'The Company Men' trailer? Dare I say it seems... good?

Anonymous said...

BEST. BLOG. EVER. I looove Ken Cosgrove! Right now I just want to rewatch The misfits (Clift died 44 years ago yesterday; both so moving in that) and I've just read that DiMaggio had red roses delivered 3 times a week for her crypt for 20 years. I think Sally as an adult could write a memoir book about her mother the same way star's children do and tell how those terrible advices worked for her. I'd read that as eagerly as Cosgrove short stories.


i'm dying to know if anyone else had prudish moms who thought Marilyn obscene?

cuz... what is obscene about that poster?

Matthew said...

I had that same poster (and many room was covered, walls and ceiling, with Madonna, Marilyn and quite a few others). It's not obscene, of course, but it's very racy with all that leg. If the photog had stepped to his right, something would HAVE to give but it probably would've.

DavidEhrenstein said...

It's funny, but Marilyn's sexuality -- which seems almost wholesome today -- was considered borderline-trashy in her time.

There was a documentary a few years back that reconstructed the footage shot of Something's Got To Give and Marilyn's death. It established to my satisfaction that it was an accident. She was taking pills to sleepand pills to wake up -- frequently forgettign how much of what she's taken. Just prior to the start of shooting she nearly died from an improper dosage. But Her analyst -- making a routine call to reschedule an appointment -- wasn't able to reach her by phone, went o her house, and got her to the emergency room in time to save her. The studio hushed this all up at the time. She was simply unlucky when she made the same mistake again.

Needless to say this won't stop conspiracy theories.

Deborah said...

Plenty of people at Basket of Kisses love Kenny.

Good insight about the parallel between Freddy's alcoholism and Marilyn's drug-fueled ending. I don't think I've seen anyone write that before.


matt -- we had the same poster. how crazy. i think round about the same time i had madonna in the huge yellow sweater that she was yanking down her hair thrown back. Remember that one? My mom hated that one too but the reaction to the Marilyn poster was the most confusing.

Glenn said...

This was one of my two or three favourite episodes from the season! Loooved it. Loooooove her.

Yzone said...

Sexy Marilyn posters, nice...