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VOA - Voice of America

The blonde actress who could never
escape her past.


The story of Marilyn Monroe begins on June 1st, 1926. Norma Jean was born that day in the West Coast city of Los Angeles, California. Her birthplace was not far from the Hollywood movie studios where she would someday be a star. Her mother, Gladys Baker, suffered from mental problems. Often the mother had to be treated in a hospital for long periods of time. Her daughter was sent to live with a number of different people.

The actress later would describe her stays with these foster families as sometimes very unhappy. During the worst experiences, she would go to a movie theater. There the young Norma Jean escaped into the make-believe world of movies.

By the time she was seventeen, Marilyn was trying very hard to be a movie actress. She finally was able to get an actors' agent to help her. He got Twentieth Century Fox Company to give Marilyn parts in some movies it produced.

Marilyn may have worked more to improve her appearance than to improve her performance in acting classes. Some people at Twentieth Century Fox said she did not like to work at all. She appeared in only one movie. And she had only one line to speak in that. The Fox movie company dismissed her.

Soon, however, her agent got her a job at Columbia Pictures. She appeared in a movie called "Ladies of the Chorus." She sang two songs. Several critics praised her performance. But Columbia dismissed her.

Marilyn did not stop struggling. She next won a small part in a movie called "Love Happy." It was a comedy starring the famous Marx Brothers. Critics said it was not one of their better efforts. Marilyn, though, earned praise for simply taking a short walk in the movie. The movie called for her to say, "Some men are following me." Groucho Marx answered that he did not understand why. As he said that, he watched Marilyn walk her famous walk. His eyes opened very wide. That short scene in the movie made many people in Hollywood talk about Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn got her first major chance when director John Huston invited her to act in a movie called "The Asphalt Jungle."

Huston said her performance as a criminal's girlfriend was good. It gained Marilyn her dream of a long-term agreement with Twentieth Century Fox, the company that had dismissed her earlier. Now its officials gave her a part in "All About Eve." The movie, released in 1950, was about a movie star. She played a golden-haired woman who did not have much intelligence – "a dumb blonde."

In 1952, Marilyn again appeared as a dumb blonde in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." This performance at last won her widespread fame.

A kiss on the hand
May be quite continental
But diamonds
Are a girl's best friend
A kiss may be grand
But it won't pay the rental
On your humble flat
Or help you at the automat
Men grow cold
As girls grow old
And we all lose
Our charms in the end
But square-cut or pear-shaped
These rocks don't lose their shape
Are a girl's best friend

Un beso en la mano
Puede ser muy europeo
Pero los diamantes
Son los mejores amigos de una chica
Un beso puede ser maravilloso
Pero no pagará el alquiler
De tu humilde departamento
Ni te ayudará con el expendedor
Los hombres se enfrían
A medida que las mujeres envejecen
Y todos perdemos
Nuestros encantos al final
Pero, corte cuadrado o en forma de pera
Estas rocas no pierden su forma
Los diamantes
Son los mejores amigos de una chica

Huge successes now followed. Between 1953 and 1959 she appeared in lead parts in many popular movies: "How To Marry a Millionaire." "The Seven Year Itch." "Bus Stop." "Some Like it Hot." Her part in "Some Like it Hot" showed that she was very good at making people laugh.

Marilyn's picture appeared on the front cover of many magazines and the front pages of many newspapers. She began to earn more money. Life should have been good. But Marilyn was not happy. She was being asked to repeat her part as a dumb blonde in movie after movie. She wanted to be accepted as a good actress. She went to the Actors' Studio school in New York City with many serious actors. She thought she could change the way people thought of her.

MARILYN MONROE: “What I’d like to do, that is, what I would like to accomplish, I would like to be a good actress. And it’s not a matter of being on top because I think some of the best actors and actresses perhaps aren’t on the top. So that’s not the thing. I’m terribly grateful for everything that’s happened because I remember when things weren’t like this at all. But you do miss sometimes just being able to be completely yourself and some place and people just know you as another human being.”

But she did not succeed. People thought of Marilyn Monroe as "that blonde bombshell." Few people thought of her as a serious actress. She also failed in her attempts at marriage. She admitted that she got married the first time only to escape from being forced to live in a group home for children without parents. In 1954 she married again. Her husband was the famous New York Yankee baseball player, Joe Di Maggio. They were together for only a few months. Later, she tried again. She married Arthur Miller, a famous writer of plays. That marriage ended unhappily in 1961, after five years.

Marilyn returned to Hollywood. But things were different now. Friends said she was drinking too much alcohol. They said she was taking too many drugs. She seemed to always be in trouble with the movie company. She had gained too much weight. Or, she had not learned what she was to say in the movie. Or she had arrived late for the filming.

By 1962, Marilyn's problems were threatening her work in the movies. She was to appear in the Twentieth Century Fox movie called "Something's Got to Give.” She lost weight for her part. She tried to arrive on time for the filming. She reportedly knew her part. However, she became sick several times and missed work. Fox company officials dismissed her.

On August 4th, 1962, Marilyn Monroe died alone in her home. She was thirty-six years old. Reports said taking too many drugs killed her. But people who knew her said failed marriages, and the failure of her latest movie also led to her death. Many people said Marilyn Monroe never escaped her past. She continued to suffer from the early, sad life of a little girl named Norma Jean.

This Special English program was written by Jeri Watson and directed by Marilyn Christiano. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

GLOSSARY: birthplace: lugar de nacimiento u origen; foster: adoptivas; worst: peores, más penosas; she would go: iba, se dirigía; make-believe: simulado, imaginario; by the time: en el momento en que, para cuando; very hard: con mucho esfuerzo; was able to get: logró conseguir; parts: roles, papeles (de actuación); dismissed her: la despidió, la echó; praised her performance: elogiaron su actuación; did not stop struggling: no dejó de luchar; won: ganó, obtuvo; starring: que presentaba como protagonistas a; earned praise: ganó elogios; though: pese a todo; called for her to say: requería que ella dijese; major: importante; long-term agreement: contrato a largo plazo; earlier: anteriormente; dumb blonde: rubia tonta; widespread: difundida; huge: enormes; lead parts: roles de protagonista; itch: comezón, picazón; to earn: a ganar; should have been: debería haber sido; she was being asked: le pedían; to accomplish: lograr; a matter of: una cuestión de; terribly grateful: sumamente agradecida; bombshell: bomba explosiva; attempts at marriage: intentos de casamiento; plays: obras de teatro; gained too much weight: engordado en exceso; threatening: poniendo en riesgo; she was to appear: estaba obligada a aparecer; missed work: faltó al trabajo; led to: condujeron a.

Source: VOA - Voice of America

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