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What makes Monroe unforgettable?

entertainment Updated: Jul 11, 2010 14:48 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

Legends never die. That thought flitted through my mind as I smiled over Kareena Kapoor’s excitement at playing a desi Monroe in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine. It’s been 48 years since Marilyn’s death grabbed the headlines, but even today, not just the gentlemen, even the ladies prefer this blonde.



Back in the early ’90s, ace photographer Gautam Rajadhyaksha had given us a cover girl to remember… Madhuri as Marilyn. In a blonde wig, a leather jacket with the collar turned up, her million-dollar smile flashing bright, Madhuri was Monroe-esque. And we had to admit that we liked La Dixit Hot!



Marilyn MonroeThe transformation was magical! One moment Madhuri was this slight, somewhat serious, typically pretty Mumbai chi mulgi, and in the next, she was the Hollywood diva who had sung ‘Happy Birthday Mr President...’ to John F Kennedy in a glittering nude gown. Whoa!



Since I’d been a part of the team that had brain-stormed on the ‘look’, I didn’t ask "Who’s that girl?" like so many others, after our magazine hit the stands. But the query popped into my mind every time I thought of the original Monroe.



Hey daddy!

Norma Jeane made her first appearance in an LA hospital on June 1, 1926, the third child of Gladys Pearl Baker, née Monroe. Her birth certificate named Martin Edward Mortensen as the father, even though Gladys and he had seperated before she got pregnant.

The surname was misspelt and to add to the confusion, Gladys switched it to Baker, the surname of her first husband, which she still used.

Her daughter never accepted Mortensen as her father, insisting that she’d been shown a photograph of a man who went by the name of Charles Stanley Gifford and had a thin mustache like Clark Gable. For years, she pretended that Gable was her father. The two were paired in The Misfits (1961), the last complete film for both stars.

If her birth was shrouded in mysterty, then her death was even more so. Was it suicide or an accident? Was it murder that one of the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert, wrote? Was she put to sleep by the CIA or was it the mafia?

Several books have tried to unravel The End. One by Milo Speriglio, Crypt 33: The Saga Of Marilyn Monroe… the Final Word, claimed that her death had been masterminded by the Chicago gangster Sam Giancana on the orders of the Kennedy patriarch, Joseph. However, Giancana’s son in his book, Double Cross, insists that the Mob killed Monroe to get Bob Kennedy off their back.

Pointing a finger

Donald Spoto in Marilyn Monroe: The Biography asserts that it was her doctor who injected her with poisonous enema because he feared he was losing control. There was a book by four psychics who maintain that they addressed the question, ‘Who killed Monroe?’, to the ghost of Bob Kennedy who pointed an accusatory finger at his big brother’s spirit. John is said to have
responded with a politically correct, ‘No comments.” Huh!

I’m looking at Madhur to come up with a more believable explanation. And seeing Kareena in a blonde wig, a la Madhuri, though knowing Madhur, he may go for the desi girl look.

Till then, I can look at the pic on my wall of a waxen Marilyn shot at Madame Tussauds museum in London. Skirt flying, smile beckoning, and my three-year-old perched like a Chaplin kid between her legs. Brings to mind one of her heartbreaking quotes: “A career is wonderful but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.”