Magic red sweater turned Marilyn Monroe into sex symbol
Even though Marilyn Monroe is said to have been discovered by chance on a wartime production line and propelled to Hollywood stardom, her natural beauty was in fact the product of meticulous calculation, it has been revealed.entertainment Updated: Aug 03, 2012 12:24 IST
Even though Marilyn Monroe is said to have been discovered by chance on a wartime production line and propelled to Hollywood stardom, her natural beauty was in fact the product of meticulous calculation, it has been revealed.
It all started with a red cardigan, the Daily Mail reported.
The ‘sweater girl’ look, launched by Lana Turner in the 1937 film They Won’t Forget, was coming into vogue across America but it hadn’t reached Emerson Junior High School, Los Angeles – until Norma Jeane Mortenson, or Marilyn Monroe as she was later to be known, found her own distinctive way.
Teenage girls in that era often wore a front-buttoned cardigan over a white blouse with a prim collar.
Norma Jeane eliminated the blouse as well as the bra and camisole worn under it. She then took a red cardigan, turned it around, and buttoned it up the back. The sweater clung to her breasts and she called it her ‘magic sweater.’
From there began one of the most remarkable transformations in the history of Hollywood – a time-consuming and often quite inspired campaign to turn an abandoned girl, mocked by her classmates, into the sexual icon of the age.
The fact was that Norma Jeane didn’t think that she was beautiful, a point of view she retained even when she was celebrated as the most beautiful woman in the world.
Indeed, the years between the age of nine and 12 had been unhappy ones. She had already reached her adult height of 5ft 6in, making her much taller than her peers.
Flat-chested, with short and scraggly hair, she looked like a boy. Her school classmates made fun of her, calling her ‘Norma Jeane, string bean’ or ‘Norma Jeane, human bean.’
But by the summer that followed her 12th birthday, her breasts and hips had grown and she attracted boys. Realising her appeal, she devised a strategy.
After the sweater, came a pair of tight blue jeans. When the school head teacher warned her they were immodest, she wore a tight skirt instead.
Shocking the girls and intriguing the boys, she also wore a lot of make-up and her primping paid off. Emerson boys began walking her home and vying for her attention. When her name was mentioned in a class, the boys sometimes breathed a collective sigh.
She noticed that many film actresses had previously been models, so that would be her route too: she would first be a model and then act in films.
In December 1944, she was working at the Radioplane factory where the first aerial drones were made when a film crew visited to make a training movie. David Conover, a pin-up photographer, was among them. When he saw Norma Jeane he was immediately attracted, and asked if he could photograph her.
He told her to put on a sweater, since he was taking morale-boosting photos and the shape of her body needed to show. Needless to say, she obliged.
Within two years she was a leading West Coast pin-up model and a contract player at Twentieth Century-Fox studios. It took her six more years and a change of name to achieve stardom, but she demonstrated creativity, guts, and a major ability at manipulation in achieving it. Those early lessons at Emerson School were paying off.
First Published: Jul 31, 2012 13:10 IST