Gnomicon 118

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  118
Tuesday 4 September 2012

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It’s not true I had nothing on, I had the radio on.

Marilyn Monroe (1 Jun 1926 – 5 Aug 1962)

The clausal homoioteleuton of polysemous on aside, that one is reminiscent of this one: “What do I wear in bed?  Why, Chanel No. 5, of course.”

To my taste she really was not a truly beautiful woman — attractive, certainly, but not beautiful.  Nor was she the ‘dumb blonde’ that, I believe, she played at, both in film and in public.  But who can truly know the truth about heavily confected artifacts like the Marilyn of the movies and the movie magazines?

But I do think she was a terrific actress, a comic genius, and everything of hers I ever saw I liked – with the exception of Niagara (1953): to my taste, it just wasn’t the right vehicle for her kind of talent.

Her end was, of course, very sad.

But she stands out in my mind not, actually, so much for herself and her oeuvre as for an American ‘idea’ that she represented.  And even so I find it difficult to articulate to myself exactly what that ‘idea’ was – if that makes any sense.  Norma Jeane Mortenson was brought up in a series of foster homes, and it was through modeling that she came to the attention of Hollywood in the late forties.  I guess she had what one might dub ‘film presence’, a celluloid charisma that oozed off the large screens in the small theaters of the day and enveloped the audience.  She became – as so many film stars do, but she extraordinarily so – a cinematic cipher, a kind of dummy variable in the sense that men as well as women could inscribe on, and ascribe to, her persona whatever vicarious fantasies bubble up in all human hearts.

She became an icon endlessly colonized by the daydreams and desires of others.

I readily confess that it always has and continues to puzzle me why some succeed – in the generally understood sense of that word — at whatever it is they do and others do not.  Yes, sometimes it is simply just a matter of one person being better – prettier, brighter, more persistent, more ruthless, whatever – than another person.  But not always so.  What about all those other young attractive women who modeled with Marilyn in the forties? What happened to them? Here I in no way mean to denigrate Marilyn Monroe and her talents, or any other successful individual.  I’m just meandering in my mind, but – rightly or perversely – I for one always come back to the incalculably important rôle of just sheer dumb luck in arranging the way our lives get lived by us.

I think it may have been my Father who at one point, so long ago I am not even sure he was the one who said it, told me that the best thing you can have in life is not beauty, brains or bucks … but luck!

Which, alas, sadly did run out for Marilyn Monroe.

And that simply confirms in my senescent view of things that the sentiment is true.

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