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Marilyn Monroe

Years ago Father John Powell told the story of Norma Jean Mortenson:

Norma Jean Mortenson. Remember that name? Norma Jean’s mother, Mrs. Gladys Baker, was periodically committed to a mental institution and Norma Jean spent much of her childhood in foster homes. In one of those foster homes, when she was eight years old, one of the boarders raped her and gave her a nickel. He said, ‘Here, Honey. Take this and don’t ever tell anyone what I did to you.’ When little Norma Jean went to her foster mother to tell her what had happened she was beaten badly. She was told, ‘Our boarder pays good rent. Don’t you ever say anything bad about him!’ Norma Jean at the age of eight had learned what it was to be used and given a nickel and beaten for trying to express the hurt that was in her.

Norma Jean turned into a very pretty young girl and people began to notice. Boys whistled at her and she began to enjoy that, but she always wished they would notice she was a person too—not just a body—or a pretty face—but a person.

Then Norma Jean went to Hollywood and took a new name—Marilyn Monroe and the publicity people told her, ‘We are going to create a modern sex symbol out of you.’ And this was her reaction, ‘A symbol? Aren’t symbols things people hit together?’ They said, ‘Honey, it doesn’t matter, because we are going to make you the most smoldering sex symbol that ever hit the celluloid.’

She was an overnight smash success, but she kept asking, ‘Did you also notice I am a person? Would you please notice?’

Then she was cast in the dumb blonde roles. Everyone hated Marilyn Monroe. Everyone did. She would keep her crews waiting two hours on the set. She was regarded as a selfish prima donna. What they didn’t know was that she was in her dressing room vomiting because she was so terrified.

She kept saying, ‘Will someone please notice I am a person. Please.’ They didn’t notice. They wouldn’t take her seriously. She went through three marriages—always pleading, ‘Take me seriously as a person.’ Everyone kept saying, ‘But you are a sex symbol. You can’t be other than that.’ “Marilyn kept saying ‘I want to be a person. I want to be a serious actress.’

And so on that Saturday night, at the age of 35 when all beautiful women are supposed to be on the arm of a handsome escort, Marilyn Monroe took her own life. She killed herself. When her maid found her body the next morning, she noticed the telephone was off the hook. It was dangling there beside her.

Later investigation revealed that in the last moments of her life she had called a Hollywood actor and told him she had taken enough sleeping pills to kill herself.

He answered with the famous line of Rhett Butler, which I now edit for church, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t care!’ That was the last word she heard. She dropped the phone—left it dangling.

Claire Booth Luce in a very sensitive article asked, ‘What really killed Marilyn Monroe, love goddess who never found any love?’ She said she thought the dangling telephone was the symbol of Marilyn Monroe’s whole life. She died because she never got through to anyone who understood.

Dynamic Preaching, June, 1990