Posted: Mar 17 2012
HOLLYWOOD – NORMA JEANE MORTENSON died 50 years ago this August of a barbiturate overdose, aged 36.
In a little more than 15 years, the woman the world came to know as Marilyn Monroe had established herself as an actress, singer, producer and, above all, a sex symbol, despite her protestation that “a sex symbol becomes a thing. I just hate to be a thing.”
The latest attempt to analyze Monroe’s image comes with a new exhibition at the Getty Images Gallery in London made up of 66 largely unseen Monroe images, plus new video footage and 12 of her most memorable outfits.
How Did Marilyn Monroe Get Her Sultry Looks?
Where Norma Jeane had been a brunette, Marilyn was an ever more transcendent blonde. Her overbite was corrected during a stint at Columbia Pictures, a cartilage bump removed from her nose.
Monroe’s make-up artist, Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, observed that it was during preparation for Niagara that they achieved ‘the look’. It was all about juxtaposing light and shade to ensure that Monroe would look radiant on camera, specifically a black and white camera.
The actress had a characteristically sultry explanation for her ambition to remain pale. In 1952 she declared: “I’m personally opposed to a deep tan because I like to feel blonde all over.”
She slathered on layers of Vaseline, hormone cream, Erno Laszlo Active pHelityl Cream, or Nivea (meaning ‘snow-white’) to give a glow under studio lights. This layering technique meant that, even in the more unstudied Getty images, light beams from her cheeks.
This glow was augmented by the down caused by the hormone cream. Monroe expert Gene London said: “She had the heaviest peach fuzz beard of any actress in Hollywood. [Studio chiefs] wanted to remove the facial hair but Marilyn absolutely refused. She said that when the light hit the fuzz it caused her face to have a soft glow, so they didn’t have to photograph her through special lenses, lace, or Vaseline the way they did with so many stars.”
Her pout was created with five different varieties of lipstick with a highlighted cupid’s bow and bottom lip.
Her heaving bosom was no less a focus. “She always wore a bra to bed because she didn’t want her breasts to sag,” says London. “Marilyn took to placing marbles in her bras, or she’d take three buttons … and sew the buttons together and place those inside her dress.”
Hems were weighted to achieve cling, biases cut so tight that she could not sport underwear, a reputation that only added to her allure.
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