50 Ways Marilyn Monroe Has Been Kept Alive For 50 Years

Aug 03 (TheWrap.com) - There's a moment at the end of the promo reel for "Love, Marilyn," an upcoming Marilyn Monroe documentary that will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, when Uma Thurman, speaking in words that were written by Monroe, almost whispers these lines:

"Please don't talk about me when I'm gone."

Obviously, Monroe didn't get her wish.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of her death on Aug. 5, 1962, we're still talking about Marilyn.

You could easily argue that one of the world's biggest stars and sex symbols only became bigger after death, when her image became forever young and the erratic behavior that marred the last years of her career only made the story of glamour, sex and sadness more compelling.

Witness last year's Oscar-nominated "My Week With Marilyn," as well as Liz Garbus' new documentary, a combination of interviews with those who knew Monroe and staged readings of her words and the words of those close to her. (Among them: Thurman, Glenn Close, David Strathairn, Adrien Brody, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood.)

Then there's NBC's new series, "Smash," about creating a Broadway show about Marilyn. And there's that mammoth Marilyn statue that recently made its way from Chicago's famed Michigan Avenue to Palm Springs.

From movies to songs to television shows, art to advertisements, cartoons to photo shoots to who knows how many recreations of the subway-grate shot from "The Seven Year Itch" and the "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" number from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," Marilyn is inescapable  -- our National Blonde, even though this particular blonde didn't really seem to have more fun.

Here, to commemmorate the 50th anniversary of her death, are 50 shades of Marilyn in pop culture.


The place to start is the mother lode: "The Forever Marilyn Collection" (#1), a new Blu-ray and DVD box set that includes "Some Like It Hot," "The Misfits," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "How to Marry a Millionaire," "The Seven Year Itch," "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "River of No Return."

But Monroe's own movies are only the tip of the iceberg. Michelle Williams (right) won an Oscar nomination last year for playing the actress in "My Week With Marilyn" (#2), which dealt with the rocky shooting of the 1958, Laurence Olivier-directed film "The Prince and the Showgirl."

Other actresses, most notably Teresa Russell in Nicolas Roeg's "Insignificance" (#3), play versions of Monroe; her version is simply called The Actress.

In films that reference Monroe, "Pulp Fiction" (#4) stands out for its Jack Rabbit Slim's scene, where Marilyn is front-and-center in a diner populated by pop-culture icons.

More references: In "Blades of Glory" (#5) Amy Poehler's character performed a pairs ice-skating routine as Marilyn from "The Seven Year Itch." In "I Heart Huckabees" (#6), Naomi Watts' character sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" ala Monroe to JFK. In Ken Russell's film of the Who's "Tommy" (#7) Eric Clapton turned "Eyesight to the Blind" from a blues song about sex to the credo of a cult devoted to Marilyn.

We should also include another mention of the upcoming "Love, Marilyn" (#8), which uses Marilyn's own journal writings to help tell her story. Blonde on blonde, to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan.


NBC's musical "Smash" (#9, left) has the blonde bombshell played, at various points during the first season by Uma Thurman, Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee. Bonus: the show-within-a-show might really make it to Broadway one day (as might a Marilyn show Harvey Weinstein is trying to mount).

"Mad Men" (#10), meanwhile, has dealt with Marilyn in a couple of episodes, including "Six Month Leave," in which the women in the office react to her death. "Saturday Night Live" (#11) has used a variety of perfomers to play her, including "Teri Garr, Madonna and Charlize Theron, while Matt Groening has referenced Marilyn on his TV series "The Simpsons" (#12) and "Futurama" (#13), the latter of which included the character "Marilyn Monrobot."