Monday, November 24, 2014

After the Fall

Young, pre-cosmetic surgery and bleach Monroe
I got a copy of Arthur Miller's play AFTER THE FALL because it's basically an autobiographical piece and I wanted to see how he portrayed Marilyn Monroe - called Maggie in the play. I'm writing a play about MM in between trying to finish my DARK MARKET, which will have a reading in two weeks.

Miller's character Quentin is a lawyer and Marilyn's character is a singer rather than a movie star, but the inter-personal dynamics are presumably the same - Miller pretty much portrays Monroe as the hot mess that she's known as now. In fact I have to wonder how much this portrayal has influenced views of Monroe. According to a documentary about Monroe in New York, which portrays Monroe as pretty damn sharp, Miller was responsible for driving a wedge between Monroe and her business partner, photographer Milton Greene. She set up a business, "Marilyn Monroe Productions" together with Greene.

Miller seems to consider himself the driving force behind Monroe's career moves:
MAGGIE 
No! Tell the truth! The piano's off and you're not listening! 
QUENTIN 
But nobody will ever notice. 
A pianist moves near her out of the executive group. 
MAGGIE 
I know the difference! Don't you want me to be good? I told Weinstein I wanted Johnny Block but they gave me this fag and he holds back my beat! Nobody listens to me! I'm a joke! 
QUENTIN 
Maybe if I talk to Weinstein -  
MAGGIE 
No, don't get mixed up in my crummy business, you've got an important case...  
QUENTIN 
He moves to and point and demands: 
Weinstein, get her Johnny Block! 
The music turns over into another number and her voice, swift, sure. 
There now! Listen now! 
She listens in suspense; he almost struts with his power.  
See? There's no reason to get upset, just tell me and I'll talk to these people any time you - 
I found it interesting though that Miller was aware that Monroe had found some unkind things he wrote about her not long after they were married -
MAGGIE 
What are you, goddam judge or something? Let go. You no judge. 
He lets go. 
You know when I wanted to die. When I read what you wrote, judgey. Two months after we were married, judgey. 
QUENTIN 
Stricken, afraid, but remorseless. 
Let's keep it true. It's not some words on a piece of paper that destroyed us. You told me you tried to die long before you met me.  
MAGGIE 
So you're not even there, huh. I didn't even meet you. Tries to laugh. 
You coward. Coward! 
She staggers to her feet. He finds it hard to look directly at her. A clear line of accusation momentarily seems to steady her, and with the pills in her palm she stands straight. 
I was married to a king, you son of a bitch! I was looking for a fountain pen to sign some autographs. And there's his desk... 
She is speaking towards some invisible source of justice now, telling her injury. 
...and there's his empty chair where he sits and thinks how to help people. And there's his handwriting. I wanted to touch his handwriting. And there's some words... 
She almost literally reads in the air, and with the same original astonishment. 
"The only one I will ever love is my daughter. If only I could find an honorable way to die." 
Now she turns to him. 
When you gonna face that judgey? Remember how I fell down fainted? On the new rug? Member? That's what killed me judgey. Right? 
She staggers up to him and into his face. 
'Zat right? When you gonna face that one, kiddo?
It's pretty harrowing.

There's so much available about Monroe now, including this piece in Business Insider, 50 Things You Didn't Know about Marilyn including:
26. In 1950, Johnny Hyde, her agent, paid for her to have two plastic surgeries: a tip rhinoplasty (reshaping the soft cartilage at the end of her nose); and a chin implant.
Actually, looking at later photos of Monroe I think she also had some kind of upper-eyelid surgery at some point - her eyelids are much more pronounced in later photos, which goes against the basic facts of aging and gravity.

My favorite thing about Marilyn though is this:
28. Marilyn’s intervention got Ella Fitzgerald her first major engagement at a Los Angeles nightclub. In 1955 the colour bar was still in force, but Marilyn convinced the management to let Fitzgerald play by promising to sit in the front row for a week.

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