If Elvis is the King, Marilyn always will be THE Queen.
As evidence, you might revisit a few milestones which are synonymous with her timeless allure:
- The cover of Hugh Hefner's inaugural issue of Playboy'thereafter influencing, at least for many of us, any subsequent centerfold to date, seriously
- The most memorable mainstream magazine covers of the last 50 years or so
- That most seminal moment in Presidential birthday salutation history
Fair enough, the foregoing is a rather pedestrian, superficial treatment of this goddess in the ancient sense, replete with manifold powers. It is the latter aspect of her universal and irrelevant-to-mere-mortal chronology which will now be explored, in a serious effort to divine (appropriately) the depth and breadth of her fascinating humanity.
It's back to her coincidental shared throne with Mr. Presley: Both were serious, studious actors, yet the victims of a studio system ever-obsessed with the "Playboy
" mentality, a.k.a. sex appeal. Lost in that lack of imagination above the studio executives' waists was the numbingly obvious (in hindsight) fact that both could sing and dance at the highest level possible, or that their performances, however limited by external factors, were imbued with a soulful sensitivity, so "in the moment" that such humanity was willingly seen by the films' producers as one-dimensional weakness. Although Elvis was known to memorize entire scripts (not just his lines) this was overlooked as the thrall of a pretty boy, prettier than most women (see: first scene of Tarantino's True Romance
Most women could never include his royal counterpart, Marilyn Monroe, on so many levels beyond loveliness. Which brings us to her at least equal share of entertainment's throne staying powers: What might have been?
While both succumbed to the only escape available to so public a persona, itself remote from their innermost gifts and sensibilities, Monroe's path to apparent substance overdose is even more ethereal than Presley's, shrouded as it is by time and suitably dramatic interlopers with luminary names themselves'DiMaggio, Miller and the mysterious Kennedy brothers. Her untimely exit surpasses in histrionics that of her otherwise unrelated companions in that premature journey: Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison to name a few.
The refrain is fitting and unending: What if?
It's proposed that this enduring fascination resides in the comparative wonderment we find ourselves in when pondering what thespian heights might have been reached. To underscore this constant refrain's incisive quality we need only survey that small universe of performer/actors who have attained Parnassus via the dramatic/comedic arts into older age. I cannot find her possible or actual peers outside the musical theatre genre. Even there, rarely has any plausible veteran of that stage migrated successfully to film, complete with superior mastery of song, dance and non-comedic acting. Bette Davis? No, average looks, without those other skills save acting skills. I find myself at a loss.
Perhaps this is why the late Colin Clark's insight into Marilyn, portrayed by Michelle Williams in the upcoming film My Week With Marilyn
, is confined to, as Harvey Weinstein has said, a "snapshot," and a mirthful one at that, albeit revealing the deeper neediness of Marilyn's real life role.
It is some 50 years and counting. Until and unless her equal arrives on the scene, the once and always Queen of eye, heart and, yes, mind, will haunt our collective psyche, regardless of gender, with what might have been.