For the whole of the month of June the BFI are running a retrospective of movies of one of world’s greatest gay icons: Miss Marilyn Monroe.

It wasn’t just the fact that she was THE most glamorous movie star ever who delighted us by wantonly saying that she only wore Chanel No 5 to bed, but on a more serious level her fight against her dumb blonde image, her troubles with men and her crippling insecurity, made her a relatable presence for many who struggled with their sexuality, coming out and finding acceptance. She was also ahead of her time on LGBT issues as well, as according to a recent biography. she said to the lesbian president of her fan club, Jane Lawrence,

“When two people love each other, who cares what color or flavor or religion they are?”.

“It’s two human beings. It’s beautiful. Love is beautiful. It’s that simple.”

Born Norma Jeane, Marilyn overcame a troubled childhood, including growing up with her mentally ill mother, bouncing around foster care and suffering sexual abuse. She was married and divorced three times, and allegedly had an affair with Pres. John F. Kennedy. She made about 30 films before her death at age 36 from an overdose of barbiturates in 1962

The BFI’s wonderful celebration is a very rare opportunity to see 15 of her best-loved films including Some Like it Hot (1959), There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954) and The Misfits (1961). Monroe invented her own image of femininity and performed it so flawlessly that it still resonates in our own time, having influenced performers from Madonna to Rita Ora. Her luminescent star quality, warmth and humanity made her roles in such films as The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) much more than comic dumb blonde stereotypes. The season will also offer audiences a chance to see some of Monroe’s rarely-screened early films including We’re Not Married (1952) and Clash By Night (1952), and look behind the legend of Marilyn Monroe with dedicated talks and study days.

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Roles in We’re Not Married (1952), Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), Monkey Business (1952) and Clash By Night (1952) gave her some early success, but it was first star billing in Niagara (1953) which began to really propel Monroe towards stardom. Monroe starred opposite Joseph Cotton as a young married woman out to kill her husband with help from her lover. A number of light comedic roles followed in films such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and The Seven Year Itch (1955), but she began to feel typecast as a ‘dumb blonde’ and decided to take control of her career.
She studied at the Actors Studio to broaden her range, resulting in a Golden Globe nomination for her role in Bus Stop (1956) and she also formed her own production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, which produced The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), in which she starred alongside Laurence Olivier. Completing the season will be John Huston’s The Misfits (1961) which was written for Monroe by her husband Arthur Miller.
From June 1st @BFI Southbank. Tickets and Information


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About the author: Roger Walker-Dack
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