Spoiler alert! The following contains major plot points from the Marilyn Monroe drama “Blonde” (now streaming on Netflix).
If you’re anything like us, you probably have a lot of questions after watching “Blonde.”
Netflix’s controversial drama Marilyn Monroe (now streaming) stars Ana de Armas as the tragic Hollywood starlet, who died of an overdose in 1962 at the age of 36. The film is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ historical fiction novel from 2000, which traces her humble beginnings as Norma Jeane Baker to her fame, and how she became a victim of a male-dominated industry.
“The film is about the significance of Marilyn Monroe and why she endured,” says director Andrew Dominik. Here are some of the facts and fiction in the critically divisive “Blonde”:
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Did Marilyn Monroe have a threesome with Charlie Chaplin Jr.?
At the beginning of the film, Marilyn meets Charlie “Cass” Chaplin Jr. (Xavier Samuel) and Eddy G. Robinson Jr. (Evan Williams) in an acting class, and they come back together to make a trio. The new friends soon form a “troupe”, having constant sex and laughter and becoming tabloid fodder. But Marilyn’s relationship with Cass and Eddy ends after she becomes pregnant with one of their babies and is forced to have an abortion.
“There is no evidence of a three-way relationship between Chaplin Jr. and Robinson Jr.,” says Monroe historian and collector Scott Fortner. “It is true, however, that Marilyn dated Chaplin Jr. for a short time. He writes about it in his biography (“My Father, Charlie Chaplin” from the 1960s).”
Did Marilyn’s mother really try to drown her in a bathtub?
The film traces young Marilyn, then known as Norma, and her traumatic childhood with her single mother, Gladys Pearl Baker (Julianne Nicholson). She repeatedly blames her daughter for the departure of Norma’s father, and is both emotionally and physically abusive. At one point, Gladys attempts to drown Norma in a tub. Norma escapes and runs to her neighbors’ apartment, and Gladys is sent to a psychiatric hospital soon after.
There’s no evidence that Baker ever tried to drown her daughter, Fortner says. But Monroe’s third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, said in a 1968 interview that Monroe told him her mother had threatened her with death three times, according to Keith Badman’s book, “Marilyn Monroe: The Last years”. Monroe was not close to her mother, but continued to pay her medical bills. Baker outlived her 22-year-old daughter, passing away in 1984 at age 81.
“It’s true that Gladys suffered from mental issues and was effectively institutionalized for most of her adult life,” Fortner said. “There was a short period when Marilyn lived with her mother when she was young. However, most of Marilyn’s childhood was spent in foster homes and she had a brief stint in Hollygrove, an orphanage in LA. She married her first husband at 16 to avoid having to return to the orphanage.”
Did she ever know her father?
Throughout “Blonde”, Marilyn is constantly daydreaming and chasing after her absent father – he is the last image she sees in her mind just before she dies. It’s true that she never knew her father, Charles Stanley Gifford, says Dominik. As the film shows, Monroe would have tried to find him several times.
“It’s well documented,” says Dominik. “There are many, many (examples) that have been described in her real life where she had a driver come to a town in California. She was going to call her father in a phone booth and then come back in tears saying that the guy refused to meet her.”
Was Marilyn really paid a fraction of Jane Russell’s salary?
In the film, before Marilyn signs in 1953 “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, she wonders why she is only offered $5,000 compared to her co-star Jane Russell’s $100,000 salary. Monroe was paid around $15,000 for the musical, while Russell – who had worked longer and was better known – earned around $150,000.
“It was during (‘Gentlemen’) that Marilyn began to seek greater recognition for her work and greater respect,” Fortner said. “She knew that she was becoming more and more popular with moviegoers and more and more famous. When the studio informed her that she was not a star, Marilyn replied curtly: “Well, whatever I am, I AM the BLONDE.” ”
What really happened between Marilyn and JFK?
“Blonde” depicts a horrible and degrading relationship between Marilyn and President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson). She exclaims that she is being treated like “a piece of meat” as Secret Service agents physically transport her to Kennedy’s suite. There, in a fog filled with drugs and alcohol, the president forces her to perform oral sex before raping her.
“The despicable sex scene between Marilyn and JFK is definitely fiction,” Fortner said. “Opinions vary widely on the actual relationship between the two. Of course, there have been rumors for years, but what we think we know is that Marilyn and JFK only met four times between October 1961 and August 1962″, each time. at a party. (The last, on May 19, 1962, was Kennedy’s birthday gala at Madison Square Garden in New York, where Marilyn sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”.)
Did Joe DiMaggio ever abuse Marilyn?
In one scene, “Blonde” shows Marilyn’s second husband, New York Yankees player Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale), scolding Marilyn when she comes home, before beating her up off-screen. DiMaggio and Monroe, who filed for divorce after just nine months of marriage in October 1954, never publicly commented on the alleged abuse, and there are conflicting reports of the incident, Fortner says.
“But some of her relatives claimed that Marilyn was bruised after an argument with Joe after filming the subway/skirt blowing scene in ‘Seven Year Itch’, during which Joe got visibly upset and left. “, said Fortner. “Makeup artist Allan Snyder and hairstylist Gladys Whitten both claimed the next morning that the bruises needed to be covered in makeup. Others also commented on seeing bruises while Marilyn and Joe were married.”