Movies: The Only Blonde in the World

  • Share
  • Read Later

She was swept by panics, smothered by doubts and fears, and her death had been long in coming. Twenty years ago, when she was a warmly shopworn 16, she had first tried to kill herself. Guilt became her constant companion and she "broke promises and contracts and friendships to seek it out. She felt pulled and taunted and cheated, but when she spoke of what troubled her, her thoughts always resolved themselves so innocently that she seemed more frolicsome than frightened. "I don't mind being burdened with being glamorous and sexual," she would say. And her brow would furrow.

The urge to go nude was her most public whim, but it seemed to be a guide to her, too. A strangely exhilarating dream led her away from the foster family of religious zealots who first convinced her of her guilt. "I dreamed I was standing up in church without any clothes on," she recalled, "and all the people there were lying at my feet on the floor, and I walked naked, with a sense of freedom, being careful not to step on anyone." Years later, after a hopeless, thankless, adolescent marriage to an aircraft worker, she posed nude for Christendom's most famous calendar and from that moment on, she was the only blonde in the world.

Baby Doll. Films like How to Marry a Millionaire, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Seven Year Itch made her vague but sparkling smile and her shrill, excited voice the universal definition of Baby Doll. And she learned to speak in the voice of the girl she was supposed to be with memorable success.

No one was surprised when she married Joe DiMaggio in 1954−their courtship had been beautifully photographed. And few were surprised when they were divorced nine months later. It was only when she married Playwright Arthur Miller that her fans began to wonder: who is this queen of sex? Through Miller, she conducted a kittenish romance with the intelligentsia and for a while, everything she said sounded as if she were talking about Zen Buddhism. But when her marriage ended last year, she found herself able to give her religious views as "Jewish agnostic" and revert to the charms of innocence: "I never quite understood it, this sex symbol. But if I'm going to be a symbol of something. I'd rather have it sex than some of the other things they've got symbols for."

She had always been late for everything, but her truancy was never heedlessness. Beset by self-doubt and hints of illness, she would stay alone, missing appointments, keeping whole casts waiting in vain. In the past year, her tardiness was measured in weeks instead of hours. In 32 days on the set of Something's Got to Give, she showed up only 12 times, made only 7½ usable minutes of film. When fired from the picture, she sent telegrams of regrets to all the grips on the lot.

Beside the Phone. She seemed euphonic and cheerful, even while 20th Century-Fox was filing suit against her in hopes of salvaging $750,000 damages from the wreckage of Something's Got to Give. She offered a photographer exclusive rights to nearly-nude shots of her from the set because, she said, "I want the world to see my body." Last week, she negotiated still another sale of a nude photograph to a picture magazine.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2