Norma Jeane Baker transformed into Marilyn Monroe inside Hollywood’s ravenous glare. She began her entertainment career as a pinup model and soon secured her place as a bona fide international movie star. The ever-luminous Marilyn stole every scene she appeared in; many cinema scholars equate Monroe with the essence of the art form itself, due to the magic she invariably conjured up on the silver screen. She possessed an instinctive and sophisticated understanding of how to construct memorable images, and was not afraid of being vulnerable in her artistic process.
But beauty, talent and success did not diminish the pain of emotional difficulties Marilyn lived through. Abandoned in childhood by her parents, she experienced the vagaries of fame in her professional life, was bullied by powerful studio bosses, had three unsuccessful marriages and endured fertility problems, turning to alcohol and pills to cope with debilitating neuroses. Beneath the social mask of cheerful joie de vivre, Marilyn suffered enormously – and had the wherewithal to channel sorrow into her craft, evident in her interest in psychoanalysis and reliance on Method Acting to deliver authentic performances. Her untimely death at the age of 36 did not stop the ascension of her star in popular culture; quite the opposite, film experts and amateurs alike see her as a modern-day Aphrodite.
In this new PROJECTIONS series, we will examine the creation of Marilyn Monroe’s onscreen persona, and the psychological underpinnings that shaped not only how she projected herself, but also the ways in which film audiences continue to respond to her. We will consider the symbolism contained in Marilyn’s most famous film characters within three categories: the origins of her celebrity, the establishment of her icon, and a burning desire to disrupt widespread perceptions of who she was.
Advance viewing is optional, select scenes and montages will be shown during weekly sessions (see filmography below).
Week 1 – A STAR IS BORN
Ladies of the Chorus (1948), All About Eve (1950), Monkey Business (1952), Niagara (1953)
Week 2 – ICONIC PERFORMANCES
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), The Seven-Year Itch (1955), Some Like It Hot (1959)
Week 3 – ROCKING THE BOAT
Bus Stop (1956), The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), Let’s Make Love (1960), The Misfits (1961)
PROJECTIONS is psychoanalysis for film interpretation. PROJECTIONS empowers film spectators to express subjective associations they consider to be meaningful. Expertise in psychoanalytic theory is not necessary - the only prerequisite is the desire to enter and inhabit the imaginary world of film, which is itself a psychoanalytic act. MARY WILD, a Freudian cinephile from Montreal, is the creator of PROJECTIONS.