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Famous Marilyn Monroe quotes, insights into her life

Posted November 27, 2012 by Jonathan Baron

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) was one of the most famous Hollywood actresses of the 20th century, and both in her life and after her controversial death she was a widely recognized sex symbol. She was reportedly somewhat difficult to work with, but in interviews she joked often and had an easygoing manner with reporters.

Her public face was one of general amiability and a love of life, and the quotes below are some of her most famous and most telling.

"That's the trouble, a sex symbol becomes a thing. But if I'm going to be a symbol of something, I'd rather it be sex than some of the things we've got symbols of... I just hate to be a thing."

This was quoted in Ms. Magazine ten years after her death. Monroe was asked often about her arguably self-imposed sex symbol status, and while she enjoyed the profits from it, did not enjoy being viewed as an object.

"Please don't make me a joke. End the interview with what I believe. I don't mind making jokes, but I don't want to look like one... I want to be an artist, an actress with integrity."

LIFE magazine did a taped interview with Monroe shortly before her death. It was her final taped interview, and was published just days before her overdose on barbiturates. At the close of her life, Marilyn Monroe wanted to be known as an artist, and as someone more than the sum of her nude photoshoots and gaiety.

"It's not true I had nothing on. I had the radio on."

TIME magazine quoted her saying this in 1952, here talking about her nude photographs for a calendar. After her famous Playboy shoot, she was asked often to appear nude for calendars and other pin-ups.

"Hollywood's a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents."

When Monroe reached a wide-reaching popularity, privately she was depressed. Publicly she continued to portray a bright smile and a love of life. She was often disillusioned with Hollywood and its politics, and this is reflected in the book this was taken from, "Marilyn Monroe: In Her Own Words."

"Dogs never bite me. Just humans."

Truman Capote, author of the famous "In Cold Blood" quoted Monroe saying this in a collection of short stories named "Music for Chameleons." The short story it presents in is named "A Beautiful Child," certainly an overt reference to Monroe herself. The subject matter Capote wrote about took place in the 50s, after her divorce from Joe Dimaggio, but the story wasn't published till 1980.

"The body is meant to be seen, not all covered up."

Marilyn Monroe wrote this on a piece of paper, and it was in response to a question about her posing nude. She personified a movement that isn't often talked about: a movement of self-expression and freedom from previous norms.

"I know I will never be happy but I know I can be gay!"

This was written to Monroe's psychologist in a letter, in 1961. She definitely became unhappy, or rather more unhappy, as her fame grew and her time in Hollywood increased. The things she said in the years and months before she died reveal a woman who was clearly disillusioned with her fame.

"Arthur Miller wouldn't have married me if I had been nothing but a dumb blonde."

Arthur Miller was one of Marilyn Monroe's husbands. He was a playwright and essayist, and a man of clear intelligence. They had an affair while Miller was still married, and stayed in contact. Five years later they were married after Monroe left his then-wife Marry Slattery. He won a Pulitzer Prize for drama, and Monroe convincingly argues that a man with that amount of talent would never marry someone unintelligent.

"How do we know the pain or another's earlier years, let alone all that he drags with him since along the way at best a lot of leeway is needed for the other - yet how much is unhealthy for one to bear. I think to love bravely is the best and accept - as much as one can bear."

Monroe's early life was troubled by her mother, Gladys Baker, who was mentally unstable. She was given to foster parents, but despite her presumably stable time with them, her mother arrived once and demanded Monroe be returned to her. Marilyn was zipped into a duffel bag and in an ensuing scuffle it burst open, dumping Monroe on the ground crying while her foster mother and birth mother fought.

This was just one of the many episodes with her mother that no doubt traumatized a young Marilyn Monroe, and as we see above from her diary, she is aware that these things can affect us our entire lives.

"I'm not interested in money; I just want to be wonderful."

Marilyn Monroe didn't seem to want wealth. Arguments about whether she wanted or enjoyed her fame abound. Doubtless, to at least some extent, she was a product of her environment and the massive cultural shift the post-WWII era provided. She espoused a philosophy of loving self, and refusing to change oneself in the face of pressure. She remains a symbol of a sexual revolution, to be sure, but also a symbol of remaining true to oneself.

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