Marilyn Monroe was considered as one of the most famous popular culture icon and sex symbols for playing ‘dumb blonde’ characters established by films such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire.
(Marilyn singing ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friends’ in Gentlemen Prefer Blonde.)
Although the kind of sexy and dumb blonde characters in musical comedy made Marilyn one of the 20th Century Fox’s biggest stars, most of the roles were just given to her without even reading the script. That was a period when the studio system prevailed in Hollywood. The major studio companies make films with actors and crew under their long-term contract and have overall control. Tired and sick of being typecast, in 1954, Marilyn refused to shoot another musical comedy, The Girl in Pink Tights, and started to fight against Fox. She reached a settlement and got the role in The Seven Year Itch, in which she gave probably her most memorable performance – the subway grate scene. This becomes an iconic image of her and is often referenced in media.
After The Seven Year Itch was released, it became one of the biggest commercial successes of the summer. Fox realised Marilyn’s value and made every effort to re-sign Marilyn. Fox met most Marilyn’s demands such as story and director, even cinematographer approval. She could also work with independent producers and with other studios, which was unprecedented. Her new contract was considered revolutionary for an actor and to the film industry at that time.
In 1959, Marilyn worked with Billy Wilder again and made Some Like It Hot, her most critically acclaimed film. She won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her performance.
Contrary to her public image, Marilyn in real life is actually very keen in improving herself. She reads a lot; she has a personal library containing more than 400 books. http://blog.everlasting-star.net/marilyn-monroe/marilyns-library/ Here’s a picture of her reading James Joyce’s Ulysess.
She also takes classes on method acting at the Actors Studio and learn from Lee Strassberg.
From the transcript of her New Year Resolution in 1955, we can see that she really took studying very seriously.
Marilyn Monroe was perhaps the most misunderstood actress in Hollywood. She is remembered for her sexuality, for being difficult to work with, for all kinds of anecdotes in gossip column, but few people know her vulnerability, her perfectionism and determination to do better, her fight against studio system and her mental suffering which eventually caused her death at such a young age.