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“Please quote me right”

Marilyn Monroe, LIFE Magazine, 1962

My Story

  • I daydreamed chiefly about beauty. I dreamed of myself becoming so beautiful that people would turn and look at me when I passed.
  • I couldn’t think of anything – except acting. I knew about acting. It was a way to live in dreams for a few minutes at a time.
  • I used to say to myself, what the devil you got to be proud about, Marilyn Monroe? And I’d answer, “Everything, everything.” And I’d walk slowly and turn my head slowly as if I were a queen.
  • For a dollar, you could buy a pair of stockings and a hamburger sandwich. But stockings and a hamburger will never make you an actress. Speech lessons may. So with bare legs and an empty stomach you hit the consonants of “Hail to thee, blithe spirit.”
  • My illusions didn’t have anything to do with being a fine actress. I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothing I was wearing inside. But, my God, how I wanted to learn! To change, to improve! I didn’t want anything else. Not men, not money, not love, but the ability to act.
  • I want to be an artist, not an erotic freak. I don’t want to be sold to the public as a celluloid aphrodisiacal.
  • I used to think as I looked out on the Hollywood night, “There must be thousands of girls sitting alone like me dreaming of becoming a movie star.” But I’m not going to worry about them. I’m dreaming the hardest.
  • People had a habit of looking at me as if I were some kind of mirror instead of a person. They didn’t see me, they saw their own lewd thoughts, then they white-masked themselves by calling me the lewd one.
  • Success came to me in a rush. It surprised my employers much more than it did me. Even when I had played only bit parts in a few films, all the movie magazines and newspapers started printing my picture and giving me write-ups.
  • Things weren’t entirely black–not yet. they really never are. when you’re young and healthy you can plan on Monday to commit suicide, and by Wednesday you’re laughing again. after lying around for a few days feeling sorry for myself and feeling what a failure I was, something would come back into my heart again. I wouldn’t say things out loud, but I could hear them as if voices were talking to me, get up, you haven’t begun yet, you’re different, something wonderful is going to happen. and wonderful things did happen on the ocean bottom–in a small way. I met kind people.
  • I paid no attention to the whistles and whoops. In fact, I didn’t hear them. I was full of a strange feeling, as if I were two people. One of them was Norma Jeane from the orphanage who belonged to nobody. The other was someone whose name I didn’t know. But I knew where she belonged. She belonged to the ocean and the sky and the whole world.
  • In Hollywood a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hair-do. You’re judged by how you look, not by what you are. 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.
  • To love without hope is a sad thing for the heart.

The Last Interview with Allan Grant for LIFE magazine, 1962

  • 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…
  • If I am a star, the people made me a star.
  • I don’t understand why people aren’t a little more generous with each other.
  • I want to be an artist, an actress with integrity… If fame goes by, so long, I’ve had you, fame. If it goes by, I’ve always known it was fickle. So at least it’s something I experienced, but that’s not where I live.
  • I’m one of the world’s most self-conscious people. I really have to struggle.
  • You know, most people really don’t know me.
  • I think sexuality is only attractive when it’s natural and spontaneous.
  • I think that when you are famous every weakness is exaggerated. … Goethe said, “Talent is developed in privacy,” you know? And it’s really true. … Creativity has got to start with humanity and when you’re a human being, you feel, you suffer. You’re gay, you’re sick, you’re nervous or whatever.
  • There was a reaction that came to the studio, the fan mail, or whenever I went to a premiere, or the exhibitors wanted to meet me. I didn’t know why.
  • The time I sort of began to think I was famous, I was driving somebody to the airport, and as I came back there was this movie house and I saw my name in lights. I pulled the car up at a distance down the street; it was too much to take up close, you know, all of a sudden. And I said, “God, somebody’s made a mistake.” But there it was, in lights. And I sat there and said, “So that’s the way it looks,” and it was all very strange to me, and yet at the studio they had said, “Remember, you’re not a star.” Yet there it is up in lights.
  • An actor is not a machine, no matter how much they want to say you are. Creativity has got to start with humanity and when you’re a human being, you feel, you suffer. You’re gay, you’re sick, you’re nervous or whatever.
  • I never quite understood it, this sex symbol. I always thought symbols were those things you clash together! That’s the trouble, a sex symbol becomes a thing. I just hate to be a thing. But if I’m going to be a symbol of something I’d rather have it sex than some other things they’ve got symbols of! These girls who try to be me, I guess the studios put them up to it, or they get the ideas themselves. But gee, they haven’t got it. You can make a lot of gags about it like they haven’t got the foreground or else they haven’t the background. But I mean the middle, where you live.

Conversations with Marilyn by WJ Weatherby, 1961

  • You’ve got to understand what you’re doing. You’ve got to know yourself.
  • I don’t mind living in a man’s world, as long as I can be a woman in it.
  • I sometimes feel as if I’m too exposed. I’ve given myself away, the whole of me, every part, and there’s nothing left that’s private, just me alone. If you feel low, you might worry there’s nothing new to give. But that’s not true – not ever. You discover things inside yourself you never knew were there. You always go on developing.
  • I want to grow old without facelifts. They take the life out of the face. I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I’ve made.
  • Don’t you find all people who suffered are like that? They remained nice and sensitive. They do.
  • I’ll never tie myself to a studio again. I would rather retire.
  • I certainly change with places and people. I’m different in New York than I am in Hollywood.
  • I’ve never dropped anyone I believe in. My problem is I trust people too much. I believe in them too much and I go on believing in them when the signs are already there. You get a lot of disappointments.
  • I ask myself what I am afraid of. I know I have talent. I know I can act. Well, get on with it, Marilyn. I feel I still try to ingratiate myself with people, try to tell them what they want to hear. That’s fear, too. We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.
  • People who aren’t fit to open the door for him (Montgomery Clift) sneer at his homosexuality. What do they know about it? Labels – people love putting labels on each other. Then they feel safe. People tried to make me into a lesbian. I laughed. No sex is wrong if there’s love in it.
  • They think beauty is meant to serve them. I wrote a poem about that once. How people like to corrupt beauty, bring it down to their level. They don’t know how rare it can be. Everyone can be beautiful in their own way, but most people don’t let themselves be beautiful. Most people don’t like themselves…
  • Fame causes such envy. People sometimes just because you’re famous. They’re phony to face. See you around—like never. I like to be accepted for my own sake, but a lot of people don’t care who you are. All they’re interested in is your fame—while you’ve got it. I like to escape it, like we’re doing now. When I was a kid, the world often seemed a pretty grim place. I loved to escape through games and make-believe. You can do that even better as an actress, but sometimes it seems you escape altogether and people never let you come back. You’re trapped in your fame. Maybe I’ll never get out of it now until it’s over. Fame has gone and I’m old. What should I do then? I don’t think it’ll throw me. I have ideas. I’ll be interested in everything. Character acting, poetry reading, Yoga, travel—everything. That’s the way to stay alive. It is.
  • They think beauty is meant to serve them. I wrote a poem about that once. How people like to corrupt beauty, bring it down to their level. They don’t know how rare it can be. Everyone can be beautiful in their own way, but most people don’t let themselves be beautiful. Most people don’t like themselves.
  • I feel like I’m rejecting part of myself, that I’m letting part of me die, like a dead branch that gets no chance to grow and develop.
  • I think you’ve got to love people, all kinds of people, to be able to have an opinion about them that’s worth anything. The whole idea of judging people is crazy. We do what we have to do, and we pay for it. We’re no better than we have to be. We can try to be better, and part of trying is not to condemn other people.
  • Sometimes I think I was more in control of my life years and years ago, and yet one should make progress; one should learn more every year and become…well, if not happier, then calmer and more able to handle your problems. But I’m not. Sometimes I just seem to make more problems for myself. I do. It makes me feel I haven’t grown up as much as I should have by now.

Will Acting Spoil Marilyn Monroe? by Pete Martin, 1956

  • After all, if I can’t be myself who can I be then I would like to know?
  • I refuse to let articles appear in movie magazines signed ‘by Marilyn Monroe.’ I might never see that article and it might be okayed by somebody in the studio. This is wrong because when I was a little girl I read signed stories in fan magazines and I believed every word the stars said in them. Then I’d try to model my life after the lives of the stars i read about. If I’m going to have that kind of influence, I want to be sure it’s because of something I’ve actually read or written.

Life in Her Own Words by George Barris

Based on interviews with friend and photographer George Barris in 1962

  • I wanted more than anything in the world to be loved. Love to me then and now means being wanted.
  • I’m ready. I want to work. Acting is my life. I’ve never felt better. I am not a victim of emotional conflicts. I am human. We all have our areas. We all feel inferior, but who ever admits it? I do think I’m human. I do have my down moments, but I’m also robust more than down.
  • As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved people.
  • You know, children when they become adults are still at heart children. Sometimes I watch adult men. They act like little boys who have never grown up. I suppose it depends on the mood you are in. Our emotions play an important part in our lives. We cannot hide from them. My mother, bless her, used to say, ‘Norma Jeane, make the most of it, because that’s all you’ve got.
  • Always be yourself. Retain individuality; listen to the truest part of yourself. Study if you can. Get a good teacher. Believe in yourself. Have confidence too.

Interview with Georges Belmont for Marie Claire, 1960

  • They think beauty is meant to serve them. I wrote a poem about that once. How people like to corrupt beauty, bring it down to their level. They don’t know how rare it can be. Everyone can be beautiful in their own way, but most people don’t let themselves be beautiful. Most people don’t like themselves.
  • They think beauty is meant to serve them. I wrote a poem about that once. How people like to corrupt beauty, bring it down to their level. They don’t know how rare it can be. You know they ask you questions, well, just an example, ‘What do you wear to bed? A pajama top? The bottoms of the pajama? Or the, a nightgown?’ So I said, Chanel No. 5, because it’s the truth. And yet I don’t wanna say nude, you know, but it’s the truth.
  • I want to do the best that I can do in that moment, when the camera starts, until it stops.
  • My problem is that I drive myself, but I do want to be wonderful, you know? I know some people may laugh about that, but it’s true. Once in New York my lawyer was telling me about my tax deductions and stuff and having the patience of an angel with me. I said to him, “I don’t want to know about all this. I only want to be wonderful.” But if you say that sort of thing to a lawyer, he thinks you’re crazy.

Interview with Alan Levy for Redbook Magazine, 1962

  • I fell in love with two of the nicest men I had met up to that time and was lucky enough to marry them.
  • I am trying to prove to myself that I am a person. Then maybe I’ll convince myself that I am an actress… As a person, my work is most important to me. My work is the only ground I’ve ever had to stand on. Acting is very important to me. To put it bluntly, I seem to have a whole superstructure with no foundation. But I’m working on the foundation.
  • I could never imagine buying a home alone, but I’ve always been alone, so why couldn’t I imagine it? The reality is very different. It’s better to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone – so far.
  • As a person my work is most important to me. My work is the only ground I’ve ever had to stand on. Acting is very important to me. To put it bluntly, I seem to have a whole superstructure with no foundation. But I’m working on the foundation.

Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe

  • I will as sensitive as I am – without being ashamed of it.
  • My body is my body, every part of it.
  • To overcome the difficulties, remember the fear is always there and will be in your case. But there is something you can do about it. Which by only making the effort.
  • I believe in myself, even my most delicate, intangible feelings.
  • I guess I’m too emotional in the wrong spots-but if things weren’t like that I would probably bore myself–although if I were different I would hardly know the difference.
  • For someone like me, it’s wrong to go through thorough self-analysis. I do it enough in thought generalities.
  • My overall progress is such that I have hopes of finally establishing a piece of ground for myself to stand on, instead of the quicksand I have always been in.
  • I’ve tried to imagine spring all winter—it’s here and I still feel hopeless.
  • I guess I have always been deeply terrified to really be someone’s wife since I know from life one cannot love another, ever, really.
  • Everyone’s childhood plays itself out. No wonder no one knows the other, or can completely understand. How do we know the pain of another’s earlier years, let alone all that he drags with him. I think to love bravely is the best… and to accept as much as one can bear.
  • You’re not a scared, lonely little girl anymore. Remember, you can sit on top of the world…It doesn’t feel like it.
  • I can’t really stand Human/ Beings sometimes-I know/ they all have their problems/ as I have mine-but I’m really/ too tired for it. Trying to understand,/ making allowances, seeing certain things/ that just weary me
  • Starting tomorrow I will take care of myself for that’s all I really have and as I see it now have ever had

Other newspapers, magazines, documents and interviews

  • I don’t want to be bone thin, and I make it a point to stay the way I want to be. A breakfast of hot milk with two raw eggs means energy without fat. I like rare steaks and green salads and vegetables, too. Rather than wonder, should I eat dessert ? I just go on an ice cream binge once a week (chocolate, please!). And, of course, if you don’t like girdles, you’re going to exercise. Working out with light weight dumbbells, and a slow, relaxed dog trot around the block are very good for toning muscles. – Movieland Magazine, 1952
  • When everything isn’t going all right, don’t brood about it! There’s sure to be something better waiting for you if you strive for it. Just be ready for your big chance. Success is up to you, and if you think it’s worth it, it will be yours! – Filmland Magazine, 1953
  • I want to find myself, way deep inside. And enjoy being myself. It isn’t easy. Nothing’s ever easy as long as you go on living. – Coronet magazine, 1952
  • When a girl puts on an act, pretends to be something she thinks will impress the boy, she ends up with a feeling of insecurity. Be who you really are! – LA Times, 1952
  • You know, it’s interesting… people associate that if you have blonde hair naturally, or not naturally, or if you’re out of shape in some way, you’re absolutely dumb. You’re considered dumb! I don’t know why that is. I think it’s a very limited view. – NBC Broadcast, 1955
  • I’m not afraid to be afraid anymore. – Look Magazine, 1960
  • I don’t want to be a woman alone. I want to belong. – Parade Magazine, 1952
  • I have a little temper, and I really lose it when people write untruths about me. – Motion Picture magazine, 1954
  • The luckiest thing that ever happened to me was being born a woman. – Modern Screen, 1953
  • Unfortunately, I am involved in a freedom ride protesting the loss of the minority rights belonging to the few remaining earthbound stars. All we demanded was our right to twinkle. – Telegram, turning down a party invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy (13 June 1962)
  • [Conover] called me at the plant one morning later and said that all the pictures came out perfect also he said that I should by all means go into the modeling prof. He also said that I photographed very well and that he wants to take a lot more. Also he said he had a lot of contacts in which he wanted me to look into. – A letter written by Norma in 1945 to Grace Goddard. 
  • I’m trying to find myself as a person. Sometimes that’s not easy to do. Millions of people live their entire lives without finding themselves. Maybe they feel it isn’t necessary. But it is something I must do. The best way for me to find myself as a person is to prove to myself I am an actress. And that is what I hope to do. – Sunday Express, 1961. 
  • I think I’d do everything differently. I’d make every single decision differently. Except… I don’t think I’d have found what I’ve found now, at last – this man who means the most to me. So if all of it was necessary for me to reach this point, and it seems that it was, then it was worth it! – Redbook Magazine, 1958.