The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe: 5 actresses who have portrayed the …

30 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe’ takes fresh approach to familiar tale.

Marilyn Monroe may be the most well-known celebrity of all-time—not just because of her iconic windblown dress photo, but rather because of the many times she’s been reincarnated on the big screen. During her celebrated 46-year career, Susan Sarandon has played a witch, a road-tripping waitress and a nun who leads a campaign to abolish the death penalty.Marilyn: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (8 p.m., Lifetime) – In the first night of this dramatized two-part miniseries about Marilyn Monroe, secrets from the movie star’s life are uncovered, including one of her biggest – her mother, Gladys, long institutionalized for mental illness.The combination of Monroe’s blinding external glamour and internal fragility is something actresses as diverse as Michelle Williams (“My Week With Marilyn”) and Poppy Montgomery (the CBS miniseries “Blonde,” based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates) have tried to capture, with varying degrees of success.

“30th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony” (HBO at 8 p.m.) honors its latest inductees — Ringo Starr, the 5 Royales, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Green Day, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bill Withers. Instead, the new Lifetime two-night, four-hour biography, which airs Saturday and Sunday, revisits information that anyone remotely interested in Monroe knows already. If there ever was a time when she was still one of the 20th century’s most elusive icons—when most Americans didn’t know about her painful childhood, her addiction to pills, or her abusive relationship with her second husband, Joe DiMaggio—it was long before dozens of biopics and tell-all books spoiled the idea that she was just like the carefree, good-time blonde that she often played on screen.

What she learned, she said, was that Gladys and her clan suffered “one catastrophe after another.” Each of those left an impression on Monroe, who in the Lifetime version is played by Kelli Garner, in a breakout performance. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Grey’s Anatomy) stars as Joe DiMaggio. (Lifetime) In the new episode Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate, Alison’s (Tatiana Maslany) mother proves to be a major hindrance as Alison and Donnie (Kristian Bruun) try to rent a storefront so they can take their business to the next level. Doomed from her childhood by family mental illness, Monroe had a rough start — and all the fame and stardom couldn’t ease her bottomless anxieties. Randy Taraborrelli (“Diana Ross,” “Madonna: An Intimate Biography”) — who wrote the bestseller on which this is based — apparently believe there is enough fodder for a two-night, four-hour miniseries, the second installment of which airs Sunday at 8 p.m.

To commemorate both Monroe-related occasions, here’s a look at five actresses who have played the actress over time—no matter how much they actually looked like her. By the time Marilyn Monroe was a celebrity, Gladys was hearing voices and being trundled in and out of mental hospitals. “The thing you worry about is just chewing up the scenery and doing a kind of generalized, generic ‘crazy person,’ ” Sarandon said. “So what you have to do is figure out where the voices are, who they are, when they’re heard, what her tics are.” With Monroe, Lifetime is plowing familiar territory.

Scott (Josh Vokey) doesn’t realize he is close to a major discovery when he sits down with Rachel (Maslany). (Space) Derek (Patrick Dempsey) was largely off the radar for a while, but he was back in a very big way in How to Save a Life, written by series creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes. From this Dickensian origin story, the woman later dubbed Marilyn Monroe emerged to become a symbol of Hollywood glamour and tragedy, forever trying to find happiness and self-worth, and dying at 36, from an overdose of barbiturates. SERIES PREMIERE: Well, it’s come to this: the reality series “Treetop Cat Rescue” (Animal Planet at 9 ) follows two arborists who are on call to rescue cats from Seattle’s tallest trees. Clearly society thinks Griffiths is Monroe’s biggest doppelganger out there, because she has 12 Marilyn credits to her name—including a couple where she even played a Marilyn Monroe look-alike rather than the actual actress. It’s a tale that has been told many times before in books, movies (including the 2011 British film “My Week With Marilyn,” which won acclaim for Michelle Williams in the title role), TV shows and even songs.

Sunday talk shows: “Capital Download” (WUSA at 8:30 a.m.) talks to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka; “Fox News Sunday” (Fox at 9) hosts former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina; “White House Chronicle” (WETA at 9) has Ager Group’s Thomas Paine; “State of the Union” (CNN at 9) features retired Gen. Nearly 50 years after Monroe’s death, it was almost hard to believe she wasn’t alive when Williams filled the role in a practically mirror-image depiction. Many of the retellings linger on the star’s disastrous marriages (most notably to playwright Arthur Miller and baseball star Joe DiMaggio), erratic work habits and substance abuse, culminating in her death at age 36 in 1962. With a mother, Gladys (Susan Sarandon), diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Norma Jeane (Kelli Garner) was mostly raised by a family friend known as Aunt Grace (Emily Watson). The outcome of this repeat episode generated much comment from viewers — and more than a little distress — when it first aired last month. (ABC) Lori Loughlin reprises her role as garage sale treasure hunter and amateur sleuth Jennifer Shannon in this 2014 mystery, which finds her sleuthing the murder of a friend just a few hours after the victim auctioned off an abandoned storage unit to Jennifer.

The creaky narrative moves back and forth between Marilyn recounting her experiences to a therapist — a character written with clunking naivete – and flashbacks to her life. Stanley McChrystal. “Government Matters” (WJLA at 9:30) hosts the General Services Administration’s Jerome Fletcher; “Newsmakers” (C-SPAN at 10) talks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Craig Fugate; “Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo” (Fox News Channel at 10) hosts Wisconsin Gov. Critics have seen Monroe as both a regressive throwback to an era of women as vulnerable sex objects and as a proto-feminist tragic heroine, a talented actor trapped by 1950s-era gender politics into embodying male fantasies. Kelli Garner (“Pan Am”) has the right, plush, sensual look as Monroe, and captures her emotional vulnerability and mental fragility without tipping over into breathy-voiced caricature.

Scott Walker (R); “This Is America & the World” (WETA at 10 and WHUT at 6 p.m.) talks to Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela; “Face the Nation” (CBS at 10:30) has former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R). By focusing on the halting relationship between the adult Marilyn and her psychologically scarred mom, “Secret Life,” which is based on a book by celebrity biographer J. When Gladys breaks into the boudoir brandishing a butcher knife, Norma Jeane knows her problems are never going to go away, even as the cops cart mom off to another institution. Lynwood (Kevin O’Grady) quickly identify a disgruntled customer as the prime suspect, but Jennifer and her business partner Danielle (Sarah Strange) hope boxes from the storage unit may yield more clues. (CTV) Hearing Hugh Grant voice a buccaneer determined to be named Pirate of the Year is a big part of the fun in this animated 2012 comedy-adventure.

There’s Marilyn posing for her first nude photo shoot, letting the wind from a subway grate blow up her dress in The Seven Year Itch, fighting with third husband Arthur Miller over the screenplay for The Misfits, and preparing to sing “Happy Birthday, Mr. No one less than Charles Darwin (voice of David Tennant) becomes an adviser as the pirate goes up against the likes of Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz (voices of Jeremy Piven and Salma Hayek) for the award, while trying to locate a fortune. (Toon) This excellent drama about the rise of the PC culture flew under the radar last season for many fans of quality TV despite a good cast headed by Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies). SERIES PREMIERE: The six-episode, animated series “Golan the Insatiable” (Fox at 9:30) is about a warlord who finds himself trapped in Oak Grove, Minn. and befriends a morbid 10-year-old Goth girl. One screen test revealed what we all know now: the camera loved Marilyn Monroe and she loved the camera, giving herself to it as she never could to any husband or lover.

Season 2, however, features a strong female-driven storyline introduced in the season premiere, SETI, which finds Cameron and Donna (Mackenzie Davis, Kerry Bishe) at a crossroads with their fledgling gaming company, Mutiny. Once she had established herself as a sex goddess, she demanded better scripts from all the studio bosses who made millions off of her —and got them. With starring roles in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Thelma & Louise,” “The Witches of Eastwick,” “Cloud Atlas” and many others, she’s instantly recognizable to a couple generations of audiences. Her happiness is short-lived, however, as Claire slowly realizes that Jamie’s psyche seems permanently scarred by the hideous torture he endured during his captivity. (Showcase) From California, Cat Deeley (So You Think You Can Dance) hosts the fifth annual ceremony honouring outstanding work in television.

Although the big feature roles haven’t come with the frequency they once did, Sarandon has kept working (she has three grown children, including actress Eva Amurri; her relationship with longtime partner Tim Robbins ended in 2009). “I wrote Susan a letter explaining how much I loved her work and who I am and what I do,” said Laurie Collyer, the veteran indie filmmaker (“Sherrybaby”) who directed “Secret Life.” “We have very similar politics,” she added, alluding to Sarandon’s work as a liberal activist. “She’s done a lot of work around prisons, as have I.” Finding a suitable Marilyn proved more difficult. The FX drama Justified, which recently ended its run, and the two-part HBO drama Olive Kitteridge lead the pack of nominees with five nominations apiece. Decades later, Marilyn tells her doctor that “the sheets smelled like sex.” If Freud were still alive, he’d insist that this whole psychiatrist set-up is pure wish fufillment for the viewer.

Sarandon doesn’t play nuts very often — she’s no Jessica Lange — but here she’s a complete whack job, with the kind of unpredictable, edgy behavior that leaves Monroe feeling helpless. Marilyn’s doctor is entitled to pose the grossly invasive questions that we’re all dying to know but never got the chance to ask: Did her mother’s promiscuity affect her own relationships with men? Walton Goggins is an acting nominee both for his supporting role on Justified and his guest gig on Sons of Anarchy. (A&E) In the competition’s finale, Wedding Season, the three remaining bakers tackle a wedding dessert bar challenge for their opening round, then move on to their final challenge, which, given the theme, should come as a surprise to no one: creating a stunning wedding cake that deserves to be the centrepiece of the big day.

Kelli Garner is the latest actress to tackle an impossible role — screen legend Marilyn Monroe, whose dumb-blonde persona masked a dark childhood haunted by mental illness. But the hardest part was overcoming self-doubt: “Believing that I could actually do it, that I had the tools to pull this off,” Garner said. “It was a big mental struggle to convince yourself that you can tackle such a big role.” Another struggle: capturing such large swaths of Monroe’s life in just 42 days of shooting, most of them in Toronto, which was chosen in a money-saving move. “I’m not going to lie. Sullivan played Monroe during her hopeless affairs with the Kennedy brothers, which ended when Bobby realized the actress’ unstable state could threaten his family’s political power. She self-diagnoses her own abandonment issues, wonders aloud if she seeks approval from men because she never got it from her father, and confesses that her biggest fear is that she’ll become her mother.

But “it made me a better director … I had to cut four hours of a miniseries in, like, 24 days.” Sarandon, who avoids watching dailies for fear they might influence her performance, still hasn’t seen the finished project. Garner shows impressive range as the innocent Norma Jeane Mortenson: from her early drive to get away from a life where she had no future, to the accomplished, wily Hollywood product named Marilyn Monroe. Too many lines of tossed-off dialogue read like thesis statements about Marilyn’s life. “You know, some people can’t help who they turn out to be,” Marilyn says about her mother.

But as the performer who has brought to screen the most detailed interpretation yet of Monroe’s mother, she’s developed some strong opinions about the star herself. “She was trapped,” Sarandon said. “There are some people who just have such charisma and personality as themselves … you’re encouraged to keep repeating that because it’s worked ….They’re iconic.” Monroe “was smarter, probably, than the characters she played. Esentially, it’s a performance within a performance. “All my life I’ve played Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Monroe,” Marilyn herself once told the director Henry Hathaway. “I’m doing an imitation of myself.” As the critic Peter Conrad once wrote, Marilyn was an invention in which she herself didn’t believe—and Garner captures that uncertainly well, often using the same subtle body language that Marilyn mastered onscreen.

She’ll let her mouth turn down at the corners after flashing a big smile, or she’ll draw out her breathy sighs too long, until she sounds exhausted. She reminds you how tragic it is that this beloved Hollywood icon was once so full of life—hyper-animated, with her eyelashes batting and her lips pursing and her voice squealing—and yet, by the end, she was empty inside. It’s another tribute that can’t measure up to its subject, and years from now, it will leave even more just-above-average made-for-TV movies in its wake.

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