In 1946, when Norma Jeane Baker entered Hollywood for the first time, she soon realized who she needed to be to succeed.
Marilyn Monroe is one of the most known images of American popular culture, yet her journey to prominence came at a terrible price. Ana de Armas, a Cuban-born actress, portrays Marilyn Monroe in the upcoming Netflix film “Blonde,” a fictitious biography of Norma Jeane and the figure she created.
“Blonde,” based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, “promises an untold glimpse into the renowned movie star’s Latina origin and one of her final excursions to Mexico,” according to a Variety piece reporting the film’s production for the first time.
Monroe had Mexican ancestry and frequently visited her mother’s native country during her latter years.
However, Hollywood has long favored whites, and the film industry of the 20th century was no exception. Monroe’s stardom and success were predicated on her image as the all-American girl, a persona she helped create and ultimately commanded as she ascended the Hollywood ranks.
The mother of Monroe was born in Mexico.
According to birth registration documents, Gladys Pearl Monroe was born in Piedras Negras, Mexico, in 1902. After a succession of droughts plagued the Midwest in the 1980s, the Monroes emigrated to the town just across the Texas border from Eagle Pass.
At the time, American immigration to Mexico was not uncommon. General Porfirio Daz, the then-president of Mexico, opened the country to foreign corporations and American immigration to facilitate industrialization. Monroe’s maternal grandpa, Otis Monroe, was a Piedras Negras railroad worker.
In 1903, the Monroes relocated to Los Angeles, California, and on June 1, 1926, Norma Jeane Baker was born.
Although she continued to make frequent visits, Gladys, who struggled with mental and financial issues, placed her daughter in a foster care. Eventually, she was hospitalized for paranoid schizophrenia, leaving Norma Jeane to cycle through orphanages and foster homes.
Norma Jeane Baker, the future Marilyn Monroe, as a toddler on the beach with her mother Gladys Baker in 1929.
Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Photographs
The development of Marilyn Monroe
Norma Jeane began modeling in 1945 and signed an acting contract with 20th Century Fox the following year. She blonded her hair to platinum and chose the stage name Marilyn Monroe.
Monroe was portrayed as an all-American girl, and she played a substantial role in the formation of her public image. Monroe and her makeup artist, Allan “Whitey” Snyder, created her signature appearance: pale skin, blonde hair, dark eyebrows with an arch, full lips, and a beauty mark. In 1953, a trio of films sealed her status as one of Hollywood’s most prominent sex symbols and one of the most bankable performers.
Monroe maintained complete control over her persona and utilized it to her advantage throughout her career. Sarah Churchwell, a cultural critic, asserts that to “defeat the Hollywood studio system in the 1950s,” she had to be “very intelligent” and “really aggressive.”
“The dumb blonde was an act; she was an actress, for crying out loud!” Churchwell stated.
In the 1940s and 1950s, some actors and actresses changed their names in order to gain employment in Hollywood. Margarita Carmen Cansino became Rita Hayworth, for instance, and Raquel Tejada became Raquel Welch. Welch, who was raised by a father who attempted assimilation at all means, even prohibiting Spanish in the home, did not accept her Latin origin until she had spent decades in the profession.
Monroe was perceived as a “California girl” who was set to dominate Hollywood.
Monroe, who was white, carefully constructed and adhered to her image as an all-American girl. According to Photoplay, she was viewed as a uniquely American celebrity, “a national icon as well-known as hot dogs, apple pie, or baseball.”
Monroe visited Mexico in her later years.
Monroe had long been irritated by her lack of control on film sets, once stating that she was “weary of the same old sex roles,” which prompted her to begin using barbiturates and other narcotics.
Monroe founded her own production firm in 1955 and traveled to Mexico more regularly in the years running up to her death in 1962.
There, she met Spanish directors such as Luis Buuel and the Mexican actress Silvia Pinal, and dined on tacos as a mariachi band played in El Taquito. Monroe also dated Mexican director José Bolaos, who accompanied her to the Golden Globes in 1962.
Monroe visited the production of the Mexican film “El ngel Exterminador” in 1962.
Monroe wore a Mexican sweatshirt in several pictures from her final photo session with photographer George Barris.