Today, history tells us, is the 50th anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe. And I must confess that I still don't get her appeal.
I get the va-va-voom body. I get the breathy, little-girl voice. I get the fact that she was a movie star, in an era when such things mattered more than acting ability, grace under fire, and intelligence, none of which she ever exhibited. (I guess none of those things really matter very much now either, do they?). I know she was a creation of the fading studio system, a manufactured star, brought up through the ranks. I know her messy personal life--with marriages to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller, and the rumors of affairs with both JFK and RFK--contribute to her status as a Hollywood martyr, and that Elton John song that I reference in the title of this post just confirms that. But I find her personally unwatchable and won't seek out a movie she's in, even a recognized classic like Some Like It Hot.
A few years ago, I was in a post office line, waiting for an open window. The man in front of me was buying stamps and asked what kind the clerk had available. When she piped up with the new Marilyn Monroe stamp, he came back with, "They're honoring prostitutes with stamps these days?" and opted for the good ol' American flag instead. I don't feel that strongly about Monroe--well, strong enough to write about how I feel about her, I guess--but I think that just dovetails into how I feel about some of today's stars.
This weekend saw the debut of the remake of Total Recall. I would argue that the original film--starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he was just a punchline as an actor, as opposed to these days as both an actor and former governor--wasn't that great to start off with and didn't deserve a remake 15 years after the original. But the biggest flaw in the remake is with its star Colin Farrell. He's another star I just don't get. Where is his appeal? The sex tape he did a few years ago? What one great movie has he been in? Why does Hollywood keep giving him leading roles?
Same deal with Russell Brand. How many failed movies does it take until someone wises up? They keep giving him movie deals! He no longer has his photo opportunity as Mr. Katy Perry (that honor has evidently gone on to John "Fuck Me and I'll Write a Song About You" Mayer), so that cuts his appeal by at least 50%. Sacha Baron Cohen? How many alleged personas does he have to don until the studios realize he's making the same damn movie over and over with just different make-up?
On the distaff side, I don't get Halle Berry, Eva Mendes, or even--and I know she's a national treasure--Meryl Streep. And I've never gotten Barbra Streisand, and I never will, not in a million years. Great singing voice, yes, but an actress? No.
So we can look back at today as the death of a star whose life was mired in scandal and who died way too young. Where would she be today? As someone once said about Elvis Presley when he died, "Good career move."