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tv   Reframed Marilyn Monroe  CNN  January 16, 2022 6:00pm-7:00pm PST

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the new cnn original series "reframed marilyn monroe" premieres with back to back episodes next. thank you for being with me. i'm poppy harlow. pamela brown will be back next weekend. have a great week. okay. really? okay. ♪ ♪ >> she was one of the biggest movie stars of all time. >> she had looks and sexuality. she was iconic. >> she became the goddess of the silver screen. >> people think she was the most beautiful woman in the world. >> when the camera starts until it stops, i want to be perfect. >> marilyn monroe, blonde
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bombshell. >> get out the fire hose. >> hollywood super star. >> mr. president, the late marilyn monroe. >> tragic victim. >> the story of marilyn monroe is an authentic tragedy. >> when we talk about marilyn monroe, it's always about poor marilyn, poor marilyn this passive woman being destroyed by hollywood. that's the way the story frames her. >> after a reckoning in hollywood, it's time to reframe her story. >> now we can hit pause and roll it back a bit and ask ourselves okay, what is it we think we know? >> she was quite ahead of her time and very much an architect of her own fame. >> you must think i was born yesterday. >> her performances are layered, funny, tender, human. they feel modern. >> she had a deep inner life.
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she was an artist. she was a poet. a businesswoman. >> what a power broker she was renegotiating her contract, creating her own production company, getting films made. >> it's rather frustrating that people can't think about her in terms of her intellect. >> i can be smart when it's important but most men don't like it. >> marilyn challenges what it means to have agency as a bomb and what it means to be a feminist. >> marilyn, what is a woman? >> in the end is the way our culture talks about marilyn monroe and thinks about marilyn monroe is what it thinks about women. ♪ ♪ this is hollywood, a place,
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an industry a state of mind. here magic carpets fly. let's have a gad look. >> i went to 20th century fox where it's been head of casting and he says who is this girl? >> in walked the most gorgeous young girl 20 years old. i said what's your ambition? she said to be a film star. >> then they made a test which was unusual. i think they had high hopes for me. >> she was to come in, walk across the room, sit down and light a cigarette. and smile as soon as that camera started rolling, something magical happened. >> she has this fresh face beauty and luminous on the
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screen. >> she could manifest the kind of magic she came into the world with it. >> very enthusiastic said i looked fresh and young. they said i have a three-dimensional quality having to do with sex. >> norma gene land as one year contract with fox. the studio begins grooming her for stardom. ♪ ♪ >> she was what the studios called a product. someone they could take mold, shape, rename and create as something to be consumed by the movie going public. >> i said i don't think you can use norma gene doherty if you're going to be a star. to me you're a marilyn but we couldn't find her second name. she said could i use my
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grandmother's name? i said what's that? she said monroe. marilyn monroe. >> now, that is a perfect name for a movie star. >> there is something about mm, the double m sounds. >> this is a moment that doesn't get very much attention in the story about marilyn but i think it's incredibly revealing. >> i wanted my mother's maiden name because i felt that was my name and two things you rarely get into circulation. >> the fact that she chose monroe shows that she wanted to have agency and control over her image right from the very begi beginning. >> it's not only her name that gets the hollywood treatment. >> every studio had a series of publicity men that we call flags
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who were out promoting the star. they made up stories about them. they created opportunities to get their names in the papers. they were getting them publi publicized. >> the flags will create a rags to riches story of marilyn the orphan girl. >> her story is one of struggle, hunger and perseverance. she did a chore of babysitting one night and found herself guarding the offspring of a talent scout. >> that is not actually how it happened. she wasn't discovered and she wasn't babysitting. >> it's a really striking example of turning female ambition into something which is passive and fluffy and care taking. >> marilyn was not waiting for powerful men. she was bounding on the door of the studio doing absolutely everything she could to break into the movie business. >> what is fascinating about the
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creation of marilyn monroe is that i think she had more of a hand in it than people want to give her credit for. >> the truth about marilyn's background is something she's happy to bury. >> marilyn isn't an orphan. she's got a mother who is living in a mental health facility but that doesn't necessarily read as well as an innocent orphan girl. >> childhood was very difficult on marilyn. she was illegitimate and that was a terrible, terrible sin in the 1930s. she didn't know who her father was and her mother had a horrible condition. >> her mother gladdous is institut
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institutionalized. >> her mother had paranoid s schizophrenia and the idea of someone being in an asylum is not talked about. >> marilyn is sent to the los angeles orphan home. >> they had to drag me and i cried screaming i'm not an orphan and asked where my mother was but they said well, it's better you forget about her. she's dead. >> but there is one place where the young marilyn feels happy and safe. >> movie going absolutely surged her in the great depression. going is sort of an escape and you can get a lot for a dime or a nickel. >> i watched all kinds of movies like "colle"cleopatra" and i've it over and over and over again. >> she would just sort of lose
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great body and a very pretty face. >> she said the world opened up to her and she started hearing men call out to her and the wolf whistles and she loved it. >> again, this is a little bit of hope me movie footage. she's moving like a girl in the '30s movies. >> we as common are constructed. we construct ourselves and collude in it and you have to as a woman negotiate this evening if it's unconscious every second of your life. marilyn learned the machine of womanhood early. >> marilyn grew up absorbing the idea being a beautiful woman
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could give you power. it was the thing that would make you rich and famous and happy and loved. >> coming into her adult woman body was a blessing and curse because she knew how to harness that body as a weapon but it was also weaponized against her. >> in 1942, marilyn's life changes overnight. >> when marilyn was just past her 16th birthday she got married to a neighbor named jim doherty who she barely knew. >> the marriage is her the idea of her foster mother grace mckee. >> grace arranged it. she and her husband were going to west virginia and they were going to put me in a home or i could marry this boy who is 21. >> she was a pragmatist. she had lived a difficult life and that makes you a pragmatist. you look in front of you and say
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these are my options, that looks like the best one. i'll take that one. >> marilyn doesn't have much time to get to he her husband. jim enlists in the marines and sent to the south pacific. across the country, men and women are being asked to serve. >> in war towns all over the united states, women are called upon to leave their homes and take jobs. employers find that women can do many jobs as well as men. some jobs better. >> marilyn starts working in an aircraft factory outside of los angeles. >> there was a photographer who arrived to take pictures of the pretty girls. sort of moral boosting shots. >> the story that marilyn told he came over to her and said where have you been hiding? >> this is like a dream come
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true. he gets to her and he takes her picture. and he kind of stopped and came back because she was pume, pume, he said do you have another sweater or something i can photograph you on your lunch hour? she said yes, of course i do. >> the association of bombs and bombshells is literal. what is a bombshell? it's a hallow ball in which gun powder was stored to explode. this is explosive. this was explosive sexuality. >> marilyn now has a calling card and a new ambition. >> the rambling ambassador hotel, one of the world's great hostileries and landmark of good living. >> at the iconic ambassador
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hotel, 19-year-old marilyn tries her luck with the blue book model agency. >> norma jean looked like the girl next door and i thought i could make her into something marketable. she was very beautiful and clean-cut american wholesome way. >> marilyn is turning herself into a commodity and part of her presumably is also using it to reflect back on herself. some sense of having worth. >> what i see is her excitement of being in front of a craamera. this woman is so comfortable in her skin. ♪ ♪ >> it christmas 1945. marilyn takes a road trip but not with her husband. >> she'd been married for a few
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years to a guy she liked but she ser certainly wasn't in love with and here comes a photographer, a man of the world. >> 32-year-old fashion photographer andre. >> andre is recommended to her and immediately taken with her so he takes her on a trip all around the southwest. >> they went into the desert. they went to old cowboy towns. they took hundreds and hundreds of photographs. >> she was working with a photographer to learn how to inject energy into pictures. not that she was saying how to make me look pretty but saying how do we make a good picture? >> and marilyn, oh my god, she was a pro at it. >> some of marilyn's best work
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is when she was alone with a photographer she trusted and let herself be free. >> there is a bit of a love affair that goes on between model and photographer. and you get the idea she was really wanting to give it, really wanting to turn you on, make you proud. >> they slept together during the trip and i think that that shows that she was really looking beyond her marriage by that point. >> she was actually clearly seeing the doors were opening in front of her. you kind of see that in these pictures, these vistas opening in front of her. >> six months later, marilyn serves her husband with divorce papers and sets her sights on a new exciting future. at prices you're really feelin. shop the lowe's bath style & save event now
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here you see the world's largest picture studio with sound stages under the bright california sun. >> by the end of 1946, marily in is four months into a contract with 20th century fox. in just a year she's gone from young model to aspiring starlet.
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>> many she's going to break out, she needs to impress studio head. >> in many ways, darrell is almost cliche of a old school movie mogul. she's short air ggressive and always chomping on a cigar. >> it's difficult to over state how the hollywood studio system was in the '30s, '40s and '50s, absolutely male dominated. >> at the top of every studio is a very powerful controlling man. the people we call moguls, louie, jack warner, darrell. they're considered monsters and tough, tough businessmen because they knew that the things the public wanted were stars and
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stories and they ran it like a factory and roll those things out four or five, 600 of them a year. >> there were only a few large studios and those studios made the movies, period. it was sort of like the mafia in that they controlled everything. >> studio system operated a pool of aspires talent, what they called stock contract players. >> being a contract player didn't mean you're going to be a star. you were shuffled from one movie to the next. and often you weren't glorified extra essentially. >> hollywood has always been a difficult place for women. >> hollywood treats women as
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disposable, as you don't bring any talent to the screen, you bring beauty. >> when you weren't working you were stuck in front of the camera. >> i didn't really specifically like a commodity of the time. it's only on looking back that i see that when i was referred to as the girl, put the light on the girl, move the girl to the left. it's only when i look back on it now that i see that perhaps i was sort of this commodity. >> i've never heard a woman praised in that period. that was not considered a feminine virtue. it took awhile for a woman to be appreciated as thinking beings.
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>> to darrell, marilyn is nothing special. >> darrell basically he didn't like marilyn. he called her straw head. he never got her message. and if a studio head doesn't like you, you got problems, honey. >> to begin with, he sees marilyn as i believe he said that her talent was all below her naval and above her waist, basically she was tits and ass and that was it. >> if marilyn wants to keep her contract, she has to fight for i it. >> she kind of had a sort of whatever means necessary i will find my way to this. that meant doing the right photo shoots or taking acting classes. >> she wasn't just sitting idly
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by waiting for the studio to tell h er what to do. she was going to fox every day. >> i said why do you work so hard, the other kids on contract i call at 11:00, from being out the night before. she said plmr. lion, i work har because maybe one day opportunity will knock and i want to be prepared. >> the knock comes in may 1947. marilyn lands a speaking role as a waitress with a sharp tongue. >> hi, evie. >> hi, small change. >> i got money tonight. am i going to see you later? >> if i'm not too tired. >> i thought we had a date. >> this trey weighs a ton. >> she has this confidence that's emerging and commands the screen when she's on it. she certainly has poise. you can see the beginnings of a
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bombshell but nothing like the bubbliness you'd see later on. >> whose pay? >> i told you i have money. >> know you're blowing it on two cokes? >> double. >> it's up to darrell to decide whether to keep marilyn under contract. >> there is a lot of beautiful girls in the world and marily is just a bid player. he's not that interested in her. >> he thought she was another pretty face and a dime a dozen and had literally hundreds just as pretty. >> darrell a great spotter of stars said no. >> and he dropped her. >> when marilyn was dropped by fox, she was devastated but t eager and vowed she would work even harder.
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>> released by 20th century fox, 21-year-old marilyn monroe decides to pursue another one of hollywood's biggest players. >> a huge estate and he would just hold saturday night parties and a lot of people from hollywood would be there.
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and marilyn is invited to his parties. a lot of contract girls are. >> it was understood among the studio heads that these girls were there for the men at studios to date. and once their contract was up they would be discarded and up would come a fresh new crop. >> as a pretty young girl you learn that there's a lot of bret predatory men out there. bottoms were petted. we were sweet little thing, cute little thing, passes were made? this was completely normal in hollywood. it was something that happened all the time openly. >> i think marilyn accepted she would have to date people in order to get what she wanted and i don't think she ever should have had to choose that but at
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least there was a decision in it on her part. >> marilyn knew this party put on by joseph could be an opportunity to get ahead in her career. >> joseph skank was a very, very prominent powerful man in hollywood and he understood how to make a female movie star. >> skank loved marilyn, thought she was amazing and she became his favorite girl. >> marilyn knew this was a very powerful connection to make and the two ended up forming a sort of intimate relationship. >> she understood that you either said i don't like these rules and therefore i'm not playing your game and therefore you give up your dreams of a career or you recognize that those are the rules of the game
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and you decide how you're going to deal with it. >> skank is on the board at 20th century fox but instead of pulling strings with darrell zannick to get marilyn her job back, he puts in a word with another pal. the boss of a rival studio. >> harry cologne who was the head of colombia pictures introduced understood and manipulated star making process. >> he offers marilyn a six-month contract but insists on big changes before he'll cast her in a movie. >> i think the platinum blonde was inspired by gene harlow. it was the ultimate hollywood look, the ultimate star image. it's almost unearthing. almost like an angel with
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glowing hair. >> blondness is hugely valued in american movies and culture of the time. often associated to purity and innocence but also associated to sexiness and sometimes even pornography. >> for marilyn the platinum was the step into a different different persona. >> it transformed spanish dancer margita in the 1930s. >> she was what they would have called ethnic in those days meaning latina and they died her hair. she under went electrolysis to raise her hairline. and it turned her into a huge box office star. >> hollywood studios are pressuring people to meet an
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ideal in some cases about enhancing beauty, in other cases it's about wiping away ethnic traces. >> for marilyn going blonde, it was like the hollywood star building machine and she saw what it could do for her. >> it gave marilyn an extra charge in her looks. it took her to another level. >> now that she looks the part, marilyn will make sure that she can play it. >> most of the stories that will t are told about her career are about the role powerful men played in her story but there were a couple important women in her life, as well. >> she was introduced to natasha the head of drama at colombia pictures and they just instantly hit it off. i think natasha with her wealth
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of knowledge about theater was very enticing to marilyn. she wanted this serious education about acting, about theater and natasha was able to do that for her. >> she really saw something special in her as an actress. she just thought that marilyn had what it takes. >> she had been in the gate and she was ready to run. >> let me tell you... you want to be successful? you gotta hustle. you gotta go the extra mile.
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within a month of signing with colombia pictures, 21-year-old marilyn monroe lands her first starring role as a dancer in a low budget musical. >> this was the most demanding role that she had had yesterday a -- yet and required her to sing and dance.- yet and required her to sing and dance. required her to sing and dance. marilyn lovered getting into the trenches and working on skills. >> i tried to be more out going during the musical number
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because that's when i have to express. ♪ anyone can see i love you, anyone can see i care ♪ >> it was the first time marilyn sung on screen and she is quite rema remarkable. >> marily plays chorus girl peggy martin and a love struck fan. >> you'll be sure to send this right away? >> wouldn't you rather deliver it in person? >> no, thanks, ms. martin. >> yes. >> it's a very sweet role. >> aren't you going to give me the orchard? >> yes. >> in spite of the fact she's a sexy strip tease artist. >> one of marilyn's biggest numbers in ladies of the chorus is somewhat of a creepy song.
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♪ every baby needs a daddy to keep her worry free ♪ >> she's being positioned as a gold digger so the idea is every woman needs a man to support her. ♪ ♪ >> what's interesting about wanting a daddy is it's twofold. it's i'm brazenly sexual but i'm really just a little girl. ♪ every baby needs a da, da, daddy could my da, da daddy be you ♪ >> she manages to be sexually attractive and the object of the male gaze in all of the ways she needs to be but she's also making fun of it. ♪ yes, we feel just like the wolves are out ♪ >> and that is the moment at which marilyn discovered how this performance would work for her. ♪ ♪ >> shortly after finishing "ladies of the chorus" marilyn
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is summoned to a meeting with the head of colombia pictures. >> it was just a b movie, it was a movie and she had the main role and so i think she probably thought it was going to be her big break. >> but renewal of her contract comes at a price. >> harry invited her on to his yacht and that's not a code anybody today even requires any help deciphering. >> he was a major womanizer, oh my goodness, par excellence. >> he often exploited young women and if they didn't return his affections, then he would make their lives hell. >> she knew that if she said no to him that she would be thrown out but she had integrity. she just asked him will your
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w wife join us? it wwas pointed and he was furious and threw her out of the office. i think that's why he didn't renew her contract after six months. >> this is how we do things little girl. you want to be famous? play with me. >> it is not the case that she was simply sleeping with any powerful man she encourko counter -- encountered to get where she wanted to go. >> it's not until four years later that marilyn will find the courage to speak out. in 1952 she co-authors an article called "wolves i have known." >> it's a great title. and that will show you a woman that came up with that title, that's a poet.
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>> the first real wolf i encountered should have been ashamed of himself because she was trying to take advantage of a mere kid. >> kiss me. >> wolves are sexual predatory men and a the drawing of a wolf is often like the tongue hanging out and eyeballs bulgibulging, open about the sexual desire. >> she already understands the idea oaff being hunted. >> i don't think that sexual harassment was a term in anyone's vocabulary in the 1950s. it was just something that you put up with. >> bring on the women! >> there is something very accurate about the feeling of being pursued by a wolf. how dangerous that feels. >> he gave me a script to read and told me how to pose while
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reading it. all the poses had to be reclining. >> although the words i was reading didn't seem to call for that position. >> she really could have faced a serious backlash because of course, the powerful men didn't want to be called wolves and they didn't want their behavior to get called out. she exposed fishers in the cracks of society like nobody ed. and that to me is a trail blazing accomplishment. >> she said watch out for the wolves in hollywood, honey. if they don't get what they want, they'll cancel your contract.
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at i drove down to headquarters. that is the way a lot of us think about schwab's drug store. kind of a combination office, coffee clutch, and waiting room. >> immortalized in billy wilder's "sunset boulevard" schwab's drug store is a hollywood hang out every actor knows well. >> it was a place where people who wanted to break into movies could hang around and interact and exchange gossip. they would handle mail for people. people could leave messages for each other. >> we were young and struggling. we used to sit in schwab's drug
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store and fantasize about the future. having a glorious career and oscars. >> marilyn was at schwab's one day kind of waiting for a break. and somebody told her that groucho marx was casting for a new movie. she ran to the phone booth and got on the phone, found the producer and said, i hear you're casting. i want to get a chance at this part. >> groucho marx said that he wanted an actress who could make my elderly libido rise. he tested three different actresses. >> come in. >> then marilyn fit the bill. >> she entered the room with so much awareness of her sexuality and willingness to have it out there. >> her role and her job is to
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make everyone's jaw drop. >> is there anything i can do for you? >> what a ridiculous statement. >> mr. grunyan i want you to help me >> i have a little sand left. what seems to be the trouble? >> some men are following me. >> really? i can't understand why. >> she was a product of the times. you couldn't show sex in any of its sort of natural form. >> i advise you to leave. >> i'll take you down to the bus station. if i'm not back tonight go ahead without me. >> so you got it in this exaggerated, unnatural form. >> that's been the history of all my romances. >> she was letting the world know she carried this aura of sexuality and everybody got it and went, wow. who's that? >> eager to capitalize on marilyn's scene stealing potential, the producers send her on a publicity tour to promote the film. this was to happen during the summer on the east coast but
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marilyn wasn't aware that during the summer it does get very, very hot on that side of america. she believed that it would be snow on the ground. >> marilyn arrives to the sweltering heat of new york wearing a thick, wool suit. >> marilyn and the publicity agent decided to make the most of her faux pas, gave her ice creams to hold and a fan and photographers captured her peeking out of the train. >> on the tour she knows exactly how to present herself and when to be funny. she is extraordinary. >> she's very, very smart about publicity and very funny. marilyn always seemed to know what publicists wanted, what photographers wanted. so whenever she was presented with an opportunity she made the most of it. >> she is just slowly walking up
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the ladder of success. >> before leaving new york marilyn finds time to meet with an old friend, photographer andre. >> they happen to be in the same place at the same time so they went to the beach and they just took photographs in the surf. since their road trip, four years earlier, marilyn has transformed. she's no longer a naive young model. she is a rising star. >> i see pure joy. you can just sort of see the comet. a little light up there in the skies is starting to twinkle. >> this is something unique,
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something in the way she and the camera related to each other. the camera was her lover, truly. >> people talk about these pictures as the moment when she was becoming marilyn. creating marilyn might be a more active way of putting it. she was finding her power, finding her talent. she was learning how to own her career. becoming marilyn means that she's about to get everything that she had ever wanted. becoming marilyn is not a tragedy. it's a triumph. >> next, on "reframed: marilyn monroe" -- >> her performances are like watching magic. >> i'm so sorry. >> she became the biggest actress in the world. she was just so comedically gifted. she began to understand that she
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could fuse it with sex. >> how do put it around your neck? tiffany's. >> are you sure they won't recognize me? >> it could have ended her career. >> she ended up being the first centerfold of playboy. >> we are all born special creatures, thank god. >> a hundred thousand screaming fans. >> it's j-lo before there was j-lo. >> romance that thrills the world. the marriage of marilyn monroe and joe dimaggio. >> joe dimaggio felt that once they were married -- >> isn't it delicious? >> her sexual appeal belonged to him. >> her third husband was play wright arthur miller and they, too, separated. >> mr. president, marilyn monroe. >> and it's just like oh, my god. i think she was playing with him. she stood up to the old hollywood guard. >> gee. >> we are not machines. we are not. >> women didn't make their own movies. are you crazy? >> i have director approval and
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that is true. >> she got everything she wanted. >> it's very interesting. >> people think "some like it hot" is the greatest comedy of all time. >> she was at the height of her success and all of a sudden the curtain came down. it's like, wait a minute. the movie's not over. >> it's hard to know where to start if you don't start with the truth. i was in debt. i got so far behind in rent, four weeks. tom kelly asked me to pose. >> it was an offer for artistic shots, which was a euphemism for nude photographs. >> modeling in the nude will pay double what regular modeling will. our world is a business of women's bodies. and she


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