CBS presents a four-hour mini-series starring Poppy Montgomery in a fictional retelling of the life of Norma Jeane Baker, who later became Marilyn Monroe. Based on the novel by two-time Nobel Prize nominee and Pulitzer Prize nominee Joyce Carol Oates, the story weaves fact with fiction as it recounts the struggle of a woman striving to reconcile her glamorous public persona as Marilyn with the troubled and complicated Norma Jeane. “Blonde” airs on CBS, Sunday, 5/13/01 and Wednesday, 5/16/01 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT, each night).
“Although the following film depicts some actual persons and events, it is a work of fiction.” So says the opening crawl before the credits of “Blonde.” In truth, most film bios about famous people are laced with nonfactual occurrences, but to come right out and say this is a work of fiction, then make it seem real, disturbs me. If it’s fiction, then why not make a film about a made-up character, based on a real person’s life? But giving a fabricated account of a real person seems a desecration to that person’s memory. Give me a parable about a person who overcomes adversity to become a flawed icon, yes. But by putting an actual person’s name on it seems corrupt.
That objection aside, “Blonde” is an involving parable about a person who overcame adversity to become a flawed icon. The message I got from the film: a human can have fame, fortune and beauty, but without spiritual fulfillment that soul will go throughout life searching for peace and never finding it. Both the real life-Marilyn and this film version were tormented individuals. She was physically and mentally abused by an unbalanced mother, manipulated by foster parents, and used by members of an industry known for draining dry a person’s creativity and persona, then casting them adrift.
Poppy (yes, Poppy) Montgomery gives an admirable performance of the unstable child/woman who just wanted to be loved, and her alter ego, the radiant MM. But finding a duplicate Marilyn is impossible. There were certain celebrities in Hollywood’s constellation that could never be duplicated. Imitated, yes. Copied, certainly. But John Wayne, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe were phenomenons, the likes of which we will never see again. Want to view vintage Marilyn? Try these films: “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “The Seven Year Itch,” “Some Like It Hot,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and “The Misfits.” She even grabs the viewer in early, smaller roles such as “All About Eve” and “The Asphalt Jungle.” But, be cautioned, even in her most innocent roles there was always an underlining sensuality to her characters and her films. Although the films made during her time were not too overt, most of them do contain sensuality. If you find that inappropriate, you may wish to pass on her films.