Wiki: Marilyn Monroe; born Norma Jeane Mortenson; June 1, 1926 – August 4, 1962) was an American actress, model, and singer. Famous for playing comedic “blonde bombshell” characters, she became one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s and early 1960s and was emblematic of the era’s changing attitudes towards sexuality. She was a top-billed actress for only a decade, but her films grossed $200 million (equivalent to $2 billion in 2019) by the time of her death in 1962. More than half a century later, she continues to be a major popular culture icon.
I have passed over Marilyn Monroe for Women’s History Month before. I circle back around to her but have never been “sparked” to read more about her. Until now. I saw a picture of her in a potato sack. I needed to know more. And when I read that it was in response to critics saying she was only pretty because she was made up in expensive finery – well, I found the spark to include her in this year’s list.
In 1951, Marilyn Monroe attended a party at the Beverly Hills Hotel wearing a red dress. The “provocative”, low cut dress, drew the ire of a female journalist, who called her ‘cheap and vulgar’. She even went on to say that Monroe would have looked better wearing a potato sack. A few days later, Twentieth Century Fox took advantage of the situation and organised a photo shoot that saw Monroe posing in a potato sack dress, that was designed especially for her. The pictures featured in newspapers across the country.
Another story follows a similar idea, claiming a random statement made by someone who alleged that Monroe was gorgeous enough to make a potato sack sexy. This was supposedly what inspired the publicity stills to be taken and released by Twentieth Century Fox, who were more than happy to prove it to be true.