Photograph of Marilyn Monroe surrounded by reporters by Milton H. Greene, 1956.
There are three different ways of becoming famous in the movies. The first way more often happens to men than to women. It happens suddenly as the result of a single performance in a movie.
An actor will go along getting jobs and doing good work and getting nowhere. Then all of a sudden, like John Garfield long ago or Kirk Douglas, Marlon Brando, Jose Ferrer, more recently—he will appear as a lead in a picture and wake up after the reviews as star for the rest of his life.
Occasionally this also happens to an actress, but the occasions haven’t been recent. The actress usually becomes a star in two other ways. The first way is the Studio Buildup. When the Front Office is convinced that one of their contract players has star possibilities in her, a big campaign is started. The Star Possibility is surrounded by various teachers and coaches. Word is sent out to all the Producers in the Studio that the Possibility is the biggest coming box-office attraction in the industry. And all the producers in the studio start fighting to get her as the lead for one of their pictures.
In the meantime the publicity department goes to work on the Star Possibility and floods the press, the wire services, and the magazines with stories about her wonderful character and fascinating oddities and thousands of photographs.
The columnists are bombarded with announcements about the possibilities of every sort, from a half dozen impending marriages to an equal number of starring vehicles.
Pretty soon the whole country gets the impression that nearly all the eligible romantic males of the land are trying to marry the Possibility and that she is going to appear in half the important movies produced in Hollywood.
All this takes a great deal of money and powerful efforts on everybody’s part except the young actress on whose brow the Studio has decided to weld a silver star.
The other way to fame open to the actress is the way of scandal. Sleep with a half dozen famous Don Juans, divorce a few husbands, get named in police raids, café brawls or other wives’ divorce suits, and you can wind up almost as much in demand by the movie producers as a Bette Davis or Vivien Leigh.
The only trouble with becoming famous as a result of a half dozen scandalous happenings is that the scandal-made star can’t just rest on her old scandals. If she wants to keep her high place in the public eye and on the Hollywood producer’s casting list she has to keep getting into more and more hot water. After you’re thirty-five getting into romantic hot water is a little difficult, and getting yourself publicized in love triangles and café duels over your favors needs not only smart press agents but also a little miracle to help out.
Excerpted from My Story written by Marilyn Monroe. Published by Taylor Trade Publishing.