Like any creative human being, I would like a bit more control.
Actress must have no mouth.
She was luminous – on that much everyone seems to agree. Hers is not the flawless matt beauty of Dietrich or Garbo. She is, as one might say, more curvy – I am of course referring to her face, on which, unlike Dietrich, Garbo or indeed Elizabeth Taylor (whom she saw as a rival), there isn’t a single straight line. There is no flattening wash over this face. Even Laurence Olivier, who mostly couldn’t stand her, had to concede that every time she appears in The Prince and the Showgirl, she lights up the scene (the cinematographer Jack Cardiff said that she glowed). That is just one of the things about her that makes her inimitable – which is why the recent My Week with Marilyn could not but fail somewhere as a film. But the question of what – in the aura that surrounds her – she was lighting up or revealing, other than herself, is rarely asked. Luminousness can be a cover – in Hollywood, its own most perfect screen. Monroe’s beauty is dazzling, blinding (no other actress is defined in quite these terms). Of what, then, is she the decoy? What does she allow us to see and not to see? Monroe herself knew the difference between seeing and looking. ‘Men do not see me,’ she said, ‘they just lay their eyes on me.’
LRB 26 April 2012 | PDF Download