Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The one and many Marilyn Monroe

Like many people I get lost down the rabbit hole when I start watching youtube. One video leads to another and before I know it my original search for Vivien Leigh means I'm now watching an urban explorer traipse round a deserted plantation mansion in Georgia. However my most recent mini obsession stems from my unwavering love of Marilyn Monroe.

While searching for Marilyn videos I happened across a lady called Sunny Thompson. Now I may be a little late to the party but I was entranced by Sunny's portrayal of Marilyn in her one woman show, Marilyn Forever Blonde, a production which has been running up and down America since 2007.

Sunny has the mannerisms and voice down to a tee as she tells Marilyn's story through the lady's own words. This play looks amazing and I'd love to see it, but unfortunately Sunny has said in interviews that she's been playing Marilyn for 8 years now and Marilyn only played Marilyn for 15, Sunny doesn't think she can do it for that long.

The thing that intrigues me most about Marilyn Forever Blonde is how make up transforms Sunny into a such a convincing version of the icon. The application is so specific! In another interview Sunny mentions the make up design was put together by Marilyn impersonator Jimmy James... Cue a search for his work, and boy is he brilliant!

Jimmy James spent over 10 years impersonating Marilyn and in order to get the look just right he spent 2 years just studying her make up! You have to admit he got it right as the result is mesmerizing.

I watched a lot of his videos and its worth catching his appearance on Geraldo where the host seems to forget Jimmy is actually a boy and gets a bit flirty with 'Marilyn'. Also Jimmy's turn on To Tell The Truth, not only another fantastic impersonation but a fun snapshot of 1980's entertainment.

Jimmy James also appears briefly on a great documentary called Marilyn Monroe - Life After Death which has a refreshing take on the Monroe legend. Filmed in the 80's it interviewed a large group of people who knew and worked with Marilyn, whilst also giving an insight into the impact of her death in 1962.

Alan 'Whitey' Snyder was Monroe's make up artist through most of her career and his interview is the most interesting as he discusses how Marilyn asked him in a jokey way to make her up if she passed away before he did, a promise he honoured when she did die at the early age of 36. The description of how he did this and how the mortuary helped to get her looking right is both fascinating and uncomfortable.

 To round off, Lisa Eldridge is one of my favourite youtube make up artists and her video about Marilyn's iconic make up look is probably to closest we'll get to knowing a least part of the secret tricks and techniques Marilyn used to create the face she showed to the world. Don't be fooled, its not just black eyeliner and red lipstick, in fact the truth is much more interesting and intricate.

Marilyn knew exactly what she was doing when she put on her face. Her make up was a finely tuned kind of magic that helped her to become something bigger and apart from herself. It helped to define her legend and has obviously left an indelible imprint on popular culture that future generations  are still trying to emulate and decipher.

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