40 Years Of Remembering Marilyn

Walter Cronkite the premier TV anchorman of the networks' golden age who reported a tumultuous time with reassuring authority and came to be called "the most trusted man in America," died Friday, July 17, 2009. He was 92. AP Photo/Arizona State University

Forty years after the death of Marilyn Monroe, she is still as famous as she ever was. The Early Show marks the anniversary by talking with people who knew her, people who loved her, and people who won’t forget her. A true Hollywood icon, she captivates people long after her death.

Joining The Early Show to remember Monroe will be Don Murray, who received an Oscar nomination for his role in "Bus Stop," and Francine Prose, author of the upcoming book, "The Lives of the Muses, Nine Women and the Artists They Inspired." Prose has also written for the New York Times, examining Monroe's status as a Hollywood Icon.

For many, Monroe is the image of Hollywood's Golden Era. She was caught with her dress flying up over a grate in "Seven Year Itch," she sang an unforgettable rendition of “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy, and she let the world know that “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

Monroe was also a comedienne. She starred in “Some Like It Hot” with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, a film The American Film Institute named the funniest film of the 20th century.

Her private life was very public. Leading men off screen included baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and theater great Arthur Miller. Other liaisons were often fodder for the tabloids.

When Monroe died at 36 from an overdose of sleeping pills, many doubted that she could have killed herself at what seemed like the prime of her life. There is still controversy surrounding Marilyn's death. Was it suicide? An overdose? Was it a political conspiracy? The mystery shrouding her death reinforces her status as a legend.

Fans like Greg Schreiner remain faithful. Every year on the anniversary of Monroe's death, Schreiner, as president of the organization "Marilyn Remembered," has a memorial at her gravesite.

“We try to keep the services very upbeat, and more honoring her life, rather than her death,” he says.

Marilyn's crypt is discolored because virtually everyone who visits her final resting place feels compelled to touch the marble cover-stone. It's the same reason Marilyn's handprints at Grauman's Chinese Theater are darker than anyone else's. More fans compare their own hands with Marilyn's than any other star.

UCLA Professor Vivian Sobchack explains Monroe's lasting appeal: "She brought together sex, power, fame, celebrity, politics, and entertainment. Which, in fact, is really, dare I say, the heart of American culture."
  • Robin Wood

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