“Hollywood Is A Place Where They'll Pay You A Thousand Dollars For A Kiss And Fifty Cents For Your Soul” Marilyn Monroe

14 December 2017

Cultural Studies

Love her or loathe her, Marilyn Monroe was one of the most alluring starlets to ever grace the silver screen. Holding her audience captive with her giddy charm and flirtatious wiggle, she led a beautiful yet insecure and troubled life. Marilyn once said herself that it is ‘better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring’, and it seems the public haven’t grown tired of their love affair with Marilyn, even fifty-five years after her death.

Marilyn Monroe at News Press Conference for New Film The Prince and the Showgirl. Image © Mirrorpix Photographic Archives.

I was captivated by the Mirrorpix Photographic Archive in the resource Popular Culture in Britain and America, which explores the dynamic period of social, political and cultural change from 1950-1975. Included in the wide selection of evocative photographs of the period are some beautiful images of Marilyn Monroe from the 1950s. Her photographs feature alongside stars such as Elvis, Andy Warhol and The Rolling Stones; figures who changed the face of popular culture and created some of the greatest celebrity brands we know today. Andy Warhol himself completed a silkscreen painting of Marilyn, the Marilyn Diptych, just weeks after her death; it is said to be one of the most influential pieces of modern art and sits in the Tate. 

I was particularly intrigued by the photograph below which shows Marilyn Monroe sitting with her new husband Arthur Miller at the Royal Court Theatre in London for a press conference. Marilyn’s marriage was to last only 5 years but the image appears to capture a tender happy moment, and one far removed from the posed sensual shots she lived her life creating. How happy Marilyn actually was, we will never know. Reports of her trip to London to film ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, which Arthur Miller accompanied her on, suggest that this experience was fraught with tension for all parties; Marilyn’s appalling timekeeping, unreliability and a childlike dependence on her acting coach all sought to infuriate her director Lawrence Olivier, while in the background Arthur Miller served as an emotional bully.

Marilyn Monroe with New Husband Arthur Miller at a Press Conference at the Royal Court Theatre, London. Image © Mirrorpix Photographic Archives.

The photographs of Marilyn featured in Popular Culture are a wonderful and entrancing addition to this collection. While most women in the 1950s favoured full skirts Marilyn poured her voluptuous curves into barely-there sequinned gowns, plumped her red lips and teased her blonde hair into soft curls driving her fans crazy; not only a cultural icon but for some the quintessential sex symbol. 

I will leave you with the charming photograph below from Popular Culture, showing Marilyn Monroe on the phone to her friend Donald Zec; the personification of Hollywood glamour, even in her pedal pushers.

Marilyn Monroe on the Telephone to Daily Mirror Feature Writer and Friend Donald Zec. Image © Mirrorpix Photographic Archives.

The photographs of Marilyn Monroe are included in the Mirrorpix Photographic Archive from the resource Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975: Rock and Roll, Counterculture, Peace and Protest which is available now. For more information, including free trial access and price enquiries, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About the Author

Sarah Hodgson

Sarah Hodgson

I am an Editor at Adam Matthew, an academic digital publisher of primary source collections in the arts and humanities. I have had the pleasure of working on a variety of projects including Mass Observation Online and African American Communities.