Her Films, Fame, GlamorAnd, Of Course, Her “Madness”
What Makes Norma Jean
Monroe’s account remains a first-hand testimony to the inhuman approach toward mental health in 20th-century Hollywood.
“There was no empathy at Payne-Whitney — it had a very bad effect — they asked me after putting me in a ‘cell’ (I mean cement blocks and all) for very disturbed depressed patients (except I felt I was in some kind of prison for a crime I hadn’t committed. The inhumanity there I found archaic.”
In 1960, at the height of her fame, the iconic Hollywood “blonde bombshell” Marilyn Monroe was admitted to the Payne-Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in New York.
Monroe thought she was being briefly hospitalized for a recent nervous breakdown but, instead, she found herself confined to a padded cell and unwillingly administered medication. A series of frantic letters addressed to her ex-husband Joe DiMaggio and her friends saw her gain an early release from her confinement.
Marilyn’s troubles, however, were far from over. As her romantic relationships soured and she suffered miscarriages—her childhood trauma and struggle with fame gripped her.
Battling anxiety, mood and sleep disorders, and a pathological fear of abandonment, she began to use barbiturates, amphetamines, and alcohol. She soon became addicted and, in 1962, she met her untimely end from an accidental overdose of barbiturates.
Netflix’s biopic ‘Blonde’ is the latest film to shine an obsessed spotlight on the “very, very sick girl for many years” who exists in the legend Marilyn Monroe. The sad truth about her legacy is that we love to see her as a “broken and tormented woman”.
The real woman disappears behind the veil of severe mental illness, sensational dysfunctional relationships, and tragic life. And she remains to be rescued from this pitiful hagiography.