Netflix’s Blonde features a controversial depiction of the life of Marilyn Monroe, but how much of it really happened? The tragically short life of classic Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe has been a frequent subject of movie and TV depictions since her death, and Blonde is the latest movie to adapt her life for the screen. Blonde is not technically considered a biopic and is instead based on a semi-fictional book of the same name, the movie blurs the lines between Monroe’s real life and fiction frequently during its run time, making it difficult to decipher what is fact and what is fabricated.
Blonde takes viewers on a journey through the life of Marilyn Monroe (played by Ana de Armas), beginning with her troubled childhood and ending with her premature death in 1962. The movie mainly focuses on Monroe’s personal life, primarily her affairs, pregnancies, and struggle with her public persona as Marilyn Monroe, while it skirts around the deeper details of her marriages and career for the most part. Rather than examining the details of Marilyn Monroe’s life the way a traditional biopic would, Blonde is more interested in the idea of Marilyn Monroe rather than telling the story of her life. This could explain why the movie chose to flub some of the facts surrounding its subject.
Blonde’s portrayal of Marilyn Monroe has been controversial from the start, with it being suggested that the movie and its source material may be exploitative. However, despite the movie’s divisive reviews, Blonde did manage to get some key aspects of Marilyn Monroe’s life correct despite changing many details to suit its narrative. Here is a breakdown of what really happened to Marilyn Monroe in Blonde, as well as how much the movie changes from real life.
TRUE: Did Marilyn Monroe Really Think Clark Gable Was Her Father?
A major focus in Blonde is Marilyn’s yearning to meet her real father. At the beginning of the movie, Marilyn’s mother shows her a picture of Clark Gable and tells young Norma Jean that he is her real father. Although this seems like something Blonde might have fabricated, it is actually true that Marilyn Monroe at one point thought Clark Gable was her father, although it doesn’t seem like she took this belief as far in real life as Marilyn did in Blonde. Monroe and Gable even went on to co-star in the 1961 movie The Misfits together, which was the last movie either of them released during their lifetimes.
FALSE: Was Marilyn Monroe Really In A Polyamorous Relationship?
At the beginning of Blonde, Marilyn is depicted entering a polyamorous relationship with actors Charles Chaplin Jr. and Edward G. Robinson Jr. (who are referred to as Cass and Eddy, respectively, in Blonde). When they are seen together in public, Marilyn is told by the studio to stop spending time with the two, effectively ending their relationship. While Monroe was alleged to have had affairs with both actors separately, there’s no evidence for the polyamorous relationship that Blonde depicts. Blonde likely chose to include this plot since it was part of the original Blonde novel, despite this relationship having no ties to Monroe’s real life.
CHANGED: Was Marilyn Monroe Ever Pregnant?
Blonde focuses on Marilyn Monroe’s pregnancies at various points in the movie, although they were not always factual. In reality, there is no evidence that Monroe was pregnant during 1953 or that she had an abortion (the depiction of which likely contributed to Blonde’s NC-17 rating). However, Monroe’s pregnancy and miscarriage during her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller (played by Adrien Brody) is factual (although the circumstances of her miscarriage were likely fabricated for Blonde).
TRUE: Was Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe’s Relationship Really Abusive?
Blonde depicts Marilyn’s marriage to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio as a volatile one, especially after the filming of her famous subway grate scene in The Seven Year Itch. Sadly, this depiction of Monroe’s life is realistic. In real life, Monroe and DiMaggio (played by Bobby Cannavale) had a short, tumultuous marriage, and he was outraged by the subway grate scene in The Seven Year Itch, which is one of the prevailing images people associate with Marilyn Monroe today. Monroe filed for divorce a month after the scene was filmed, and the couple was divorced after only nine months of marriage.
TRUE: Did Arthur Miller Really Write About Marilyn Monroe?
In Blonde, Marilyn is shown discovering her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, has written about her in one of his plays, including line-for-line dialogue of a conversation they had, which creates a wedge between them. This detail about Monroe and Miller’s marriage is true, with Miller even writing about Monroe in his work years after their divorce. Miller even wrote the screenplay for Monroe’s last film, The Misfits (based on his short story of the same name), in which one of the characters, Roslyn, bears striking similarities to Monroe, who brought her to life on screen.
TRUE: Was Marilyn Monroe Really Difficult On Set?
During Blonde, Marilyn is shown to be difficult to work with as an actor, with her even storming off the set of one of her movies. Unfortunately, this was reportedly the case with the real-life Marilyn Monroe as well. Partially due to her increasing reliance on pharmaceuticals, Monroe was known for arriving late to set and for being uncooperative during her acting career. This was particularly the case for Monroe while she was working on The Prince and the Showgirl as a result of her difficulties working with Laurence Olivier, which is likely the film that Blonde is referencing in its depiction of this side of Marilyn.
MIXED: Did Marilyn Monroe Really Have An Affair With JFK?
Towards the end of Blonde, the movie depicted Marilyn being taken via Secret Service to see President John F. Kennedy in a hotel room, where she is sexually assaulted by him. Marilyn Monroe’s alleged affair with President Kennedy is perhaps one of the most notorious details about her life, especially her famously sultry performance of “Happy Birthday” to him in 1962. Monroe and Kennedy had some sort of connection in real life, but it didn’t look anything like Blonde portrays it to be. Blonde likely made the choice to show their relationship this way due to its depiction in the novel the movie is based on, which portrays the president as being similarly cruel to Marilyn. This aspect of Blonde is difficult to fact-check since the details surrounding Monroe and Kennedy’s supposed affair are murky due to the nature of who they were, but there is no evidence that Blonde’s depiction of Kennedy sexually assaulting Monroe actually took place.