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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 23:57 GMT 00:57 UK
Fans celebrate Monroe anniversary
Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe would have been 75 on Friday
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

Fans of the screen icon Marilyn Monroe have celebrated the 75th anniversary of her birth on Friday.

Monroe died suddenly in 1962, but almost four decades on, the appeal of her mix of blatant sex appeal and child-like vulnerability endures.

Monroe in her famous pose from the Seven Year Itch
Monroe in her famous pose from The Seven Year Itch

Among those raising a glass to Monroe, who famously sang Happy Birthday to US president John F Kennedy, will be about 300 party-goers at London's Mayfair Club.

With revellers instructed to dress in the Monroe style and era, the dance floor will be awash with blonde wigs and Kennedy lookalikes.

Cocktails drunk by Monroe in her movies will be on the menu.

And running throughout the night will be the Monroe classic Some Like It Hot.

Organiser Adil, who works for event management company MFPR, runs theme nights at venues around the country.

He is particularly enthusiastic about his Monroe birthday bash.

"Monroe has to be the most famous sex symbol that has ever lived," he exclaims.

"She had that 'X-factor'. She captured the imagination of the time.

"Then her sudden and mysterious death gave her a mythical status. So, what better reason could there be for a party?"

Veneration

In the US, TV station American Movie Classics will show unseen footage from Something's Got to Give - the film Monroe never completed.

Monroe was sacked from the movie for being consistently late or absent. She died two months later.

Monroe movies
Monkey Business (1952)
Niagara (1953)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
How To Marry A Millionaire (1953)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Bus Stop (1956)
The Prince and the Showgirl (1957)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Let's Make Love (1960)
The Misfits (1961)

The scenes that were shot, including a now famous nude swimming sequence, have been reconstructed into a 37-minute version of the film.

It will be aired as part of the documentary Marilyn: The Last Days, released to mark her anniversary.

Yet, away from the 75th birthday high spirits, Monroe fans rarely need an excuse to shout about their heroine.

A search on the internet will throw up hundreds of Monroe sites.

And celebrities too are just as prone to Monroe mania. Many have tried to imitate parts of Monroe's persona, including Debbie Harry, Madonna and Kylie Minogue.

Icon

Christie's international auction house knows all about her enduring pulling power.

Her memorabilia consistently commands the highest bids among sales of celebrity artefacts.

Christie's sale
Christie's Monroe sale fetched three times the expected amount

A 1999 auction of more than 500 pieces belonging to the star fetched 8.4m - more than three times the expected amount.

Carey Wallace of Christie's in London says she never ceases to be amazed by the continued fascination with Monroe.

"People want to know about and own something from every aspect of her life," she says.

"Monroe was an icon in her own lifetime. And in the celebrity world she is the equivalent of royalty."

Wallace praises Monroe's beauty and agrees that it was her contradictory image and early death that have proved so eternally seductive.

But she also suggests another facet to the Monroe appeal.

"Her story is a rags-to-riches tale and many people feel they can identify with her humble beginnings."

Contrived

Monroe was born as the brown-haired Norma Jean Baker in Los Angeles, USA.

She never knew her father and her mother's mental illness meant she had to be brought up in foster homes and an orphanage.

Monroe created her sexy but vulnerable image
Monroe created her sexy but vulnerable image

Her transformation into the blonde sex siren who seemed to have no idea of the effect she had on men was a carefully contrived career move.

It led to her many hit film roles, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How To Marry A Millionaire.

It also added to the mystery of what Monroe was really like in her private life.

Film critics generally agree that Monroe's acting ability alone would not have earned her iconic status.

"There is no point in pretending Monroe had great technical skill," says Jamie Graham from Total Film magazine.

"There are numerous stories about the endless takes it took for her to do a scene.

"But what stands out is her true star quality - the camera loved her."

Imitation

Conversely, acting as Monroe is now big business.

Susan Scott Lookalikes in London say their Marilyn, alias Pauline Bailey, is their most regularly requested celebrity.

Pauline Bailey
Pauline Bailey makes a living from playing Monroe

Bailey has been imitating Monroe at private functions and media events for eight years, after being constantly told she looked like the dead star.

She says that men and women, gay or straight, all seem to find something about Monroe that appeals.

As for Bailey herself, she admires Monroe as the ultimate woman.

"There has never been anyone more feminine than Monroe and there probably never will be again. These days, women are expected to behave as aggressively as men."

Bailey often wears genuine Monroe costumes as worn by the star in her films.

But she says she never worries about what the star might be thinking about her performance from the other side.

"When you're gone, you're gone," Bailey muses.

Thousands of loyal Monroe fans would probably strongly disagree.

See also:

29 Oct 99 | Entertainment
Marilyn sale tops $13.4m
14 Aug 00 | Americas
Marilyn too hot for Mexicans
13 Apr 01 | Showbiz
Poland sells Monroe photos
24 Nov 98 | Entertainment
Monroe named century's 'steamiest siren'
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