CNN Review: 'Reframed: Marilyn Monroe'

By: 
Ben Miles

It’ too easy to characterize women performers as sex objects rather than talented, charismatic people. Handsome men – such as Clark Gable, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Tom Selleck, Brad Pitt, etc. – aren’t plagued by the same sort of acclaim as their female counter-personas. Celebrities the men may be, but the fellows of the performing arts profession are more easily recognized as formidable reservoirs of talent and not just as fabulous faces and taut, attractive bodies.

Though it’s been 60 years since the purported suicide of Marilyn Monroe, director Karen McGann’s vision of Monroe in the CNN documentary “Reframed: Marilyn Monroe” delivers a decidedly contemporary perspective of the mega-star who still shines brightly well into the 21st century.

Like few other film icons of the 20th – namely James Dean and Steve McQueen – Monroe remains forever a product of modernity. In McGann’s reframing of the Monroe legacy we are made to understand that Marilyn Monroe was a serious student of the craft of acting and a gifted comedienne, in addition to being a gorgeous human being.

Overcoming obstacles since the day of her birth, Marilyn Monroe came into the world at the Los Angeles County Hospital on June 1, 1926, as Norma Jeane Mortenson Much of her childhood was spent in foster care, but due to a shapely figure and a wholesome, beautiful face, along with a high wit and often unacknowledged intelligence, Monroe found early success as a model. Eventually, she found good fortune in film acting and in 1999 was designated by the American Film Institute as number six on their list of the greatest female screen legends from the “Golden Age of Hollywood.”

Offering astute commentary from friends, acting colleagues and film scholars such as Ellen Burstyn, Amber Tamblyn, Mira Sorvino, Alicia Malone, Amy Greene, Angelica Jade Bastien and Christina Newland, and learned narration from two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, the documentary series informs us of Monroe’s three marriages, the last two to baseball great Joe DiMaggio and the American Playwright Arthur Miller, as well as her breathy, flirtatious “Happy Birthday” recitation to President Kennedy.

The four-part documentary, available On Demand at CNN, is touted by executive producer, Sam Starbuck as displaying Monroe as “a trailblazer, courageously challenging the misogyny of 1950’s America in ways that feel modern today. She took on the male powerbrokers in Hollywood and won, becoming the most famous and recognizable woman in the world. The documentary series achieves its goal and leaves us as a bittersweet memorial to Marilyn Monroe.

“Reframed: Marilyn Monroe,”is available On Demand.

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