Sunday Seniors: Marilyn Monroe Course Offered at Osher@Dartmouth

  • Actress Marilyn Monroe will be the subject of a four-week winter term course “Marilyn: A Comet Across Our Sky,” taught by instructor Maynard Goldman for Osher@Dartmouth. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Actress Marilyn Monroe will be the subject of a four-week winter term course “Marilyn: A Comet Across Our Sky,” taught by instructor Maynard Goldman for Osher@Dartmouth. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Calendar Editor
Saturday, December 01, 2018

Hanover — More than five decades after her death, Marilyn Monroe’s star power still shines.

The actress will be the subject of an Osher@Dartmouth four-week winter term course “Marilyn: A Comet Across Our Sky,” taught by instructor Maynard Goldman, who once met Monroe as a teenager in 1953 at the 20th Century Fox movie studio lot in Los Angeles. It was the year of the actress’ breakout role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

“It was a long time ago indeed,” Goldman said. “She was still pretty young and ... it was right around the time she was becoming really well known.”

Monroe died on Aug. 5, 1962, in what ruled a suicide, though conspiracy theories about her cause of death persist.

“There are dozens of books that have been written just on her death,” Goldman said. “My take is that most of them are based on pretty thin ice.”

One reason the actress is still studied may be because “her amazing popularity within a very short period of time,” Goldman said. “She was kind of a 10-year wonder. She was gone at 36 and left no family, no kids, no husband and I think it’s a story that resonates for a number of reasons.”

Another reason is the arc of Monroe’s life. Born Norma Jean Mortenson on June 1, 1926, Monroe endured an abusive childhood and faced a lot of adversity.

“She came from a very troubled background,” Goldman said, but she had a lot of talent. “She tried to put it all together and for a while she was at the top but it was just too much I think.”

Her image also persists.

“She is still the iconic Hollywood blonde,” Goldman said. “I think that was kind of good news and bad news.”

The good news, he said, is that she was well recognized by the media and fans.

“The bad news was that the Hollywood producers and the media treated her like she was a dummy. And she wasn’t a dummy at all,” Goldman said. “She did have talent. And she was able to sing. She was a comedian of sorts. A few of the roles that she did, she was a good actress, but was really ignored by Hollywood … the upper echelon of Hollywood.”

Monroe never won an Academy Award, though she did once present one.

“It was interesting because she was a superstar on the one hand and yet was treated as though she had little or no talent,” Goldman, who worked in the entertainment business, said. “That I think is kind of an interesting dichotomy.”

Goldman also sees Monroe as connected to today’s #MeToo movement because of the abuse

“I wonder if it’s a forerunner of the #MeToo kind of movement. She was clearly someone who was taken advantage of by a lot of different kinds of men,” he said, adding that she wasn’t the first woman to have been treated that way. “Hollywood has always been a place where the ‘Hollywood (casting) couch’ was a famous term, and everybody knew about it, talked about it and lived with it for so many years.”

The term refers to the way some Hollywood executives would treat young actresses.

“She recognized that and tried to get away from that and get around it,” Goldman said.

The course includes a reading packet and film clips.

“I do think that it will be an interesting four weeks and that it’s a story that’s not only historically interesting but I think as I say it’s meaningful for today,” Goldman said.

Editor’s note: “Marilyn: A Comet Across Our Sky” will be held on Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. from Jan. 15-Feb. 5. The course costs $40. For more information or to register, visit osher.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-0154. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.