Maureen Stapleton on Marilyn Monroe: The Great Gem That She Was

Photograph by Sam Shaw/1957/

Interview with Maureen Stapleton
Conducted by James Grissom

It was easy to be intimidated by Marilyn, and I was. She was so goddamned beautiful. Luscious. Sweet. But the intimidation disappeared fast because she was so committed and so ready to get better. She listened like no one else, and she worked to the point of a migraine, and I would tell her to lighten up, go easy on yourself, but she couldn't: She wanted to be taken seriously; she wanted to get it right. I bitch about my upbringing, and my sad mother and sad aunts and no men around and nothing but dead ends all around, but I had love and food and the space and the silence to dream. Marilyn didn't have that. She told me once that she just wanted her own bedroom, her own bed, and a door she could close. And grass. Grass to run in. Trees to hug and flowers to pick. This was a girl who had nothing but the great gem that she was, and everyone got to hold and fondle that gem, and then put it back when they were done with it. She was happiest--for a time--when she married Arthur [Miller], and there was a country house and trees and fruit and flowers--and silence and doors.

© 2014 James Grissom


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