Friday, December 27, 2013

Different Eras, Same Careers: Farrah Fawcett and Marilyn Monroe

Writers have one common trait: they disregard good reviews and obsess over criticism.

Entertainment Weekly gave The Charlie’s Angels Casebook a “B” in its review – not bad. But 13 years later the only line I remember was the one that disputed my claim that Farrah Fawcett was a sex symbol comparable to Marilyn Monroe in global impact. 

I stand by that statement. And now that I have this blog I can finally plead my case that the two actresses had more in common than alliterative names.

One Name is Enough
Granted, this was easier in Farrah’s case, as that name did not gain any traction until she made it famous. We’ve had other Marilyns over the past 50 years – Manson, Munster, McCoo – but if there was a Family Feud question asking you to name a famous Marilyn, the number one answer is still indisputable.

An Iconic Image
Few movie images are more iconic than Marilyn Monroe standing over a subway grate in The Seven Year Itch, her white dress billowing upward from the draft. Farrah’s red swimsuit poster sold 20 million copies at a time when sales of one million were exceptional. 

More than Looks
Their faces were so dazzling it took longer than it should to have recognized their talent. Long after achieving sex symbol status, Marilyn Monroe earned the positive reviews she received for Bus Stop and The Misfits. Farrah also appeared in several forgettable films before taking on such challenging roles as those in The Burning Bed and Extremities.

Immortalized by Warhol

Turbulent Private Lives
It’s not pleasant to think about how many unhappy and even abusive relationships both Farrah and Marilyn had to endure.

Farrah and Marilyn both appeared in star vehicles designed to show them off to best advantage. These projects failed because they had nothing else going for them. Their most memorable credits were those in which they complemented an equally talented ensemble. Farrah spent just one season on Charlie’s Angels but it remains her most indelible role. Marilyn Monroe’s two best films are Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (opposite Jane Russell) and the comedy classic Some Like it Hot with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. 

The Cover of Playboy

Gone But Not Forgotten
Search “Marilyn Monroe merchandise” at and you’ll get more than 700 results – key chains, t-shirts, posters, mugs, puzzles, tote bags, calendars. While Farrah’s image may not be as ubiquitous, new products bearing her likeness are still being made long after her 1970s heyday. Mattel recently unveiled a Barbie Classic Farrah Fawcett doll, inspired by her 1976 poster. And earlier this year there appeared a new die cast model of the white Mustang Cobra II she drove in Charlie’s Angels. It was so successful that a second version is forthcoming that will include a new Farrah figure. 

Finally, both Marilyn Monroe and Farrah Fawcett left us far too soon. The work they leave behind is both a comfort and a reminder of how much we lost. 

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Hofstede, what do I say to someone who insists that the original "Charlie's Angels" TV series was all about T&A? How do I put my defense into a relative soundbite?