Marilyn Monroe Quotes

A Tragic Star Who Had Great Wit and Insight

Marilyn Monroe, 1954
Marilyn Monroe, 1954.

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Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jean Mortenson in 1926. She starred in many popular films, was married to and divorced from both Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio, and died of an overdose of barbiturates in 1962. Nevertheless, interest in her life and her story continues in popular culture and in feminist studies.

Select Marilyn Monroe Quotations

"I wanted to be treated as a human being who had earned a few rights since her orphanage days."

"It's nice to be included in people's fantasies but you also like to be accepted for your own sake."

"I think that when you are famous every weakness is exaggerated."

"I'm very definitely a woman and I enjoy it."

"I don't mind living in a man's world as long as I can be a woman in it."

"People had a habit of looking at me as if I were some kind of mirror instead of a person. They didn't see me, they saw their own lewd thoughts, then they white-masked themselves by calling me the lewd one."

"I don't know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot."

"To a reporter: Please don't make me a joke. End the interview with what I believe. I don't mind making jokes, but I don't want to look like one."

"Fame is like caviar, you know -- it's good to have caviar but not when you have it at every meal."

"If fame goes by, so long, I've had you, fame. If it goes by, I've always known it was fickle. So at least it's something I experienced, but that's not where I live."

"It stirs up envy, fame does."

"Seeing your name in front page headlines as if you were some kind of a major accident or gun battle is always startling. No matter how often you see it you don't get used to it. You keep thinking-"That's about me. The whole country's reading about me. Maybe the world is."

"I've been on a calendar, but never on time."

"I am invariably late for appointments ... sometimes, as much as two hours. I've tried to change my ways but the things that make me late are too strong, and too pleasing."

"I restore myself when I'm alone."

"This life is what you make it. No matter what, you're going to mess up sometimes, it's a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you're going to mess it up."

"People respect you because they feel you've survived hard times and endured, and although you've become famous, you haven't become phony."

"The worst thing that happens to people when they dress up and go to a party is that they leave their real selves at home. They're like people on a stage playing somebody else. They play that they're important, and they want you to meet their importance, not themselves."

"The truth is I've never fooled anyone. I've let people fool themselves. They didn't bother to find out who and what I was."

"Creativity has got to start with humanity and when you're a human being, you feel, you suffer."

"I'm for the individual as opposed to the corporation. The way it is the individual is the underdog, and with all the things a corporation has going for them the individual comes out banged on her head. The artist is nothing. It's really tragic."

"[about reading Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet] I was never told what to read, and nobody ever gave me anything to read. You know -- the way there are certain books that everybody reads while they're growing up? . . . So what I do is -- nights when I've got nothing else to do I go to the Pickwick bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard. And I just open books at random -- or when I come to a page or a paragraph I like, I buy that book. So last night I bought this one. Is that wrong?"

"Arthur Miller wouldn't have married me if I had been nothing but a dumb blonde."

About Her Childhood

"I learned also that the best way to keep out of trouble was by never complaining or asking for anything."

"At twelve I looked like a girl of seventeen. My body was developed and shapely. But no one knew this but me. I still wore the blue dress and the blouse the orphanage provided. They made me look like an overgrown lummox."

"(about Norma Jean, her childhood self) With success all around me, I can still feel her frightened eyes looking out of mine. She keeps saying, "I never lived, I was never loved," and often I get confused and think it's I who am saying it."

"I watched the faces of the listeners when the minister would cry out how much God loved them and how much they needed to set themselves right with God. They were faces without any argument in them, just tired faces that were glad to hear Somebody loved them."

On Love, Marriage, Sex

Quotes about love and marriage and sex from Marilyn Monroe, movie star especially important in the 1950s:

"I have too many fantasies to be a housewife.... I guess I am a fantasy."

"It's better to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone."

"A career is wonderful thing, but you can't snuggle up to it on a cold night."

"A wise girl kisses but doesn't love, listens but doesn't believe, and leaves before she is left."

"Don't you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn't marry a girl just because she's pretty, but my goodness, doesn't it help? [in character as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes]"

"What good is it being Marilyn Monroe? Why can't I just be an ordinary woman? A woman who can have a family ... I'd settle for just one baby. My own baby."

"The body is meant to be seen, not all covered up."

"Sex is part of nature. I go along with nature."

"Being a sex symbol is a heavy load to carry, especially when one is tired, hurt and bewildered."

"It's not true I had nothing on, I had the radio on."

"If I play a stupid girl and ask a stupid question I've got to follow it through. What am I supposed to do -- look intelligent?"

"That's the trouble, a sex symbol becomes a thing. But if I'm going to be a symbol of something, I'd rather have it sex than some other things we've got symbols of."

"Everyone's just laughing at me. I hate it. Big breasts, big ass, big deal. Can't I be anything else? Gee, how long can you be sexy?"

"Before marriage, a girl has to make love to a man to hold him. After marriage, she has to hold him to make love to him."

"The public doesn't mind people living together without being married, providing they don't overdo it."

"Most men judge your importance in their lives by how much you can hurt them, not by how happy you can make them."

"Men are always ready to respect anything that bores them."

"[H]usbands are chiefly good as lovers when they are betraying their wives."

"I have noticed ... that men usually leave married women alone, and are inclined to treat all wives with respect. This is no great credit to married women. Men are always ready to respect anything that bores them."

"The real lover is the man who can thrill you by kissing your forehead or smiling into your eyes or just staring into space."

"Wives have a tendency to go off like burglar alarms when they see their husbands talking to me."

"It's woman's spirit and mood a man has to stimulate in order to make sex interesting. The real lover is the man who can thrill you by touching your head or smiling into your eyes or just staring into space."

"Men who think that a woman's past love affairs lessen her love for them are usually stupid and weak. A woman can bring a new love to each man she loves, providing there are not too many."

"As far as I can make out, women's friendships with each other are based on a gush of lies and pretty speeches that mean nothing. You'd think they were all wolves trying to seduce each other the way they flatter and flirt when they're together."

"(about her teen years) My admirers all said the same thing in different ways. It was my fault, their wanting to kiss and hug me."

"The first effect marriage had on me was to increase my lack of interest in sex.... Actually our marriage was a sort of friendship with sexual privileges."

"It's better for the whole world to know you, even as a sex star, than never to be known at all."

On Acting and Hollywood

Marilyn Monroe was quite aware of the powerful impact she had on people just from her physical presence, but she longed to be recognized as a serious and talented actress, working hard at her vocation.

"When you have only a single dream it is more than likely to come true -- because you keep working toward it without getting mixed up."

"If I'd observed all the rules, I'd never have got anywhere."

"It's all make believe, isn't it?"

"I love to do the things the censors won't pass."

"It's better for the whole world to know you, even as a sex star, than never to be known at all."

"I am trying to prove to myself that I am a person. Then may be I'll convince myself that I'm an actress."

"A career is wonderful thing, but you can't snuggle up to it on a cold night."

"A career is born in public -- talent in privacy."

"Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul."

"Of the nude pictures: Sure I posed. I needed the money."

"An actress is not a machine, but they treat you like a machine. A money machine."

"An actor is not a machine, no matter how much they want to say you are. Creativity has got to start with humanity and when you're a human being, you feel, you suffer."

"In Hollywood a girl's virtue is much less important than her hairdo. You're judged by how you look, not by what you are. Hollywood's a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for kiss, and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty."

"I don't want to make money. I just want to be wonderful."

"My work is the only ground I've ever had to stand on. I seem to have a whole superstructure with no foundation -- but I'm working on the foundation."

"I want to be an artist, not an erotic freak. I don't want to be sold to the public as a celluloid aphrodisical."

"Acting isn't something you do. Instead of doing it, it occurs. If you're going to start with logic, you might as well give up. You can have conscious preparation, but you have unconscious results."

"I've always felt toward the slightest scene, even if all I had to do in a scene was just to come in and say, "Hi," that the people ought to get their money's worth and that this is an obligation of mine, to give them the best you can get from me."

"This industry should behave like a mother whose child has just run out in front of a car. But instead of clasping the child to them, they start punishing the child. Like you don't dare get a cold. How dare you get a cold! I mean, the executives can get colds and stay home forever and phone it in, but how dare you, the actor, get a cold or a virus. You know, no one feels worse than the one who's sick. I sometimes wish, gee, I wish they had to act a comedy with a temperature and a virus infection."

"I finally made up my mind I wanted to be an actress and I was not going to let my lack of confidence ruin my chances."

"My illusions didn't have anything to do with being a fine actress. I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But, my God, how I wanted to learn, to change, to improve!"

"Some people have been unkind. If I say I want to grow as an actress, they look at my figure. If I say I want to develop, to learn my craft, they laugh. Somehow they don't expect me to be serious about my work."

"I've often stood silent at a party for hours listening to my movie idols turn into dull and little people."

"As Michael (Chekhov)'s pupil, I learned more about acting. I learned psychology, history, and the good manners of art -- taste."

"Acting became important. It became an art that belonged to the actor, not to the director or producer, or the man whose money had bought the studio. It was an art that transformed you into somebody else, that increased your life and mind. I had always loved acting and tried hard to learn it. But with Michael Chekhov, acting became more than a profession to me. It became a sort of religion."

"1956 interview about her childhood: Looking back, I guess I used to play-act all the time. For one thing, it meant I could live in a more interesting world than the one around me."

"I'm trying to find myself as a person, sometimes that's not easy to do. Millions of people live their entire lives without finding themselves. But it is something I must do. The best way for me to find myself as a person is to prove to myself that I am an actress."

Quotes About Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe has attracted many interpretations. Here's what a few people have had to say about Marilyn Monroe:

About Marilyn Monroe, by her ex-husband, Arthur Miller: "To have survived, she would have had to be either more cynical or even further from reality than she was. Instead, she was a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes."

Billy Wilder: "The luminosity of that face! There has never been a woman with such voltage on the screen, with the exception of Garbo."

Groucho Marx: "It's amazing. She's Mae West, Theda Bara and Bo Peep all rolled into one."

Shelley Winters: "If she'd been dumber, she'd have been happier."

Frank Sinatra, reportedly: "Shut up, Norma Jean. You're so stupid you don't know what you're talking about."

Simone Signoret, married to Yves Montand: "If Marilyn is in love with my husband it proves she has good taste, for I am in love with him too."

Ronald Reagan, at a White House Briefing on tax reform, May 22, 1986: "I must admit there were times in this process, as tax reform wended its way through the sometimes convoluted passageways of Congress, that even I had some momentary doubts. I told a group last night that it was a little like the time Marilyn Monroe, the late Marilyn Monroe, met Albert Einstein. And Marilyn grabbed him by the arm and said, "Let's get married." And Einstein looked at her and replied, "But, my dear, what if our children had my looks and your brains?"

Film critic Pauline Kael: "Her mixture of wide-eyed wonder and cuddly drugged sexiness seemed to get to just about every male; she turned on even homosexual men. And women couldn't take her seriously enough to be indignant; she was funny and impulsive in a way that made people feel protective. She was a little knocked out; her face looked as if, when nobody was paying attention to her, it would go utterly slack -- as if she died between wolf calls."

Biographer Louis Banner: "She is the child in all of us, the child we want to forget but can't dismiss. We want to know what would have happened to her if she had lived longer."

Biographer Gloria Steinem: "I remember her on the screen, huge as a colossus doll, mincing and whispering and simply hoping her way into total vulnerability."

Biographer Gloria Steinem: "A student, lawyer, teacher, artist, mother, grandmother, defender of animals, rancher, homemaker, sportswoman, rescuer of children--all these are futures we can imagine for Norma Jeane. . . . One also can imagine the whole woman who was both Norma Jeane and Marilyn becoming a serious actress and wise comedienne who would still be working in her sixties, with more productive years to come."

From the eulogy by Lee Strasberg: "She had a luminous quality -- a combination of wistfulness, radiance, yearning, that set her apart and yet made everyone wish to be part of it, to share in the childlike naïvete which was at once so shy and yet so vibrant."

Also from Lee Strasberg's eulogy: "Marilyn Monroe was a legend. In her lifetime she created a myth of what a poor girl from a deprived background could attain. For the entire world she became a symbol of the eternal feminine."