On December 6th, Marilyn Monroe’s personal correspondence to husbands Joe Dimaggio and Arthur Miller will be put up for auction in Beverly Hills. And while many Marilyn fans and Hollywood historians will inevitably flock to the auction, I don’t know that I would even if I could and had that kind of vast wealth at my disposal. Certainly, I am curious about the letters (I’m only human). But something about actually owning one reminds me of my favorite scene in Tennessee Williams’ classic play, “A Streetcar Named Desire”, where Blanche Dubois’ nosy, brutish brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, grabs a stack of love letters from her. The letters in question were from the early days of a marriage that ended abruptly with her husband’s suicide. Horrified that Stanley might actually breach the privacy of her heart, she rends the letters away from his grasp, and, once back in her possession, announces her intention to burn them, their sacred intimacy having been violated by the “insult” of his touch.
Now, don’t get me wrong – i understand this is not the first time Marilyn’s personal belongings have been put up for auction (I actually own the super-sized hardback volume of items previously auctioned by Christie’s in 1999), and I am fully aware of their historical significance. Perhaps Marilyn was, as well, having bequeathed her archival materials to her acting coach and close friend, Lee Strasberg. But although she existed in the blinding glare of the fame she sought, even she once said, “I don’t want everybody to see exactly where I live, what my sofa or my fireplace looks like.”
To me, I suppose selling her personal love letters is a bit different than selling clothing or household items – it’s like putting up pieces of her heart to the highest bidder. Maybe that’s too sappy or simplistic an attitude in an era when nothing seems to be sacred anymore and almost anything and everything can be seen with just a few clicks. Bearing all of that in mind, it’s a small idea I’m proposing – just an itty-bitty one – and one that should be taken into consideration far more often than it actually is: Just because something can be seen doesn’t mean that it should be. Sometimes, it’s okay to look away.