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Happy 85th Birthday, Marilyn Monroe

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Had she lived, Marilyn Monroe would be turning 85 years old today. What would this American sex symbol be like as an 85-year-old woman? Marilyn died long before I was born, but I was a fan from the time I was teenager and staying up late "doing my homework" exposed me to the old movies on TCM and AMC. My favorite Marilyn movie is Some Like it Hot with Tony Curtis (doing a hilarious send-up of his own idol, Cary Grant, when in his character's oil tycoon alter-ego) and the incomparable Jack Lemmon.

Marilyn plays Sugar Kane, a musician in an all-girl band who just wants to find the right (rich) guy. Sexy as ever, she somehow lends her innocence to a character who is an unabashed gold-digger. Marilyn is one of my all-time favorite fashion icons, and I'm not alone. Actresses and starlets have been mimicking Marilyn's famous style for decades, with varying degrees of success; in the end we all know that there is only one Marilyn Monroe, and the rest of us are just playing dress-up. In honor of Ms. Monroe's 85th birthday, here are some of my favorite photos of her, and of the women who were inspired by her.

Marilyn's style, for all it's popularity, is quite simple. She wore lots of neutrals, favoring white, and the clothes were always impeccably tailored to show off her best assets. Her white Seven Year Itch halter dress with a long, pleated skirt is probably more famous for the white boy-cut briefs she wore underneath.

Marilyn makes another white dress famous--this Ann Klein ballerina satin-and-tulle confection--in a photo shoot for Seven Year Itch with photographer Milton Greene.

Marilyn's "skin and beads" dress, worn for her breathless rendition of "Happy Birthday" for President John F. Kennedy, is one of her most famous gowns. The dress was so tight it had to be sewn onto her body. Designed for her by Academy Award-winning costume designer, Jean-Louis, the dress was made of a nude/flesh-colored fabric onto which thousands of rhinestones were sewn. (Hence the name, "skin and beads.") The event was Marilyn's last public event, and she died just a few months later. In 1999, the Jean-Louis dress sold at auction in New York City for over $1 million.

Madonna as Marilyn

Madonna aped Marilyn's style for quite some time. In 1985 Madonna's "Material Girl" video was a direct lift of Marilyn's famous, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" number from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Madonna continued to mimic Marilyn's style through the mid-90s.

Anna Nicole Smith as Marilyn Monroe

Anna Nicole idolized Marilyn, though she has drawn many comparisons to Jayne Mansfield; in fact, in many of her early Guess ads she was styled with Jayne Mansfield, rather than Marilyn, in mind. Still, it was Marilyn who captured Anna Nicole's imagination. The comparisons ended up being sadly, literally fatal.

Starlets Play Marilyn

If you're blonde and famous, mimicking Marilyn is practically required.

Megan Fox: Makes Do with a Tattoo

Brunette starlet Megan Fox showed her admiration for Marilyn with a huge tattoo of the icon's face on her inner-right forearm. Recent photos suggest that Fox is having the tattoo removed, as the ink appears increasingly faded. Here is the tat in all its glory.

Cover Girls

Going Marilyn for photo shoots is also popular. Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman did it for Harper's Bazaar in 2008.

And then there was poor Lindsay Lohan, recreating Marilyn's "Last Sitting" photos (see the first photo of this article, a nude Marilyn with a sheer scarf--one of my favorites) right down to the photographer, Bert Stern.

Playing Marilyn

A parade of actresses have played Marilyn, with more to come on the horizon--there are two separate Marilyn biopics in the works right now.

Norma Jean and Marilyn (HBO, 1996) starred Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino as the title characters, respectively.

Joyce Carol Oates' fictional Marilyn Monroe memoir was adapted for TV (starring Poppy Montgomery) but it's going to get a fresh coat of paint--and a new star--in the latest adaptation starring Naomi Watts.

Michelle Williams is bringing her interpretation of Marilyn Monroe to the big screen in My Week with Marilyn, which explores the relationship between Monroe and Sir Lawrence Olivier when they filmed The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). This is the one I'm waiting for.

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