Marilyn Monroe has this morning been revealed as Global Glamour Ambassador for Max Factor – and from tomorrow will be seen in advertising campaigns for Max Factor across the media. Is it just me or is it weird having a dead person as your “ambassador”? Sure, Marilyn’s iconic look – which was created by Hollywood make-up guru Max Factor – has timeless appeal and is still widely copied today. But frankly I am uncomfortable with these campaigns where you see dead people being used to advertise products that they didn’t advertise when they were alive, and/or where words are put into their mouths. I was surprised when Chanel used Marilyn Monroe for a No5 campaign in 2013, but at least they used newsreel footage of her, accompanied by her own voice giving the famous quote about wearing the perfume to bed – rather than manipulating her likeness to bring her back to life.
In recent times we’ve had cameo roles from computer-generated Marilyn, Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich in a Dior ad, while a sort of plastic, lookalike version of Audrey Hepburn has been used in a chocolate ad campaign. It was better – and arguably required more wit and brain power – in the pre-CGI days when clips from films were cut and pasted together (a la Carl Reiner’s inspired 1982 film noir pastiche Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid) to make such clever ads as the brilliant Holsten Pils ad, which used recognisable clips from Some Like It Hot and certainly wasn’t trying to imply that Monroe would have endorsed the brand.
And while I’m getting stuff off my chest, why does Max Factor keep insisting in its press material that Marilyn was a 1940s star?! She was certainly in Hollywood and playing small roles towards the end of the 1940s, but she only began to catch the eye of film-goers in 1950 when she had small but memorable parts in All About Eve and The Asphalt Jungle. And it was 1953 before she had her first starring role.
Pat McGrath, Max Factor Global Creative Design Director, is quoted as saying: “Marilyn made the sultry red lip, creamy skin and dramatically lined eyes the most famous beauty look of the 1940s.” Er, hello? No she didn’t. She may have made that combo the most emulated look of the 1950s, but the sultry red lips and natural yet defined eyes were around throughout the Second World War, when Marilyn was still Norma Jeane. Just look at pictures of Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable. Creamy skin, red lips and big lashes.
What’s disappointing about the Max Factor brand’s carelessness with dates and pedantic stuff like that is that it is, ironically, a company which is a key part of Hollywood history. However, it’s certainly true that Norma Jeane Baker entrusted her gradual transformation into the Marilyn Monroe we know and love to the team at the Max Factor Beauty Parlour on Hollywood Boulevard – and that what became her signature look is still hugely inspirational today.
But it’s not all complaints from me: Max Factor has also today announced the launch of #GlamJan, a rallying call encouraging women around the world to glam up with make-up in this drab month of January. Inspired by the transformation of Norma Jeane to Marilyn, #GlamJan is a social media campaign led by Pat McGrath and famous faces including fashion model Candice Swanepoel, which invites women to post their most glamorous self using the hashtag #GlamJan and a message about how good it feels to glam up.
(Norma Jean image – Photo Bernard of Hollywood (c)2015 Renaissance Road Inc. Marilyn Monroe image (c)2015 Archive Images. MH Greene 2013. J Greene.)