Script: The face on the t-shirt

Once a month, English teacher Ms Chan organises a “Show and Tell” for the school’s English Club. Last week, Tom brought something to talk about.

John Millen |

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Ms Chan: Hello, everyone. Tom is going to talk to us about what he’s got in that bag on the table in front of him. Tom, over to you …

Tom: Hello, everybody. I’m going to talk to you about a very famous person. Just take a good look at this. Okay. It’s a T-shirt with a face on it. Look carefully at the face. A beautiful young woman with blond hair. You will see this face not only on my T-shirt but also on the front of books, on cards, on posters. But who was she? Is she real?

Ms Chan: Where did you get the T-shirt, Tom? And, I think I know who she is.

Tom: I bought the T-shirt in Temple Street market last year. I was just walking past the stall, and there she was staring out at me. I loved the face immediately, so I bought the T-shirt. But it wasn't until last month that I found out who she was. I thought the face on the shirt wasn't a real person. Imagine my surprise when I was in Shenzhen with my parents one weekend and I saw her staring down at me from a poster in a shopping mall. The poster was advertising an art exhibition that had some paintings and photographs of someone called Marilyn Monroe on display. Who was she? I decided to find out more.

Ms Chan: Did you go to the exhibition?

Tom: No, it closed the following day, so we didn't have time. When I got home, I started to research this Marilyn Monroe online. For the next couple of minutes, I just want you to look at her. I’ve got some photos here on Powerpoint. I want you just to look at this amazing lady.

Marilyn Monroe was one of Hollywood’s most famous film stars during the 1950s. Women wanted to look like her and men wanted her to be their girlfriend. Her face appeared everywhere on cinema posters and in newspapers and magazines all over the world.

Ms Chan: Her real name wasn't Marilyn Monroe, was it?

Tom: No. She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, California. She never knew who her father was, and her mother sent her to foster homes and orphanages. Norma Jean had a very difficult childhood, never knowing a proper home. When she was only 16, she got married and went to work in a factory making weapons for the American army. Here she was discovered by a professional photographer and she began to work as a model.

Ms Chan: How did she get into movies?

Tom: Her marriage broke up as she got more and more work as a model. She dyed her hair blond and changed her name to ‘Marilyn Monroe’. Hollywood studios churned out hundreds of movies in the 1950s and were always on the look out for new faces. With her blond hair, Marilyn looked stunning, and soon she was getting small parts in movies. She slowly built up her career as a film actress and by the end of the1950s she had become one of Hollywood’s top stars.

Ms Chan: I saw one of her movies on TV the other night. It was called Some Like It Hot, and it was very funny.

Tom: Marilyn became very famous, but she was a very insecure person. She wanted to be a great actress, and got upset when people only wanted her for her looks. On August 5, 1962, aged only 36, Marilyn Monroe who found dead in her house in Hollywood. A bottle of sleeping pills was found on the table next to her bed.

Today, more than fifty years after her death, the world is still fascinated by her charisma and beauty. Look at her face on this T-shirt. Now you know who it belongs to. Her name is Marilyn Monroe and she is special and much more than just a face on a T-shirt. She is a cultural icon.