How true is the movie Blonde? Fact vs fiction in the new Netflix film

The truth behind the movie based on the life of Marilyn Monroe

A still from the movie Blonde of Ana de Armas playing Marilyn Monroe
(Image credit: Netflix)

It's one of many films that look at the life of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe, and has left viewers asking how true is the movie Blonde?

The new film starring Ana de Armas in the lead role made a splash when it premiered at Venice Film Festival, leaving viewers at home wanting to know how they can watch Blonde (opens in new tab). But the fictionalised biography has caused controversy since its release, with many questioning the accuracy and wanting to know more about how much of Blonde is true.

Just like film fans had similar questions around key moments in Baz Luhrmann's Elvis - such as did Elvis really fire the Colonel on stage (opens in new tab) - Blonde has left its viewers wanting to know more about the iconic Hollywood star's life and how old she would be today (opens in new tab).

How true is the movie Blonde? 

While Blonde is a film about Marilyn Monroe, it is more based on the fictionalised story of her life in the novel of the same name, by Joyce Carol Oates. Oates described the book as a "radically distilled life in the form of fiction" in the Author's Note.

While details in the book and therefore the movie are based on Monroe's life, director Andrew Dominik has made it clear that the film is not meant to reflect true events. In an interview with Deadline (opens in new tab), he said, "I know an awful lot about Marilyn Monroe now. I’ve read all the major stuff...I’ve read all the biographies of all the other people that were in her life too, so I’m aware of what they think happened in most of the situations in her life. And I’m aware of how that’s different to the book Blonde. I did all that research and I used very little of it in the movie. Blonde the book was pretty much the bible for the film."

While Blonde received a standing ovation after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, the deviation from the true events in Monroe's life have led to some Netflix viewers criticising the movie, branding it 'exploitative'. Read on to have your burning questions about what was fact and what was fiction answered.

Did Marilyn Monroe ever meet her father?

Marilyn Monroe never met her real father, but she did manage to track him down, according to the Charles Casillo book, Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon (opens in new tab).

Her real father was a man named Charles Stanley Gifford, a co-worker of Monroe's mother Gladys at RKO Studios. However, Gladys' one-time husband, Martin Edward Mortensen, is listed as Marilyn's father on her birth certificate - though Mortensen’s separation timeline with Gladys suggests he wasn't the biological father, according to The Cinemaholic (opens in new tab).

Casillo's book details how when Monroe told Gifford who she was, he wanted nothing to do with her, responding with, "I’m married, and I have a family. I don’t have anything to say to you. Call my lawyer."

The movie Blonde has a major focus on Marilyn Monroe's desire to meet her father, who she believes is Clark Gable. It is actually true that Marilyn Monroe at one point thought Clark Gable was her father, and they went on to co-star in the 1961 movie The Misfits together - though at this point she no longer believed he was her father.

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Did Marilyn Monroe have children?

Though there are many reports that Marilyn Monroe wanted to have a family, she never had children.

However, it has been documented that she had multiple pregnancies - some of which are included in Blonde. It is true that she had a miscarriage while married to playwright Arthur Miller - though the circumstances of the miscarriage are likely fabricated for the movie. In fact, according to a Netflix documentary The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes (opens in new tab), Monroe fell pregnant three times during her marriage to Miller, but was never able to carry to full term. It is widely reported that Monroe suffered with endometriosis, which likely contributed to her failed pregnancies.

However, there is no evidence that Monroe ever had an abortion - something that is depicted in graphic detail in Blonde.

Did Marilyn Monroe have an affair with JFK?

The relationship between Monroe and President Kennedy has long been a subject of historical interest, and while there's is no definitive proof behind the speculation and rumours, many accept them to be true.

Some of these rumours were ignited after Monroe famously sang 'Happy Birthday' to the president in 1962, wearing a dress so tight she had to be sown into it. And the pair certainly did cross paths, with much gossip surrounding their encounters.

Tony Oppedisano, a friend of Frank Sinatra's, told People (opens in new tab), "It was obviously a sexual thing, and I would expect that there were feelings on her side," but that "She wasn't about to break up [the president's] marriage," and there was "only so far that even she would go."

Jerry Blaine, a former Secret Service agent in Kennedy’s detail, also told People that he was with JFK when the president socialized with Monroe at Peter Lawford’s house in Santa Monica in 1961, and then again at a party in New York following the gala. However, Blaine said, "they weren’t alone," and he "never saw any evidence of an affair." 

According to Donald Spoto's book, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography (opens in new tab)the only time she and JFK spent the night together was in 1962 at Bing Crosby's home in Palm Springs. Spoto cites Monroe's friend Ralph Roberts, who claimed she called him and told him that was the only night of her affair with President Kennedy.

One of Blonde's most controversial scenes involved Monroe's alleged relationship with JFK, and depicts her being sexually assaulted by the president. In the novel, JFK is portrayed as being similarly cruel, but there is no evidence that he assaulted Monroe in real life.

Was Marilyn Monroe in a throuple?

There is no evidence for the polyamorous relationship that Blonde depicts between Marilyn Monroe, Charles Chaplin Jr. and Edward G. Robinson Jr. - though there were rumours that she had affairs with both actors separately in real life.

Chaplin confirmed the rumours in his memoir, writing "One of the young girls I had a relationship with at this time [c. 1947] … was the same age as I, 21, an attractive, petite, unknown movie actress named Norma Jean Dougherty who was under contract at Twentieth Century-Fox."

However, it was never confirmed as to whether Monroe had dated Edward G. Robinson Jr.

The movie Blonde likely chose to include this detail in the plot because it was part of the original Blonde novel.

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