A toss of platinum blonde hair over the shoulder, a twist and turn of those voluptuous curves, and the world is hypnotised. The terms ‘Blonde Bombshell’ and ‘Sex Kitten’ originated from the beautiful actresses and models Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot respectively and have since defined the popular notion of classic beauty and sex symbol rolled into one. But other than their incredible physical features and iconic hair, both women actually had less in common than one may think, what made them so different?
Born and raised far between each other and eight years apart, Monroe began life in the Los Angeles Valley in 1926, while Bardot grew up in the heart of Paris in the mid 1930s. Monroe spent much of her childhood being transferred between foster homes and orphanages and began working in factories from a very young age as part of the war effort. Whereas Brigitte Bardot was the daughter of an engineer and grew up as part of the upper middle-class, choosing to concentrate on becoming a ballerina and training for three years under Russian choreographer Boris Knyazev. At the age of 15 Bardot was invited to pose for the cover of Elle Magazine that was then noticed by young film director Marc Allegret, leading to an audition for a small film role, this made Bardot consider becoming an actress.
Across the pond Marilyn was also noticed by the creative industry, though in this instance it was to pose as a pin-up model. This lead to minor film roles and short-lived contracts with growing film production companies, eventually signing a more substantial contract with Fox in 1951. From here on Monroe began to gain popularity as an actress, which only grew when she became involved in a scandal revealing nude photos of her body before becoming a star. When asked if it was true that Monroe had nothing on by Time Magazine, she replied, “It’s not true I had nothing on. I had the radio on”. Not surprisingly, this only fanned the flames of Monroe’s image as the new 20th century American Sex Icon. Bardot’s on screen sex image on the other hand caught the attention of French intellectuals, described by Simone de Beauvoir in his 1959 essay The Lolita Syndrome as the first and most “liberated woman of post-war France”. Bardot often appeared in short scenes completely nude or mostly so, revealing the gap of culture between European and American norms.
What both women did have in common was the premature end of their acting careers, one tragically and the other by choice. Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her bedroom by her psychiatrist on the morning of August 5th, 1962, she had overdosed on medicines that were prescribed to her by doctors on account of her high anxiety levels and frequent mood swings. She struggled with the desire to be considered a serious actor, but her image as a ‘dumb blonde’ prevailed in her life. Bardot exited the stage willingly, secluding herself to a small property she had bought in the South of France and dedicating her life to the Animal Rights cause. She called it “a way to get out elegantly” from the movie business, now at the age of 82 she’s still focusing on her cause and quiet life.
Both women encapsulated a style is more alive than ever today, just think of any celebrity on the red carpet that sports a red lip and bleached blonde hair, and on account of leaving the big screen, both women will be considered forever young. But otherwise, the youth and life of Brigitte Bardot and Marilyn Monroe were vastly different and each complex in their own way. The results are clear for everyone to see and simply bear the question, which bombshell stole your heart?
At Catawiki's weekly online art photography auctions you'll find many beautiful pictures of both Bardot and Monroe. Quickly scroll over to this week auctions!