The Smart Dumb Blonde

The Smart Dumb Blonde


It’s been 50 years since Marilyn Monroe’s body was discovered in her Los Angeles home and yet her face and figure are embedded in popular culture to this day. She was the most famous “dumb blonde” in the world and her global currency was her sex appeal. But was she really as ditzy and as air-headed when the spotlight was switched off her luminous skin and that dazzling (bottle) blonde hair?

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd uses poems, letters and diary entries written by the actress, as well as archive clips and new interviews with people who worked with Monroe, to paint a picture of a young woman with aspirations.

Marilyn would dive into a book when the director stopped a shoot – she wanted to be bright as well as beautiful. Dowd argues that today’s “blondes” – Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian in particular – celebrate their ignorance. It’s a tenuous argument: neither of them are stars, and what of women like Madonna and Hillary Clinton who are just as well known for their brains and independent spirits as they are for their looks or their husbands?

But this is a quality piece of radio and gives women of every hair colour something to think about.


American journalist Maureen Dowd aims to overturn the reputation of the `dumb blondes' of the 1950s, highlighting why Marilyn Monroe and her ilk aspired to make their intellectual and conversational skills as attractive as their appearance. She reveals how the Some Like It Hot star understood the value of sexual currency in all its forms, and suggests that leading figures in modern pop culture are more inclined to view glamour and brains as mutually exclusive. Includes contributions by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and director Mike Nichols.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Maureen Dowd
Contributor Harvey Weinstein
Contributor Mike Nichols
Producer Isabel Sutton
Documentary Arts