“Blonde,” the 2022 Netflix magnum opus, makes us privy to the intricacies of the relationship that Marilyn Monroe shared with Charles Chaplin Jr. and the impact it had on her life. It is imperative to mention here that the creators have taken some liberties while showcasing the relationship of the duo. There is no evidence available to prove the happening or non-happening of most of the events that have been shown in the film. There is some truth to the fact that Marilyn Monroe was in a relationship with Chaplin Jr. and was acquainted with Edward G. Robinson Jr. (Eddy G) too, for a brief period, but it was at separate points in time in Monroe’s life, contrary to the three-way relationship shown in the film.
Born as Norma Jeane Mortenson (later Norma Jeane Baker), Monroe always wanted to learn the craft of acting and do some serious roles. She wanted to show the world that there was more to her personality than just being stereotyped as the “Bombshell Blonde.” But she had hidden her real self under the shiny exterior of a Hollywood starlet. There was one man, though, who didn’t get blinded and infatuated by those misleading lights and saw through her. When Monroe first met Charles Chaplin Jr. (according to the film), he was playing Beethovan’s classic “Fur Elise.”
Cass Chaplin, much like the creator of that classic piece, believed in expressing his feelings in a crude manner. He didn’t believe in camouflaging his emotions under the misleading veil of chivalry. He saw through Marilyn Monroe and found the scared little girl who was once abandoned by her loved ones and was forced to live in an orphanage. He saw how petrified she was. He saw the grief hidden behind that enchanting smile. He told her that he was in love with that scared little girl called Norma Jeane. Cass told Norma that she could mislead the world by pretending to be Marilyn Monroe, but he knew that she was anything but that. There was a common thread that bound them both together. There was an absence of a father figure in their lives, which had become the root cause of their resentment and vulnerabilities. They had deep-rooted insecurities and harbored a feeling of dejection that resurfaced time and again.
Chaplin Jr. was the son of the great Charlie Chaplin. He tells Norma that his father drew all the light onto himself, and there was nothing, but numbness left inside him. When people saw Chaplin Jr., they saw the reflection of the “Tramp,” but they failed to see who he really was. The blatant disregard for his own idiosyncrasies by the world had made him feel like an outcast, submerged under the legacy of a great name. Just like Monroe, he, too, was going through an existential crisis. But when he saw himself in the mirror, he got proof of the fact that he was more than just his name. Cass told Norma that people always thought that he was blessed to be the son of the greatest artist of all time. But his identity was reduced to being merely a “junior” to a man who didn’t want him. Cass considered himself fatherless. Norma, though, still envied him. She tells him that he at least had a father, unlike her. Being able to fight with one’s own father was still a privilege for Norma, who didn’t have anybody to complain to in her life. Cass tells her to seize the opportunity that had unfortunately fallen on her lap. He tells her that she had the freedom to reinvent herself as she wasn’t bound by a name.
Norma knew that there was something different about the way Cass loved her. She had not been privy to such a kind of love. People always tried to woo her because they liked the idea of being a part of the glamorous life of Marilyn Monroe. Cass wanted her to shed her shiny exterior. He was probably the first man who was more attracted to Norma Jeane than he was to Marilyn Monroe. He was empathetic towards her condition because he recognized those emotions. Maybe that is why he decided to fill the void that existed inside Monroe that haunted her day in and out. That was making her feel miserable and delusional. A lot of times, you hear people saying that they understand your plight. But truth be told, unless and until they have experienced it for themselves, they cannot understand the true nature of it.
Cass started writing letters to Norma under the name of her father. It rekindled hope inside the dark and dingy tunnels of Norma’s subconscious, where she believed that no light could seep in. Because of those letters, Norma had a motive to live on and not kill herself. She started looking forward to that day when her father would actually come to meet her physically. Some might say that it was an irresponsible act that played with the emotions of a mentally unstable girl and even put her life at risk. But on the face of it, it didn’t seem like that. Cass never intended to play with her feelings. He knew how fragile she was. He had found his kindred spirit, and maybe that is why he had a vested interest in saving it.
Before his death, Cass had left a special memento for Norma. He had told Eddy G to get it delivered to the girl who had a special place in his heart. He sent that same soft toy of a little cub, which reminded Norma of her childhood. He also sent a letter in which he accepted that there was no father, and, in fact, he was the one who was sending the letter for all those years. Maybe he could have kept that distressing information hidden from Norma. But he wanted her to have closure. He wanted her to make peace with reality. He knew that it wouldn’t be easy for her and maybe it would also cause irreparable damage. But he also knew that it was about time she faced the inevitable truth and tried to overcome her demons. That revelation not only broke Norma’s heart but it shattered the entire kingdom of hope into pieces. In her consciousness, she had created a man and even given him a face and a body. It looked like the person whose picture her mother had shown to her during her childhood and told her that it was her estranged father. Since then, Norma had been searching for that face on every Hollywood Street and in every Hollywood studio. When she found no such person but instead received a letter, she created a man in her mind whom she called Father, but once the truth struck her, the man disappeared, and Norma once again was left with nothing but an eternal emptiness, pulling her into a void that would take away her life.
Norma was looking for a man who would protect her, and Cass probably did so, though not in the manner she expected him to. It could be surmised that Cass was the silver lining in Norma’s life that kept Marilyn Monroe alive for so many years. He himself had been struggling for so many reasons, yet he tried to help the person in need, and he did it with pure intentions. In the end, his own demons probably overpowered him, and he killed himself to silence them. But that day, Cass didn’t only kill himself, but he also took away the illusion of the father and the daughter who were alive because of him. After finding out the truth, Norma broke down, but in the cruel world, there was no one to hold her hand like Cass did. She overdosed herself to silence those voices inside her head and took away her own life to end the pursuit of finding a figure that probably never really existed.
It is a debatable fact whether what Cass did was right or wrong. One could argue that he forced her to live in a bubble. He fueled her delusions and made her believe that it was all true. And then, when her bubble burst, it made her even more unstable. But Cass never did it with ill intention. He saw himself in Norma Jeane. They were the fated twins who were destined to cross each other’s paths. Even if it was momentary in nature, Norma knew that the bond she shared with Charles Chaplin Jr. was magical. It was the most surreal feeling for Norma to be with somebody who liked her for who she was. When Cass left, the world lost its luster and became a little less magical. Maybe Monroe, too, lost that will that was keeping her from ending her misery and leaving this world for good.
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