What Happened To Gladys Pearl Baker? How Did Norma Jeane Suffer The Same Fate As Her Mother, Gladys?


“Blonde,” a Netflix biopic of American actress Marilyn Monroe, is a tragic, fictionalized adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ biographical novel of the same name. Marilyn Monroe, one of the biggest stars of 1950s Hollywood, has been the focus of countless documentaries, movies, and divisive studies after her tragic demise. But in “Blonde,” Dominik imaginatively captures Monroe’s mental sufferings and the root cause of them. The film chronicles the transformation of an ordinary girl, Norma Jeane (played by Ana De Armas), into a remarkable icon, Marilyn Monroe. However, this journey of transformation was quite challenging. The emotional outbursts of her single mother, Gladys Baker (played by Julianne Nicholson), more or less became a nightmare for little Norma Jeane, which left a deep scar on her personality from which she never actually recovered, according to the film. In a way, “Blonde” portrays Norma Jeane’s horrific recollection of her traumatic past, which in a way, forced her to suffer the same fate as her mother.

The narrative began when Gladys Pearl Baker carried her daughter Norma Jeane into a tiny room. She told her, pointing to a picture of a handsome man hanging on the wall, that he was her father. Gladys said that she could not pronounce her husband’s name. She wouldn’t even let Norma Jeane put her hands on the picture because she considered the figure to be some sort of holy deity. However, as soon as she revealed the truth about the man, she felt troubled about letting her daughter know about her real father. She said that Norma Jeane’s father, the unnamed husband, lived a long way from them, and that’s why she was worried about him. They might or might not be married, as she had uttered, yet she believed that they were wedded in her heart. Gladys looked restless. She had a frightened look on her face as if she was suspicious of something. She baked a delicious cake for her daughter’s birthday and gulped down a drink to once again lose consciousness. In her room, the phone continued to ring, but it felt like only she could hear it. With trembling hands, she brought the cake for her little girl. Her body, meanwhile, felt shaky, as if she had a feeling of her house vibrating. Gladys attempted to lead a regular life, but one night Norma Jeane saw her mother’s dreadful side. Gladys woke her in the middle of the night and walked out of the burning room with her. She drove to a burning area, surrounded by cops, with her daughter in the car. Gladys yelled at the cops incoherently that she wanted to meet her husband, a titan in his own field who should remain nameless. When the police found her in a broken mental condition, they told her to return. When Norma Jeane asked her on the way back, Gladys became enraged and began hitting her. In addition, she returned home and even attempted to drown her daughter in a bathtub, but a part of her, as a mother, probably stopped her from killing her own child.

After a failed attempt to kill her daughter, Gladys mumbled that Norma Jeane was the reason her husband had left her. Norma Jeane’s father most likely abandoned them after Gladys became pregnant because the actor did not want to have children out of wedlock. Another reason for his departure could be Gladys’ mental instability. Little Norma Jeane went to the neighbor’s house, hoping for help, but the couple who rescued her decided to place her in a foster home. Even though Norma Jeane had parents, she was labeled an orphan, while Gladys was sent to a hospital for treatment of her severe mental illness.

Norma Jeane grew up in foster homes. She was introduced to the modeling industry when she was quite young. She intended to pursue acting after modeling to eventually find her father one day, but she had to endure a lot of difficulties and physical abuse to rise up the ladder. Meanwhile, she visited her ailing mother at Norwalk State Hospital. According to doctors, her mother had a mental illness that had not been recognized in the 1950s. Sometimes old Gladys listened quietly to her daughter, but other times she refused to even recognize her. Norma Jeane still respected her obligation to her mother. She didn’t want to become like the way she had seen her mother since childhood.

On the other hand, she desired to be a mother and a wife as well. Norma Jeane wished to raise her child in the best possible manner because she desired to have a happy family. But when she found out that her mother’s mental illness could be inherited, she felt conflicted. She assumed that the sickness her mother had might be genetic and could be passed on to her offspring in a similar manner. Norma Jeane, at the very beginning of her acting career, fell in love with Cass, i.e., Charlie Chaplin Jr. However, she was also in a love triangle with Edward Robinson Jr. at the same time. Norma Jeane became pregnant for the first time, possibly fathered by Cass. But regrettably, she was unable to retain that child. She did not want any traces of her or her mother’s mental condition to be passed on to her child. She ultimately had her first abortion after several unsuccessful attempts to stop herself.

In reality, Norma Jeane’s mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Gladys Pearl Baker gave her daughter up to another couple when she was a child. Norma Jeane had grown up in foster homes since childhood. While moving from the orphanage to a foster family, Gladys came to visit her. She even tried many times to take her back but failed. Finally, she was admitted to the Metropolitan State Hospital and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Norma Jeane was reunited with her mother while she began working for studios and giving auditions at numerous places. However, they could not maintain a good relationship between them. Gladys’s mental breakdown was exacerbated by her daughter’s decision to become an actress. Therefore, her relationship with Norma Jeane broke up and re-formed several times. In the meantime, Norma Jeane left her mother and married a man named John Eley, which eventually ended in divorce. When she reached the height of her fame as Marilyn Monroe, big studios demanded she lie about her mother’s death. It was reported that both her parents were dead by the time, but Gladys was later found to be alive in 1952. Even in 1962, Marilyn was found contacting her mother for the very last time. Finally, in 1984, Gladys Pearl Baker died of a heart attack. Her husband, i.e., Marilyn’s father remains a mystery till today.

Inspired by the novel, Blonde is a fictional take on the real life of Marilyn Monroe. However, indeed, Marilyn did not grow up with her biological parents’ endearment. Even though her mother was still alive, she had to seek refuge with a foster family. She, therefore, becomes more disturbed with age. Her mental health deteriorated, just like that of her mother. She had to endure terrible procedures, such as three abortions, which harmed both her physical and emotional health. The film portrays Marilyn’s gradual descent into depression in a very horrific way. In her life, love has frequently come and gone. Her desire to become a mother was repeatedly dashed, which caused her mental instability. Eventually, just like her mother, she also heard the nonstop ringing of the telephone even though no one would call her. Numerous times, she visited doctors for her mental checkups, but everything started to decay for her. On August 4, 1962, she finally found relief from the anguish she had endured her entire life. A barbiturate overdose brought her legendary life to an end.

See More: Duality Of Norma Jeane, Explained: Why She Always Addressed Marilyn Monroe In Third Person In ‘Blonde’?

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Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami is an artist and an aspiring screenwriter both by profession and passion. Apart from writing stories, poems and songs, studying cinema is her obsession. She is also a freelance painter yet it is the world of cinema that fascinates her the most.

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