You could probably write a book on which ’50s starlet was more famous; Elizabeth Taylor or Marilyn Monroe. It’s like opening up a can of worms.
Monroe has taken on this larger-than-life persona decades after her death. Anything that’s ’50s related will usually have her face, not Taylors, next to other icons of the decade, like Elvis. There’s mystery and intrigue about Marilyn because of her death and tragic life that Taylor never had.
But that doesn’t mean that Taylor wasn’t as famous as Monroe during the peak of their careers. In fact, some will probably say that Monroe didn’t truly get her stardom until after her death and that it was really Taylor who was the more famous. It’s even been revealed that Monroe was constantly jealous of Taylor’s career.
Monroe may have had famous photoshoots, but she was hardly ever talked about her roles or her talent when she was alive. If the media covered her, they were covering her high-profile relationships. Then her life was sadly cut short before anyone could really see what she was made of. On the other hand, Taylor got the big-budget films, the glamourous celebrity lifestyle, and the family. A life that Monroe had always wanted.
Monroe Was Jealous Of Taylor
According to Lawrence Schiller’s memoir, Marilyn & Me, which Vanity Fair published, Monroe was extremely jealous of her rival star. She formed a plan to divert the attention to herself instead of Taylor. She made a deal to pose naked coming out of a swimming pool in a photoshoot in return for a promise that Taylor would not appear in any publications where the photos were featured.
Monroe said to Schiller, “Larry, if I do come out of the pool with nothing on, I want your guarantee that when your pictures appear on the covers of magazines Elizabeth Taylor is not anywhere in the same issue.”
“There isn’t anybody that looks like me without clothes on,” she said, yet in the same breath, said, “It’s still about nudity. Is that all I’m good for?” The actress who wanted to have a reputation like Taylor’s had to resort to these tactics just to get noticed.
“I’d like to show that I can get publicity without using my ass or getting fired from a picture. I haven’t made up my mind yet,” she reportedly said.
Her efforts were in vain. The photo shoot didn’t do anything to help Monroe’s status or her reputation. Throughout her life, even before the photo shoot, the press and the public alike constantly questioned her abilities and if she was respectable as Taylor.
This was when Taylor was earning $1 million for the lead in Cleopatra, one of her most famous films, while Monroe was earning $100,000 for Something’s Got To Give, a film that was actually delayed so the studios would have enough money to film Cleopatra. She was later fired from this last film and died two months later.
According to Charles Casillo, who wrote Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, Taylor allegedly wrote to Monroe to offer support and even suggested quitting Cleopatra until Monroe was rehired.
“Marilyn was very moved by Liz’s kindness toward her, but she didn’t want to make matters worse for either of them,” Casillo wrote.
Taylor also allegedly gave her some advice, saying, “No matter what they write about me, Marilyn, I never deny it,” Casillo quoted Liz saying. “I never confirm it. I just keep smiling and walking forward. You do the same.”
Comparing Them Is A Little Subjective
Comparing Taylor and Monroe is a bit of an enigma. One writer on Quora says that conversation is subjective to how you define a “bigger Hollywood star.” You also have to look at it from before and after Monroe died.
Looking at the figures, Taylor consistently beat out Monroe for the best parts in Hollywood during the time and the biggest salary.
According to one fan, Monroe’s films, “based on credited Actress credits in 13 films, garnered $84,337,393 worldwide aggregate box office,” while Taylor’s made $633,560,642 worldwide aggregate box office.” But you have to keep in mind that Taylor outlived Monroe for a couple of decades.
You could also look at the icon factor they each had, but even that’s an enigma. Some critics would say that Monroe only achieved icon status after her death.
“And before you old-timers (sorry) scream your rants about how Taylor was more respected and loved during those times, I’m actually talking about from then through now,” one fan, Ken Miyamoto, wrote on Quora. “Monroe is a bigger Hollywood icon. If not from just an aesthetic perspective.”
Miyamoto continues to explain, “There’s no single image of Elizabeth Taylor that matches the iconic status of the above image (picture of Monroe on the Subway grate holding down her iconic white dress). It has carried over through generation after generation.
“Monroe sadly died young. But that also cements her iconic status at that young age where she was in her prime. Taylor later became more infamous as she grew older. Known by those in her generation as the aging actress that dated many younger men. And then her aloof behavior.
“But during HER prime, she was the essence of Hollywood class. However, generations since don’t remember her as much. But they know Marilyn Monroe. If not because of the blonde hair, the beauty mark, or that famous image of her holding her skirt down.
“In that context, the winner is Marilyn Monroe, with Taylor likely beating her out during both of their primes.” So, it all depends on when you’re looking. During both their primes, Taylor takes it home for her success, while Monroe takes it home for being the aesthetically famous figure after her death, not exactly for her talent. If only Taylor had a famous photoshoot.