Jackie versus Marilyn

Published: 25. 4. 2022
Author: Silvia Mária Petrovits
Photo: Photo Wikimedia Commons - Museum Boston, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Robert Knudsen White House Photographs
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They were some of the most famous female figures of the last century. One went down in history as an American First Lady and fashion icon. The other was one of the most desirable actresses of her time and is considered a sex symbol to this day. They faced off in a contest of love. Two intriguing women, heavily scrutinized by the public – Jackie Kennedy-Onassis and Marilyn Monroe, the 60th anniversary of whose death falls on this year.

What was the connection between Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe? It was not much: the person of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, beauty, and a complicated fate. They embodied two entirely different prototypes of women. Jackie was a model wife, caring mother, an icon of elegance, and a reserved First Lady. Marilyn Monroe, who was a Hollywood star, beauty from the movie screen, goddess of sex and seduction, however, also yearned to live in the White House alongside a beloved husband.

Neither one had it easy in life

Jackie came from the prominent Bouvier family, but her childhood was marred by her parents' traumatizing divorce. She was not short on beauty, intelligence, or talent for languages. She had prestigious education as well as a great job as a reporter for Vogue or the Washington Times-Herald. She met JFK through her work. He was known to be a ladies' man at the time already. He fell in love with her, but he was also well aware that the marriage would net him positive points for his future political career. The grand wedding took place in the fall of 1953.

Marilyn was Jackie's exact opposite. She came from a humble background, growing up first with her mother, then in an orphanage, and later with a foster family. To escape abuse, she married a young man she barely knew when she was sixteen. She was happy but unwilling to settle for the life of a housewife, daydreaming about being in the spotlight. When her then-husband, James Dougherty, entered the Navy, she jumped into the world of modelling, appearing on the pages of gentlemens' magazines. Her husband was at odds with her career choice, which led to a divorce, and Marilyn subsequently leaving for Hollywood.

Famous actress

Marilyn would go on to do well not just in modelling, but also on the movie screen. Initially, she only appeared in episodic roles, but later established herself as an actress and even went on to host the 23rd Oscar award ceremony. Shortly thereafter, she met the next fateful man in her life – baseball legend, Joe DiMaggio. Despite the true love they had for one another, their marriage did not last long. At the time, Marilyn was already a well-known sex symbol and movie star, making her name in musical comedies. Monroe did not stick only to her established role of comedic actress and naïve sexy blonde, she acted in more serious movies as well. DiMaggio expected her to be a housewife, however. He was jealous and forced her to wear less revealing clothing. He never stopped loving her, even after their divorce and her later marrying another man. Marilyn longed to become a respected actress and play more serious roles, to which end she hoped her third husband, writer Arthur Miller, would help her. He was supportive of her dreams, but this marriage, too, had failed. She was at the pinnacle of her fame in the 60s, but she was known as a rather unreliable actress with a bit of an attitude. She even got numerous prestigious movie awards. The Seven Year Itch netted her Best Foreign Actress at the British Academy Awards. Her role of Sugar in the famous comedy Some Like it Hot won her a Golden Globe in 1960.

Pretend romance

Jackie and JFK embodied the illusion of many Americans. The beautiful couple sparkled with intelligence and was successful around the world. Jackie was a fashion icon with Parisian elegance. Among her most famous fashion choices were prominent hats, gloves and coats, or tight-fitting dresses. The pink Chanel outfit she wore the day of John F. Kennedy's assassination made its way into the fashion history books. She suffered the limelight, but she preferred family life. Marilyn, on the other hand, loved being in the spotlight. As the First Lady, Jackie navigated foreign visits alongside the President with grace; however, she refused to represent her country on a national level, which the President could not quite grasp. But the happy family was just make-believe. The President sought happiness in the arms of other women. Jackie seemed not to mind, only truly showing her displeasure at his tryst with Marilyn, who truly believed that the American President would marry her. She even phoned the White House to tell Jackie as much. The First Lady retorted that she will be pleased for the actress to take over her role with its many duties and problems. Jackie then gave her husband a choice: it’s either me or her. She feared for the future of her children as well as the Kennedy family name she was working so hard to bolster. Despite the many times he was unfaithful, Jackie stood by JFK's side in the toughest moments – during the crisis in Cuba where the world was on the brink of a global war, for instance.

Happy Birthday

In the early 60s, at the very peak of Marilyn Monroe’s fame, there came a rumor. The most desirable actress of her time is having an affair with the President of the United States! When Marilyn sang Happy Birthday at the President's celebration, the entire world was abuzz with talk about her relationship with JFK. That evening has become legendary, similar to her provocative, seductive voice with erotic overtones. One thing is clear now, Marilyn was not satisfied with just the most successful member of the Kennedy clan. She also had an affair with his younger brother, Robert. This movie star scandal could very well destroy JFK's political career. And he was well aware of that.

Overdose or murder?

Jackie had a tragic 1963. Initially, her son Patrick passed away shortly after birth, and then, in November, her husband died in her arms in Dallas. Jackie suffered from headaches, but Marilyn had it even worse. The sensitive, unstable, and anxious actress tried solving her mental issues with medication washed down with alcohol. Towards the end of her life, the Hollywood star had two celebrity lovers. One was the famous singer, Frank Sinatra, whom she had an open relationship with. He wanted to marry her, but she repeatedly refused his proposals. Sinatra was not only a friend of JFK, but he also had connections in the mafia, which was a big risk for Kennedy.

The death of the legendary Marilyn is still the subject of various theories. According to the authorities, she died of a drug overdose on August 4, 1962, more than a year before JFK's assassination. There is a possible theory that she was murdered for her relations with the Kennedy brothers. And the mafia is not out of the question either. DiMaggio, who would send flowers to her grave every week, supposedly forbade Sinatra from visiting the actress' grave.

Another marriage and death

Jacke re-married, five years after JFK's death. She wed the Greek billionaire, Aristotle Onassis. But not even this marriage was all love and sunshine. Onassis was dissatisfied with Jackie's open-mindedness, and it seemed like divorce was looming. Before it could happen, she was widowed again, in 1975. Jackie went back to working as a journalist, and she fought for the preservation of historical landmarks. She worked almost up until the time of her death. When she was diagnosed with lymphoma, everyone thought she would make it. She did not. Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis died in 1994, she is buried next to her first husband, JFK, in Arlington.


Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis (Jul 28, 1929 – May 19, 1994) came from a prominent family. She studied history and French literature at the Sorbonne and in the US. She loved foreign languages, French culture, and horseback riding. As an already established journalist, she ended up meeting J.F. Kennedy. They had four children, two of which died shortly after birth. The two that lived to adulthood are daughter Caroline (born 1957), and John F. Jr. (1960 – 1999). Jackie cared for her family and worked on renovating the White House and supporting culture. In 1962, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded her an Emmy for a documentary about the White House. In 1968, she became Woman of the Year. Several movies were made about her life, the most decorated one being Jackie (2016), with Natalie Portman as the lead.


Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson (Jun 1, 1926 – Aug 4, 1962) became famous as the sex symbol of the last century. She did well in the fashion industry, advertising, and film. After a series of episodic roles in several movies, she signed a contract with Century Fox in 1951. She gained renown for her roles in comedies as well as dramas, such as Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop, and Some Like it Hot. She married three times and was famous for her love affairs with various politicians and artists. This August will mark the 60th anniversary of her unexplained death. On the Slovak art scene, the play Short and Unhappy Life of Marilyn Monroe by Milan Richter dives into her life. Her many scandals have been made into numerous books, movies, plays, and even an opera. Marilyn Monroe impacted many artists, including the son of Slovak immigrants to the US, painter Andy Warhol.


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