Movie Star in Burlap

Movie Star in Burlap

Norma Jean wanted to be a movie actress. It is doubtful that she wanted to break into films as a sex symbol, but the beauty of her face and figure overshadowed producers’ interest in her dramatic ability, at least in the short term.

The name, Norma Jean, did not benefit a sex symbol. Its very sound conjures up images of blonde pigtails, tied with ribbons, and home baked apple pies. Marilyn Monroe seemed a name more salable at the box office- more glamorous perhaps, just a little wicked. The starlet adopted Marilyn as her professional name, and made it a household word as her motion picture career soared.

In the early days of her struggle to attract the attention of the Hollywood community and the media, Norma Jean wore a sexy and revealing red dress to a 1951 holiday-season party. A columnist commented in a print about the incident and observed that Marilyn’s stunning figure would look good even if she wore a potato sack. The remark prompted her publicity agent to have a dress made from a burlap bag obtained at the local produce market, which Marilyn wore for a photographic session. The bag had been packed at Long Produce in twin Falls, Idaho, and displayed the Idaho identification and Long’s Sawtooth brand as never before.

The Longs wrote to Marilyn and thanked her for the publicity and she graciously responded with an autographed picture that was displayed on the office wall and reproduced for advertising and promotional purposes.

When Long Produce ceased business in the late 50’s, the prized autograph disappeared. Another print, however, was found recently at a garage sale in Minneapolis and purchased by a Union Pacific Railroad executive who presented the Idaho Grower-Shippers Association with two copies for their use. Reproduction of the picture by the Association in their yearbook publication captured the fancy of a new generation of fans.