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Marilyn Monroe Wrote the First Article Exposing Casting Couch Behavior in Hollywood

Photo Credit: Gene Lester / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Gene Lester / Getty Images

In 1953, iconic American actress Marilyn Monroe took a bold step that shook Hollywood to its core. In an article penned for a popular magazine, Monroe fearlessly called out the pervasive casting couch behavior that plagued the film industry. Her courageous act shed light on the dark underbelly of the entertainment world, making her the first to talk about something that, while common, was never publicly acknowledged.

Marilyn Monroe pens ‘Wolves I Have Known’

Portrait of Marilyn Monroe in a gold dress
Marilyn Monroe, 1953. (Photo Credit: Sunset Boulevard / CORBIS Historical / Getty Images)

Marilyn Monroe wrote the famous article, “Wolves I Have Known,” for the January 1953 edition of Motion Picture and Television Magazine. At the root of it was her revealing the different types of men – “wolves” – she’d encountered during her years in the industry – and some before. She explained, “There are many types of wolves. Some are sinister, others are just good-time Charlies trying to get something for nothing and others make a game of it.”

Monroe walked the reader through her experiences with different Hollywood predators who were preying on a young woman trying to make it in the industry. The first type, she said, “should have been ashamed of himself, because he was trying to take advantage of a mere kid.” While driving past her, he shouted that she should be in the pictures, arranging a Saturday meeting at Samuel Goldwyn Studio.

As it turned out, he didn’t work at the studio, but had her come in anyway to “script read” while posed in a reclining position.

A wolf in policeman’s clothing

Portrait of Marilyn Monroe wearing a wedding dress and holding a Bible
Marilyn Monroe, then known as Norma Jeane Mortenson, wearing her first wedding dress, 1946. (Photo Credit: Richard C. Miller / Donaldson Collection / Getty Images)

The second wolf was one Marilyn Monroe encountered when she was working as a model, sometime after 1944. A policeman at a Hollywood diner offered to walk her to the bank to cash a check and watched her write her address on the back. A few days later, he appeared at her home. He didn’t knock on her door – he tried to cut her window screen and sneak in.

She reported in the article that he was arrested and fired.

When she was modeling, Monroe said this predatory behavior became even more intense, as designers always wanted to take her for dinner or give her gifts. While her agents typically kept her safe in these situations by ensuring any meals took place during business hours, there were others who had nothing to do with the industry. One local man invited her over for dinner, saying his cook was incredible. She went, only to find he had no cook at all. She swore she “never fell for the same gag again.”

Marilyn Monroe discusses Hollywood’s wolves

Portrait of Marilyn Monroe lying in front of a fireplace in a red dress
Marilyn Monroe, 1955. (Photo Credit: Gene Lester / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Most of the wolves Marilyn Monroe referenced in “Wolves I Have Known” were those working in and around the entertainment industry. She had specific thoughts about them, saying, “In Hollywood, we have to work overtime to outwit the wolves. That’s because wolves of all varieties come from far and near to snare the Little Red Riding Hoods of the movies.”

Monroe explicitly mentioned that, if she thought the wolves she’d encountered before she found fame were bad, she couldn’t have been more wrong. They “were crude amateurs compared to the ones I met after my name began to appear in movie columns and fan magazines.”

Once talking about this experience, Monroe got into more specific “types” of wolves: brotherly, fatherly and pushy. She wrote of a well-known director setting his sights on her at a party, trapping her in an upstairs bedroom. Fortunately, she was able to sneak out, much to his anguish, “He pounded on the door and pleaded that he just wanted to talk with me.”

Fathers and brothers

Marilyn Monroe as Rose Loomis in 'Niagara'
Niagara, 1953. (Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

The fatherly type of wolf that Marilyn Monroe encountered in Hollywood was an agent proclaiming he wanted to, ironically, protect her from other wolves. He loaned her money at a time when she could hardly afford her rent. When she asked for him to put their agreement in writing, he obliged, but then hung it framed in his office because he wanted “all guys around town to know you belong to me.”

On the other hand, Monroe wrote that the brotherly wolf, a screenwriter, got close to her by talking to her about her career. This unnamed man gave her advice like “not to be seen in night clubs too often and not to ever go out with playboys.” He loaned her books and didn’t make a move on her for quite some time, but this changed when he invited her to come over for dinner one night while his wife was away.

Just the beginning

Marilyn Monroe as Chérie in 'Bus Stop'
Bus Stop, 1956. (Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

Marilyn Monroe’s exposé of the various Hollywood wolves was just the beginning. She was outspoken against this behavior for most of her career, and was open about the fact that she was still a part of this toxic culture.

In her unpublished autobiography, My Story, she wrote, “You know that when a producer calls an actress into his office to discuss a script, that isn’t all he has in mind. I’ve slept with producers. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t.”

More from us: John F. Kennedy Went to Bed With Marlene Dietrich Less Than An Hour After Meeting Her

Monroe was still outspoken about the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and the toxic culture in Hollywood for female stars. She strongly advocated for others, and for herself in these settings, especially later in her career. As she said in her Motion Picture and Television Magazine article, “They say I’m whistle bait, could be, but I’m forever meeting guys who don’t stop at a whistle. I’ve learned to handle them all.”

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.