Expert Decodes Marilyn Monroe's Body Language Singing To JFK

Marilyn Monroe is undoubtedly the most iconic actress of the Golden Age of cinema. Though she appeared in scores of films during her career, she is perhaps best known for her comedy performances, most notably in 1959's "Some Like It Hot," which is arguably among the greatest films of the century. However, her most memorable screen set piece is undoubtedly the moment in the 1955 movie "The Seven Year Itch," in which Monroe, playing "the girl," has her dress blown up above her knees while standing on a vent by a subway station.

Though her career later began to falter, in May 1962 she delivered one last iconic appearance, this time at a prestigious gala to celebrate the 45th birthday of President John F. Kennedy, at which she sang a purportedly self-penned birthday song to the president. Monroe was found dead just three months later of an apparent suicide at the age of 36. Since then, the footage of her last major public appearance has been pored over by fans and experts, especially in light of revelations suggesting the actress and the president had been embroiled in an affair.

Jess Ponce III, body language expert, communication coach, and author of the book "A.W.E.S.O.M.E.: Seven Keys to Unlocking the Speaker Within," tells Grunge that Monroe's appearance was a "defining moment that encapsulates her unique charm," adding that it was "an event that seamlessly blended private intimacy with public spectacle."

Rumors of an affair

Marilyn Monroe's genuine affection for President John F. Kennedy was plain to see that night in 1962 when she shuffled to the stage in front of 15,000 well-wishers to sing "Happy Birthday" to the most powerful man in the country. Various sources including Monroe's biographer Donald Spoto claim that the appearance came in the wake of a tryst between the actress and president that occurred just three months earlier at a party at the home of the singer Bing Crosby (per "Marilyn Monroe: The Biography"). In this context, Monroe's sultry performance at his birthday bash could be seen as a reflection of a sexual relationship between the two. Monroe's appearance on stage elicited an audible gasp from the audience as she came to the mic and removed her white fur coat to reveal a skin-tight dress that in the grainy footage above gives the impression that she is almost nude. Kennedy himself made a joking reference to how unabashedly sexual Monroe's appearance was, coming to the microphone after her performance to say ironically: "I can now retire from politics after having Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet and wholesome way."

It might be telling that Kennedy's wife, Jackie, was not present at his birthday bash, though it is widely reported that the First Lady often avoided public events. However, Spoto is keen to note that though there is some evidence that Monroe and Kennedy likely had a sexual encounter at the Crosby house in February, rumors of a prolonged affair have never been substantiated.

'A profound connection'

Jess Ponce III highlighted the moment of Marilyn Monroe's birthday song to President John F. Kennedy as one that shows her timeless charisma in both public and private spheres and gives some insight into how their one-time love affair might have come about. "This moment crystallized her ability to establish an exclusive connection, with her unwavering gaze fixed on the president, her voice exuding sweetness and innocence that seemed to erase the presence of the entire audience," Ponce told us. "It was a one-on-one encounter, suggesting a profound connection that has fueled speculation for years — an undeniable link apparent in the recorded footage."

However, the actress appears aware of the public nature of the event, and though the birthday song is addressed directly to the president, she effortlessly brings the audience back into the moment. "As she raised her hands, bounced, and rallied the crowd, she showcased an uncanny ability to oscillate between the intensely personal and intimate to the grand and explosive," says Ponce. "This multifaceted moment unveils a unique talent — the capacity to navigate between the deeply personal and the exuberantly communal."

But Ponce also notes how, despite the prestige of the occasion, Monroe's last major public appearance is a testament to her genuine, unfiltered, and untutored charm. "The video immortalizes a rare, unfiltered instance, leaving us uncertain if such raw authenticity will ever be witnessed again."