The year is 1941 and young Norma Jean Baker (Misty Rowe) lives with her foster mother after being left in an orphanage by her mentally unstable mother years before. Norma Jean has dreams of escaping her drab life and becoming a movie star, as she believes she has both the looks and talent but in the meantime she spends all her spare time at the cinema. This night, she visits the local picture palace and suffers the indignity of a man putting his hand up her skirt, so she throws her popcorn over him and goes back home. Unfortunately, when her guardian returns with her boyfriend, he spies on Norma Jean undressing which leads the guardian to throw her out. Things can't get much worse - or can they?
In the mid seventies there were a number of Hollywood movies about the Golden Age of the motion picture industry, some taking the form of biopics such as Gable and Lombard or W.C. Fields and Me, so co-writer (with Lynn Shubert), producer and director Larry Buchanan, never missing an opportunity, devised this film about the pre-fame years of Marilyn Monroe. According to the message at the start, this is how it was, but as the film progresses you begin to have your doubts; Norma Jean is never referred to as Marilyn at any point in the story, which ends even before she has made an appearance in a feature.
It's basically a rags to riches tale about a naive woman who just happens to be called Norma Jean Baker, and her continual, starry-eyed predictions that she will make it big start to grate not long after the first ten minutes, especially as we know fine well that she will and wonder when exactly we'll get to see those predictions come true. But this takes an "I told you so" approach as if in revenge to all the people who exploit her along the way, and there are plenty of them, rest assured. In fact, the biggest exploiter of Marilyn here would appear to be Buchanan himself, constructing a prurient movie that wallows in its lead character's degradation.
Norma Jean (the lisping Rowe, not a great looky likey, affects a breathy voice and surprised delivery for her impersonation) gets her own place and finds a job in a factory, but on the way to work one day she is stopped for speeding by a traffic cop who takes her address. Then he turns up at her home one night and rapes her, not the only example of sexual humiliation this character will suffer, but a dashing soldier, Ralph Johnson (Terence Locke), comes to her rescue and eventually marries her - well, I say eventually, it seems to happen a couple of days later. All this gives Norma Jean the excuse to go on about how she hates men, but Ralph is apparently there to show that they're not all bad.
And so it drags on, growing more and more trashy as it does. After winning a beauty contest, Norma Jean starts a modelling career, all accompanied by a theme song that sounds less Elton John and more "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo". The modelling leads to encounters with sleazy types who take naked photographs of her, make her star in a nudie short, and generally leave her depressed about the way life is going - but wait, she has her foot in the door and is invited to Hollywood parties. She is raped again, this time by a fictional movie star, and has to endure the casting couch (including a lesbian casting couch), and at the parties they show her nudie flick and that old seventies urban myth, a snuff movie, apropos of nothing. Goodbye, Norma Jean is not for fans of Marilyn Monroe unless they really enjoy her posthumous victim status, and the film could have been called anything for all the connection it has to the star. Music by Joe Beck.
American director who gained a reputation as one of the worst of all time, a feat he was not unproud of. This infamy rests on various TV movies he made in the sixties such as Zontar The Thing from Venus, Mars Needs Women and In the Year 2889. Theatrical films included Free White and 21 (which got his career started with A.I.P.), The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, Bullet for a Pretty Boy, Goodbye Norma Jean, The Loch Ness Horror and rock conspiracy movie Beyond the Doors.