Maria Stinger was a popular pinup model in the 1950s and ’60s known as ‘Miami’s Marilyn’ due to her uncanny resemblance to the iconic actress. When she was thirty-four years old she followed in Monroe’s footsteps and washed her life away with a bottle of sleeping pills. BOMBSHELL explores Maria’s story through the lens of her granddaughter (filmmaker Christie Strong), whose inquiry into the past leads to startling revelations about her own life and a new understanding of the timeless struggles all women must face.
Marilyn Monroe is survived by millions of adoring fans. Her image has become iconic, her films and photographs national treasures. Maria Stinger’s death brought no such attention, though her life was every bit as fascinating. A popular pin-up model in the 1950s and 60s, Maria was also an S&M lit star and nudie film actress. She graced countless magazine covers, worked with fetish photographer Irving Klaw, sexploitation filmmaker Doris Wishman and had close friendships with famed pinup photographer Bunny Yeager and entertainment legend Sammy Davis Jr.
Despite her accomplishments, Maria could never quite escape the larger-than-life shadow of Marilyn Monroe. One can’t help but compare their lives, besides the resemblance there was the illegitimate birth, the marriage at sixteen, and the persistent issues of low self-esteem and depression. There is no doubt Maria’s career was made by her famous look-a-like and Maria both reveled in the attention and felt imprisoned by it (once famously shaving her head). By the time she divorced Maria was a full-blown alcoholic, abusive to her three daughters and slipping further and further into despair. Three years after Marilyn Monroe overdosed on sleeping pills, Maria did the same. She was thirty four years old.
Two women, alike in so many ways, and neither one able to get the help they needed in order to live. What were the private demons that each of them fought and ultimately succumbed to? What would it have taken to save them?
These were the questions plaguing filmmaker Christie Strong when she began this project in 2009. She knew these women and the shadows they shared were a story she had to tell… but how? Maria was the grandmother she had never met, Marilyn legendary for the mysteries she left behind. She could never truly know either of them. And then everything changed. Christie fell in love. By another’s side she found purpose, through his eyes she felt beautiful, with his dreams she thought she would be happy. When the relationship ended it brought revelation about the myriad ways she had buried herself inside of it. Maria was no longer a specter on the edges of Christie’s family, Marilyn Monroe a remote, unknowable icon no more. They were alive, as their struggles and fears, their hopes and dreams were alive in Christie and countless other women to this day.
BOMBSHELL is a film about living in the shadows- of your past, your partner, of your own fears and regrets- and courageously trying to find your own light. It touches on evolving concepts of beauty, shifting cultural attitudes about nudity and sexuality, as well as the rippling effects of suicide. It is both a period piece and a modern examination of the Marilyn Monroe mystique, illustrating how beauty can conceal the truth. Ultimately, it is an exploration of one woman and the painful legacy that is hers to embrace and transcend.
Fifties and sixties archival footage and scenes from Maria’s films will create a visual portrait of the times . Key reenactments, rendered in both live action and animation, will illustrate Maria at defining moments of her life. Interviews with Maria’s surviving family and friends, including her best friend, photographer Bunny Yeager, will anchor the narrative in present-day and provide contemporary texture and commentary to Maria’s story. You can also watch this video about the approach Christie is taking to the film.
Here is the Kickstarter for the project, which ended unsuccessfully on Monday August 26. Christie created the first transmedia crowdfunding campaign for the project and released “fragments” throughout the campaign exploring the story, themes and characters of Bombshell. The fragments are compiled on Pinterest and include videos, audio interviews, photo albums, music, blog posts, and other media. All of the videos can be found in this playlist on Christie’s YouTube channel. You are also encouraged to follow the filmmaker’s progress on Facebook and Twitter. Bombshell is currently seeking collaborators, investors and anyone else interested in supporting the completion of this film. If you are interested in joining the team please contact the filmmaker.