Liz Smith on Playboy, Oates and ‘Blonde’

“Ms. Oates wrote a massive semi-fiction about Marilyn some years back, titled Blonde, which is now being made into a film with Naomi Watts. The author (like Norman Mailer before her) didn’t see the harm in mixing truth and illusion, the better to ‘grasp’ the illusive Monroe. Blonde was brilliant, fascinating, messy, confusing, not always truthful. Perhaps like the subject herself.

And in her Playboy piece, Oates just gets it wrong, factually, several times, though she obviously has affection for her subject. I mean, to say that Jane Russell –marvelous though she is – was an ‘A’ list star compared to Marilyn, ‘always on the B-list,’ is simply incorrect. Oates also writes that Marilyn tried to set up a production company but: ‘nothing seemed to come of it.’ Yeah, hiring Laurence Olivier to costar in the Marilyn Monroe Productions film The Prince and the Showgirl was ‘nothing.’ (Marilyn did triumph over the system, much to Hollywood’s rage; the problem was she couldn’t sustain her victory.)

Sigh! Ms. Oates is a fine, sensitive writer. The memory of Marilyn has been treated worse, that’s for sure. Still, pick up Fragments and let this mythical, lost lady speak for herself.”

Liz Smith, WowOWow

2 Replies to “Liz Smith on Playboy, Oates and ‘Blonde’”

  1. I recorded the South Bank Show TV documentary around 2000 which was very negative, almost nothing about MMs career and all the focus on negatives. Ms Oates book was another attempt to pimp MM for profit, speculation and assumption passed off as fact. This is all to cash in on the build up to 2012.

    1. Thanks Anthony. I’m not a huge fan of Blonde either, but it still seems to get a lot of coverage – due to Ms Oates’ high profile, I guess, and of course the upcoming movie. I think it’s more popular with general readers than MM fans, who are more aware of the differences between fact and fiction.

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