Charles Casillo: ‘The Marilyn Diaries’

First published in 1999, Charles Casillo’s novel, The Marilyn Diaries, has been reissued in paperback and ebook formats.

Including new material, The Marilyn Diaries has received a ringing endorsement from the legendary entertainment columnist (and Marilyn expert), Liz Smith:

“Casillo, who also wrote an acclaimed biography about City of Night author John Rechy, published the first edition of The Marilyn Diaries before there was such a glut of ‘novels based on’ MM. And though it is fiction, this book sticks close to the facts of her last months (and the never proven rumors of Kennedy affairs.) More interesting, it sounds like Monroe. If she had kept a diary, it might have read like Casillo’s fiction. (The real-life Monroe was once asked in an interview if she kept a diary? She said: ‘Not really. Sometimes I would write things down, but then … I’d tear them up!’)

The Marilyn Diaries really hits paydirt when Casillo’s ‘Marilyn’ considers the trajectory of her career … ruminates bitterly on her marriage to Arthur Miller … and pragmatically recalls her long struggle to the top. There are some entertainingly fanciful episodes  a ladies room brawl with Elizabeth Taylor, a clandestine luncheon with Jackie Kennedy but the essential honesty and vulnerability of our heroine is never lost. Just as she never lost those qualities in her real life.” New York Social Diary

First edition, 1999

Revisiting That ‘Itch’

Over at Pretty Clever Films, Robert Liwanag takes a fresh look at The Seven Year Itch.

“This was Monroe’s film through and through, and Billy Wilder was intelligent enough of a director to not only acknowledge that fact, but work around it – he simply let her take over. The Seven Year Itch is not so much a Billy Wilder film, but one of the many that reinforced Monroe’s ditzy persona and massive popularity at the time…Monroe, who at that time had already been typecast, gives her most sincere performance up until that point. She enrolled in the Actors Studio during filming, and her role as The Girl has always struck me as an attempt to prove how comfortable and exciting she was as an actress.”

Rediscovering Eros

Eros, the avant-garde magazine which showcased Bert Stern’s semi-nude photos of Marilyn in its autumn 1962 edition (released in hardback just weeks after her death), lasted for only four issues before its publisher was jailed for obscenity. Over at Messy Nessy Chic today, a look back at the history of Eros and its MM issue (now a highly sought-after collectible.)

Dylan Takes Marilyn to the Superbowl

Following last week’s tribute to Pete Seeger, here’s another American folk legend with a Marilyn connection. Bob Dylan – perhaps the most influential singer-songwriter of the 20th century – has appeared in an ad for Chrysler, screened during last night’s Superbowl. (You can watch it here.)

To the tune of his song, ‘Things Have Changed’, Bob muses on what it means to be American; accompanied by a montage of iconic images, including a laughing Marilyn, filmed at a press conference in 1956, when she returned to Hollywood after a year’s absence to star in Bus Stop.

While some of Dylan’s fans aren’t too thrilled with the advertising deal, it’s a lovely tribute to Marilyn and a timely reminder of all the things that made America great.

Bob Dylan urges Superbowl viewers to ‘buy American’, in a commercial for Chrysler

Monroe fans may be interested to know that Dylan has expressed his admiration for ‘our girl’ many times.

Once asked who he’d like to interview Dylan replied: `A lot of people who aren’t alive: Hank Williams, Apollinaire, Joseph from the Bible, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, Mohammed, Paul The Apostle, maybe John Wilkes Booth, maybe Gogol. I’d like to interview people who died leaving a great unsolved mess behind, who left people for ages with nothing to do but speculate.’

And this quote is a favourite of mine…

‘People like to talk about the new image of America, but to me it’s still the old one – Marlon Brando, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe … I like to stay part of that stuff that don’t change.’

Speaking with Interview magazine in 1986, Bob listed Marilyn’s breakthrough role in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) among his top five movie performances by any actress. Many years earlier, Marilyn had named it as her personal favourite.

Dylan also wrote a poem about Marilyn, after seeing a photograph of her home on the day she died. It is published in his 2008 book Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric, a collaboration with photographer Barry Feinstein:

death silenced her pool
the day she died
hovered over
her little toy dogs
but left no trace
of itself
at her

Finally, Bob and Marilyn are both featured in Gregory Blann’s ‘1962’, published in Roger G. Taylor’s 2006 book, Marilyn in Art.