Marilyn Book News: The Starlet, the Spy and the Blue Book Years

Marilyn and Me, Ji-Min Lee’s novel set in Korea, is now available in the US under a different title: The Starlet and the Spy. As any classic film buff will tell you, a starlet is an aspiring actress and by 1954, Marilyn was a global megastar. However, it’s a worthwhile read. Marilyn’s part in it is actually quite small, as the main character is her (fictitious) translator, a young woman confronting the trauma of war. I struggled to relate to her story – at times, it felt more like an outline for a movie – but it was interesting to revisit the conflict from an insider’s perspective, and Lee writes about Marilyn with care and imagination.

Also coming soon is a paperback reissue of Michelle Morgan’s excellent Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years – and you can read an extract here.

Marilyn and the Hollywood Book Club

There are so many photos of Marilyn reading, you could fill a book with them. So it’s not surprising this classic 1951 photo of Marilyn reading at home was selected to grace the cover of the newly-published The Hollywood Book Club: Reading With the Stars. This lovely hardback, measuring a compact 21 cm squared and with text by Steven Rea, also features black-and-white images of some of Marilyn’s friends and co-stars reading (including Sammy Davis Jr, Lauren Bacall, Jack Benny, Marlon Brando, Bette Davis, Dorothy Dandridge, Ginger Rogers, Claudette Colbert and many more.)

Shirley MacLaine is also pictured reading in What a Way to Go! (1964), a film originally planned for Marilyn. A selection of photos from the book was posted in the Evening Standard this week. It would make a great stocking filler for the cinephile/bibliophile in your life – or if you can’t wait, just treat yourself!

57 Years Ago…

“You know, she would stop whatever she was doing to wave to truck drivers and cabbies who yelled ‘Marilyn!’ to her. She had a lot of their standards … That’s the element, the quality, which every young girl in America could recognise.

I think the major reason for her myth becoming larger and larger every day, for the legend growing on such a gigantic scale, is not the tragedy of her life. It’s the joy of the girl; she presented the joyous moment of a vibrant woman.

More important, she represents the freedom which kids have today. Only, she was fifteen or twenty years ahead of the times, so she paid the price for her freedom.

Anyway, I want to show the nice moments in her life. I think in my own way I don’t gloss over what we look upon as vicious in life. What the hell! You’ve got to be tough to survive in the movie world. And in individual relationships with people. In the emotional life.”

Sam Shaw, The Joy of Marilyn in the Camera Eye

The Mystery of Marilyn

Charles Casillo, author of Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, is interviewed in the July issue of digital journal PHACEMAG. (You can read my review here.)

“Today, celebrities tell everything on Twitter. They write tell-all memoirs. They post their lives on Instagram. And in a way that makes them like everyone else. On the other hand, Marilyn will always remain slightly out of reach. There will never be anyone like her. So I think, no matter what we find out  or what remains unclear, she will always be remembered–for her beauty, her talent, her sensuality, and her humanity–with some mystery thrown in as another powerful ingredient.”  

Marilyn Book News: From Korea to Doris Day

Montage by MM Picture Page

Michelle Morgan’s latest, The Little Book of Marilyn, is now available and has been getting rave reviews from fans. It’s packed with well-chosen photos which aren’t often seen in print, plus chapters on why Marilyn continues to inspire, hair and make-up tutorials, fashion tips, and craft ideas.

Another tempting summer read is Ji-Min Lee’s Marilyn and Me, a novel set during Marilyn’s time in Korea. It’s next on my reading list, and hope to review both books at a later date.

Of related interest is Gravité Sur Billy Wilder, Emmanuel Burdeau’s French-language study of (arguably) Marilyn’s greatest director.

Coming in September, John William Law’s Goddess & the Girl Next Door compares Marilyn and that other fifties blonde, Doris Day. It’s a timely publication, arriving so soon after Ms Day’s passing (you can read my tribute to her here.)

And finally (for now), Biographic: Marilyn retells her story in infographics, coming in October from artist and author Katy Greenwood.

Marilyn Sightings in L.A., Madrid

Fans have posted their latest Monroe sightings on the Marilyn Remembered Facebook group. Firstly, ChadMichael Christian Morrissette found this mural (based on Alfred Eisenstadt’s famous 1953 photo of Marilyn) on Highland in Hollywood.

And secondly, Lorenzo Presti spotted Marilyn gracing the cover of the ironically-titled Marilyn Had Eleven Fingers On Her Feet, a book of Hollywood-themed paintings by artist Maria Herreros on sale in Madrid. This portrait was inspired by Milton Greene’s 1953 Laurel canyon series. And of course, Marilyn had no extra fingers, or toes – this rumour was debunked by Snopes.

Incidentally, another of Maria’s portraits – based on another shot of Marilyn by Eisenstadt – is featured on the cover of Autobiografía de Marilyn Monroe, a novel by Rafael Reig.

Susan Bernard 1948-2019

Photo by Amy Graves

Susan Bernard, the actress and archivist for her photographer father Bruno Bernard (or ‘Bernard of Hollywood’), has died aged 71, the New York Times reports.

Her father was a German Jew who fled to America in 1937 to escape Nazi persecution; while her mother Ruth Bernard [née Brandman] was an actress and television director. Susan also had a sister, Celeste, who survives her.

Bruno Bernard would take his first photos of model Norma Jeane Dougherty in 1946, several months before she changed her name. Susan had one hazy memory of seeing Marilyn in her father’s car when she was three or four years old. “It’s almost like a mirage,’ Susan told the San Francisco Chronicle. “An apparition. I remember she had blond hair, and she was called Marilyn. She was very sweet. She giggled a lot.”

In 1965, Susan played ‘Linda’, a teenager kidnapped by a trio of go-go dancers, in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! That December, Susan became Playboy’s Playmate of the Month after visiting Hugh Hefner’s Chicago office with her father; she was later named among the magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful Women of the 20th century. In That Tender Touch (1969) she played a lesbian, and the film has been preserved as part of Outfest’s Legacy Project. Closing out a wild decade, Susan appeared in two seasons of TV’s General Hospital.


In 1974, Susan married playwright Jason Miller (who also played Father Damian Karras in The Exorcist.) The couple divorced nine years later; their son, Joshua John Miller, is a screenwriter. Susan was also married to publishing guru Stanley J. Corwin, and she wrote and developed TV docudramas about Anais Nin, Ernie Davis and Nellie Bly.

Bruno Bernard died in 1987, the same year his Requiem for Marilyn was published. Susan became his chief archivist, publishing two further Monroe books, Bernard of Hollywood’s Marilyn (1993) and Marilyn: Intimate Exposures (2011.) She also edited a full retrospective, Bernard of Hollywood Pin-Ups (1999), and wrote two books on parenting. She turned ‘Bernard of Hollywood’ into an international brand, entering a partnership with ABG after the licensing company purchased Marilyn’s estate.

“I wanted to not just show photos, but show the back of the photos to show the process of the photographer,” Susan told the Examiner‘s Elisa Jordan in 2011. “I thought that was really interesting where they would literally type a story on a typewriter and they’d cut it out and paste it with tape on the back of a photo. Life was different then! He always wanted to tell the back story. The process of what it was like to be a photographer at that time was very interesting to me and I thought it would be very interesting to other people. And I wanted actually show the negatives. I wanted to show that there is a negative of the flying skirt [from The Seven Year Itch] in existence, and that the original proof sheets do exist. That was one of my goals. In picking the pictures, I just wanted to select the pictures that showed not the obvious glamour pictures, but showed her pensive or thinking—pictures that told a story.”

Photo by Brant Ward

Marilyn: Intimate Exposures also contained rare photographs of Robert F. Kennedy and his family at the remote ranch home of his friend John Bates in Gilroy, California on the same weekend in 1962 when Marilyn died – in a forceful rebuttal of persistent rumours that the Attorney General visited her at home in Los Angeles on her last day alive (Saturday, August 4th.) As Susan explained, “It gives the reader a glimpse into the private files of a renowned photographer who poured out his soul to set the record straight and defend those who were no longer here to defend themselves.”

Susan made regular public appearances across the USA and Europe to promote her father’s work, and his images of Marilyn. She was a guest speaker at the 2018 memorial service for Marilyn in Westwood Memorial Park. She was also interviewed by filmmaker Ian Ayres for his long-awaited documentary, The Birth of Marilyn.

“Marilyn has been my guardian angel,” Susan told the Huffington Post in 2012. “She picks me up when I am down and gives me strength. She empowered women way before Women’s Lib. Marilyn, the writer Anais Nin, and my mother are my inspirations.”