More on ‘MM: Personal’

Photo by Mark Anderson

“Marilyn Monroe is the most famous, ubiquitous, and idolized woman of our modern age. An icon of physical beauty, sexuality, and the quintessentially American dream, Marilyn’s legend continues to grow four decades after her death. MM:Personal is a new and illuminating look behind the veil of that legend, reproducing artifacts and documents – thought to have been lost since 1962 and never before revealed to the public – to clarify, qualify, or reverse many common conceptions about the blond bombshell. Selected from more than 10,000 largely unseen and heretofore unpublished items that were stored in Marilyn’s two personal file cabinets – the ‘Rosetta Stones of Marilyn Monroe scholarship’ – the collection also draws from the important collections of Greg Schreiner and Scott Fortner. These documents, snapshots, letters, memorabilia, and ephemera are joined by the first account of Monroe’s life since Gloria Steinem’s Marilyn to be written by a feminist historian, Dr Lois W. Banner, bringing a depth of understanding previously unavailable to her life. New answers come to light, such as what the dimensions were of Marilyn’s personal management of her public persona, Marilyn’s relationship to the photographers with whom she worked, how sensitive she was to her fans, and the tenor of her marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. MM:Personal promises to completely refocus how we view Marilyn’s private life, personal relationships, and legacy.”

Synopsis from Amazon

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

Marilyn and Clifford Odets

‘Clash by Night’ (1952)

One of Marilyn Monroe’s strongest early film roles was as Peggy, the feisty cannery worker in Clash by Night (1952), based on a play by Clifford Odets.

Marilyn knew Odets quite well and later played Lorna Moon in a scene from his most famous play, Golden Boy, at the Actor’s Studio during the late 1950s. She later considered starring in Odets’ screenplay, The Story on Page One (1959), but that role went to Rita Hayworth, and was directed by Odets himself.

Always competitive with Miller, Odets took a rather dim view of The Misfits (1960), Monroe’s last completed film, which Miller wrote and John Huston directed.

Odets was the leading New York playwright of the 1930s and 40s, and his plays focussed on social injustice and the plight of the ‘little man’. He was also involved in the formation of the Group Theatre alongside Lee Strasberg.

Unlike Arthur Miller, the playwright who ultimately eclipsed him, Odets chose to ‘name names’ in the House Un-American Activities Committee trials of the early 1950s, a decision he would bitterly regret. He died in 1963.

In his essay on Monroe in the book, Who the Hell’s in It, director Peter Bogdanovich recalled, ‘Clifford told me that Marilyn Monroe used to come over to his house and talk, but that the only times she seemed to him really comfortable were when she was with his two young children and their large poodle. She relaxed with them, felt no threat. With everyone else, Odets said, she seemed nervous, intimidated, frightened. When I repeated to Miller this remark about her with children and animals, he said, “Well, they didn’t sneer at her.'”

Soon after Monroe’s death, Odets wrote, ‘One night some short weeks ago, for the first time in her not always happy life, Marilyn Monroe’s soul sat down alone to a quiet supper from which it did not rise. If they tell you that she died of sleeping pills you must know that she died of a wasting grief, of a slow bleeding at the soul.’

One of Odets’ later plays, The Country Girl (filmed in 1954 with Grace Kelly) is currently being revived in London. Walt Odets has spoken to the Jewish Chronicle about his famous father and his memories, and mentioned, rather unfavourably, the marriage of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe:

“The Strasberg version of the marriage was that Arthur treated Marilyn badly. So I grew up with bad feelings about Miller. I met Arthur a few times and he was a very hard, cold man. He was the kind of guy who doesn’t like children or dogs. And for a child that is immediately perceptible.”

The Kennedy Detail

Former FBI agent Gerald Blaine, one of the security staff who witnessed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, is the author of a new book, The Kennedy Detail, which is also the title of an upcoming Discovery Channel documentary.

Regarding the rumour that Kennedy had an affair with Marilyn Monroe, Blaine says that there were only two occasions on which they were known to be together – on May 19, 1962 after she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ at his 45th birthday celebration in New York, and once the previous year, at the home of his sister and brother-in-law, Patricia and Peter Lawford.

Mr Blaine says Monroe attended a party after the birthday celebration at the Carlyle Hotel – but left before the other guests.

The Australian

Marilyn’s Thanksgiving Recipe

Among other writings, Fragments includes several recipes, and the New York Times suggests Marilyn’s stuffing may be perfect for Thanksgiving:

The image of a bombshell cooking her way to nirvana may seem old-hat now, thanks to Nigella, Giada, Padma and the like. But back in the 1950s, a Hollywood starlet was not expected to squander her talents (or risk her manicure) chopping onions.

A new book, however, includes a recipe in Marilyn Monroe’s handwriting that suggests that she not only cooked, but cooked confidently and with flair.”

Although the editors of Fragments date this recipe to the late 1950s, these culinary experts suggest that Marilyn may have learned to cook this Italian-style stuffing during her marriage to Joe DiMaggio. (Marilyn and Joe spent time with his sister, Marie, in San Francisco, and she may have shared secrets of Italian cuisine with her famous sister-in-law.)

Introducing ‘MM: Personal’

This upcoming book by Dr Lois Banner is an illustrated look at ‘the Inez Melson files’, collected by Melson, Marilyn Monroe’s business manager, from filing cabinets at Monroe’s home immediately after her death in 1962.

The collection, photographed by Mark Anderson, was the subject of a Vanity Fair cover story, ‘The Things She Left Behind’, in 2008.

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Abrams (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810995875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810995871

Joyce Carol Oates on ‘Fragments’

“Like all serious artists, Marilyn Monroe lived – lives – in her art. Fugitive pieces like those of Fragments will resonate most with those who know her extraordinary films. Here is a female artist for whom work was salvation, or might have been if circumstances had been slightly different; if, for instance, Monroe had remained in New York at the Actor’s Studio, and had not returned to Hollywood, in 1960, to make The Misfits. In an interview of 1959, as if in rueful acknowledgement of her impending fate, Monroe said, ‘I guess I am a fantasy’ – a luminous phantom in the lives of others.”

From the December issue of US Playboy – read in full here

Marilyn in Fragments

Ed Feingersh, 1955

“For at the heart of the Marilyn Monroe legend beats that most American of stories: a wholly engrossing, Great Gatsby–style quest for self-transformation that starts (and too often ends) with nothing. Fragments reveals previously unreleased images of the star, all cocked eyebrows and adamant hand gestures, fully engaged by art and conversation; her stalwart support of friend Ella Fitzgerald’s efforts to sing in white clubs; a voracious reader who favored such soothsayers as Steinbeck, Kerouac and Sherwood Anderson; and her scattered, sharply sensitive musings. The world’s most famous sex object was also, it seems, a shrewd and compassionate subject, if one bombarded by her impressions. “For life, it is rather a determination not to be overwhelmed,” she wrote in 1954. ‘For work, the truth can only be recalled, not invented.’

It was a difficult edict for a woman forever struggling to reinvent herself as a way to transcend a past strewn with abandonment and abuse. It was also one this book suggests she accepted as the price of authenticity with her characteristic cocktail of grace, forbearance and grief.

Now that I am roughly the oldest age Marilyn ever lived to be, I grasp what that postcard promised all along: An elusive admixture of hope and industry, will and willingness, to which she strove until her final days. An able, grownup-lady femininity that now, more than ever, is in too short supply.”

Lisa Rosman, LA Weekly

“The image of Marilyn Monroe as a lifelong reader is one I find deeply touching. Literature was not able to save her from a sad fate, but I have no doubt that it enriched her life, her thought, her feelings and gave her joy along the way. We cannot ask more of any art than that.

I’ve already seen, in lazy news items on this book, snarky comments exalting Marilyn and her reading habits above contemporary troubled sex objects the likes of Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton. But this is to entirely miss the point, which is, of course: You can’t judge a book by its cover.

Doubtless Marilyn contemporaries like Lawrence Olivier, who treated her contemptuously while filming The Prince and the Showgirl, would have scoffed at the notion she had any inner life at all. Yes, it seems likely Lindsay reads little more than Tweets on her smartphone, but we don’t know that for certain.”

Chauncey Mabe, Open Page