Taschen Reissues De Dienes’ ‘Marilyn’

Art publisher Taschen is reissuing Andre de DienesMarilyn, one of the finest photography books on Monroe, in a compact, two-volume edition with slip-cover. Full price is £24.99 ($39.99) but it can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK for just £13.49 (or $23.75 on Amazon.com.)

Andre de Dienes first met the 19 year-old Norma Jeane Dougherty in 1945, only a few months into her modelling career. Their collaboration was, from the outset, an inspired one, and they were reunited for the classic Tobey Beach shoot in 1949, and a final session in 1953.

De Dienes was infatuated by Marilyn, and though (for the most part)  she kept him at bay, they remained friends for years afterward. In the accompanying text, ‘Reality Can Be Stranger Than Fiction’, De Dienes’ memories of  their time together are reproduced and they give a unique insight into the young Monroe.

De Dienes’ photographs of MM were first collected in the mostly black-and-white Marilyn, Mon Amour (1986.) In 2002, Taschen published a deluxe, limited edition boxset, including the book, Marilyn, a Kodak film box containing facsimile prints, a booklet featuring magazine layouts, and a complete reproduction of De Dienes’ manuscript.

The 240-page Marilyn has also been published separately, in hard-cover and paperback, as a more economic option, and it is this volume which is now being reissued in a new format. It includes both colour and monochrome shots, as well as De Dienes’ text.

This latest reissue was featured in The Independent last weekend, in an article titled, ‘Norma Jeane as We Never Knew Her’.

Thanks to Edgar Freire

Marilyn: The Norma Jeane Years

This DVD was released in 2010, but it is actually a reissue of a 1991 documentary, The Discovery of Marilyn Monroe. As the titles suggest, this 50-minute film focusses on Marilyn’s early career, including Norma Jeane’s ‘discovery’ by photographer David Conover while she was working at the Radio Plane munitions plant in Los Angeles in 1945, while her first husband, Jim Dougherty, was serving in the Navy during World War II.

This meeting, which inspired the 19 year-old Norma Jeane to pursue a modelling career, is reconstructed by actors. This early period is also touched upon in interviews with her foster sister, Eleanor ‘Bebe’ Goddard. Sketches that she and Norma Jeane made in their teens, including their own fashion designs, are shown here.

Dougherty, who became a policeman after divorcing Norma Jeane in 1946, is also interviewed. He is filmed arriving in Los Angeles, and driving a Ford Dodge car similar to the one he owned during their four-year marriage. He is reunited with two more famous names from his past, Jane Russell (whom he once dated while at high school, and later met at a dance with Norma Jeane) and Robert Mitchum (with whom Dougherty worked with at Lockheed, another munitions plant, soon after his wedding to Norma Jeane.)

Of these interviewees, it is Russell who seems the most realistic and empathetic with Monroe, with whom she would co-star in 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Of all the main interviewees, Russell is now the only one still living. Mitchum (who once visited the Dougherty home) was paired with Marilyn later the same year, in River of No Return.

Their memories of Norma Jeane/Marilyn suggest a sweet, shy young woman who was undone by her own vulnerability. It is interesting to observe the dynamic between the three old friends, as Dougherty had not seen either Mitchum or Russell for almost fifty years. Dougherty seemed upset that Mitchum had not replied to his letters.

Robert Slatzer, the Hollywood journalist who claimed to have secretly married Marilyn in 1952, also appears briefly. In recent years his claims have been much disputed by biographers like Donald Spoto. But Bebe Goddard calls him a friend in her footage, though they would not have known Marilyn at the same time. It’s more likely that Slatzer befriended Goddard after Monroe’s death.

Overall this is a slight but pleasant enough documentary, and the footage of Goddard and Russell is worth seeing. I was a little disappointed to realise that this is not a new documentary, and might not have bought it had I known. However this was not a film I have seen before so despite being rather misled, it was still quite an enjoyable experience.

You can also watch this documentary on Youtube

Thoughts on a Sad Anniversary

Bert Stern, 1962

“The star born Norma Jean Mortensen suffered an almost Dickensian childhood of hardship, which culminated in an arranged marriage to a neighbour’s son when she was just 16. But on the silver screen Norma Jean created a glittering, carefree and carnal image that made her Hollywood’s most enduring sex symbol. It is that sensuously hedonistic yet innocent image fans still fall head over heels in love with.” – John Costello, Irish Independent

“She brought out a protective impulse in people. And, in my opinion, that is part of her movie magic. She was not a sassy sex symbol who ‘owned’ her sexuality. She did not seem calculating about it. There was always the wide-eyed innocence there, in spite of the body made for lovin’ – and that somehow engendered a protective response in audiences … male AND female – so she was one of those very rare movie creatures: a sex symbol whom men loved and desired, but also whom women respected and looked up to … and I think it had something to do with that fragmented innocence peering out of her radiant face. She seemed unaware of the responses she brought up in men, and she never seemed out for sex – the Marilyn Monroe persona was all about finding love. Her gifts as an actress and comedienne are obvious – but her appeal is still rather complicated, which, I suppose, is why people still obsess over her, and talk about her, and pick her apart.” Sheila O’Malley

Marilyn on Film: An Untold Story

Catherine Hicks‘s performance in the 1980 made-for-television biography Marilyn: The Untold Story is generally regarded as the best biographical portrayal of Marilyn Monroe. Produced by Lawrence Schiller, the photographer who took the famous nude photos of Marilyn on the set of Something’s Got to GiveMarilyn: The Untold Story was based on Norman Mailer’s ‘novel biography.’

The film was enhanced by the participation of three talented directors, including Hollywood veteran Jack Arnold. The impressive roster of behind-the-scenes personnel ensured pleasant entertainment, but the three-hour drama lacks insight into Marilyn’s personality and fails to add anything new to the Monroe lore and literature.

Hicks, whose thoughtful performance is the highlight of the production, managed to capture Marilyn’s voice and mannerisms and suggest her alluring presence without resorting to caricature.

Hicks received a well-earned Emmy nomination. (In an ironic twist, Monroe ‘replacement’ Sheree North appears in this film in the role of Marilyn’s mother.)” – Susan Doll, author of Marilyn: Her Life and Legend

The opening scenes from this hard-to-find biopic are now on Youtube, with more to follow.

Norma Jeane: A ‘Last-Born’ Child

‘Lastborns are usually rebellious, risk takers, confident, caring, creative, charming, affectionate and “the life of the party”. Lastborns can also be immature, self-centered, spoiled, manipulative and irresponsible. Youngests seem to be more observant and have more diverse interests than their older siblings. They also take more risks, travel more, and are more liberal. Youngest brothers are the most fearless of men. Youngest females are the most feminine and flirtatious of women. Younger sisters of brothers are magnets to men. Examples of younger sisters of brothers include Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor. They often find that they have more men attracted to them than other girls. The best match for a youngest male is a firstborn female and the best match for a youngest female is an oldest male of sisters. Two lastborns in a relationship can be fun but firstborn children bring stability to a relationship.’

Source

This is an interesting take on how Marilyn’s character was formed, though given her unstable childhood, it is hard to place her as a ‘lastborn’ at any period. Norma Jeane had an older half-brother and sister from her mother’s first marriage, but she never met her step-brother, who tragically died at just 13. At the same age, Norma would learn that she had a ‘sister’, and first met Berniece Baker Miracle, then married with a young daughter, six years later. Marilyn remained in contact with Berniece throughout her life.

The young Norma Jeane was also close to another foster child, Lester Bolender, and later Eleanor ‘Bebe’ Goddard. But Marilyn always considered herself a ‘waif’, passed between relatives, friends and an orphanage, and in some ways was more like an only child. One of her closest friends at the end of her life was masseur Ralph Roberts, whom she nicknamed ‘Brother’.