Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Year of Marilyn

When I was a twelve-year-old Marilyn Monroe fan on Staten Island, I was pretty lonely in my love for her. None of my friends shared my enthusiasm. Some of the boys I went to school with enjoyed looking at the cheesecake in my MM scrapbook, but mostly all I heard was “She’s old enough to be your mother.” In 1962 the biggest female star was Sandra Dee—who, were it not for Grease, would now be almost completely forgotten.
            Which is the long way of saying that if you had told me that there would be so much interest in Marilyn a half century later, I wouldn’t have believed it. August 5 is the fiftieth anniversary of Marilyn’s shocking and untimely death, and the interest in Marilyn is stronger than ever. “The Year of Marilyn” could be said to have begun last fall, when the film My Week with Marilyn and David Wills’ gorgeous coffee-table book Marilyn Monroe Metamorphosis were released.
            By February, Michelle Williams had received an Oscar nomination as Best Actress for her role as Marilyn. Fans seemed to be split down the middle—some disliked the movie and some refused to see it at all, feeling that no one, and especially not Michelle Williams, could do Marilyn justice on film. The other side, of which I am one, loved the movie and felt that Williams captured MM’s essence even if she didn’t look much like her.
            I found myself tickled that a major motion picture had been made about one week in Marilyn’s life. It was further proof that her legend is just as compelling as ever. For the same reason, I enjoy the TV series Smash, which is about the making of a Broadway musical based on Marilyn’s life. The girls vying for the lead look nothing like her, and their impersonations are uncomfortably close to caricature, but it’s fun to have a TV series that revolves, at least peripherally, around Marilyn.
            On February 2, the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood premiered the one-hour documentary With Her. Directed by Laurent Morier, it’s a fascinating and respectful film about the members of Marilyn Remembered.
            The official poster for this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which begins May 16, will feature a photo of Marilyn blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the first Cannes Festival.
            From June through January 2013, part of the collections of Greg Schreiner, Scott Fortner, and others will be on display at the Ferragamo Museum in Florence, Italy. It will likely be the largest exhibit of Monroe memorabilia ever assembled. The fan club is also hoping to have an exhibit of other Marilyn items at the Hollywood Museum in June.
            For the twentieth anniversary of Marilyn’s death in 1982 George Zeno and I produced the photo book Monroe: Her Life in Pictures. On several interview shows, I said I was amazed that Marilyn was still so popular. Now it’s thirty years later, and there are at least eight books coming out this year. The first of these, to be published on April 1 by Applause books, is Dressing Marilyn Monroe: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla, by Andrew Hansford and Karen Homer. It’s available now on Amazon at $19.79.
            Six weeks later, Vanguard Press publishes Marilyn Monroe: Murder on Fifth Helena Drive by Keya Morgan. ($17.81 on Amazon.) It’s hard to imagine what new could be written about this subject, but the publisher says it is based on 300 interviews, so who knows? The same might be said about Jay Margolis’s book, Marilyn Monroe: A Case for Murder, out August 3 from iUniverse. I can say it appears Margolis has been very thorough, even examining the interviews I did for my Peter Lawford biography with people involved with Marilyn, which are a part of the Special Collections at the Library of Arizona State University at Tempe.
            On May 26 comes Marilyn by Magnum, a collection of photos taken by the agency’s photographers, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, Elliott Erwin, Philippe Halsman, and Inge Morath, among others. Pretel Publishing’s description doesn’t say anything about never-before published photos, but let’s hope there are some. The book is priced at $19.77 on Amazon.
June will bring the release, from the Nan A. Talese imprint, of Marilyn and Me: A Photographer’s Memories, by Lawrence Schiller, the man who took most of the famous Something’s Got To Give poolside nudes. There’s no description of the book on Amazon or on the Nan A. Talese website, but hopefully there will be soon. (Amazon: $13.60) There are also reports that Taschen is doing a book with Schiller, but there isn’t anything about it on their website.
            Two books will be released in July. The first, Marilyn in Fashion, is by my longtime friends Christopher Nickens and George Zeno., from Running Press. It’s the first book to examine Marilyn’s enduring influence on fashion, illustrated with many never-before-published photos from George’s world-renowned collection. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon for $19.60.
            Last but definitely not least is Lois W. Banner’s biography Revelations: The Passion and Paradox of Marilyn Monroe from the Bloomsbury Group (July 17). Lois is the co-author of MM:Personal, that fascinating book about the contents of Marilyn’s file cabinets. According to the publisher’s description, Banner “gained access to Marilyn intimates who hadn’t spoken to other biographers, and to private material unseen, ignored, or misinterpreted by her predecessors.” It’s priced at $17.16 on Amazon.
            Every August 5 the Marilyn Remembered Fan Club, headed up so well by Greg Schreiner, holds a memorial service for Marilyn at her crypt in the Westwood Village Memorial Park. This anniversary will be commemorated with a week of activities beginning August 1 hosted by the group Immortal Marilyn, including a day trip to the Del Coronado Hotel, where Some Like it Hot was filmed, and a tour of the places Marilyn lived and frequented in Los Angeles. The week culminates on the fifth with a service in the chapel in which Lee Strasberg eulogized Marilyn so movingly, followed by a reception. Visit the club’s website for more information: Also visit

Next week: Some thoughts on the TV season.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for all the print information. Going to the bookstore with purpose for months on end sounds dreamy!