A deep dive into the model and screen legend’s glamorous but troubled life.
In the decades since Marilyn Monroe’s (1926-1962) death, our fascination with her remains strong. Her allure has sparked the imaginations of talents ranging from Andy Warhol to Joyce Carol Oates to the producers of the TV series Smash, and she has been the subject of countless biographies. In his latest book, Casillo (The Marilyn Diaries, 2014, etc.) rehashes much family material about Monroe, but he pays particularly sympathetic attention to her emotional journey. Delving into the well-known narrative points, he begins with Monroe’s unhappy and frequently abusive childhood. Dependent on a single mother who was suffering from severe mental health issues, she was frequently put into foster care and at one point abandoned in an orphanage. As Monroe blossomed into a stunningly attractive young woman, a modeling career quickly led to minor film roles and subsequent star turns in such 1950s classics as Gentleman Prefer Blondes and The Seven Year Itch. While developing into one of the most famous movie stars of her time, she increasingly struggled with deep insecurities and dependency on pills and alcohol. Her acting talent continued to expand, but by the early 1960s, her personal life was plummeting. Often feeling paralyzed by low self-esteem working in front of the camera, she often displayed erratic behavior that caused long delays on film sets. This accelerated during production of her last completed film, The Misfits, and influenced a fatal blow with her dismissal from the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give. Casillo focuses a good portion of the book on Monroe’s fragile emotional state in these remaining years. She had an obsessive fear of aging and losing her sexual appeal. While not offering much new information, the author thoughtfully re-examines the facts and myths surrounding the events leading to Monroe’s death, touching on her affairs with both John and Robert Kennedy and her continued substance abuse problems.
A compelling exploration of a beguiling film icon’s life—a significant
if not quite definitive addition to the ever expanding Monroe literature.