Marilyn Monroe’s whirlwind engagement with New York City receives a fitting reflection.
Using a wealth of interviews, key documents, and ongoing correspondence, Winder’s (Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953, 2013) illuminating chronicle of Monroe’s relocation to Manhattan centers on the actress in 1953 as she became increasingly restless and eager to abandon her “lonely life” in Hollywood, always powered by “cliques, connections, and friends of friends.” In an effort to regain control over her career and allow disputed contract terms with Fox to simmer, Monroe secretly relocated and, together with photographer Milton Greene, formed a production company on the East Coast and began taking method acting classes in Manhattan with Lee Strasberg. She spent much of her New York time cultivating Marilyn Monroe Productions, fraternizing with the likes of Truman Capote, Marlon Brando, and Arthur Miller, and revitalizing her public image. However, as Winder notes, for Greene, keeping track of her became an immeasurably daunting task. Personally and professionally blossoming with the blockbuster success of The Seven Year Itch (1955), Monroe focused on making her company profitable, but insecurity became her biggest nemesis after returning to foster her career with Fox in Los Angeles, a city where she was “a milkmaid among Malibu tans.” With a storybook cadence and impressive description, Winder writes of this time in Monroe’s erratic life as an empowering, fulfilling episode, an opportunity to spread her creative wings amid a caged life fraught with the kind of grueling career pressures and studio demands that necessitated medicating herself to relieve chronic insomnia. Asks the author, “who was this warm-blooded space creature who lugged around dictionaries, spoke like a drugged-up puppy, and looked like a French pastry?” Winder doesn’t pretend to unravel the many mysteries of Monroe, but she respectfully and quite thoughtfully salutes her East Coast tenure as she reveled for an instant in the sparkling possibilities of life in the Big Apple.
A touching, textured, and compellingly written slice of the iconic actress’s life.