LEGEND: The Life and Death of Marilyn Monroe by Fred Lawrence Guiles

LEGEND: The Life and Death of Marilyn Monroe

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The present book is not a revision of Norma Jean. While the basic biographical details are the same, something very important eluded me the first time around."" So says Guiles in a preface to this second Marilyn bio--which draws on new interviews, reveals more names (the affairs with JFK and RFK), but still doesn't develop ""a Clear understanding of the woman and the forces that have made her, over the past twenty years, one of the few mythic females Hollywood has produced."" Guiles emphasizes Norma Jean Baker's fear of insanity, which afflicted both her mother and grandmother. He follows her ""continuing quest for affection broken by occasional recoils from it""--a result of double parent-abandonment, a childhood in orphanages and foster homes. Norma Jean's first marriage released her sexuality. (And her sexuality releases some of Guiles' sorriest prose: ""Sexual union came as naturally to her as peeling a banana. . . He taught her that sex is a gift, and the treasure each piled up at the feet of the other during their time together was staggering."") But housewifery soon palled; modeling and film-starlet-dom came easily; Norma Jean became Marilyn, ""slamming the door on her past."" So it goes--with father-figure lovers (Joe Schenck, Johnny Hyde), Hyde-managed stardom, marriage to Joe DiMaggio (jealous, allegedly violent), and growing insecurity, perhaps heightened by psychotherapy, Lee Strasberg acting lessons, and nerve-wracking filming with the great Laurence Olivier. (""She knew that Marilyn, this creature whom the world so recently had gotten to know about, and yes, grow wild about, was a flawed creation."") The ""foredoomed"" Arthur Miller marriage is next--ruined by Marilyn's paranoia, her suicidal instability, and her ""sexual entanglement"" with Yves Montand. And her final years are a sad descent, with institutionalization, work-problems, and many affairs--including the Kennedy liaisons: JFK trysts in N.Y. (""she was honored""); a possible Kennedy/MM pregnancy; and a more serious RFK romance, the breakup of which ""in all probability. . . triggered her compulsion toward oblivion."" Despite new quotes from Arthur Miller and husband #1 James Dougherty, Guiles doesn't add much to what's been written about MM before--while his heavy reliance on other sources (MM's masseur, for example) frequently seems naive. And his pseudo-psychological portrait of Marilyn--""a child/ woman aspiring to some never-never land she could not reach""--is murky and uninvolving, especially as presented in 66 choppy mini-chapters. Still: lots of private-life detail, well-documented or not, bringing together most of the rumor/gossip/ testimony from over 20 years of Marilyn-talk.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Stein & Day