A photographer’s unfocused memoir of his time with Marilyn Monroe.
Accomplished photojournalist Schiller (Into the Mirror: The Life of Master Spy Robert P. Hanssen, 2002, etc.) recounts his brief access to Monroe in a curiously sour volume that does little to reveal new facets of the famously troubled actress’ life or art. Schiller photographed Monroe during the production of her final films, Let’s Make Love and the unfinished Something’s Got to Give, undistinguished entries in the Monroe filmography made as the actress’ irresponsible behavior on set sabotaged her faltering career and the personal problems that would lead her to commit suicide began to dominate all aspects of her life. In Schiller’s recollection, Monroe was alternately warm and wary, chatty and chilly, personable and remote. More consistent was her mercenary understanding of her sexual allure and a single-minded focus on exploiting her mystique to its fullest commercial potential. Schiller is equally self-interested, and the narrative is as devoted to his wheeling and dealing with various magazines and attempts to outmaneuver rival photographers as it is to presenting a compelling portrait of his most famous subject. The author’s zeal in maximizing the profits from his shots of a nude Monroe, who desperately hoped their notoriety might improve her shaky position with the film studio, may strike some as offensive, and the memoir, ostensibly a compassionate look at a troubled star, becomes instead a queasy document of the ways in which prurience, opportunism and crass calculation drive the entertainment industry and exact a tragic human toll.
An unhappy little book that fails to illuminate the Monroe legend or the woman underneath.