"MARILYN AND ME: Sisters, Rivals, Friends" by Susan Strasberg
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"MARILYN AND ME: Sisters, Rivals, Friends"

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Actress Strasberg's second tour of her friendship with Marilyn Monroe--first told in her confessional 1980 autobiography, Bittersweet, which focused on Strasberg's emotional swamps--is an even stronger, more mature version of her time spent with the legend. This memoir in no way deepens our grasp of what or who MM was, nor does it match Arthur Miller's magnificent portrait in Timebands. Miller, in fact, gets mauled by Strasberg, who shows him at his most tight-lipped and beleaguered, especially after his cuckolding by Yves Montand and during the filming of The Misfits. What makes Strasberg's Marilyn rewarding might be called the ""bodywarmth"" of MM's presence on the page. Marilyn comes through as a luminescent older sister and jealous rival for Strasberg's parents' attention. Lee Strasberg was the nation's high guru of acting, to whom Marilyn fled when she could not get out of her dumb-blond roles. Could Lee make her a serious actress? Indeed, Lee could, and certainly gave something to MM's intellectual growth, confidence, and ability to stretch as an actress. Her private rehearsals with Lee in the Strasbarg apartment are always offstage here, with young Susan eavesdropping when her mother Paula doesn't have her ear to the door. Marilyn at 29 became a regular houseguest for years (Susan was then 17, though she'd met MM much earlier on the set of There's No Business Like Show Business), and the monolithic Lee had a soft spot for her that melted his usual granite. Susan and MM rolled around her bedroom like sisters, trying out Kama Sutra positions (clothed), and MM lusted for Susan's clothes while Susan yearned to be MM. Much later, a grief-stricken Lee wrote and delivered MM's eulogy. Can we ever get enough of MM? Maybe not. Strasberg allows us once more chance to cuddle up to a shy goddess. But MM fans also shouldn't miss Sam Toperoff's adventurous, literate novel Queen of Desire (1991).

Pub Date: April 10th, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Warner