Happy belated birthday, Marilyn

At the ripe old age of 13, I developed my first full-blown girl crush on the one and only Marilyn Monroe (who would've celebrated her 80th birthday last month). That feeling came rushing back courtesy of the new edition of Burt Stern's Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting (August, Schirmer). Pictured here is not the heavily maquillaged and expertly lit glamazon of Some Like It Hot fame, but a 36-year-old woman dropping her guard—and most of her clothes in the process. Viewers, not knowing this before opening the book, expect flawless planes and curves, certainly not the crow's feet and belly scar that Marilyn puts on full display. "She looks so old" is the most common reaction, meaning, I think, that she aged prematurely. And while I agree, I still find her beautiful. Stern, who contributes a revealing foreword, captured Marilyn the Survivor of the Hollywood machine and her American reinvention, take her or leave her, and I do, frame after frame. My favorite? None of the famous bedroom nudes, but a sole grainy snap I'd never seen before of Norma Jean sipping red wine with a pillow on her lap, her in a disheveled up-do. This book will go in my personal library, right next to Dennis Stock's James Dean: 50 Years Ago.—Heather McCormack

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  1. Alison says:

    Have you read Joyce Carol Oates’ “Blonde?” You might enjoy it, though if you are a stickler for exactly perfectly correct biography you might not be interested — it’s a fictional-bio-type-thing. Anyway, I really like it.

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