Marilyn Monroe Biographies

Badman, Keith. Marilyn Monroe: The Final Years. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Jul. 2012. c.352p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780312607142. $25.99. FILM

Marilyn Monroe still elicits intense curiosity, even five decades after her untimely death; and, here, Badman (The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America’s Greatest Band on Stage and in the Studio) focuses on her last two years, a time that continues to be the subject of much speculation. After setting the stage with a straightforward account of her early life, Badman quickly turns to Monroe’s final years, which were beset by professional and personal turmoil. He painstakingly examines day-to-day events, sorting through fact and myth to uncover the real story behind her associations with the Kennedys, Frank Sinatra, and others; her continuing connection with former husband Joe DiMaggio; her erratic behavior on the set; problems with studio figures; complicated financial difficulties; troubles with substance abuse; and, in particular, the circumstances surrounding her death‚ all of which have been the subject of scrutiny over time. Badman conducted years of in-depth research and, in detail-heavy chapters, he offers reflective commentary and examines the reliability of some previously accepted, and often negative, information in order to clarify the facts and present Monroe in the most truthful light. Although some questions will always remain, Badman carefully supports his conclusions. VERDICT This book will especially appeal to Monroe’s fans, providing intriguing, although exhausting, amounts of material for contemplation and for comparison with existing works about the star.‚ Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ

Banner, Lois. Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Aug. 2012. c.512p. photogs. ISBN 9781608195312. $30. FILM

This new biography of Marilyn Monroe explores the many contradictory aspects of her life. A turbulent and conflicted childhood‚ with multiple foster families, sexual abuse, rejection, and the influence of a troubled mother‚ all had a deep impact. Banner (history and gender studies, Univ. of Southern California; Intertwined Lives: Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and Their Circle) carefully scrutinizes these formative years, analyzing their effect on her career, relationships, and identity as a woman. Banner deftly incorporates new research and interview material into existing information to candidly delve into Monroe’s contrasting sides: from her intelligent approach to acting, intense desire to learn, and caring humanity, to her façade as a na√Øve beauty, casual affairs and multiple marriages, and childlike quest for acceptance. While navigating the psychological complexities of Monroe as an individual, Banner also examines her role as a cultural icon and trendsetter, as well as a woman outside the conventional boundaries of her time‚ all offering fresh insight into the bewildering turns of a talented and tragic life. VERDICT This well-written work contributes to a fresh understanding of Monroe’s life on multiple levels. Fans will want to read this, as will readers who want to discover more about the star from an informed gender and cultural studies perspective.‚ Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ

Schiller, Lawrence. Marilyn & Me: A Photographer’s Memories. Nan A. Talese: Doubleday. 2012. c.128p. photogs. ISBN 9780385536677. $20. FILM

Recalling his experiences as an aspiring young photographer in the Hollywood studio system in the 1960s, Schiller (coauthor, with Norman Mailer, The Executioner’s Song; Into the Mirror: The Life of Master Spy Robert P. Hanssen) tells two stories. One, about Monroe herself, is familiar: Schiller details photo shoots with her that celebrate the actress’s appearance and self-awareness; shares brief, personal asides about her kind sensitivity and sentimentality; and describes her quick, quirky, and apparently competent choices of publicity photos, her humor, her loneliness, her lateness, her champagne indulgences. The other is about Schiller’s own marketing machinations in the days before paparazzi, wheeling and dealing with colleagues and editors for photo opportunities and rights and for profitable placement in prominent publications, preferably covers. Schiller recalls the challenge of balancing photography and family, his successes marketing Monroe’s photos, his profession and financial successes, and the end of a fabulous plan for a Playboy project when Monroe died. Schiller credits Monroe with igniting his entrepreneurial spirit. VERDICT For general readers and Hollywood buffs, and for photography fans who enjoyed John Kobal’s The Art of the Great Hollywood Photographers.‚ Ann Fey, SUNY Rockland Community Coll.