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Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress, Revised and Updated

Carl Rollyson
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 256
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    Marilyn Monroe
    Book Description:

    In American popular culture, Marilyn Monroe(1926-1962) has evolved in stature from movie superstar to American icon. Monroe's own understanding of her place in the American imagination and her effort to perfect her talent as an actress are explored with great sensitivity in Carl Rollyson's engaging narrative. He shows how movies became crucial events in the shaping of Monroe's identity. He regards her enduring gifts as a creative artist, discussing how her smaller roles inThe Asphalt JungleandAll About Eveestablished the context for her career, while in-depth chapters on her more important roles inBus Stop, Some Like It Hot, andThe Misfitsprovide the centerpiece of his examination of her life and career.

    Through extensive interviews with many of Monroe's colleagues, close friends, and other biographers, and a careful rethinking of the literature written about her, Rollyson is able to describe her use of Method acting and her studies with Michael Chekhov and Lee Strasberg, head of the Actors' Studio in New York. The author also analyzes several of Monroe's own drawings, diary notes, and letters that have recently become available. With over thirty black and white photographs (some published for the first time), a new foreword, and a new afterword, this volume brings Rollyson's 1986 book up to date.

    From this comprehensive, yet critically measured wealth of material, Rollyson offers a distinctive and insightful portrait of Marilyn Monroe, highlighted by new perspectives that depict the central importance of acting to the authentic aspects of her being.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-035-8
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Foreword: Discovering Marilyn Monroe
    (pp. xiii-2)

    I discovered Marilyn Monroe in the late 1970s while working on Norman Mailer. His biography of Marilyn Monroe excited my admiration. Mailer shrewdly drew on previous work by Maurice Zolotow and Fred Lawrence Guiles, Monroe’s first two important biographers, to portray a proactive person he deemed Napoleonic. To this day, no one seems to have recognized how his insight into this ambitious actress catapulted Monroe biography to a different level.

    To explain, I need to summon the dark days of Monroe biography, the pre-Norman Mailer period, when she was viewed as a rather pathetic figure—a victim of Hollywood, a...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Childhood (1926–38)
    (pp. 3-8)

    On February 11, 1924, Gladys Pearl Baker married Martin E. Mortensen. She already had two children (then not living with her) by a previous marriage to John Newton Baker, from whom she was divorced. She was a quiet woman who worked as a film cutter at one of the Hollywood studios. Gladys kept to herself most of the time, and friends and family never seem to have fathomed what went wrong in her second marriage to Mortensen, a union that lasted only sixteen months. Although they were not divorced until June 1, 1927, Gladys left him two years earlier on...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Adolescence to Adulthood (1938–45)
    (pp. 9-15)

    By the age of eleven or twelve, Norma Jeane began wearing tight clothing that accentuated her rapidly developing figure. This sexual exposure was exhilarating, and she seemed to revel in the attention of schoolboys, workers, and other people on the street. Adulation made her feel a part of things for the first time in her life. She could drop the oppressive, inhibiting sense of belonging to nobody, exchanging it for an exuberant, sensual contact with the elements of life itself—with the wind that caressed her as she zoomed along on a bike borrowed from an admiring group of boys....

  7. CHAPTER THREE Early Career (1945–50)
    (pp. 16-39)

    On August 26, 1946, after about a year of working as a professional photographer’s model, Norma Jeane Dougherty signed her first movie contract—as Marilyn Monroe. Modeling had been a crucial step toward an acting career, but it was only a step. She posed for department stores and industrial shows, wearing a variety of clothing—ranging from sports outfits to negligees—diligently took lessons in makeup, grooming, and posing at Ms. Snively’s school, and appeared on the covers of several magazines.

    But Norma Jeane had no clear idea of how to go about learning to become an actress. Of course...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Becoming a Star (1950–52)
    (pp. 40-60)

    On January 1, 1951, Marilyn Monroe made her first appearance on the cover ofLifemagazine. Throughout the next two years her popularity grew steadily, yet she was given parts that were usually brief and undistinguished versions of what her studio biography called “the blowtorch blonde.” Stories about her inLife,Look,Colliers, theAmerican Weekly,Photoplay, and Modern Screen noted her serious pursuit of acting, but the career Hyde had carefully charted seemed about to lose its direction because of her studio’s lack of imagination. To Robert Cahn inCollier’sshe appeared to be “the standard Hollywood blonde” with...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Fame (1952–54)
    (pp. 61-82)

    By the summer of 1952, Joe DiMaggio had taken Marilyn Monroe home to meet his family. The DiMaggios were used to meeting celebrities and welcomed her without a qualm. When she came to dinner at Joe’s family home, Marilyn always asked his mother what she could do to help. “Everything she did, she did with gusto,” remembered June DiMaggio, one of Joe’s nieces. Marilyn did the dishes, spurning Mrs. DiMaggio’s offer of gloves to protect the star’s lovely hands. Marilyn “would plunge right into the hot dishwater, seeming to enjoy the sensation,” June recalled. Marilyn confided in Joe’s mother and...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Half-Life (April–November 1954)
    (pp. 83-98)

    Like professional athletes, most stars have short careers. The exception is the actor—a Gary Cooper or Cary Grant—who can surmount the limitations of formulaic films. And Hollywood has been especially tough on women. Even legends like Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, and Bette Davis have succumbed to “box office poison” periods and have had to stage comebacks. Exceptions aside, stars could “malfunction,” to use Janine Basinger’s word inThe Star Machine. Like a piece of equipment, the star could wear out, failing to perform at peak levels. “If some of the malfunctions had been assigned better roles or better...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Search for Self: The Method (November 1954–May 1956)
    (pp. 99-132)

    Monroe had been consulting with Milton Greene for over a year about her own production company. His idea included the possibility of buying screen properties in which she could extend her capacity as an actress. If she could manage her career through her choice of sympathetic directors and producers, then she was prepared to entertain Greene’s enthusiastic belief that she could play the roles she coveted. By the end of 1954, Marilyn Monroe Productions had been established, with Monroe as president and Greene as vice-president. She had become convinced that her contract with Fox could be declared to have no...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT The Poet of Her Aspirations (December 1950–July 1956)
    (pp. 133-141)

    When exactly did Marilyn Monroe become aware of Arthur Miller and of the special relevance of his writing for her? She had read his novelFocus(1945) before their first meeting on a movie set in December of 1950, and she seemed prepared that same week to engage him during their second encounter at a Hollywood party. After that evening of considerable conversation and silent rapport, she told Natasha Lytess, “It was like running into a tree! You know—like a cool drink when you’ve got a fever. You see my toe—this toe? Well he sat and held my...

  13. CHAPTER NINE The Prince and the Showgirl (January–October 1956)
    (pp. 142-155)

    Sir Laurence Olivier arrived in America in February of 1956 to join Monroe at the press conference announcing their plans to co-star in the film adaptation of Terrence Rattigan’s play,The Sleeping Prince. Olivier, perhaps the greatest actor of the time, was greeted as visiting royalty. Monroe was much less certain of her reception:

    Some people have been unkind. If I say I want to grow as an actress, they look at my figure. If I say I want to develop, to learn my craft, they laugh. Somehow they don’t expect me to be serious about my work. I’m more...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Home Life (October 1956–August 1958)
    (pp. 156-171)

    By the time Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller in the summer of 1956, a good deal had changed since she had signed her first contract with Twentieth Century-Fox a decade earlier. As a starlet, she joined an industry that attracted eighty million people to the movies weekly. Profits were at an all-time high of $1.7 billion. More than three fourths of every dollar spent on entertainment went to Hollywood. Only eight thousand families owned television sets in 1946. By 1956, over thirty-five million television sets were in American homes, as movie attendance dropped to less than half of what it...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN Impersonations/Repetitions (August 1958–June 1960)
    (pp. 172-198)

    On August 4, 1958, the first day of shootingSome Like It Hot, Marilyn Monroe arrived on the sound stage with her usual assortment of associates, which included not only her husband but her own “hairdressers, make-up man, press representative, a maternal dramatic coach confidante, and untitled others.” Billy Wilder does not seem to have minded her ménage, for he realized she was a genius when it came to building upon her Marilyn Monroe image. He had worked closely and amicably with Monroe and Natasha Lytess onThe Seven Year Itchand felt the actress had developed a wonderful comic...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE The Film of Her Life (July 1960–January 1961)
    (pp. 199-215)

    The Misfitswas originally scheduled for shooting in the fall of 1959, but Monroe’s agreement with Fox to doLet’s Make Loveand Clark Gable’s work inIt Happened in Naplesput off filming ofThe Misfitsuntil the spring of 1960. Then the actors’ strike during the filming ofLet’s Make Loveand other production delays meant that Monroe would not be available for another role until the middle of July. As a result, there was hardly a break between the two films. With just a few hectic days in New York spent on costume fittings and test photography...

  17. CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Lady of Shalott (December 1960–August 1962)
    (pp. 216-238)

    In a series of intermittent discussions with W. J. Weatherby in New York from late 1960 to some time in January 1961, Monroe latched onto his phrase, “a pattern of selves,” to argue against the idea of a single self persisting through an entire lifetime. She favored “fragmentary changing natures.” In his presence, her moods changed quickly. Her contradictoriness and fatiguing awareness of her divided feelings were driving her toward collapse and hospitalization. Weatherby sensed she was struggling to control herself.

    One time, in the bar they used for their talks, Monroe appeared tentative, nervous, and “rather distant”—and sloppily...

  18. Afterword: The Murder of Marilyn Monroe
    (pp. 239-246)

    So much has been written about Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedy brothers—much of it based on stories that cannot be verified and on conflicting accounts—that it is nearly impossible to filter out fact from fiction. The Los Angeles coroner’s office ruled her death in the early morning hours of August 5, 1962, a “probable suicide” after an autopsy revealed substantial amounts of the barbiturate Nembutal and chloral hydrate in her body, and after conducting an investigation that disclosed her previous attempts to end her life. Even so, rumors persisted that she had been the victim of foul play....

  19. Sources
    (pp. 247-263)
  20. Filmography
    (pp. 264-264)
  21. Index
    (pp. 265-275)