Published by Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: July 17th 2012
Genres: Biography, Non-fiction
August 5 will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe and 50 years later the attention on both her life and death is still strong. In Marilyn: The Passion & the Paradox, Lois Banner goes beyond the plethora of material already published about this glamorous American icon. While it might be hard to believe that there is anything left unknown, Banner’s research includes numerous newly discovered and previously unused resources. She also goes to more ancillary sources such as camaramen, publicists, and reporters, people with whom Monroe spent a great deal of time and who often saw a side of her others did not.
In Marilyn: The Passion & the Paradox, Banner shows that, despite a dysfunctional and turbulent childhood that included the repeated institutionalization of her mother, sexual abuse, and living in 11 foster homes by the time she was 13,Monroe not only survived but turned her survival skills to her advantage. She used the very traits that made her vulnerable to make herself strong. Her chronic tardiness was often an attempt to assert control over people and situations with which she was unhappy. Numerous takes on movie sets were not really her inability to get her lines right, but her dissatisfaction with a scene. By blowing her lines the scene had to be re-shot.
“I just didn’t like the way the scene was going. When I liked it I said the lines in the scene perfectly.” (Marilyn to reporter James Bacon)
Her seeming detachment and spaciness were also used to get through or around situations she couldn’t control in that “It was easier to withdraw into a dissociative dream world where she couldn’t be reached.”
Other unflattering traits attributed to her were in fact the natural human response to repeated experience. Her perceived paranoia and feelings of betrayal are not hard to fathom when reading of the demeaning and belittling behavior of some of Hollywood’s most powerful men, such as Darryl Zanuck, Billy Wilder, and Otto Preminger. Or worse, the man she loved. While in London, Arthur Miller left his journal open on a desk where she would be sure to see it.
“I’ve done it again. I thought I was marrying an angel, and I find I’ve married a whore.”
This is a well researched, updated account of Marilyn’s life. The only weakness is Banner’s tendency to repeatedly swerve into psychoanalysis. It takes away from the impact of the book, which is significant, as this is a comprehensive, readable account of Marilyn’s life with much previously unreleased material. Without Monroeherself and a trained team of modern-day therapists there will never be answers to the paradox of Marilyn.
“I saw if I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing, then I would have no idea what I was supposed to (have been) doing since I was born.” (Norma Jeane, age 7)