There are so many books available about Marilyn Monroe, that it is often a wonder why so many new ones get published. Biography after biography arrives, most of them rehashing the same old photos with the same kind of text. But occasionally, a new book on the film star comes along which has a refreshing perspective to offer. One such book is this – Marilyn Monroe Private and Undisclosed by Michelle Morgan.
Being a longtime fan herself and President of the British fan club – the Marilyn Lives Society – Michelle Morgan has the background knowledge of a devoted Marilyn fan, but has added a whole new level of research on the topic. In the quest to discover new aspects and details of Marilyn’s life, Morgan has contacted former boyfriends, co-stars and friends who knew the actress, many of whom have never shared their memories before.
This extra level of research has also led to the uncovering and subsequent publication of rare and unpublished photographs. There are over seventy of these in this book, giving us a new glimpse into the world of Norma Jeane and her later fame as Marilyn Monroe. We see her blossom from a cute toddler into a naturally beautiful teenager, then into a model and starlet. Then her hair changes from brunette to blonde and the photos show the glamour her fame brings, but also the personal sadness she faced.
Marilyn Monroe had a very difficult life from her absent mother and unknown father through her time in an orphanage and early marriage. Her stardom brought its own problems, including miscarriages and ill health, loneliness, depression and failed marriages to baseball player Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller.
Yet despite all these obstacles, she achieved much in her short life. She made around thirty films, including Some Like It Hot, All About Eve, The Seven Year Itch, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Bus Stop. She demonstrated she could sing and dance, as well as proving her acting ability in everything from comedy and musicals to melodrama and film noir.
So it is rather sad that so many just remember her as a ‘dumb blonde’ with a curvaceous body, when she was so much more. Michelle Morgan’s biography is a great place to read about the woman behind the image, as it is a wonderful resource for those with a passing interest and invaluable for those who know the basics, but would like to learn more.
Morgan’s book is revealing, but not in a publicity-hungry sensational way. Her extensive research enables her to show new sides of Marilyn’s life, but each point is backed up with quotations or reported evidence and anything that is speculation is mentioned as such. This gives the reader confidence in Morgan’s text and enables them to really get into the book and enjoy it.
Marilyn Monroe Private and Undisclosed is an impressive looking book too. A weighty hardback of over 300 pages, it has an impressive cover with one of the rare photos from her Norma Jeane days on the front and a childhood seaside snapshot on the back. Inside, there is a ribbon bookmark in hot pink (a simple idea, but extremely useful) and matching colour on the inside covers.
The book itself is split into four major sections – Spring (1926-1952), Summer (1952-1956), Autumn (1956-1960) and Winter (1960-1962). Each section includes chapters of text with small photos scattered throughout, followed by pages of larger photographs. It is a lovely book to browse through, with many photos that fans may linger over almost as long as the text, but readers should take the time to read it all, as everyone will learn something new from it.
The pages of sources used by Michelle Morgan are a fascinating read in themselves. Some of the people interviewed by Michelle for the book included Berniece Baker Miracle (Marilyn’s half-sister) and Jim Dougherty (Marilyn’s first husband), as well as various actors who knew her (including George Chakiris, Sir John Gielgud and Norman Wisdom) and many photographers (including Douglas Kirkland, William Carroll and Jack Cardiff).
Some of these have since died and others are elderly. (Marilyn herself would have been in her eighties, had she lived.) As the years go by, it will become harder to find people who knew her and whose memories are reliable. This biography might be the first and last of its kind. It certainly is one that all Marilyn’s fans need to own.
Marilyn Monroe Private and Undisclosed by Michelle Morgan is around $23 on Amazon.com.