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A REVIEW OF ‘MARILYN MONROE: PRIVATE AND UNDISCLOSED’ BY MICHELLE MORGAN

Posted on: September 9, 2012

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I’ve read many biographies of Marilyn over the years, and I have to say this is one of the best. Although clearly a fan of Ms Monroe, Morgan nevertheless takes an admirably balanced view of the star. It is not a hagiography, nor is it a hatchet job (such as Anthony Summers’ ‘Goddess’). It is a straightforward, linear re-telling of Marilyn’s life, which manages to straighten out confusions, and includes some details I’ve not come across before, such as that Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller didn’t limp to a bitter end during the filming of ‘The Prince And The Showgirl’, as has usually been told. During the following year, 1957, when Marilyn took a break from film-work, and retired to the country with Miller, the two were clearly happy. A state of affairs which came to a sad end when Marilyn suffered a miscarriage.

The book is particularly good when detailing Marilyn’s trip to England in 1956, and contains some delightful recollections of the star, such as her spontaneous visits to Brighton and Salisbury (where she had her first taste of fish-and-chips). Included are many memories from children whom Marilyn befriended here, and neighbours in the vicinity of her place at Englefield Green. Gerald Searle recalls seeing Marilyn and Arthur out cycling one evening, and recalls how happy they looked together.

Numerous amounts have been written about how difficult and diva-ish Marilyn could be on occasion, (a young British actress, Vera Day, charitably said of course she was difficult sometimes, she was so beautiful she had a right to be!), and the author doesn’t flinch from showing that. But at the same time, whilst not condoning her behaviour, it is easy to see where it came from, such as her deep disappointment and sadness over not being able to have children, and her fears about getting older.

She was also constantly frustrated at not being appreciated by the film industry. A feeling that lasted to the end of her life. She was treated shabbily by 20th Century Fox when filming ‘Something’s Got To Give’ in the last weeks of her life. Particularly so, given that she was their biggest female star. Even when someone bought a birthday cake for her, they were told it couldn’t be given to Marilyn until 5:30 PM, as they wanted to get a full day’s work out of her first. (I’ve worked in offices and factories, where colleagues have been better treated than that on their birthday!). Marilyn was certainly made a scapegoat for the huge extravagences being run up during the whole Elizabeth Taylor/’Cleopatra’ farce.

Marilyn has also been accused of bringing on the death of Clark Gable, her co-star in ‘The Misfits’. I think it was more telling that Gable, every bit the man’s man off-set as he was on, had insisted (against professional advice) on doing his own stunts in the film.

Marilyn’s faults were outweighed by her many kindnesses. She is frequently quoted as having been warm, funny and generous to people.

What the author doesn’t do is go into the all conspiracy theories and mysteries surrounding Marilyn’s premature death. There are already books aplenty doing that, and as Morgan says, she wanted to concentrate on Marilyn’s life, not her death. It’s a fine tribute to the lady.

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