Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Gary Vitacco-Robles: Icon: The Life, Times, & Films of Marilyn Monroe, Vol 1–2 (books) continued

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe at the Tiffany Club, 1954. Waco News-Tribune, page 11, November 20, 1954. Published by the Waco News-Tribune, photo by United Press International. Copyright not renewed. Wikipedia.

Having read Volume Two of Gary Vitacco-Robles's remarkable biography on Marilyn Monroe I went on and devoured Volume One. I should be familiar with the material as my interest now dates back 40 years, but Vitacco-Robles manages to surprise me on each page. There is a lot of new detail, and from his meaningful interpretation a new portrait emerges. Vitacco-Robles's approach is sober, but his achievement is "A Passion of Marilyn Monroe". He has a sense of the epic in this story, and psychologically he seems to get deeper than anyone else. This book is a hard act to follow.

Certain earlier books have come near to what the real person Marilyn Monroe may have been like. Some of my favourites include the writings of W. J. Weatherby, Susan Strasberg, Truman Capote, and Norman Rosten. Interestingly, many of her photographers have written about her with insight. Even most of the books written under her lifetime have remained valid. The most important is her often harrowing autobiography My Story (as told to Ben Hecht). The early little books by Sidney Skolsky, Sam Shaw and Pete Martin now have period charm. And Maurice Zolotow did a fine job in the first major biography published while MM was alive.

There were many exciting encounters in MM's life. I learn more about them in Vitacco-Robles's book.


While MM was sharing an apartment with Shelley Winters they met the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas ("Under Milk Wood", "Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night", "And Death Shall Have No Dominion"; Bob Dylan adopted his name in homage to him) and invited him to dinner. Marilyn and Thomas seemed to hit it off, but because of Thomas's serious drinking problem Marilyn declined to continue the evening with the others.

Dean Martin, Leslie Caron, Marilyn Monroe, and Jerry Lewis at the Redbook award ceremony, 1953.


Every now and then MM crossed paths with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. In his autobiography (2005) Lewis regretted that they never made a film together. (But Monroe was under contract with Fox while Lewis worked for Paramount). "She had a delicious sense of humor, an ability not only to appreciate what was funny but to see the absurdity in things in general".

Marilyn Monroe in Korea, 1954.


MM consistently repeated that her happiest experience as a performer was the USO tour among American soldiers in Korea in 1954. This quote may be familiar but it's worth repeating: "I've always been frightened by an audience. My stomach pounds, my head gets dizzy and I'm sure my voice has left me. But standing in the snowfall facing these seventeen thousand yelling soldiers, I felt for the first time in my life no fear of anything. I felt only happy... I felt at home".


"I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt... she personally called the owner of Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him - and it was true, due to Marilyn's superstar status - that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman - a little ahead of her times and she didn't know it".

Marilyn Monroe and Constance Collier.


A famous quote worth repeating: "Oh yes, there is something there. She is a beautiful child. I don't mean that in the obvious way - the perhaps too obvious way. I don't think she's an actress at all, not in any traditional sense. What she has - this presence, this luminosity, this flickering intelligence - could never surface on the stage. It's so fragile and subtle, it can only be caught by the camera. It's like a hummingbird in flight: only a camera can freeze the poetry of it. But anyone who thinks this girl is simply another Harlow or harlot or whatever is mad" (as quoted by Truman Capote).

Joshua Logan and Marilyn Monroe.


"Marilyn is as near a genius as any actress I ever knew. She is an artist beyond artistry... She is the most completely realized and authentic film actress since Garbo. Monroe is pure cinema".

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