My Story.

by Marilyn Monroe

Review:  out of 10 
Context:
out of 10

Synopsis
     as provided on book:
Written at the height of her fame but not published until over a decade after her death, this autobiography of actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) poignantly recounts her childhood as an unwanted orphan, her early adolescence, her rise in the film industry from bit player to celebrity, and her marriage to Joe DiMaggio. In this intimate account of a very public life, she tells of her first (non-consensual) sexual experience, her romance with the Yankee Clipper, and her prescient vision of herself as "the kind of girl they found dead in the hall bedroom with an empty bottle of sleeping pills in her hand." The Marilyn in these pages is a revelation: a gifted, intelligent, vulnerable woman who was far more complex than the unwitting sex siren she played on screen. Lavishly illustrated with photos of Marilyn taken by the renowned photographer Milton H. Green, this special book celebrates the life and career of an American icon - from the unique perspective of the icon herself. Marilyn Monroe was a film actress whose seductive screen presence shot to stardom as a sex symbol. After she was mysteriously found dead of a drug overdose at the age of 36, the movie star became a beloved pop icon. Journalist novelist and Oscar-winning screenwriter of 'Underworld' Ben Hecht (1893-1964) assisted Marilyn in the creation of 'My Story'.
   
Review   
   There has been some question over the validity of this book as an 'autobiography'. I personally believe it to be a transcript of Marilyn's conversations, held with the intention of creating a book. Let's be realistic, most 'autobiographies' are written by writers who sit listening to (and taping) their subject talk about their lives. The fragmentary nature of 'My Story' is very 'Marilyn', indeed, such is the lack of chronological narrative that the text has to take the form of a series of anecdotes with headings such as 'On Men' and 'On Women'. It's more like Peter Falk's 'Just One More Thing'. I think this can be attributed to Monroe's refusal to acknowledge some aspects of her life coupled with her embellishment of tales of hardship.
    The book gains a couple of bunnies for the lovely photographs:

Marilyn

Marilyn was after all, an unforgettable image. So the combination of a collection of Marilyn's musings and gorgeous photos make this well worth a look with new copies available for around a tenner.

   
Context
     Just from a curiosity point of view this book scores a bunny. How did Monroe want the public to see her? It seems that sometimes she couldn't quite make up her mind. Determined to promote the image of perpetual victim, she also seems to want plaudits and respect for her intelligence and she doesn't quite seem able to pull off both at the same time. So, this book loses on its context score because it is self contradictory and hard to believe. A child who was only ever given a solitary gift of a manicure set in one tale of woe, suddenly has a dog who dies tragically in another tale. She also writes "The feuds are all started by someone whom I have mysteriously offended - always a woman" (P. 146) seemingly forgetting Laurence Olivier. Is there any doubt in anyone's mind about that feud? He couldn't even pose for publicity shots without showing his feelings:

Larry and Marilyn

But, according to this text - nothing is Marilyn's doing. I found the overall tone and choice of material for discussion quite revealing about Monroe. It still gets a solid 6 because it truly re-enforces the myriad of sources which suggest that the 'Monroe myth' was created by Marilyn herself and changed by the manipulative Monroe in order to achieve a desired effect.
    No family members other than the Mother by whom she was abandoned, is mentioned. We now know from James Dougherty, Berniece Miracle and primary sources uncovered by James Haspiel that Marilyn was not alone in the world. Clearly this was an attempt by Monroe to feed her public image. We must also bear in mind the date of origin (of the material) Greene fails to provide a date of creation or explain when Hecht wrote the text, this gives the impression that it must have happened towards the end of Marilyn life. This is not the case, the original contract is reproduced in 'MM Personal' and is clearly dated March 16th 1954, a time when Marilyn was carving out a career on her orphan stories, and was still trying to justify the appearance of the nude calendar which had first surfaced in 1952.

The Hecht contract

 What I do like is that they haven't used alternative sources to pad out the text. It is important to remember that by the first publication of the book both subject (Monroe) and writer (Hecht) were already deceased, so clarification of contradictions or expansion of subject matter just was not possible. Joshua Greene has included some lovely photos from his Father's collection to enhance the text and the text just finishes abruptly with the assertion 'This is where Marilyn's manuscript ended when she gave it to me'.

               

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