Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress, Revised and Updated (Hollywood Legends Series)
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In American popular culture, Marilyn Monroe(1926-1962) has evolved in stature from movie superstar to American icon. Monroe’s own understanding of her place in the American imagination and her effort to perfect her talent as an actress are explored with great sensitivity in Carl Rollyson’s engaging narrative. He shows how movies became crucial events in the shaping of Monroe’s identity. He regards her enduring gifts as a creative artist, discussing how her smaller roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve established the context for her career, while in-depth chapters on her more important roles in Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot, and The Misfits provide the centerpiece of his examination of her life and career.
Through extensive interviews with many of Monroe’s colleagues, close friends, and other biographers, and a careful rethinking of the literature written about her, Rollyson is able to describe her use of Method acting and her studies with Michael Chekhov and Lee Strasberg, head of the Actors’ Studio in New York. The author also analyzes several of Monroe’s own drawings, diary notes, and letters that have recently become available. With over thirty black and white photographs (some published for the first time), a new foreword, and a new afterword, this volume brings Rollyson’s 1986 book up to date.
From this comprehensive, yet critically measured wealth of material, Rollyson offers a distinctive and insightful portrait of Marilyn Monroe, highlighted by new perspectives that depict the central importance of acting to the authentic aspects of her being.
hopefuls he met. Later, he expressed bafflement that he detected nothing at all in her manner that presaged her fame. Two reporters for Life and Look, Stanley Flink and Rupert Allan, witnessed other sides of Monroe that reflected a young woman making the transition from obscurity to stardom, a transition that inevitably provoked conflicting responses in the subject and in her observers. Flink’s memories of late 1949 or early 1950, when he first met Monroe, center on how she seemed to be caught
directed to a sense of selfworth, just as Monroe sometimes depended on the sensitive guidance of others for belief in her own strength. But while Pola’s salvation is accidental, Monroe sought and perceived ways of building a better self. Pola is passive; Monroe, who could retard her progress through inertia and timidity, was nevertheless dynamic and inventive in working out her own career. Part of Monroe’s problem was that many of her directors and the studios that hired them expected her to
that moment was suspended above ground and defined from nearly every conceivable angle. She was shot in profile, straight on, with her head titled backward, forward, or turned three-quarters of the way toward the camera. In one pose she is holding her dress, so that it fans out in front of her, revealing her panties, and fans out behind her, as she twists her neck in ecstasy. In another pose her whole body surges forward with one of her fingers seemingly shooting in the direction of the camera
of Monroe has her “too dumb and uncultured and obsessed with herself” to be able to cooperate with Olivier. Similar to Nunnally Johnson’s earlier characterization of her work in We’re Not Married, this criticism is nonetheless hard to credit in the main, given her alert preparations for Bus Stop and Hedda Rosten’s observation of Monroe working on The Prince and the Showgirl with great concern as to how her role fit into the entire production. Conflicting versions of her awareness and intelligence
feel—a perfectly reasonable reaction in a Method acting class, but terribly disruptive to movie set discipline. Jack Lemmon said her “built-in alarm system” would go off in the midst of a scene that was not working. She would come to an abrupt stop and “stand there with her eyes closed, biting her lip, and kind of wringing her hands. Eventually she would sort out the problems without considering the reaction of anyone else.” Lemmon watched in fascination, apparently adopting a view of Monroe’s