Joyce Carol Oates, Billy Wilder, Bert Stern… Five works to surpass the myth of Marilyn Monroe


Died August 4, 1962 at the age of 36 in Los Angeles, Marilyn Monroe forever embodies the beauty of the 1950s and 1960s. On the occasion of the sixty years of his death, “La Matinale” offers five works that transcend the myth.

“Blonde”, by Joyce Carol Oates: an American tragedy


Originally, Joyce Carol Oates envisioned a long story of a hundred pages, the last words of which would have been “Marilyn Monroe”. The American novelist finally began to write a long book and let himself be captured by his subject to the point of offering. Blonde hair one of the largest books dedicated to an artist.

Marilyn Monroe’s childhood, where traumas accumulated, interested the writer. At home is the little girl who discovered cinema with her mother, the orphan whose mother was diagnosed as insane, the girl who changed her name to become an actress and the star who became an icon, with a price to pay . for this. As Joyce Carol Oates so well said, before Marilyn was baptized, the actress did not exist. The belief that Norma Jeane Mortenson, her original surname, is not a passport to existence – as the novelist writes, “Nothing is more dramatic than a ghost”.

In her relationship with a distant father, whom the actress idolizes, to the point of calling her husbands and lovers “father”, in the shameful treatment that the men suffered, in his association with President John Fitzgerald Kennedy who grabbed his neck, directed his head to his fly to relieve his urges and immediately left him, in a wasted life despite brilliant talent, Joyce Carol Oates draws an epic tale. Not just a Hollywood story – an adaptation by Andrew Dominik starring Ana de Armas will be released on Netflix on November 24 – but the story of an American tragedy.

“Blonde” by Joyce Carol Oates, translated from the American by Claude Seban, Le Livre de poche, €10.90.

“Some Like It Hot” by Billy Wilder: An Actress on the Run

This is apparently one of the peaks of Marilyn Monroe’s career, under the direction of a filmmaker, Billy Wilder, at the height of his talent.

Escape is the recurring motif of Some like it hot with cross-dressing at the heart of the scenario. Two jazz musicians, played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, must disguise themselves as women to join an orchestra of female musicians after witnessing a murder committed by a mob. In the female orchestra is Marilyn Monroe.

Billy Wilder perfectly combined the qualities of the actress, nor a great actress, although the hollow blonde was designated at that time. “Marilyn walks on two left feet”explained Wilder – a way to show that this woman is not like the others, to also emphasize that she excels at comedy.

It is clear when we see Some like it hot. In a film whose mainspring is dissimulation, he is the only one here who has nothing to hide, who never plays a joke. It is, however, the center of gravity. The reason is simple: Some like it hot was, so to speak, offered to him. He benefits from the main close-ups of the film, because he is the one the director wants to find.

Within this comedy, therefore, a documentary of the actress is sketched, based less on her sex appeal than on her great beauty. A happy Marilyn Monroe emerged there. Discovering him like this was part of the joy that audiences got in 1959, the year the film was released. Seeing Marilyn Monroe again today, in the light of what we know, with a star struggling against depression, makes us appreciate what we have lost: an actress who loved life.

“Some like it hot”, DVD and Blu-Ray, MGM/United Artists, rented from €2.99 at La Cinetek, Orange and Canal VOD.

“The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe”, by Emma Cooper: the actress and her loved ones

In the given and disappointing universe, the documentaries dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, the one available since April on Netflix more than most, with the merit of solving the conspiracies around the actress, especially the controversial situations surrounding his death. . The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: Untold Conversations adapted from Anthony Summers’ bestseller, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (Les Presses de la Renaissance, 1986), which details the links between the star and the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, as well as his brother, Robert Kennedy, Secretary of State for Justice.

Best of all, Anthony Summers kept an audio copy of the 650 interviews he conducted for this book. More than thirty years ago, the director Emma Cooper, faced with this material, said to herself that there is material here to make a documentary of it. Anthony Summers was able to interview filmmaker John Huston, author of Axes, – Marilyn Monroe, in which this is the last complete film, shares the poster with Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable -, Billy Wilder, family members of the star’s psychiatrist, Ralph Greenson. Or Eunice Murray, the assistant who discovered the body of the actress, on the night of August 4 to 5, 1962, died, according to the medical examiner’s diagnosis, of possible suicide.

These series of testimonies paint an intimate portrait of the actress, all the more convincing because these voices are part of her inner circle. The limitation is the method used in the documentary with actors in the role of relatives reciting a text, with a false realism that undermines the thesis of the film, that of a female victim of those man, cursed in a way, for not being able to choose the right people.

“The Marilyn Monroe Mystery: Untold Conversations”, by Emma Cooper, available on the Netflix platform.

“Norman Mailer. Bert Stern. Marilyn Monroe”: the goal of the model

Photo taken from the book

In 1962, Marilyn Monroe accepted a photo shoot for the magazine hip, directed by Bert Stern, and finally edited by Taschen, with text by novelist Norman Mailer. Bert Stern took 2,700 shots, spread over three sessions that took place over several days. This was the last shooting of the star, who died six weeks later.

The meeting, in a suite at the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles, will take place under the auspices of the party. During the first session, Bert Stern shared three bottles of Dom Pérignon 1953 with his model. Alcohol seals the trust between the two. The result was the actress’s saddest photo shoot and, in the end, the star’s biggest photo book.

Marilyn Monroe agreed to partially undress, fulfilling Bert Stern’s wish “photographing Marilyn in her pristine state”. The latter was one of the great portrait painters of his generation. Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, Marlon Brando, the couple Alain Delon-Romy Schneider, Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, passed in front of his lens.

Bert Stern was at the pinnacle of his art, and Marilyn with the total skill of her modeling profession. Far from freezing the tragic actress, Bert Stern showed her as a woman of sexual freedom in the 1960s, an icon of modernity and a symbol of a time in which she would no longer have the chance to live.

“Norman Mailer. Bert Stern. Marilyn Monroe”, Taschen, €80.

“Marilyn and Me”, by Lawrence Schiller: light and shadow

Photo taken from the book

Lawrence Schiller photographed Marilyn Monroe on the set of Something’s Gotta Give by George Cukor, the star’s last shoot – the film remained unfinished forever, due to his untimely death.

After reading the script, the photographer noticed that there was a scene in this comedy where the actress had to dive into the pool and pretend she wasn’t wearing a swimsuit. The scandalous part of this scene attracted his curiosity, not so much because of induced voyeurism, but because it allowed the photographer to find the truth of the actress. To expose him does not mean to undress him, but to see how he hides, what this legendary session reveals, in the end, a series of unforgettable photos.

This idea of ​​diving naked in the swimming pool, while the script was given for a swimsuit, came from Marilyn Monroe. His agent was against it. Lawrence Schiller then pointed out to the actress that if she was famous, she would make the photographer, with this shot, a famous person. “Larrythe icon replied, photographers are easily replaced. » She dived into the pool so quickly that the photographer was forced to prepare for his next photo: Marilyn at the edge of the pool, lowering her leg and arm to finally get out, and showing her face.

This shot has since gone viral, more because of the scandal it got than what this star is trying to hide here. The filming of Something’s Gotta Give happened in complete chaos. Marilyn Monroe, turned pale by the doctors, barely made it to the set. When he appeared, it was in a context unrelated to cinema, such as April 9, 1962, at a fundraiser for the Democratic Party, where he sang. “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the tenant of the White House. Lawrence Schiller didn’t get a star with the simplest camera, he got a shadow.

“Marilyn & Me”, by Lawrence Schiller, Taschen, €50.

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