It doesn't seem like Marilyn Monroe has been dead for 50 years.
Fact: In her 15 year career span, she appeared in 33 movies (including SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE which was never completed).
Her image, after those 15 years/ 33 movies, is still firmly emblazoned in everyone's mind. From Chanel ads, to Warhol prints and even on bottles of wine, there is Marilyn Monroe. Her image, her voice, the continuing speculation about her involvement with figures both political and in Hollywood, even the countless tales of her feckless behavior (accelerated in later years) cause everyone to immediately picture Marilyn Monroe. But who was she? As Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote once, "What kind of goddess has lived amongst us?" All this leads to a 50 year (and counting) question: Will we ever discover the true Marilyn?
Admirably, with intelligence and determination, author Lois Banner retraces the Monroe story. Her book, THE PASSION AND THE PARADOX, recounts the endless stream of facts, dates, names and incidents that have been duly recorded and retold these past 50 years. Her structure is good and Ms. Banner is quite capable to get deep into the myriad facts she is presenting without getting lost during the process.
It cannot be easy to tell the Monroe legend (for that is what Marilyn Monroe's story is now - a legend that seems appropriate to discuss late at night in the hopes it will be handed down to future generations). There is so much data there but, when you clinically look at it, you have to ask yourself: Is there really a need for this information?
Marilyn's scribbling, her statements, never before seen photos which seem to be cranked out by a conveyor belt are assaulting the public continuously - and so do books detailing each day, every step the woman took.
You read THE PASSION AND THE PARADOX and immediately sense that Lois Banner is a sharp woman filled with confidence both in herself and what she has to say. But somewhere along the way, when you are again reading murky details that are presented as relevant when they mean nothing (at least in trying to understand the childishly complex structuring that became Marilyn Monroe), you wonder what it all means and, more important, why is it relevant. Any life or set of circumstances that are viewed in minute detail and over-analyzed eventually will take on spectral meanings that have nothing to do with either reality or their original intent.
Kudos must be given to Ms. Banner for the comprehensive look she took at Ms. Monroe's life as well as an in-depth overview on how Marilyn Monroe shaped and redefined the fifties. But after the story ends, you not only have not learned anything new about the Monroe goddess but you haven't learned anything new period.
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