This is a stunning book. It is so much more than a book. I personally love looking at the box it comes in. It is an authentic recreation of the box Andre De Dienes kept all of his Marilyn film footage in. In addition to the huge "Marilyn" book that comes inside, there is a copy of the black "journal" Andres kept. Just a gorgeous collectible. Highly recommended. Superior quality.

Author Andre De Dienes and Steve Crist
Publisher Taschen
Cover Type Hardcover
Dimensions 22 x 17 inches
Publish Date 2002
ISBN 3822811998
Signed No
Number of Pages 500


Thanksgiving is just about here and you know full well what that means. As soon as they cart the turkey off to the kitchen, the Christmas commercials are going to hit and hit hard. So in the spirit of the true holiday, which at least in the U.S. means spending as much money as humanly possible, itís time we take a look at the mother of all MM gift books: Andre De Dienesí Marilyn.

 This is way more than a coffee table book. Truth be known, the book and the giant box it comes in could serve as a coffee table all by itself. Taschen, (the publisher who delights in creating these 42,000 page photo books such as 1001 Nudes and the All American Ads series), is the perfect choice for what De Dienes or his widow had in mind -- the biggest, thickest, most expensive book on Marilyn ever published. But what a treat the book is. The trick is to find somebody rich enough to buy it for you.

 What strikes one first about the book is the packaging. The book comes in a giant box fashioned to resemble an old Kodak film box with De Dienesí own scribbled notations on the outside. You sit for a few minutes admiring the bizarre lengths the publisher has gone to make you feel like you got your moneyís worth and then once you open the boxÖ you donít care how many trees died or how much it cost. This is a grown upís Christmas wish come true, something you can play with all day long and still whine when told itís time for bed. For inside that box is not just the book itself butÖ extras! First off thereís a terrific little magazine, (all on heavy glossy paper, of course), featuring many of the US and foreign magazine covers De Dienesí Marilyn appeared on. So after you spend twenty minutes leafing through that and making mental notations to check eBay for the original magazines, you find the next surprise.

 This is a wonderful 1940s era notebook with one of those great stretch cord bookmarks roped around it. The notebook is a reproduction of De Dienesí actual manuscript -- complete with obvious typewriter font and scribbled out corrections and notes in De Dienesí hand. And on nearly every page are reproductions of the many wonderful 1940s Norma Jeane photos De Dienes made his name on -- each with handwritten notations or proof sheet markings. It doesnít matter that the manuscript itself is so poorly written that it canít hold your interest or that the man writing these words comes across as a self-centered nitwit whose main goal seems to be getting into Norma Jeaneís pants. The notebook is just, well, cool. The heft of it, the weight of the paper, that wonderful cord that can be pulled over to hold your place-- itís a great little gimmick and since itís been created by Taschen, it is all done with a ìmoney is no objectî attitude.

 Ah, and then you get to the big book itself.

 Let me be honest here. Iíve mentioned before that I was not a great fan of either De Dienes or the many Norma Jeane  photos of the first-starting-out-in-modeling period. In fact I didnít buy my copy and had no intention of doing so. But a very good friend saw something new about Marilyn and figured it would make a perfect gift. That I didnít fully appreciate it was something I of course kept to myself. I smiled politely and oohed and ahhed and then once he left I put the entire thing in my closet, (it doesnít fit on a shelf), and closed the door. It wasnít until probably six or seven months later that I pulled it out so as to reach something in that closet and found myself six hours later realizing that I had spent the entire day drooling over the incredibly beautiful glossy pages.

 And thatís the thing. The book is of such high quality, the photographs reproduced with such care and precision, it doesnít matter what your former opinion of the photographer or the model. Andre De Dienes saw something there that I admit escaped me. This girl, so very, very young, (honestly -- in some of the pictures she could easily pass for fourteen), has a solid grasp of still photography, knows just how to tilt her head, move her arm, stretch a leg. The girl may be unknown and a far cry from the woman who would become Marilyn but she knew instinctively what she was born to do. The imperfections of the upper lip and the nose, (before Johnny Hyde and the minor surgical touch ups), are right there and you donít even notice. The translucence of the girlís skin, the beauty of those big clear eyes, that immense tangle of frizzy brown hair -- it all works together so that by the time you reach the middle pages, you canít get over just how incredibly beautiful she really is.

At times you catch a glimpse of what is to come -- thereís a hint of Marilyn down there under all that unruly brown hair, back inside those big blues eyes and that perfect skin. But hereís the other thing. By the time you turn that last page and realize youíve just spent an entire day looking at this wonderfully natural model, the what was to come stuff doesnít matter. The va-va-voom girl of the skin-tight clothes and the ìpillow whiteî hair doesnít even come into your thoughts. For like De Dienes himself, you have fallen hard for this fresh faced California girl.

 Thereís about five weeks of shopping time left. Start dropping hints now.

Note: The above was written either just after Thanksgiving in November 2005 or 2004. Needless to say, once I pulled the book out and gave it a good look, my opinion of De Dienesí skill as a photographer changed considerably. Today I think of him as an early stage Milton Greene. As to the price of the book, back then it was truly expensive. But now that it has been out for some time, you should be able to find it at a reasonable price through amazon, eBay or abesbooks.com. If memory serves, I think a smaller versaion was released as well.

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