Marilyn Among Friends

Sam Shaw took some of the most beautiful photos of Marilyn ever. This was a happy time in her life. The photos in this book span her marriage to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. The difference between this book and Shaw's other title "The Joy Of Marilyn" is the use of colour. Although, most of the photos in the book are black and white we get to see some awesome colour shots of Marilyn frolicking on the beach.

The text in the book is by Norman Rosten. You can tell Rosten was a poet by the way he writes. It is beautiful to read. You are left with a feeling that both of these men truly cared for Marilyn.

The memories they have of Marilyn really give us a glimpse of what she was like as a person. I especially love the story of her basset hound and how she would worry about him. This is one of my top 5 favourite Marilyn books because it is the perfect combination of photos and honest storytelling.

Author Sam Shaw and Norma Rosten
Publisher Bloomsbury
Cover Type Hardcover
Dimensions 10 x 10.5 inches
Publish Date 1987
ISBN 0747500126
Signed No
Number of Pages 192


The title of the book pretty well sums up its contents. This is not a book by a ìbest friendî that suddenly appeared after Marilynís death. It is not a book by a former maid who had a rough time communicating with Marilyn as she barely spoke English. Nor is it a book of compiled ìmemoriesî of ìbest friendsî and ìformer husbandsî taken as truth and passed off as such by a writer who had never met his subject. In fact, not many of the various authors who have published books on Marilyn can lay claim to the title of ìFriendî, something both Norman Rosten and Sam Shaw can do without any of their readers ever once wondering if this is just more hyperbole for a bookís promotion.

 Shaw met Marilyn on the set of ìViva Zapataî where he had come to take photos of the man who would become another friend of Marilynís, Marlon Brando, and Marilynís current romantic interest, director Elia Kazan. Within three years Shaw would take some of the most famous pictures ever taken of her, photos that would eventually achieve iconic status and symbolize the magic of Hollywood internationally, the simple photos of a giggling Marilyn holding down the skirt of her pleated white halter-dress. The film would be released on Marilynís 29th birthday, the same year Shaw would introduce Marilyn to another friend of his, poet Norman Rosten. Both men would become a solid part of Marilynís world and like all friends, would keep hold of that friendship through good times and bad, seeing her through divorce, bad press, worldwide acclaim and the quiet, late night phone calls when she would reach out to both for a moment of reassurance.

 I have to admit up front that ìMarilyn Among Friendsî has become one of my favorites. Foolishly, I put off buying it for far too long. It was only this last summer when I chanced upon it in a used bookstore that I finally read it. I would hope that none of you makes the same mistake as this, like Rostenís ìUntold Storyî, brings forward the Marilyn you felt was there, struggling to filter through the lyrical nonsense of Mailer, the reverence of Guiles and the salacious exposes of both Summers and Wolfe. Susan Strasbergís book comes close to explaining or at least allowing us to see the Marilyn we felt in our hearts was behind the ramblings of the various biographers but Rosten and Shaw are able to present this woman so clearly because they did not have the extra baggage of seeing her through the eyes of a shunted aside ìotherî daughter. In Shaw and Rostenís book, Marilyn stands free of both the over-done gushing of some and the downright nastiness of others who have tried to bring her to life through print.

 Rosten writes at the very end of the book that in ìthose years, people, friends, were closer. There was more meaning to friendship.î It may very well be true. I can remember parties my parents hosted in those years, summer backyard barbeques where my sister and I would watch with envy as my parents sat out on the lawn chairs laughing until theyíd choke, highballs and cigarettes in hand while the coals would cool and the summer twilight came on. I thought I would grow up to have friends like that, the ones my parents would refer to as ìcompanyî, as in ìbe on your best behavior as companyís comingî. Thatís not to say that I donít have friends, special individuals and couples who mean the world to me but I think Rosten is right. Shawís photo of Marilyn and Hedda, strolling hand in hand with Patricia Rosten and Edie Shaw brings that era startling  back to mind. It was a special time of closeness, where women met for mid-morning coffee klatches and the kids played in the yard, an era of confidences exchanged over coffee and cigarettes. An era and a brief period where even Marilyn Monroe could kick back and laugh with the girls and feel, for an even briefer period, that her life had reached an even keel balanced between new newfound creative freedom and the normality of friends, a loving husband and the exquisite banality of planning barbeques and weekend boating trips.

 The icing on the cake of course, are the many wonderful Shaw photographs presenting Marilyn during what was likely the happiest times of her life. That we have seen the majority of them lessens their worth not a bit. Itís all here: the candids from the set of Seven Year Itch, the SYI party hosted by Billy Wilder at Romanoffís, Marilyn shopping for Arthur, rowing a small boat in Central Park, and then that wonderful session with Mr. and Mrs. Miller on the grounds of their Connecticut farm which cumulated in the gentle picture of Marilyn as wood nymph hugging a tree presaging Roslynís nature dance in The Misfits. As much as I love collecting photos of Marilyn via the Internet, there is a completely different satisfaction in being able to hold those photos in your hands, to pour over them by turning a page rather than clicking with a mouse.

 The book takes us from Marilynís escape from Hollywood in what would be a seminal year for her, 1955, to Rostenís dimming memories of her death. The majority of that time span would be considered ìThe Miller Yearsî yet Joe DiMaggio makes more than one appearance. But the focus is on Marilyn, a woman unique not only in her talents and generous spirit but in her ability to linger on in the memories of friends for so many years. ìMarilyn Among Friendsî allows us into that tight circle of friends and provides the reader with a closer approximation of what she was ìreallyî like. Shaw and Rosten should know and by the end of this simple volume the reader feels as if they too had had the joy of spending an idyllic afternoon in her company.

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