My Sister Marilyn

This is a great book. I really enjoyed reading it because it actually contained original material. Bernice recounts her memories and meetings with Norma Jeane/Marilyn which have not been in any other books. Twenty-one pages of photos are included and most of them are RARE. It includes personal letters written to Bernice and photos Norma Jeane sent her. I found this very touching.

We get to see where Marilyn came from and who her relatives were. Bernice's memories extend all the way to Marilyn's death because Bernice was called on to help arrange the funeral with Joe DiMaggio.

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Author Bernice Baker Miracle and Mona Rae Miracle
Publisher Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Cover Type Hardcover
Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Publish Date 1994
ISBN 1-56512-070-1
Signed No
Number of Pages 238


Remember when Louis Calhern whispers “Some sweet kid,” in reference to Angela in The Asphalt Jungle? That’s the core emotion Marilyn’s half-sister and niece bring to the reader once they have finished their joint effort, My Sister Marilyn. It shouldn’t have been the case but it took some thirty years after Marilyn Monroe’s death and the memories of the relative most didn’t even know existed, to remind the late actress’s millions of fans that beneath the ultra glamorous exterior lay, at heart, a simple kid who’d had the good fortune to be born with             good looks and the unwavering belief in herself. And that’s the message that shines through this small wonder – that under it all, Marilyn Monroe was one sweet kid. She’d somehow, against all the odds, not only fought back against the naysayers but set out to prove herself worthy of her lofty dreams and, along the way, lived a life that has since merged into legend and myth.

 Born on the wrong side of the tracks, shuttled from foster home to foster home, that sweet kid saw something in herself others had somehow overlooked. By the time she reached her all too soon end, she had become one of the 20th century’s most photographed figures, the symbol of an entire industry, recognized worldwide as the epitome of feminine guiles and served as the perfect antidote to her sexually and politically repressed era. Marilyn Monroe was a creation of the imagination and the box office but thanks to her sister and niece, the sweet kid behind the image is now as much a part of the Marilyn Monroe story as the nude calendar, a birthday serenade and forty years of speculation on her death.

 Even those of us who have found themselves somewhat obsessed with the life and career of a long ago movie star can lose track of the human behind the image. With a face and body such as Marilyn Monroe’s, with a handful of classic movies, with coffee tables overflowing with mammoth picture books, even the most stringent Monroe scholar can get lost in the image, forget that underneath all that luster was the ever-present kid looking on from the outside, the girl who, though wonderfully loveable, spent the majority of her life seeking a place where she felt loved and appreciated. Could be that had she simply stayed with the lot handed her, become a complacent housewife to a man who would become a member of the Los Angeles police force, she would have been happier. Or at least not quite so sad. But then she wouldn’t have been Marilyn Monroe.

 So the question becomes that of how one is to sift beneath the delectable exterior and learn more of just who this incredible creation truly was. One can turn to Jim Dougherty and read his memories of the young housewife of WWII. One can turn to Arthur Miller and read his memories of the ultimate movie star who slowly began to unravel. One can turn to the likes of Norman Mailer or Anthony Summers or Donald Wolfe and Donald Spotto and learn their take on this 20th century phenomenon, or any number of those who came upon Marilyn after the fact and although they never met the flesh and blood woman, did their research. But although sturdy research can pinpoint the timing of events and their repercussions, the result is still one at a remove. Berniece Baker Miracle and her daughter Mona Rae might not know the answers to how Marilyn reached her end, what sacrifices she may or may not have made to achieve her goal, they might not have witnessed the horrors of filming The Misfits first hand, but the scholarly details can be left to others. Berniece and Mona Rae bring something to the picture that no one else living can – the unforgettable picture of a young girl, shunted aside and stuck with the fuzzy end of the lollipop, the one who discovered her family and was dearly loved.

 It is those simple details, a visit with their mother here, a few scattered letters during the war, a sad trip to gather Marilyn’s belongings from the home she shared with her third husband, that make this book such a treasure. My Sister Marilyn was not a bestseller, it was not the basis for any documentaries seeking final answers and final truths. It is the somewhat wistful memories of the sister who survived, the one who came into the picture late in the game but saw it through to the end and watched later as the memory of her sister was trashed by those who had never met her and had turned to the retelling of her legend when the funds ran low. Those answers as to Marilyn’s final sexual liaisons, tales of death by enema or threatened press conferences can be left to those who never met the woman. But for those readers who would like an insider’s view on the girl who grew up to be the Ultimate Movie Star, a glimpse of the girl behind the image, you could do worse than Berniece’s memoir of her much more famous sister.

 The little details that Berniece is able to provide are a big bonus for anyone who wants to learn more about Marilyn the woman rather than the star. Such as how Marilyn reacted to Grace Goddard’s death, that there was no estrangement between the two – and that Grace was suffering from cancer when she ended her life. Or the little twinges of envy Marilyn seems to have felt about her sister’s more “normal” life. The result might be mundane to some, but for me it was the little details that hit me as so interesting, and so poignant.

 For those who may be suffering from “Marilyn Burnout” or find themselves losing track of the woman behind the beauty mark and flying skirt, My Sister Marilyn – A Memoir of Marilyn Monroe is the perfect answer. For it reminds us, or at least reminded me, of the sweet kid Louis Calhern spoke of fifty-six years ago. And for all the hoopla that surrounds Marilyn, the shadow of that sweet kid is a treasure perhaps even more important than the smiling icon who will last until the end of days.

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