Marilyn: The Last Take

This was one of the very first Marilyn books I ever owned. I really enjoyed this book as it concentrates on Marilyn's last days and the filming of Something's Got to Give.

Author Peter Harry Brown and Patte B. Barham
Publisher Dutton
Cover Type Hardcover
Dimensions 6.25 x 9.5 inches
Publish Date 1992
ISBN 0-525-93485-5
Signed No
Number of Pages 452


Joe Pesci has a line in Oliver Stone’s “JFK” when attempting to explain what happened in Dallas. “Don’t you get it? It’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma.” The same opinion could be applied to Marilyn Monroe’s death. As complex and convoluted as she was in life, it would seem that once she had died the mystery only enhanced, grew deeper, branching off into new and uncharted territory until any sane person would get lost for trying to understand all the veiled threats and innuendos passing as truth.

 Actually the same could be said of most any aspect of Marilyn Monroe’s life. Pick up any biography and then cross reference it to another and you will find that nearly every event of her life is written up differently depending on the bent of the author. But if one were to read as many of the books as possible, digest the information by using common sense and logic and then always, always check the author’s sources and notes, I really do believe that one can come to ones own sense of Marilyn’s life and yes, even her death.

 When Brown and Barham’s “The Last Take” came out in 1992 it was following on the heels of the various Slatzer penned and influenced books that had so changed the way the public viewed Marilyn’s life in the mid to late 1980s. Anthony Summers’ “Goddess” had retrieved Robert Slatzer from obscurity, a feat even Tony Sciacca had been unable to do with his low budget “Who Killed Marilyn and Did the Kennedys Know?” or his articles for OUI magazine which were a basic rehash of everything contained in Slatzer’s own “The Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe.” But once Summers came into the picture, a British journalist with a strong reputation after his book on the Kennedy assassination and the murder of the Russian Czar and his family, it was as if the paranoid fears of Robert Slatzer had been sanctioned. When the ABC News program “20/20” refused to air its hour long piece on “Goddess”, rather than squelch the rumors of murder, the canceled episode seemed to announce to the public that not only was a conspiracy involved in Monroe’s death but that it continued to flourish to this very day.

 Sandwiched between Summers on one side and Donald Wolfe’s “The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe” on the other, we have “The Last Take” which takes a special position among the many “Marilyn was murdered” biographies. The twist is that this book was extremely well researched. Not so much on her last days or hours or even so much as to how she died, (unfortunately the same Slatzer-Carmen duo is at work on this area of the book), but for another unexplored area of her final months-- the filming of “Something’s Got To Give” and the back and forth trials and tribulations of 20th Century-Fox as it faced ruination at the hands of another major star, Elizabeth Taylor. It’s a scary and totally absorbing tale, one that will stay with you throughout your day and haunt you when you try to fall asleep.

 Brown and Barham have obviously done their homework and unlike many of the other authors, these two had unprecedented access to the 20th Century-Fox vaults. With the painstaking authority of a good forensic scientist the authors have been able to retrace the amazing tale of backstabbing, career ending, petty machinations of Big Business Meets Hollywood that served as the background to the production disaster that was “Something’s Got To Give”. From the first day of costume tests to the back and forth negotiations of Marilyn’s contract, from the intercession of Marilyn’s one time foe Daryl Zanuck to the way too weird interjection of Dr. Greenson onto the studio payroll, “The Last Take” allows the reader to stand by the roadside and watch the train wreck of Marilyn’s last film as if in slow motion.  

Just how far would a studio go to recoup its losses? How much money was “Cleopatra” racing through? Who gave the go ahead to stop Marilyn but give Taylor a free hand and more importantly, why? On a more ominous note, the authors also provide us with yet another reason for having Monroe murdered-- and it has nothing at all to with anyone whose last name starts with a K. If a star is heavily insured by her studio and if that studio is losing money faster than it can keep treading the water inching up over its head, would it be possible to have said star murdered and thus save the Studio from going under?

 Here’s my suggestion-- read everything you can get your hands on. Compare and contrast. Check the sources, use logic, work out a timeline and come to your own conclusions. Or better yet, grab a copy of “The Last Take” and concentrate on the making of and the unmaking of “Something’s Got To Give” and leave the who-she-was-sleeping-with and who-wanted-her-dead stuff alone. As I say, the parts of the book on the behind the scenes fiasco of “Something’s Got To Give” are priceless. The rest… I agree with Mr. Pesci.

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