Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed

My favourite biography - highly recommended.

Author Michelle Morgan
Publisher Carroll and Graf
Cover Type Hardcover
Dimensions 10.2 x 7.8
Publish Date August 2007
ISBN 978-0786719587
Signed No
Number of Pages 288


Every year more and more books and articles are written about the late Marilyn Monroe, a figure whose life, forty-five years after her death, continues to fascinate not only the American audience but an international fan base as well. Within the last year we have been treated to John Gilmoreís well-received memoir, Inside Marilyn Monroe, the not-so-well-received Marilyn, Joe and Me by June DiMaggio and the oddly enjoyable, if little known My Day With Marilyn, by John Alexander Baker. Yet I think it safe to say that no book in recent memory has been as eagerly anticipated than Michelle Morganís Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. A great deal of this anticipation has to do with the fact that we all know Michelle from the many Marilyn online groups as well as her United Kingdom fan club, the Marilyn Lives Society. The eagerness, in addition to pulling for ìone of our own,î was heightened by the friendly updates Michelle has provided the Marilyn Community ñ sharing her progress, her anticipation as she met with her agent and with her publisher, the privilege of viewing the various proposed covers, and, at last, the inevitable elation at the final product.

 But there was more to our excitement than simply seeing someone we know reach the shelves of our local book shops. After years of documentaries featuring Jeanne Carmen and Robert Slatzer, after sensationalized ìtell allsî by former maids and supposed former lovers, after tales of pizza tins and destroyed marriage licenses, there was a ray of hope in the upcoming Morgan book in that we knew that this one would be as close to the truth about this woman we admire than any tell all could capture. Now that the book is about to be released, Iím here to tell you that Michelle Morgan doesnít let us down. More importantly, she doesnít let Marilyn down.

 Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, first off, is more than just another telling of the now familiar tale. Think of three things you personally would hope for in a Marilyn biography. For me they would be:

  1. A class act. Iím looking for a quality package ñ high quality paper, rare photos reproduced in sharp detail, a book that uses something new for its cover instead of yet another photo of Marilyn with her skirt flying or looking sad if beautiful aíla Bert Stern.
  2. A book that not only treats its subject with the respect due her but written by someone who knows what they are talking about.
  3. Pictures ñ and not the same old ones we see with every biography but maybe some of the extremely rare ones that only those who belong to the online groups have seen before. Maybe, if possible, some even the online groups havenít seen before.

 Iím more than happy to announce that Michelleís newest book covers all three of my wishes. The physical book itself is well designed, quality binding, and comes with a ribbon bookmark yet. Not only that but the cover photograph is rare indeed and provides us with visual proof of why so many fell for the woman back when she first began her career. The second point is met by Michelleís painstaking research and her obvious devotion to the truth. While she presents Marilyn with human faults, the book neither gushes about Monroe as Goddess, nor does she sell her subject short with piled innuendos and out and out falsehoods. Reading Private and Undisclosed, it becomes obvious that Morgan realizes the fragility of her subject but also her strengths, the same strength that allowed a girl with little formal education and poor beginnings to strike out for dreams others may have scoffed at but she held dear to her heart. As for the pictures, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed could almost serve as another coffee table tome stuffed with high quality reproductions ñ only in this case they are nearly all pictures that we very rarely see or, even better, several photographs that have never been seen before.

 Organized into four sections, (the book uses small photos throughout the text but at the end of every section, many of these are reproduced in a much larger format ñ meaning the reader is treated to FOUR photo sections!), the book presents the story of Monroeís life not only as a glamorous pinup from another era, the sex symbol of a generation and the ultimate Hollywood star of the 20th century, but more importantly as a human being. Let me be honest. Iíve read many biographies detailing Monroeís life, seen the documentaries as well as her own film performances, but I can not recall the last time I read a book that was able to present Norma Jeane Baker/Marilyn Monroe as a real and breathing person. Private and Undisclosed does just that. So how does Morgan achieve this? By allowing those who knew Marilyn tell their story.

 And Iím not talking the obligatory quotes from Jane Russell, Jim Dougherty, Arthur Miller, or Ralph Roberts. Instead of simply reprinting quotes those who were famous or became famous to us due to their relationships with Marilyn, Morgan has sought out those rarely heard from, (such as Stanley Rubin and George Chakiris), as well as those who lived their lives outside of the limelight and have never been quoted before ñ those whose lives crossed paths with Monroe such as Bill Pursel, (the man who dated the very young starlet), Pat Brennan, (whose aunt, Blanch Maj, worked as a chambermaid at the hotel Marilyn stayed at during the filming of Niagara), or Lynn Pupello, (the teenage reporter who met Monroe during her 1961 Florida stay).

 By giving voice to those who hold treasured memories of Marilyn, those who have not been heard of before, Morgan displays two of her greatest strengths as a writer ñ dedication to solid research and a dogged determination to convince those hesitant to speak to share glimpses of the private Marilyn we would otherwise never have been allowed to experience. The result is a portrait of a tender and gentle woman who knew not only how to put others at ease with her down to earth accessibility, but one no matter what her personal demons, was able to laugh at lifeís often absurd twists and turns. Marilyn Monroe did not live an easy life but through Private and Undisclosed we are able to witness first hand that hers was not the doomed and tragic existence so many other biographies have presented. For once the reader is allowed to see Norma Jeane/Marilyn as an actual human beings who found joy in her encounters with others as well as despair at her own perceived inadequacies.

 In addition to wonderful rarely seen photos and interviews with people never heard from before, Morgan does Monroe fans another service by researching and correcting misconceptions. Just two examples would be to fill out the background on My Story and why it was not completed, and the truth about the funeral attendance for Grace Goddard. If these two examples were the only reason to purchase the book, Iíd still recommend it. But there are so many other reasons for you to find a copy as soon as you can.

 Although Donald Spotoís book may have been longer and certainly more detailed, although W.J. Weatherby may provide actual conversations with Marilyn, and although other books may take a closer look at Marilynís last day, Michelle Morgan has accomplished something very few have ever come close to doing before. She reminds us that once there was a kid from the wrong side of town who got hold of a dream and decided she had the stuff to make it to the top no matter what others might have said. She reminds us of the determination and perseverance of this young starlet, the woman so many had dismissed as a dim-witted beauty who actually was far ahead of her time and should be recognized as the true role model she was. Other books will explain that Marilyn was much more than pretty but for some reason Michelle Morgan has been able to get that simple fact across where others merely write the words without convincing their audience.

 For years I have always recommended those new to the Monroe tale to start their reading with Fred Lawrence Guilesí Norma Jean as that book, to me, presented the closest idea of the late actressís reality that I have been able to find. After reading Private and Undisclosed, Michelle Morganís newest book will be the starting point I will recommend to any wondering the age old question, ìWhat was Marilyn really like?î

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