Discover the Marilyn behind the Myth: Two Iconic Monroe Biographies

Friday, May 31, 2013 by Iris

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius,

and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

—Marilyn Monroe


She is famous for singing happy birthday to a president, but let’s pause for a moment and remember Marilyn Monroe herself, who would be eighty-seven tomorrow.

For a woman whose image is preserved forever in the records of pop-culture history, Monroe has remained largely a mystery since her tragic death in 1962 at age thirty-six. We know she grew up as Norma Jean Baker and then used a bottle of peroxide to transform herself from an attractive brunette to a blonde bombshell. We know she had an acting career that encompassed both comedic roles as the “dumb blonde” and sexier roles in which she wiggled her way to cinema history. We know there were men. We know there were drugs. But just who was the real Marilyn Monroe?

In these two iconic biographies by Gloria Steinem and Anthony Summers, we get a glimpse at the woman behind the myth.


Marilyn, by Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem’s insightful and uniquely sensitive account of Hollywood’s brightest star from the Golden Age.


Few books have altered the perception of a celebrity as much as Marilyn. Gloria Steinem reveals that behind the familiar sex symbol was a tortured spirit with powerful charisma, intelligence, and complexity.

The book delves into a topic many other writers have ignored—that of Norma Jeane, the young girl who grew up with an unstable mother, constant shuffling between foster homes, and abuse. Steinem evocatively recreates that world, connecting it to the fragile adult persona of Marilyn Monroe. Her compelling text draws on a long, private interview Monroe gave to photographer George Barris, part of an intended joint project begun during Monroe’s last summer. Steinem’s Marilyn also includes Barris’s extraordinary portraits of Monroe, taken just weeks before the star’s death.


Goddess, by Anthony Summers

The definitive biography of one of America’s brightest stars.


Hers was a brief life that still fascinates the world. Marilyn Monroe was born in obscurity and deprivation, and rose to become a legend of her century, a great actress, and a lover of the most famous men in America—only to die young and under suspicious circumstances, leaving behind a mystery that remains unsolved to this day.

Anthony Summers interviewed more than six hundred people, laying bare the truths—sometimes funny, often sad—about this brilliant, troubled woman. The first to gain access to the files of Monroe’s last psychiatrist, Summers uses the documents to explain her tangled psyche and her dangerous addiction to medications. He establishes, after years of mere rumor, that President Kennedy and his brother Robert were both intimately involved with Monroe in life—and in covering up the circumstances of her death.

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