Marilyn Monroe died 50 years ago on Aug. 5, 1962, at age 36. Timed to the anniversary of her death — ruled a probable suicide from acute barbiturate poisoning — are a host of books that celebrate and analyze the screen icon.
There have been numerous books written about Monroe in the years since her death, and the new batch doesn’t offer that much revelatory new information about the film star. But some offer interesting new takes on Monroe and illustrate how much her iconic image still captivates and confounds.
Here’s a look at some of the latest books:
• Marilyn: The Passion and the Parado” (Bloomsbury USA), by Lois Banner: The author, an academic and gender historian, makes the case in this comprehensive biography that Monroe was a proto-feminist, overcoming a difficult childhood to create a movie star persona, taking complete control of her media image and starting her own production company to fight against an unfair and sexist Hollywood system. It’s an interesting, methodically researched take on the star, and it delves into areas such as Marilyn’s stammer and her possible bisexuality at greater length than other biographies.
• Marilyn Monroe: The Final Years (St. Martin’s Press), by Keith Badman: This takes a meticulously detailed look at the year and a half leading up to Marilyn’s death. Badman adopts a breezy authoritative tone, but the narrative sometimes gets bogged down with unnecessary details, such as exact amounts on receipts and asides about what other biographers have gotten wrong.
• Marilyn in Fashion: The Enduring Influence of Marilyn Monroe (Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group), by Christopher Nickens and George Zeno: Putting the spotlight on the designers that decorated Marilyn’s famous figure, this is an intriguing look at the way Monroe controlled her self-image via fashion. It’s got full-color photos and is divided in sections by designers such as Oleg Cassini and Emilio Pucci. The book tells the rarely told stories behind iconic looks such as the white dress she wore over the subway grate in The Seven Year Itch and the sequined gown she wore to sing Happy Birthday to President John Kennedy.
• Marilyn: Intimate Exposures (Sterling Publishing), by Susan Bernard: Packed with pictures, outtakes and memorabilia from the author’s father, photographer Bruno Bernard, this book chronicles photos of Monroe in the 1940s and 1950s as she transforms from bubbly pin-up girl Norma Jeane to the glamorous movie star Marilyn, along with Bernard’s memories of the actress.
• Marilyn & Me: A Photographer’s Memories (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday), by Lawrence Schiller: Another memoir by a photographer, this slim volume recounts several photo shoots, including Marilyn’s last, when she filmed a nude scene in a pool for Something’s Got to Give. Monroe conceived the stunt to draw attention away from Elizabeth Taylor, who was filming Cleopatra, but Schiller used it as his big break, garnering exclusive rights to the photos and selling them to Life magazine to land the cover.