The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli

This recent biography of an American icon is the first biography of Marilyn Monroe that I ever read.  Although I, like almost everyone else, knew a lot about her, I was interested in filling in the gaps in my knowledge.  The truth about Marilyn is hard to find, since publicity campaigns did not always tell the truth about her, and Marilyn herself tended to distort the truth.

The author emphasizes Marilyn’s relationship with her mentally ill mother, Marilyn’s troubled family background, and Marilyn’s own struggles with mental illness.  When Marilyn was growing up, there were adults who loved her, but for various reasons, no one could give her the permanence and stability that she needed.  A happier story is Marilyn’s friendship with her half-sister, whom she finally met when she was a young woman.

Most people know about Marilyn’s marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller.  While I recalled that Marilyn had an earlier marriage during her teen years, I had never known that this was basically an arranged marriage to give her an alternative to staying in an orphanage.

The author reveals the identity of the man whom Marilyn’s mother claimed was Marilyn’s father; neither he nor his son acknowledged her as part of their family.

Marilyn’s close friendship with Pat Kennedy Lawford, which explained her relationship with John and Bobby Kennedy, was new to me.  Pat considered Marilyn to be highly intelligent and able to hold her own in conversations with brilliant people, even though Marilyn was insecure about her intelligence.

There are various theories about the reasons for Marilyn’s death, and Taraborrelli gives his ideas on this topic.

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe includes photographs which have never been published, the most complete filmography available, and voluminous research.  If you’ve read previous biographies, you may wish to read this one for additional information and new perspectives.  If you never have read one, you’ll probably find Marilyn’s life story fascinating.

Taraborrelli is a New York Times best-selling author who has written biographies of Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, Carol Burnett, Michael Jackson and Grace Kelly, as well as a book about Jackie, Ethel, and Joan Kennedy.

(Helen Snow, Information Services)

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