“By dint of exhaustive research and uniquely informed analysis, distinguished and trailblazing feminist historian Banner has written a profoundly redefining bombshell biography of artist and icon Marilyn Monroe. Banner is the first to bring a scholar’s perspective to bear on the influence of postwar misogyny and sexual hypocrisy on Monroe’s life and work as she painstakingly chronicles Monroe’s shunting from one foster home to another, her sexual abuse and subsequent stutter, evangelical upbringing, daring foray into modeling, and epic battle for Hollywood success… A passion for precision and truth fuels Banner’s electrifying portrait of an artist caught in a maze of paradoxes and betrayals. Here is Marilyn as we’ve never seen her before.”—Booklist (starred review)
Fascinating Facts Revealed in MARILYN: The Passion and the Paradox By Lois Banner
One of the few female biographers of Marilyn Monroe, Lois Banner has written MARILYN to illuminate a new Marilyn, one who struggled with many female ailments and attempted throughout her life to combine a career with marriage. Banner believes that Marilyn was one of the great female figures of the twentieth century and that her life should stand as a beacon to women of the modern age. According to Banner, Marilyn Monroe was much more than a sexy “dumb blonde.”
She also reveals:
- Marilyn was a smart and complex woman of many parts. As a model, film star, business woman, and feminist, she was a genius at attracting and manipulating people to her own ends.
- Banner reveals the complex parenting of Marilyn, named Norma Jeane Mortenson on her birth certificate, when Gladys Baker, her mother, was actually married to Edmond Mortensen and Marilyn’s father was probably Stanley Gifford, a supervisor at the Hollywood editing firm where Gladys worked.
- When Gladys was committed to a mental institution as a paranoid schizophrenic, Grace Goddard, her best friend, became Marilyn’s guardian, placing her in a total of eleven foster homes between the ages of eight and sixteen. In her book, Banner reveals the definitive number for the first time, as well as the names of the foster families, their geographic locations, and treatment of Marilyn.
- Monroe endured three major episodes of sexual abuse as a child, resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder and a classic personality split that she carried into her adult life—what experts now call “dissociative disorder.” In her book, Banner narrows down the most likely sexual offenders, including Ida Bolender, George Atkinson, and Ervin Goddard.
- The conflicting splits in Marilyn’s adult persona were both major and minor. She had a Faustian ambition, yet no self-confidence. She projected a childlike innocence, while she was also an exhibitionist who suffered from sex addiction.
- Marilyn married her first husband, Jim Dougherty, an employee at Lockheed at the age of sixteen and was quite the domestic—she loved to cook and clean house until she was discovered by photographer David Conover while working on a WWII aircraft assembly line. Soon after, she defied Dougherty to pursue a modeling career.
- Rumors of the Hollywood casting couch were true in Marilyn’s case—she admitted to sleeping with photographers to land competitive modeling jobs and later served as a “party girl,” sleeping with film executives and producers to advance her acting career.
- Marilyn’s second husband, baseball great Joe DiMaggio, detested her sexy image and public sexual displays, while her third husband, Arthur Miller, was converted to her rebellious sexual views and regarded her as in the vanguard of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, until he broke with her over The Misfits.
- Marilyn had a deep and ongoing interest in spirituality, which began with her upbringing in evangelical Christianity and then in Christian Science, and continued throughout her life in her attraction to mystical approaches like Rudolph Steiner’s Anthroposophy. Without her Christian Science background, Norma Jeane wouldn’t have had the nerve to try for stardom.
- Despite her sex symbol image, Marilyn’s sexual history was as complicated as her life. She suffered from endometriosis, which may have made sexual penetration painful for her, and actually had a number of lesbian relationships. No previous biographer has addressed Marilyn’s bisexuality in depth as Banner has.
- The famous Seven Year Itch photo of the wind blowing Marilyn’s white skirt over a subway grate was actually a well orchestrated publicity stunt—one of the greatest in film history—including barricades, police, Klieg lights, photographers, and 1,500 male spectators.
- Although she was often perceived as a sex object, Marilyn was, in many ways, a progressive thinker, given her influence on fashion, her anti-racist attitudes, her deep and ongoing intellectualism, and her radical politics throughout her career.
- Marilyn’s most feminist act was admitting the sexual abuse she suffered at a time when this was rarely discussed and, when it was, the girls who were victimized were often blamed.
- Contrary to standard beliefs about Marilyn, Banner proves that she had a host of close friends, a dynamic energy that fueled her workaholic habits, and was undermined by dictatorial film directors who didn’t respect her, or realize that she suffered from stuttering throughout her life.
- Banner analyzes her films, her major photographs, and discusses her position as the major photographic model of her age, giving new emphasis to undervalued portions of her life and career.
- Banner proves that Marilyn was involved with the Kennedys for many years and that she fought back when they decided to drop her.
- While most biographers have credited others for crafting Marilyn’s success, Banner proves that she did it mostly on her own. With a brilliant intellect and a willingness to take risks, Marilyn battled the Hollywood establishment and triumphed over it in the end.