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About MARILYN:  The Passion and the Paradox

“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)

“Fifty years after her mysterious death, Marilyn Monroe remains an enigma.  Drawing on new interviews with friends of Monroe’s who have never talked to other biographers and on newly available archival material about Monroe’s childhood, her marriages, and her death, historian and gender theorist Banner elegantly and skillfully chronicles Monroe’s short life from her transient childhood in foster homes and hear early, unhappy marriage to Jim Dougherty to her rise to screen star and sex symbol and her unfortunate early death… In the end, Monroe’s life was so full of paradox passion, magic, and mystery that it has made her into a symbol of the American imagination that transcends time and place.”Publishers Weekly
“… this new biography brings the known facts up to date and offers a fresh, modern take on the tragic star’s life and choices… Although Banner occasionally plays psychoanalyst, it’s only in an effort to see her subject from every conceivable angle.  The author’s film criticism is insightful, particularly in showing how Monroe helped build (and would deliberately mock) her own public image… Surely not the last word, but a complete and honest effort and a good starting place.”Kirkus Reviews
“On the 50thanniversary of Norma Jean’s death, Lois Banner explores the paradoxes of Marilyn.”Vanity Fair
In the year that marks the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death comes a revelatory new biography by leading feminist historian Lois Banner, MARILYN: The Passion and the Paradox (Bloomsbury; Publication date: August 1, 2012; $30.00 hardcover).
Marilyn Monroe is an icon whose life and legacy continues to be shrouded in contradictions and inaccuracies.  As an academic who has been at the forefront of women’s issues for the last half decade, Banner spent nine years researching the intimate details of Monroe’s life, interviewing more than one hundred people in her inner circle and fan club, and examining confidential papers and ledgers in the final years of her life that previous biographers have failed to analyze.
Through this meticulous research, Banner refutes much of the mythology surrounding Monroe, offering a depth to her story that has never been fully told, and exposing new facets of her personality and facts surrounding her life—the childhood foster homes and sexual abuse, Hollywood persona, multiple marriages, Kennedy access, physical and mental health issues, sex and drug addictions, and chain of events leading up to her tragic death—in order to present an accurate depiction of this flawed, yet heroic figure.  Through her lens, we see a very different Marilyn Monroe—not merely a blond bombshell nor a fragile victim—but someone she reveals as a radical, an intellectual, someone with a deep interest in spirituality, and one of the most important women of the 20thcentury. 
Since Marilyn’s death on August 5, 1962, the appetite for information about her has been insatiable with recent depictions in the critically acclaimed film My Week with Marilynand the new television series Smash.  In MARILYN, Lois Banner takes Marilyn Monroe seriously and dignifies her as no biographer ever has, presenting a thoughtful treatment that Monroe fans and the new wave of feminists are sure to appreciate. 
Lois Banner was a founder of the field of women’s history and cofounder of the Berkshire Conference in Women’s History, themajor academic event in the field. She is the author of ten books, including her acclaimed American Beauty and most recently MM–Personal, which reproduces and discusses items from Marilyn’s personal archives. In addition to her books on Monroe, Banner is a major collector of her artifacts. She is also a professor of history and gender studies at USC and lives in Southern California.

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.