MM-Personal: A New Book on Marilyn Monroe

Coming soon: MM Personal, by Lois Banner PhD and celebrity photographer Mark Anderson.

This book consists of photos of Marilyn Monroe’s personal files and documents, all of which come from her personal filing cabinets – The filing cabinets everyone knew existed but were nowhere to be found. MM-Personal is available now for pre-order on here.

I had the incredible and amazing opportunity to see Marilyn’s personal archives in person on two separate occasions in Los Angeles before ownership of the cabinets and their contents was transferred to Marilyn’s estate. (There is much actual speculation as to how the cabinets came to be in the possession of Inez Melson, Monroe’s business manager, yet they eventually came to be owned by Mil Conroy, nephew to Melson. Ultimately, the cabinets and all contents were turned over to the Strasbergs.)

Other items pictured in the book, aside from personal documents, are furs, jewels, purses, and other effects, yet there is serious doubt in my mind that these items actually did belong to Marilyn. Note that it is clarified in the book that it’s not known 100% if these items were in fact owned by Marilyn.

As a point of reference, these cabinets and their contents were the subject of a lengthy expose written by Sam Kashner for Vanity Fair in October of 2008: The Things She Left Behind.

Inspite of the inclusion of personal items that may or may not have actually been owned by Marilyn, believe you me, if you’re a true Marilyn Monroe fan you’ll be salivating over the array of documents, receipts, and personal communications showcased in this book. The photographs, taken by Anderson, are in fact spectacular.

Liz Smith wrote about MM Personal in her column today:

Marilyn — Still Alive in the 21st Century!

“NOW, ON Castro. You see, I was brought up to believe in democracy, and then when the Cubans finally threw out Battista with so much bloodshed, the United States doesn’t stand behind them or give them help or support even to develop democracy! I can understand John Daly on an American national broadcast making fun of Castro for having appeared at one of his country’s national functions in a tuxedo. But the New York Times’ responsibility to keep its readers informed — means in an unbiased way. I don’t know, somehow I have always counted on the Times, and not entirely because you’re there.”

That is a part of a long letter to senior New York Times editor Lester Markel, dated March 29, 1960. The writer? Miss Marilyn Monroe.

(Actually, I personally think the Times went all out to support Castro’s ascension via their reporter T.S. Matthews who is credited by conservatives as having “accomplished” Castro’s rise to power. The Right has always blamed The Times.) But “never mind” if Marilyn had it wrong — she was probably swept up by the romanticism of a revolutionary who said he was “for the people.” She proves that she cared about what was happening in the world.

THIS letter (in which MM also ruminates on campaign slogans for the coming presidential race) appears in a new (yet another!) book on Marilyn, the star who simply cannot die. This one is titled MM-Personal: From the Private Archive of Marilyn Monroe by Lois Banner, photograhs by Mark Anderson.

Unlike last year’s Fragments, which consisted solely of Marilyn’s notes, poems, jottings, recipes, etc., MM Personal — while it also has letters from the star — is mainly correspondence to Monroe. From friends and professional colleagues — including harried notes and telegrams from publicists frantic to put a stop to the unhappy publicity surrounding Marilyn’s behavior on the set of “Some Like It Hot.” These strategic plans are overshadowed by Monroe’s miscarriage, which is referred to. (There is even talk of suing Time magazine.)

Among the affectionate missives is this telegram from the great Broadway and movie choreographer Jack Cole: “The universe sparkles with miracles, but none among them shines like you. Remember that when you go to sleep.” The book, a luscious glossy thing, is studded with photos, many of them Monroe’s personal items — including artwork she purchased just before her death.

There’s a great deal of minutiae that only the most devoted MM fans will appreciate –check stubs and such. But the overall vibe of the book is wrenching, because it clarifies Monroe’s humanity, her working life, her normal day-to-day existence. She didn’t lurch around every single moment in a drug-induced coma. She had a vital — if troubled —existence. She wrote to her stepchildren by Arthur Miller (in the voice of the family dog, Hugo) and she wrote to Isadore Miller, even after she had divorced his son, Arthur.

This note to Miller, dated February 12, 1962, contains a significant paragraph: “Last night I attended a dinner in honor of the Attorney General, Robert Kennedy. He seems rather mature and brilliant for his 36 years, but what I liked best about him, besides his Civil Rights program, is he’s got such a wonderful sense of humor.”

***MMC Interesting Reference Note: I own the letter that Miller wrote to Marilyn in response to this February 12, 1962 correspondence. The letter Miller wrote to Marilyn is dated February 22, 1962. View both of these letters on my website here.

However it ended up, that controversial relationship began as most of Marilyn’s relationships with men began — appreciation of the mind, and a fine regard for laughter. Six months after writing this, Monroe was dead. But, not really.

Others were more beautiful, more talented, had far more illustrious careers. But even in her lifetime, there was sense that she was a little different than the usual “sex symbol.” Certainly, her struggles to raise herself up in the world were there for all to see. Death enshrined her, and books continue to analyze and reveal the woman who, according to her last press rep, Pat Newcomb “never told everything to anyone.” Monroe herself said, weeks before her death, “Fame will go by, and so what? I’ve had you, fame. It’s something I’ve experienced, but that’s not where I live.”

She couldn’t know that Fame is exactly where she’d live, forever.

You got that right, Liz!