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Marilyn Monroe: The Biography

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Spoto's biography of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe makes use of over 150 interviews and more than 35,000 pages of previously sealed files, including Monroe's diaries, letters, and other personal and revealing documents. The book reveals new details of every aspect of her life, from her guarded childhood, and her relationships with men and marriages, to her mysterious death Spoto's biography of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe makes use of over 150 interviews and more than 35,000 pages of previously sealed files, including Monroe's diaries, letters, and other personal and revealing documents. The book reveals new details of every aspect of her life, from her guarded childhood, and her relationships with men and marriages, to her mysterious death. Spoto comments on previous books about Marilyn, and puts to rest questions regarding Monroe's connection with the Kennedys.


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Spoto's biography of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe makes use of over 150 interviews and more than 35,000 pages of previously sealed files, including Monroe's diaries, letters, and other personal and revealing documents. The book reveals new details of every aspect of her life, from her guarded childhood, and her relationships with men and marriages, to her mysterious death Spoto's biography of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe makes use of over 150 interviews and more than 35,000 pages of previously sealed files, including Monroe's diaries, letters, and other personal and revealing documents. The book reveals new details of every aspect of her life, from her guarded childhood, and her relationships with men and marriages, to her mysterious death. Spoto comments on previous books about Marilyn, and puts to rest questions regarding Monroe's connection with the Kennedys.

30 review for Marilyn Monroe: The Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    Published in 1993, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography by Donald Spoto is considered by many to be among the best of the hundreds of books about the enigmatic 20th century actress, model and sex symbol born Norma Jeane Baker in 1926 in Los Angeles and who upon dying there thirty-six years later, left many unanswered questions. I've read only two other books--My Story by Marilyn Monroe, with contributions by Sidney Skolsky, Ben Hecht and Milton Greene, or Marilyn Monroe by Barbara Leaming--about the star to use as a metric, but thbooks--My Published in 1993, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography by Donald Spoto is considered by many to be among the best of the hundreds of books about the enigmatic 20th century actress, model and sex symbol born Norma Jeane Baker in 1926 in Los Angeles and who upon dying there thirty-six years later, left many unanswered questions. I've read only two other books--My Story by Marilyn Monroe, with contributions by Sidney Skolsky, Ben Hecht and Milton Greene, or Marilyn Monroe by Barbara Leaming--about the star to use as a metric, but this is an excellent biography. I started it shortly after the date of her birth and it took me over a month to finish, shortly before what would be the anniversary of the day she died. Spoto, who'd written books on Alfred Hitchcock and went on to biographies on James Dean, Audrey Hepburn and other icons, uses 150 interviews and 35,000 pages of previously sealed files, including diary entries and letters, to give a sourced, thorough, and accurate account of both Norma Jeane and her world famous character Marilyn. I took copious notes and learned a great deal about the life of the actress. Spoto drops the mic with a remarkable epilogue that discredits each hoax or false story generated about Monroe's death, citing who made the claim and how they benefited. I had always assumed the official story: Monroe died of an accidental drug overdose during a period of depression. Drawing on interviews with LAPD officers, pathologists and witnesses, Spoto makes the case that Monroe could not have administered the drug cocktail that killed her, but her psychiatrist Ralph Greenson and housekeeper Eunice Murray, who Greenson had hired to control his own patient, did, in a case of grievous medical malpractice. My favorite paragraph is found in the "1953" chapter, which covers the production of How To Marry A Millionaire, starring Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall. Despite Marilyn's idiosyncrasies, even Lauren Bacall, no cheerful martyr to the tardiness of fellow players, had to admit there was "no meanness to her--no bitchery. I liked her. She said that what she really wanted was to be in San Francisco with Joe DiMaggio in some spaghetti joint." Marilyn also endeared herself to Betty Grable, who had been passed over for the role of Lorelei Lee. When Grable's daughter was hurt while horseback riding, Marilyn telephoned frequently, offering help and comfort--"and she was the only person to call," according to Grable. ("Honey," she said warmly to Marilyn one day during production, "I've had mine--now go get yours.")

  2. 5 out of 5

    A.H.

    After reading that many Monroe fans thought this was the best biography available, I decided to take a look. What moved me to read this was probably nothing more than an interest built up on the fascination I've always had for Marilyn's public persona and the sadness that was always apparent to all. This book is certainly well-researched and thorough, and I appreciate that very much. Yes, there was a lot of detail on people who were not Marilyn, but it felt necessary and useful, to me. Not a lot After reading that many Monroe fans thought this was the best biography available, I decided to take a look. What moved me to read this was probably nothing more than an interest built up on the fascination I've always had for Marilyn's public persona and the sadness that was always apparent to all. This book is certainly well-researched and thorough, and I appreciate that very much. Yes, there was a lot of detail on people who were not Marilyn, but it felt necessary and useful, to me. Not a lot got left out, even though the author decided to focus more on the second half of her career, and several chapters are dedicated to the days right before and after her death. Spoto makes his position on the Kennedy and mob rumours very clear, and presents the evidence to support it - this was particularly interesting and instructional to me. After learning so much of her experiences before and during her fame, Marilyn Monroe became to me a nearly caricatural symbol of the sexist mentality she was in at the time, and which affected her so deeply that it became part of who she was. Most things she did - from sleeping with anybody who asked and had a minimal role in her life or career, to being taught that her body was her only worthwhile quality, to actually prostituting herself for food at one point - were a result of this. Her seeming innocence of everything only evidenced the obliviousness of such a position. To me, the fact that she never got to express any sort of art significantly made it all seem even more pitiful. Overall, even though Spoto's writing attempts to put the appropriate distance between the author and the book's subject, the account never becomes cold, and the most touching aspects of Marilyn's life never lose their poignancy. And despite everything, I found myself rooting for her happiness and getting more depressed knowing how it would doubtlessly end. Despite everything, she was a lovely, lovely human being. I'm no biography fan; I only read those about people I'm truly interested in. This is a heavy, thorough account of Marilyn's life, and while it was worth it, to me, I can see why some people might find it boring or unnecessarily long. For them, though, I suggest Wikipedia, or Marilyn Monroe fansites.

  3. 4 out of 5

    J.V. Seem

    Yes, it's true, I am a total Marilyn Monroe fangirl. I have, however, sometimes had a difficult time explaining why, exactly, she's such a role model for me as an actress. As an actress, she was constantly underrestimated and type cast as the simple, blond bombshell, and she was terribly insecure about herself, her talent, art and appearance. And perhaps it's simply that, that I can identify with her. I too, am in constant terror when I act, wishing for the approval, not so much of the Yes, it's true, I am a total Marilyn Monroe fangirl. I have, however, sometimes had a difficult time explaining why, exactly, she's such a role model for me as an actress. As an actress, she was constantly underrestimated and type cast as the simple, blond bombshell, and she was terribly insecure about herself, her talent, art and appearance. And perhaps it's simply that, that I can identify with her. I too, am in constant terror when I act, wishing for the approval, not so much of the audience, but from directors and co-actors, for the approval of my work. I'm very insecure, and so are some other actors I've worked with. One of those who have the hardest time actually get anxiety attacks on stage and black out, and he says "why do we insist on doing this to ourselves?". And yes, sometimes I too forget why exactly, but we tarry on nonetheless, until we eventually hit a good spot that refreshes our memory. And I too, am type cast. I have a history of playing mean, angry, frustrated or strict women like Mrs. Sowerberry in "Oliver!" and Varya in "The Cherry Orchard". ...when do I get to play the bombshell? I have a dream part coming up this autumn in Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann's "Urinetown", which is not my usual type of girl, and I just know I want to expand my reportoire and do my best to get it, to show everyone I can do something other than mean lady. I might, of course, be cast as Ms. Pennywise, who *is* a mean lady, and who it also would be delightful to play, but still, it would be nice playing something new. And somehow I think it's Marilyn's struggle to prove herself, to be better, to grow, is what's so inspiring about her. This is a wonderful biography. And one that's deeply needed. A lot of the things written about Marilyn is often very badly researched, and you'd be surprised at how many books are complete fabrications. So many myths have been invented over the years, so many unfounded rumours cooked up, that they distract from the truth, which is astonishing and wonderful in itself. Such money-making schemes are simply unnessecary and distracting. This work, is free of all that imaginary sensation, and is instead very well researched and wonderfully written in a most engaging manner. It takes focus away from Marilyn the myth, and back to Marilyn the human being, which is so often forgotten. It sees her as she really is, not a goddess, but a woman, with weaknesses, struggles and an amazing, yet unfulfilled talent. I absolutely adored this book. It has to be the best work on her ever written, and it further inspired me, through her story, to be the best actress I can be.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I have never been an avid Monroe fangirl, but I admire a lot of her work. The movie Niagara, from which the cover image is taken, left a very memorable impression on me as a child, and was the first film of hers that I've seen. Some Like It Hot counts second of the top three in my all time favourites list (The Princess Bride holding eternally the #1 spot, and The Atonement closing the list at #3). After watching My Week With Marilyn a few months ago, I realised that, while I know these films by heart, I don't really know much abou(The I have never been an avid Monroe fangirl, but I admire a lot of her work. The movie Niagara, from which the cover image is taken, left a very memorable impression on me as a child, and was the first film of hers that I've seen. Some Like It Hot counts second of the top three in my all time favourites list (The Princess Bride holding eternally the #1 spot, and The Atonement closing the list at #3). After watching My Week With Marilyn a few months ago, I realised that, while I know these films by heart, I don't really know much about the actress herself. Naturally I turned to Goodreads to find a good biography to fill gaps in my knowledge. Marilyn Monroe was a cultural icon shrouded in myth and otherworldly allure. It is no wonder that the majority of her biographers fall victim to sensationalism, hysteria, and twisting of facts in favour of strange conspiracy theories. When I took upon myself to find the most reliable narrative of the late actress's life, Donald Spoto's monumental work crossed my path showcasing numerous recommendations. Indeed, this is the most unbiased biography of Marilyn's life I've seen yet. It doesn't indulge in unnecessary flourishes, instead relying on hard facts and documents from the estate. It never crosses into gossipy territory, which would immediately turn me off from reading it further. No, I finished this 700+ pager in one breathless sitting, and I feel like I really got to know Norma Jean for who she was. I was so very sad to turn the last page. This biography tells of Marilyn's unstable childhood, her relationship with her own sexuality, her battle with the movie studio tycoons, and her three tragic marriages. It also addresses and debunks the persistent Kennedy/Monroe rumours, and offers the most logical sequence of events that led to her untimely death. If you want to read one book on Marilyn, let it be this one.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shelbi

    Lately, I have been quite torn in the books I have read. Donald Spoto is a wonderful biographer and quite thorough - I am quite excited to read even more from him. He paints a fascinating picture of this enigmatic woman, whom I (and most of society, really) am inexplicably entranced with. However, the more I read about her, the less interested I was in her. At the end of the day, she is just like any other celebrity - beautiful and selfish, with a lot of issues known and unknown to the public. I Lately, I have been quite torn in the books I have read. Donald Spoto is a wonderful biographer and quite thorough - I am quite excited to read even more from him. He paints a fascinating picture of this enigmatic woman, whom I (and most of society, really) am inexplicably entranced with. However, the more I read about her, the less interested I was in her. At the end of the day, she is just like any other celebrity - beautiful and selfish, with a lot of issues known and unknown to the public. I got about halfway through, but I decided to put it down for good, today. I feel there are better books on my list that are more worth my time. At more than 700 pages, this behemoth is way more than I want to be reading about someone unless it is Christ. Moral: wonderful author, not so wonderful subject. She is not someone I would want to emulate, although the allure she has held 50 years after her death is quite remarkable.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This book was so interesting to me. I'm a fan of Marilyn, of course, so alot of the stuff in this book really surprised me because I had never heard any of it before. This man, Spoto, who wrote it, researched her life heavily in order to get all the facts for himself and his writing style was, I found, very engaging. I've read through lots of other books about Marilyn but this one was without a doubt the very best one I've ever come across. I would warn any more sensitive readers that there are This book was so interesting to me. I'm a fan of Marilyn, of course, so alot of the stuff in this book really surprised me because I had never heard any of it before. This man, Spoto, who wrote it, researched her life heavily in order to get all the facts for himself and his writing style was, I found, very engaging. I've read through lots of other books about Marilyn but this one was without a doubt the very best one I've ever come across. I would warn any more sensitive readers that there are some references to things that she did that are a bit disturbing and/or (quite frankly) gross. Her life was full of scandal and drama and it's all in this book so I wouldn't recommend it to very young readers or people who are sensitive to the black and white truth that the author sets out on the table. But if you are a Marilyn fan, I would highly recommend this book. You really feel like you are able to get to know her as she really was.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nada

    She told us more than once, ‘Hollywood will never forgive me—not for leaving, not for fighting the system—but for winning, which I'm going to do.’ -Susan Strasberg What makes this solid biography the best choice to learn more about Marilyn Monroe is that it doesn't only tell the story of Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe, it also tells the story of those around her as well (starting from her grandparents, parents, relatives, husbands/boyfriends, friends, foes, associates, doctors, among many others). It detai She told us more than once, ‘Hollywood will never forgive me—not for leaving, not for fighting the system—but for winning, which I'm going to do.’ -Susan Strasberg What makes this solid biography the best choice to learn more about Marilyn Monroe is that it doesn't only tell the story of Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe, it also tells the story of those around her as well (starting from her grandparents, parents, relatives, husbands/boyfriends, friends, foes, associates, doctors, among many others). It details her family line history which led to the abandonment she had to go through. As a person who did not know about Marilyn more than what was told in the news; I found almost everything in the book to be new important piece of information. Especially as I stated above that Mr. Spoto enlightens the reader about those around her which paints a clearer picture of who she really was and what happened. Mr. Spoto debunks all the myths that surrounded Marilyn's life and death with real facts and receipts. He doesn't treat MM as an object; he seeks to humanize her and reveal her inner self with a deep and a better understanding of the woman beyond the myths and falsehoods. "A sex symbol becomes a thing, and I hate to be a thing. You're always running people's unconscious. It's nice to be included in people's fantasies, but you also like to be accepted for your own sake. I don't look on myself as a commodity, but I'm sure a lot of people have, including one corporation in particular which shall be nameless. If I'm sounding 'picked on,' I think I have been." -Marilyn Monroe "I want to be an artist and an actress with integrity. As I said once before, I don't care about the money. I just want to be wonderful." -Marilyn Monroe Unlike most authors that wrote books on Marilyn he doesn't speculate, he knows what he's talking about. I can't imagine the hard work he went through to write such comprehensive biography. I admit that the first 200 pages are quite slow and almost dull -bulked up with details- but quickly the pace gets more intriguing with every page. The most important element of this biography is the comprehensive telling of how Marilyn was killed by her doctor and assistance. That was truly shocking to read. He focuses on the real murderers; the psychiatrist (Greenson) & the housekeeper (Murray) and how they covered up their crime. Mr. Spoto didn't speculate on who was behind them, however, he gave full description of how they did it. Excellent and lengthy account. The composition of events before, during and after her death is remarkable. I was blown away with all the important information that was written and provided with legit proofs. "I always felt that she had become an investment to people like him---an investment not only financially, in caring for her, but even in the fabrication of her illness. It had become a need for him and others that she be considered sick, dependent and needy. There was something sinister about Ralph Greenson. It was well known that he exerted enormous influence over her." "Susan Strasberg agreed: his [Ralph Greenson] close involvement with Marilyn was an open secret no one really discussed." Mr. Spoto included a bonus chapter to debunk the bogus theory that she was killed by Bobby Kennedy and he provides the alibis. I always believed that he did not kill her because there was no logical reason of why he or his brother would want such a thing--Marilyn was not obsessed with John Kennedy as the media likes to portray and mislead us. All in all, this is certainly the best biography ever written on Marilyn Monroe/Norma Jeane. I believe that Marilyn been misrepresented and we all are misinformed regarding her but Mr. Spoto does a remarkable job in portraying her true self, no fabrications and no sensationalism. There are many psychological hypotheses and many more insight into Hollywood's dysfunctional system. If you wish to study the life of this immortal goddess from the very beginning to the very tragic end; this is the best definitive biography to read. "An impressive reminder of the tough, triumphalist Norma Jeane...for once she has a biographer worthy of her." -Julie Burchill Highly recommended to understand the real woman, not the myth.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    A biography of astonishing depth. Reading this book cements my place as a fan-not of Marilyn Monroe the sex symbol, but of the woman, the 'little girl lost', who achieved so much as an actress despite a crippling insecurity, low self esteem, and little self worth. It is a shame that her abilities as an actress were not recognised or fully appreciated until after her death. From a personal perspective, I recognised certain aspects of her behaviour and character traits from my time as a foster car A biography of astonishing depth. Reading this book cements my place as a fan-not of Marilyn Monroe the sex symbol, but of the woman, the 'little girl lost', who achieved so much as an actress despite a crippling insecurity, low self esteem, and little self worth. It is a shame that her abilities as an actress were not recognised or fully appreciated until after her death. From a personal perspective, I recognised certain aspects of her behaviour and character traits from my time as a foster carer. This book is a comprehensive study of her life, while debunking the usual murder plot as is normally trotted out, it does nevertheless hold people culpable, convincingly, for the death of the actress, and we are left with a definable sense of sadness at the end. Sadness at the end of the life of a woman who needed to rely upon, became dependent on, and ultimately was failed by, others. A great read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jason Bergman

    A solid biography of a complicated person. Spoto does an admirable job at dispelling many of the myths associated with Marilyn (some of which, to be fair, were created by the subject herself). While ultimately you're taking Spoto's word over others, his research appears to be thorough, so when he says there's absolutely no way Marilyn ever had an affair with Bobby Kennedy, I tend to believe him. As for his reconstruction of the events surrounding Marilyn's death, again, I think his research is s A solid biography of a complicated person. Spoto does an admirable job at dispelling many of the myths associated with Marilyn (some of which, to be fair, were created by the subject herself). While ultimately you're taking Spoto's word over others, his research appears to be thorough, so when he says there's absolutely no way Marilyn ever had an affair with Bobby Kennedy, I tend to believe him. As for his reconstruction of the events surrounding Marilyn's death, again, I think his research is sound, but we'll never know for sure. He also includes an afterword where he goes and systematically disproves all the other theories that are out there. Seems to check out for me. In any event, Marilyn Monroe was a complex person. She led a strange and sad life. Which makes for a pretty entertaining read. If you're going to read a biography of Marilyn Monroe, it should probably be this one.

  10. 5 out of 5

    julianne

    An in depth biography of an intriguing woman, enjoyable to read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Inessa

    probably the most popular and most read biography of marilyn, but not the best

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nisha-Anne

    This is a pretty difficult book to review which is why I've put it off so long. I've read enough biographies to know I have to be careful which one I pick up and to make sure it's properly researched and respected. I read way too many wildly speculative biographies of James Dean before I came upon Donald Spoto's Rebel and finally could sigh some relief that here was one that properly acknowledged the lacunae and didn't just make shit up to fill in the gaps. So I came to this, fully se This is a pretty difficult book to review which is why I've put it off so long. I've read enough biographies to know I have to be careful which one I pick up and to make sure it's properly researched and respected. I read way too many wildly speculative biographies of James Dean before I came upon Donald Spoto's Rebel and finally could sigh some relief that here was one that properly acknowledged the lacunae and didn't just make shit up to fill in the gaps. So I came to this, fully secure that Spoto would tell me the truth about Norma Jeane and Marilyn and tell me what he couldn't find out. It's true, this is a fairly dry book. It's nowhere as easy to read as John Coldstream's authorised biography of Dirk Bogarde or the marvellous effortlessness of Patricia Bosworth's biography of Montgomery Clift. It's true, Spoto does repeat himself a bit within a few pages and he does go into potted synopses of each major player in Marilyn's life. The latter bit I didn't mind so much, it was good enough to know the info was there if I wanted to go back and check. What really took me aback, as I updated, was the sexual willingness of Norma Jeane. Spoto explains it in terms of a woman fully comfortable with her sex appeal and her body, explains how she was raised by a woman who knew just how to work that aspect, explains how Marilyn Monroe was so very much a product of a childhood lived on the fringe of Hollywood, ever aspiring to the silver screen, ever modelling herself on those images. A combination of nature and nurture, definitely. He rationalises it well. And I suppose it's my own sense of morality and ethics that recoils from that sort of availability. The fact that she made love to the camera of her own preternatural affinity and then as an extension of that, made love to the photographer. That's how Spoto explains it. The fact that she had a long affair with her agent even though there was apparently very little love on her part. The fact that she slept with at least one producer. I rationalise it to myself as well, perhaps those were the days, maybe that was the difference since the 30s when Kate Hepburn was trying to make it big. As far as I know, Hepburn never slept with anyone to further her career and I will probably do blue murder to anyone who suggests it. It's something that deeply appalls me, the idea of relying on something other than your craft to make it big. And maybe I shouldn't believe Spoto when he says with cited interviews and such that she did? I'm not certain now. What astounded me and more in terms of the Marilyn fans I know online is the calm assertion that she did occasionally solicit on the boulevard in those very early days in Hollywood. The staunch MM fandom online, of which I will count myself, will have you believe Marilyn never hooked. Spoto perhaps makes a bit of apology for that, and later backs himself up by telling us how Marilyn spun the possible scandal to her benefit like she did with explaining the nude pictures away as poverty. Me, I was covering my eyes, imagining the furious reaction from fans online who haven't yet read this biography. But there's a great deal of love and compassion in this book, a great deal of care taken to portray Marilyn in all her flaws and virtues, explain the psychological motivation behind both. What I really loved was the analysis of her image and her symbolism in that era of Fifties morality and in context of the Kinsey study being published. I was quite fascinated too by how intuitively clever she was about working the press to her advantage and yet keeping her charitable works away from the public eye. Spoto's unequivocal about who he believes was responsible for her death. In fact, that last bit makes for utterly gripping reading and it was only later I realised it was all theory. Quite plausible theory, yes, and compellingly put. But still theory. What chilled me to the core was seeing the terrible dependency on medication unfurl. How it's been repeated so many times through Hollywood history and still never loses its horror. To know it's still happening and we're still losing talents to it. I read this book, believing completely in its truth, trusting Spoto to the nth detail. And then weirdly enough, the week after I finished it, I came down the stairs in my apartment building and found somebody had left a biography of Laurence Olivier in the foyer. And it was by Spoto. Naturally I grabbed it up with much excitement and hurtled to the bus stop off to work. By the time I got to the office, I had discovered that apparently Spoto had totally made up stuff in that biography and that even Joan Plowright had denounced him not so directly. So now I'm doubting his Marilyn biography. Damn it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    An incredibly informed, exhaustive, and compassionate biography of one of the most fascinating icons of all time. I've always been a bit of Marilyn-sympathizer, but this biography, I think, really reminded me what it is about not only her films but her life (and the myths that surround it) that has always captured my interest. And because of all the historical context Spoto locates her life within--most notably, the analysis of the so-termed "Golden Age" of Hollywood (not so golden, really)--I b An incredibly informed, exhaustive, and compassionate biography of one of the most fascinating icons of all time. I've always been a bit of Marilyn-sympathizer, but this biography, I think, really reminded me what it is about not only her films but her life (and the myths that surround it) that has always captured my interest. And because of all the historical context Spoto locates her life within--most notably, the analysis of the so-termed "Golden Age" of Hollywood (not so golden, really)--I became even more intrigued by the culture and period in which Marilyn rose to fame...and particularly the ways in which she continues to remain so instantly recognizable, debated, and adored almost half a century following her death. I think Spoto is admirably objective in his style, though of course biographies are never really "unbiased." I think he offers the events, recounts varied perspectives on those events, and leaves the reader to formulate their own opinion of what "really" happened. He certainly does have a lot of sympathy for Monroe, but I don't think that in any way "taints" his presentation in the biography. And I imagine it's difficult to remain entirely heartless in discussing a figure so revered and reviled, so culturally present, and so vigorously imagined--besides all that, her story (whatever you think of her) is truly tragic. I was perhaps most surprised in Spoto's discussion of the events leading up to, during, and immediately following her death. He's not sensationalist in the least, and I had always believed the myth that her life was spiraling out of control at the time she died. In fact, as Spoto points out, she was making big changes and finally attempting to claim some sort of independence--she was getting rid of her overbearing therapist (Ralph Greenson) and had already fired the prying housemaid (Eunice Murray--incidentally, the night Marilyn died was to be Murray's last day of work for her!). She had future plans for reconciliation with Joe Dimaggio, was working out plans for finishing the (now eternally unfinished) film Something's Got to Give, in addition to planning a few new projects, including a possible biopic of her idol, Jean Harlow. Though of course I suppose we'll never know, Spoto seems to really dispel the theory that Marilyn Monroe intentionally committed suicide that fateful night. Indeed, his theory on her death (an accidental overdose due to an enema administered by Murray, under orders of Greenson) is perhaps the most plausible one yet put forth about what happened that night. He also goes out of his way to illuminate MM's relationships with both Kennedy brothers in an intelligent manner. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I got a little emotional as I came to the end--I think I kept expecting the outcome to be different. But of course it wasn't. However, this biography comes highly recommended--absolutely an intelligent, thoroughly researched, provocative, and intriguing read. Perhaps the best I've encountered regarding the woman who defines an era.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kaylie Caswell

    Beginning with Norma Jean Baker's grandparents and traveling down the family line in an ongoing story of failed marriages and child abandonment, Spoto's biography not only tells the story of Marilyn Monroe's life but also the lives of those around her, including relatives, close friends, all three of the late movie star's husbands, and the neglectful doctors who contributed to her later health issues and possible even death with their bad advice. The book uses historical data, interviews with th Beginning with Norma Jean Baker's grandparents and traveling down the family line in an ongoing story of failed marriages and child abandonment, Spoto's biography not only tells the story of Marilyn Monroe's life but also the lives of those around her, including relatives, close friends, all three of the late movie star's husbands, and the neglectful doctors who contributed to her later health issues and possible even death with their bad advice. The book uses historical data, interviews with those who know Marilyn during her life, letters from the star herself and even a few snippets of her poetry to tell the sometimes glamorous and often tragic story of Marilyn Monroe's life. I always appreciate a biographer who is able to look beyond his or her impressions of a subject in order to tell the full story of another human's life, and I feel Spoto did an excellent job of this in his biography of Marilyn Monroe. Drawing from her early life, which was spent largely in foster homes and an orphan home, Spoto paints the image of a deeply insecure woman, and often a naive one at that, yet a woman who was also charitable, a kind friend, and someone who never quit striving to improve at her craft. I appreciated that there was little speculation about Marilyn's death as there can often be surrounding the mysterious deaths of celebrities. Instead, Spoto used an accumulation of facts and interviews from a variety of sources to piece together what is known definitively about her death and what is myth. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the end section of the book, where Spoto included stories taken from several different memoirs, movies, and stories surrounding Marilyn Monroe's death and debunked the myth, separating it from what can be taken as truth.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jacqui

    I've always had some respect for Spoto as a biographer of the film community but this is very ponderously written. He is quite good on MM having no sense of herself because she was always playing MM and was surrounded by those who discouraged her from developing her own self, but that is little excuse for the subject being so absent from her own biography. If his thesis that Robert Slatzer and Jeanne Carmen did not actually know MM, let alone were her friends - that is good research. Spoto I've always had some respect for Spoto as a biographer of the film community but this is very ponderously written. He is quite good on MM having no sense of herself because she was always playing MM and was surrounded by those who discouraged her from developing her own self, but that is little excuse for the subject being so absent from her own biography. If his thesis that Robert Slatzer and Jeanne Carmen did not actually know MM, let alone were her friends - that is good research. Spoto is obviously trying to separate MM from the Kennedys - and he may be right, but I would have thought that the allegation that Dr Greenson killed MM with a nembutal enema administered by housekeeper Mrs Murray must be actionable. And the claim of a re-marriage to Joe D planned for the Wednesday after her death is surely shaky. Spoto did make me think about the respective influences of Natasha Lytess and Paula Strasberg and he is right that her style was much more naturalistic under Strasberg.

  16. 5 out of 5

    ~¿?carly¿?~

    I liked Marilyn Monroe before i read this book, now I love her and and hate her. I respect her but I dont. She was ambitious and insecure, truthfully blunt yet dishonest. Unlike most people these days that go around quoting Monroe without even knowing anything about her...i've actually seen a few of her films, Some Like It Hot, and Gentleman Prefer Blondes. i never did watch The Misfits, hearing that it wasnt very good. Now because of this book, i want to see how diasterous it really was. The bo I liked Marilyn Monroe before i read this book, now I love her and and hate her. I respect her but I dont. She was ambitious and insecure, truthfully blunt yet dishonest. Unlike most people these days that go around quoting Monroe without even knowing anything about her...i've actually seen a few of her films, Some Like It Hot, and Gentleman Prefer Blondes. i never did watch The Misfits, hearing that it wasnt very good. Now because of this book, i want to see how diasterous it really was. The book is full of details...to the extent of boring details. But Its supposedly the most accurate account of Monroes life. I actually cried when i got to the part about how she died, and what really happened. And Joe DeMaggio, staying with her even while she was gone, Her make-up artist doing her face One Last Time...beautiful.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Heidi Garrett

    I wanted to read a "real" biography about Marilyn Monroe after reading Joyce Carol Oate's . The Spoto biography seemed solid. (There are so may biographies about Marilyn to choose from, but there seems to be a consensus that the one by Spoto is one of the more reliable ones.) Some of the read was a bit of a trudge, but Marilyn was definitely an interesting personality, and when you think that she died at 36, she accomplished an amazing amount in her short time on the planet. Her story has left I wanted to read a "real" biography about Marilyn Monroe after reading Joyce Carol Oate's . The Spoto biography seemed solid. (There are so may biographies about Marilyn to choose from, but there seems to be a consensus that the one by Spoto is one of the more reliable ones.) Some of the read was a bit of a trudge, but Marilyn was definitely an interesting personality, and when you think that she died at 36, she accomplished an amazing amount in her short time on the planet. Her story has left me with much to think about, as in many ways it is a story about being a woman, and how women define themselves and create their lives.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Believe me when I say that I have read LOTS of books on Marilyn Monroe and so it is with this knowledge that I say, if one is going to read a book about MM this one tends to stick to documented facts, interviews with MM's closest friends and co workers, receipts and recorded dates and does not rely on crazy conspiracy theories. However, those do get a mention but only in the Afterword and are mentioned so the reader knows HOW these conspiracy theories came to life. Overall, great book. Grea Believe me when I say that I have read LOTS of books on Marilyn Monroe and so it is with this knowledge that I say, if one is going to read a book about MM this one tends to stick to documented facts, interviews with MM's closest friends and co workers, receipts and recorded dates and does not rely on crazy conspiracy theories. However, those do get a mention but only in the Afterword and are mentioned so the reader knows HOW these conspiracy theories came to life. Overall, great book. Great facts. Great read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy Ray

    Not the best book on Marilyn! Sad to think we will never know what really happened to Marilyn Monroe that fateful evening. Each author has their own scenario. I think the Kennedy's were more involved than this author admits to. Whatever the truth is and knowing we will probably never know the whole truth Marilyn's tale remains a sad and sorrowful one.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Skye

    Can't believe I went through this thick book so quickly. It was amazing to read about the legendary Marilyn Monroe- other than being known for the famous white dress windy day shots, I didn't know much about her! It's such a tragedy though, that she died this way. More thoughts later.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Raya

    very in depth book that explores Monroe's career from the age of 16 to her death. Lots of interviews and theories.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Summer

    One of my favorite Marilyn Monroe biographies. Very detailed with stories that were unknown to me before. I always enjoy rereading this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    Good bio. Very detailed. Learned some new things about Monroe.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    This is one of the best-written biographies I've ever read. The book begins with a very interesting study of her family history and ends up by exploring the events after her death and discussing any possible theory relating to her eventual murder. The thing I respect the most is that Donald Spoto does't have any personal feelings involved while telling us the story. Instead, he strictly stick to the facts without paying attention to gossips and unconfirmed rumors. I have always liked Marily This is one of the best-written biographies I've ever read. The book begins with a very interesting study of her family history and ends up by exploring the events after her death and discussing any possible theory relating to her eventual murder. The thing I respect the most is that Donald Spoto does't have any personal feelings involved while telling us the story. Instead, he strictly stick to the facts without paying attention to gossips and unconfirmed rumors. I have always liked Marilyn Monroe not only as a sex symbol but also as a good actress. She can turn even the most stupid scenario to decent movie and that's why I was really surprised to learn how insecure she was in her acting skills and in herself as a person. I was extremely angry by reading how badly she was treated by the studio and her co-workers. She has been underestimated through her whole life and often had been accused to be unprofessional, dump and lousy actress. Even her closest people have taken advantage of her weakness by spending her money and use her fame to improve themselves. The last few chapters of this book sounds to me like Agatha Christie's mystery novel but unfortunately in this case the crime remains unsolved. It's really sad how weak and how dependent she was of her psycho doctor and his magic pills. I think in the end her loneliness truly had killed her. I guess she was too good, too sensitive and too trustworthy for living in this messed up word. I want to end my review with a quote of Marilyn which made me understand her and respect her even more: I think that when you are famous every weakness is exaggerated. This industry should behave like a mother whose child has just run out in front of a car. But instead of clasping the child to them, they start punishing the child. Like you don't dare get a cold. How dare you get a cold! I mean, the executives can get colds and stay home forever and phone it in, but how dare you, the actor, get a cold or a virus. You know, no one feels worse than the one who's sick. I sometimes wish, gee, I wish they had to act a comedy with a temperature and a virus infection. I am not an actress who appears at a studio just for the purpose of discipline. This doesn't have anything at all to do with art. I myself would like to become more disciplined within my work. But I'm there to give a performance and not to be disciplined by a studio! After all, I'm not in a military school. This is supposed to be an art form, not just a manufacturing establishment. The sensitivity that helps me to act, you see, also makes me react. An actor is supposed to be a sensitive instrument. Isaac Stern takes good care of his violin. What if everybody jumped on his violin? You know a lot of people have, oh gee, real quirky problems that they wouldn't dare have anyone know. But one of my problems happens to show: I'm late. I guess people think that why I'm late is some kind of arrogance and I think it is the opposite of arrogance. I also feel that I'm not in this big American rush, you know, you got to go and you got to go fast but for no good reason. The main thing is, I want to be prepared when I get there to give a good performance or whatever to the best of my ability. A lot of people can be there on time and do nothing, which I have seen them do, and you know, all sit around sort of chit chatting and talking trivia about their social life. Gable said about me, "When she's there, she's there. All of her is there! She's there to work."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Meryem Raitab

    Donald Spoto has successfully told the unforgettable stories of Marilyn Monroe. This novel has told of her adventures, her childhood, as well as a detailed explanation of the rising of her fame. Marilyn Monroe was a Hollywood icon, which Donald Spoto was able to illustrate using primary sources such as her Diaries, letters as well as other personal writings. From this novel, one understands Monroe had a pretty rough start. Marilyn was sequenced to foster homes, in which she was almost smothered Donald Spoto has successfully told the unforgettable stories of Marilyn Monroe. This novel has told of her adventures, her childhood, as well as a detailed explanation of the rising of her fame. Marilyn Monroe was a Hollywood icon, which Donald Spoto was able to illustrate using primary sources such as her Diaries, letters as well as other personal writings. From this novel, one understands Monroe had a pretty rough start. Marilyn was sequenced to foster homes, in which she was almost smothered to death at age two, and almost rapped at age 6. Next, when she was sixteen Marilyn married her foster father, who went to the military, while she was starting to integrate the modeling business. As a result of each one’s new and busy occupations the two divorce in 1946. After several years of listening and learning new music, Marilyn was also launched to becoming a new singing star. Later on, she married and divorced Joe DiMaggio. Later on Marilyn fell to alcohol, drugs, as well as a miscarriage and surgery. Donald was able to give a very detailed and helpful timeline of Monroe’s disturbing childhood, and her rising fame. Donald was able to tell and reveal secrets, such as the reason she gets married to powerful people repeatedly, (searching for more fame). Donald has helped one understand and see Marilyn at a different perspective. This novel has reveale itself to be a nonfiction novel,due to the fact that the author is telling Marilyn’s story using primary sources. Spoto is only using the real information that we have been given about Marilyn Monroe’s life in order to write this very well informing biography. The most interesting part in this novel would be about her Childhood. Spoto revealed the details of Marilyn’s disturbing childhood, and how she was able to surpass all of the fears and hatred left from it. Marilyn had a very harmfull and damaging childhood, which most people didn’t know about. This novel could be described as a helful, interesting, revealing, as well as life changing novel since it helps one enhance inspiration from a very important Hollywood icon. The author’ real intention in writing this novel was actually to change Marilyn’s image. Marilhyn Monroe is known to have a somewhat unclean or disturbing image, however Spoto knowing more than others do, decides to help the world see Marilyn the way he does, present arguments, show proof. Thus, this biography is a very interesting and life-changing novel. Marilyn Monroe, written by Donald Spoto, has had indescribable success. This novel is a well-recommended novel for anyone who wants to learn more of the mysterious and interesting icon. This novel reveals the secrets, the ways, as well as the sacrifices made in order for Marilyn to reach fame. This novel is mostly recommended for girls, due to the fact that girls might understand what is being stated more because of the logic we share. Girls might also understand or relate better. This novel is especially for young girls, who are looking for inspiration or loosing hope. This novel should be attributed to girls from ages 14 and above, because of the high vocabulary as well as difficult aspects of life. This novel has very deep understanding as well as concepts that might not have been explored by home. Thus, this novel is mostly recommended for young girls, from ages 14 and above, who are interested in Marilyn Monroe, or looking for an inspirational story.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Kurniawan

    Extremely thorough and well researched biography. The writer provided evidences to factual details of MM's life when available. When not much was available, he presented clear, logically deduced stances to refute baseless claims made by nutcases like Robert Slatzer (who made a writing career & TV appearances from 1-2 photos of him with MM) and his cronies. I feel that the writer wasn't biased and gave us a colorful depiction of MM's complex characters through her actions, writings, and inter Extremely thorough and well researched biography. The writer provided evidences to factual details of MM's life when available. When not much was available, he presented clear, logically deduced stances to refute baseless claims made by nutcases like Robert Slatzer (who made a writing career & TV appearances from 1-2 photos of him with MM) and his cronies. I feel that the writer wasn't biased and gave us a colorful depiction of MM's complex characters through her actions, writings, and interviews. She wasn't always truthful when she realised the twisted and slightly exaggerated version would tremendously advance herself -- in that regard she was truly a master in public relation. She was able to bring the public to love her (or rather, "Marilyn Monroe", as she has been known to be able to separate her public persona from her private one), but couldn't do the same in many of her personal relationships. Probably far too nice to people she liked, she ended up being manipulated and used by some of them who wanted to advance themselves using her fame and status like Ralph Greenson the psychiatrist, and her acting teachers. What also struck me as sickening was how loose the professional standards were back in her days. Doctors were distributing dangerous drugs and administering injections of god-knows-what like giving out candies in shopping malls. MM eventually suffered an untimely death from adverse interactions of these drugs prescribed by her unconscionable doctors. Journalism too, where crazy people elevated tabloid gossips to the level of academic research and book publishing -- destroying good men's reputation with spectacular conspiracy theories and self-referencing themselves just to get some money. If I had to summarise her personality, MM is a professional and perfectionist, always advancing her craft and eager to please through her performance, although many of her peers hated her chronic lateness which stemmed from her nervousness. She turned out really well for someone who experienced such a dysfunctional childhood -- abandoned by her mother and never knowing who her father was, and was subsequently used by her caretaker Grace Goddard to fulfill her dreams. Though her actions in her youth seemed selfish, her later years showed a mature and generous woman who prioritised people she liked over money. As the most photographed woman in the world, she was extremely humble, understanding, and radiated an aura of empathy -- something I really liked about her personality. MM suffered from what I see as extreme case of impostor syndrome, where she never truly believed that she had what it takes to be successful. We see this through her tardiness, bouts with insomnia, and low self esteem -- the last of which was able to be overcome moments before her death, making her passing even more tragic. I finished the book hoping to know what she could have accomplished had she survived. But then again, maybe her death contributed much to her enduring fame. At the end of her life, she didn't have much materially and money-wise, but she died in love, loved, and optimistic about her future. There is something romantic in that.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cymry

    I really loved this read and felt like I gained a whole new appriciation for this women. However, I read that this writer's research and conclusion should be taken with a grain of salt. So I'm conflicted.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mariah

    Author Donald Spoto went into extensive detail on the life and mysterious death of female icon Marilyn Monroe in the biography, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography. The book is extremely lengthy, but one who briefly looks over the book can see how the pages provide photographs and text with information of Marilyn’s early life and her career. A majority of reviews written online by users who read the entire book agree that Spoto is effective in supporting his conclusions of Marilyn’s death with evidenc Author Donald Spoto went into extensive detail on the life and mysterious death of female icon Marilyn Monroe in the biography, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography. The book is extremely lengthy, but one who briefly looks over the book can see how the pages provide photographs and text with information of Marilyn’s early life and her career. A majority of reviews written online by users who read the entire book agree that Spoto is effective in supporting his conclusions of Marilyn’s death with evidence and reason to back himself up with. In an online review, a user remarks that there was a great amount of detail on people other than Marilyn, but regardless, “Spoto makes his position on the Kennedy and mob rumors very clear, and presents the evidence to support it” (Good Reads). On the other hand, I read many reviews that favored Spoto’s detail on Marilyn’s family and personality, but question Spoto’s theories. An Amazon user known as L. Lukaszewicz writes that he enjoyed the intricate detail Spoto goes into, but disliked, “the conclusions he draws regarding the controversial circumstances of her death... based on less than concrete evidence and woven to fit unanswered questions” (Amazon). I have to disagree with Lukaszewicz because Spoto believes that if anything it was her psychiatrist and housekeeper that were more likely to contribute to Marilyn’s death, and notes that in regard to the Kennedy conspiracies, ““Beginning in 1955, a formidable file on Marilyn Monroe also began to accumulate in Washington – records of which she was never aware. They comprise a ludicrous waste of paper” (Spoto 336). Although I did not have enough time to read each page fully, one can become significantly more informed about Marilyn just by skimming through the pictures and text. Donald Spoto successfully portrays Marilyn’s life as if he was living in the moments he describes throughout the book like he was right next to her, which is how a biography is supposed to be.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Melody Lee

    "If you can't handle me at my worst, you don't deserve me at my best." --Things Marilyn Monroe Literally Never Said But Were Attributed to Her After Her Death Because It Fits Our Inaccurate Image of Her My fascination with Marilyn Monroe started with Anne Helen Petersen's column on The Hairpin, where she analyzes the creation of Monroe's star image as well as the anxieties it produced and embodied--and, yes, the ways it swallowed her up. Marilyn Monroe: The Biography was the next na "If you can't handle me at my worst, you don't deserve me at my best." --Things Marilyn Monroe Literally Never Said But Were Attributed to Her After Her Death Because It Fits Our Inaccurate Image of Her My fascination with Marilyn Monroe started with Anne Helen Petersen's column on The Hairpin, where she analyzes the creation of Monroe's star image as well as the anxieties it produced and embodied--and, yes, the ways it swallowed her up. Marilyn Monroe: The Biography was the next natural step, since Spoto basically seems to have set out to debunk every myth about Marilyn Monroe he could uncover. He starts with the rumors of mental illness that may or may not have contributed to her drug addiction and death; he digs into her backstory for the truth behind her foster homes; and he devotes an entire section to announcing his disdain for any possible Kennedy connections. It's a little dry but brisk, and there's a real sense of indignation for how Monroe was continuously prevented from moving forward both professionally and personally. Spoto doesn't bother to theorize about why she was routinely denied the recognition she deserved, which is shocking because he theorizes about practically everything else. I have no idea what his background in psychology is, but parts of the biography were written from his armchair, which detracts from the overall well-researched and analytical presentation of Monroe's life. The woman had a real gift for surrounding herself with assholes who get obsessed with her and try to control her, and it probably stems from issues surrounding her unknown father and her inconstant mother. Now repeat that 20 times and you have Spoto's psychoanalysis. So...who was Marilyn Monroe? The answer appears to be that no one, not even Marilyn Monroe herself, ever got a chance to find out.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lee L.

    It is hard to imagine the kind of painstaking research that went into creating this comprehensive work of exquisite detail. Spoto not only captures the unique essence of MM's engaging personality, he includes the minutiae of her life experiences to such a degree that even someone who did not grow up surrounded by her iridescent image would feel a part of this era. Especially interesting are the intricate details of her early life, which would later so greatly affect her vulnerable psyche. < It is hard to imagine the kind of painstaking research that went into creating this comprehensive work of exquisite detail. Spoto not only captures the unique essence of MM's engaging personality, he includes the minutiae of her life experiences to such a degree that even someone who did not grow up surrounded by her iridescent image would feel a part of this era. Especially interesting are the intricate details of her early life, which would later so greatly affect her vulnerable psyche. Unfortunately, what put me off were the conclusions he draws regarding the controversial circumstances of her death. He offers some bizarre theories, apparently of his own supposition, based on less than concrete evidence and woven to fit unanswered questions. You may find his theories plausible; you may find them ridiculous. Although he does argue a somewhat convincing case, I have never seen or heard of any other documentation that would support these claims. I believe the only real conclusion to be drawn is that we will never fully answer all the questions surrounding the mystery of her death. This is the story of a very special lady, a lost and deeply lonely little girl who would reach her whole life for an intangible dream of fulfillment that would slip again and again through her fingers. This comprensive work does well in capturing the spirit of that struggle, and those who exploited it. Judge for yourself the validity of Spoto's allegations. Beyond that, you will find this a thorough and engrossing portrayal of our most luminous screen goddess.

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