BOOK REVIEW BY DAVID MARSHALL
Letís be honest with each other. Which
would you prefer-- an in-depth psychological dissertation on Marilynís life or
a big picture book with minimal text and lots of glossy photos? I know it
depends on the mood but I think Iíd be safe in saying that most of us would
like to spend a lazy summer afternoon curled up with a book of terrific MM
photos than making our way slowly through yet another authorís ìfinally the
TRUTH!î take on Marilynís life and death.
So this week I want to point out a
wonderful book that fitís the concept of a light summer read: James Spadeís
ìMonroe: Her Life in Picturesî. Grab a Coke or iced tea, set the volume on
the answering machine to low and head out to the patio. Guilty pleasures donít
count in the summer.
Iíll have to be honest here and
admit that I donít think much of Spadeís skills as a biographer. His book on
Peter Lawford was basically a rehash of the latest gossip including
ìin-depthî interviews with the likes of Robert Slatzer and Jeanne Carmen.
But in this book thereís not much to worry about in that area. Spada keeps his
text minimal, little more than lengthy photo captions, and the result is
The photos, some familiar, some
rarely seen, are structured so as to follow Marilyn from that 1920s toddler on
the beach with her mother all the way up to Allan Grantís photos that
accompanied what would be her last interview. And when the title states ìher
lifeî he means just that. There are none of the coroner office photos, none of
the mourning Joe, none of the thousands of fans watching from the sidelines as
the legend was laid to rest. The book simply ends with that great wide open
smile above an excerpt from Strasbergís eulogy. And in betweenÖ pictures!
Private photos, candids, publicity
photos, behind the scene photos, newspaper photos-- Marilyn getting out of a
car, Marilyn waving to the crowds, Marilyn making a movie, Marilyn singing,
Marilyn on TV, Marilyn on Radio. It doesnít matter really if you have seen the
pictures before or not. It is the ability to sit down and calmly watch her grow
up, become a starlet, become a star, become a living legend that makes it all
worth while. And the text is fine. Identifying what is happening in the picture,
often with dates, Spada takes a step back from his subject and allows the photos
to tell the story. And what a story it was.
The book is not in print right now
but that doesnít mean you wonít be able to find it immediately. Nearly every
used book store has a copy. And if you log on to any book search you should have
no problem at all. Even easier, just go to Amazon. As of the moment they have
four used copies from $8.80. Itís worth the price of shipping.
Spada seems to have latched onto
his particular niche with Monroe: Her Life In Pictures. Since the publication in
1982 he has gone on to do ìLife in Picturesî volumes on Ronald Regan, John
and Caroline Kennedy, The Bush Family, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
and Liz Taylor. The Jackie O book might come close but I donít think
any of his other subjects could possibly have the lasting fascination as
Itís summer-- no one expects you
be reading ìWar and Peaceî or Melville. So youíve nearly two months left
to find a copy of ìMonroe: Her Life in Picturesî and spend the day lolling
over still more pictures of her completely guilt free.