Sunday, August 07, 2005

Resquiescat in Pacem, Once Again

Some sort of publicity shot for How to Marry a Millionaire, the Siren's personal favorite among Marilyn Monroe's performances.

Annie over at Blogdorf Goodman has drawn my attention to the latest story about Monroe's death. An 86-year-old gentleman has come forward, forty years after her death, to proffer a transcript of a tape he says Monroe made for her psychiatrist. Alas, this gentleman is the only living person who heard it, and the tapes were destroyed. But aren't we the lucky ducks, because in that transcript Monroe just happens to discuss every rumor about her. Yep, addressed every one of them, right on down to the old queries about whether Joan Crawford made a pass at her. And while she was at it, she told the shrink her views on Freud and James Joyce, because shrinks love that sort of stuff.

The Siren wonders when, precisely, the journalistic response to "Because I said so" became "Really? Okay, let's run the story then!" She suspects--suspects, mind you--that it might have been around the same time Paula Jones poked her proboscis into the nightly news. Call the Siren a fussy old cynic, but this alleged transcript reads like Harold Robbins circa The Carpetbaggers..

Since nobody else, from the UK Daily Telegraph to the Los Angeles Times, has bothered to look at whether the style of expression seems to match Marilyn's, the Siren would like to point out something for her small audience. One thing we do know about the actress is that she had a lively sense of humor. Her best work was in comedies, and the record (the substantiated record, that is) is full of her snappy, even witty remarks. There's no real humor in this thing at all. When the subject is sexual, the "transcript" is deadly earnest in its prurience. At other times it's just stuffy. It is good to know that Monroe took pains to remind people that the line about "hell hath no fury" is Congreve, not Shakespeare.

And, of course, it's perfectly logical that if Monroe were making a tape for the purposes of getting her mind straightened out, she'd want to tell the doctor about how great Clark Gable was in Gone with the Wind and not dwell on trivia like her miscarriage after Some Like It Hot.

Question for the Los Angeles Times, which broke this news: Did no one think to call a reputable Monroe biographer like Barbara Leaming or Donald Spoto, and ask whether the transcript passes the smell test? Spoto's biography neatly debunked the "Kennedys killed Marilyn" tripe by tracing that rumor to its source, Norman Mailer. Mailer has confessed that he hadn't a single concrete reason to float that idea, other than the knowledge that it would sell books and help him make his alimony payments.

More even than her supposed paramour John F. Kennedy, Monroe and her tragic end attract the credulous. See them lined up to buy this latest bit of gold-plated rubbish. The Siren finds it all about as appetizing as watching people dig through Monroe's lingerie drawers.

Marilyn Monroe made some excellent movies, all of which are available on DVD. An evening spent with even the least of these would be far more constructive than exhuming her corpse for one last peepshow.

[Note: This post has been edited with additional material to accomodate the Siren's growing indignation.] Posted by Picasa


Annieytown said...

Thank you F.
You said it better than I ever could.
I can not get my hands on any of her movies today but I am listenng to her sing Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend on CD.
I always thought she was so clever and underestimated.

surlyh said...

I won't bother to read this latest nonsense, and your comments are dead-on.

Earlier this year I finally caught up with Don't Bother To Knock, and in the pleasant form of a nice 35mm print. In addition to being the late Ann Bancroft's film debut, it features an early bit of "serious" acting from Monroe. She gives a strange, almost vacant performance in a genuinely creepy part. So often she appears lost in dramatic roles, whereas she seems truly at home in the comedies.

Campaspe said...

Thanks Annie. I know you are a fan of "Millionaire" too. Such a funny movie. Betty Grable is darling in it, too, and you wish she had gotten better scripts in her day.

Surlyh: I agree with the assessment completely. In In no way do I consider it a put-down to say she was better at comic roles. So many dramatic actors had little or no sense of comic timing. I saw Don't Bother to Knock and she is pretty good, but not as terrifying as the part needs to be.

katiedid said...

I do so love that movie. You're right, though Betty Grable is nothing short of comedic brilliance in it. I think everyone considers it a Marilyn movie (well, it was in the big Marilyn box set) but Betty I think steals the show from everyone. Her timing is impeccable.

Victoria said...

It is dowright infuriating to encounter another unconfirmed rumour being passed for the real story. This one just sets me off, to be honest. You expressed the indignation so well.

Campaspe said...

K., Grable really is wonderful. I read about the filming of the movie; it was obvious that Grable's day was over and Marilyn was the new hot Fox property. But Grable was reportedly graciousness itself, never had a catty thing to say about the younger actress and was very kind to her on the set. Class act, was Miss Grable.

V.: I am glad you could see why I lost my temper, LOL! The legal principle that you can't libel the dead means basic news decorum gets jettisoned the second a new Marilyn story comes up. When you read something like Spoto's book, you realize how awful the media has been because the simplest of fact-checking could scotch so much of this nonsense.

mireille said...

I think your post accords her the dignity that mainstream press works so hard to deny her. Thank you. xoxo

Diane said...

Oh gawd, I couldn't agree more. F, thank you for your pitch-perfect (as usual) response to this rubbish. I read the rather poorly written article in the LA Times and it's just titillating garbage. Sadly, it made the front page that day, placed next to a great article on the Niger hunger crisis. It all could drive a sane person batty.

Lance Mannion said...

I once saw a very bad play about Marilyn's last night alive. It was a two-person play that was essentially a monologue in which Marilyn tells the story of her life to a young stranger who is visiting on some excuse I forget---delivering pizza?---but who is really an operative for the Kennedys sent there to murder her.

In the course of the play, Marilyn rehashes everything that's supposed to be in that last tape to her psychiatrist. Awful play, not helped by the actress playing MM being 50 years old and kind of matronly. But the play was written by a professor of film at a local college who had adapted his script from a book he had written about MM. So all of that stuff is out there, it's been published, it's mostly made up, but a lot of people want to hear it---as if the truth of her life isn't heartbreaking enough.

Trina said...

Thank you so much for a post that is so reasonable it brings me to tears.

That such a beautiful, funny, and brilliant (in the way that the stars are brilliant) being could be posthumously demeaned, time and time again, breaks my heart. I wish more people out there applied the logic and common sense to "news stories" like this one.

I can only hope that when historians look at our society a thousand years from now, the opinions of reasonable people such as yourself outweigh the sensationalist viewpoints that permeate our culture now.

Makes you wonder if Cleo and Antony were as hot and heavy as we've been led to believe, huh?

surlyh said...

The papyrusrazzi blew it all out of proportion.

Campaspe said...

Thank you so much for the kind words, Mireille and Trina.

Diane & Lance: Yes, it was a badly written article, and I like the L.A. Times. I just think if you have a one-source story, even if it's a source you believe, you check the everloving stuffing out of it before you splash it on Page One. This the Times rather self-evidently did not do. They're messing around with the historical record, and now we can all look forward to more things like the play Lance had to sit through.

Tania said...

After Annie's blog mentioned it, I found the LA Times story and read part of the transcript, and I must say, it reads like a piece of fan fiction, and nothing like the words of a woman speaking to her therapist. Despite the paper's assurances to the credibility of their single source, the whole thing reeks of "it was utterly unverifiable and probably false but would sell more papers than you can imagine and so we published it with only the thinnest of caveats, because everyone it can harm or who could contradict it is dead."

Campaspe said...

Tania, LOL! Perfectly described in two words: fan fiction.