Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe” as Want to Read:
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  3,512 Ratings  ·  340 Reviews
From New York Times bestselling author J. Randy Taraborrelli comes the definitive biography of the most enduring icon in popular American culture.

When Marilyn Monroe became famous in the 1950s, the world was told that her mother was either dead or simply not a part of her life. However, that was not true. In fact, her mentally ill mother was very much present in Marilyn's
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published August 25th 2009 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Melissa T
Mar 19, 2012 Melissa T rated it really liked it

Recently, I have been curious about Marilyn Monroe. Other than a vague understanding that she was a national sex symbol and actress, I didn't really know anything about her. I chose what seemed to be the most reputable biography I could find (one of the few NOT touting never-before-seen-images!), and I was not disappointed.

The author writes well. He simply presents the facts, and allows the reader to sift through them and form their own opinion. He often shares his own conclusions, but it is do
May 16, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it
I must confess for many years i was not a Marilyn fan. I thought like many that she was a bimbo who didnt deserve the fame an adulation she got through her adult years. In recent years though my thoughts have changed something that this book reinforces. The secret life of Marilyn Monroe goes into great detail with Marilyn's life from her child years as Norma Jean moved from home to home that created a feeling of abandonment and not knowing her father, to her adult years as a model and movie star ...more
Jun 09, 2011 Devon rated it it was amazing
I recently finished an epic 500-page biography of the lovely Norma Jean entitled "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" by J. Randy Taraborrelli.

Let me preface this review by saying that I have never seen a Marilyn Monroe movie, nor read any books on her. I came into this with just an image of my head that was a compilation of her most famous photos and the preconceived thought that she and JFK had some good times.

I found this book to be completely engrossing...the tale is almost too good to be tru
Peace Love and Reviews
May 19, 2011 Peace Love and Reviews rated it really liked it
I don't know what possess me to read Marilyn Monroe's biography. I do not even idolize her or pay attention to her that much. But one day, I decided, I am going to read up on her. It was one heck of a story the first two chapters, I was depressed, so I have to put it down. Yet I itch to find out how life was for her. From the innocent Norma Jean whose most relatives and guardians are irresponsible and selfish. Seriously her family history and background set her to doom. I think I would have set ...more
Marisa Annabelle
Jun 04, 2012 Marisa Annabelle rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: her fans, or people who interested in knowing her
I started reading this in January when I didn't know anything about her. I figured she was an over blown celebrity and didn't have an opinion of her. After reading this book my opinion changed of her.

The writer did a wonderful job at portraying Marilyn's life. She was very intelligent and not only an amazing actress. This is a great book to read if you're curious about Marilyn. The writer uses evidence and allows you to question the statements he makes, and this book is not only an eye-opener of
Dec 14, 2011 Nina rated it liked it
Shelves: americana
I have never been a fan of Marilyn Monroe. Not that I disliked her, I just didn't give her much thought. Then I saw a picture of her reading Ulysses. Anyone who reads Ulysses has my respect. Then I heard that she had more than 400 books in her personal library, including Middlemarch, Crime and Punishment, books by Nietzsche and books on Judaism, and I knew I had to know more about this woman who was apparently more than a stupid, blonde beauty icon.

Boy, what a life she had and what a complex wom
Valerie Penny
Apr 13, 2015 Valerie Penny rated it really liked it
Many biographies have been written about Marilyn Monroe. She was born under the name of Norma Jeane Mortenson in the charity ward of the Los Angeles County Hospital, Los Angeles, California, USA on June 1, 1926. She was a Golden Globe Award winning American actress, singer, model and pop icon. She became known for her comedic skills and screen presence, going on to become one of the most popular movie stars of the 1950s. Later in her career, she worked towards serious roles with a measure of suc ...more
Lu (Sugar & Snark)
Jan 25, 2013 Lu (Sugar & Snark) rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best biographies I have ever read (not that I have ready many), but I have no complaints. The author takes you on a journey through Marilyn’s life from beginning to after her death. He focuses on everything I wanted to know about: her mother, childhood, men in her life and the movies. I felt that I got a complete picture of Marilyn’s life and I found it absolutely fascinating!

 photo marilyn_zps2952c707.gif

I now fully understand the fascination with Marilyn Monroe! She went through so much heartache
Mar 09, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing
I left the Marilyn Monroe story more than 30 years ago having read Norman Mailer's "Marilyn" and Fred Guilles' "Norma Jean: The Life of Marilyn Monroe". The character of Marilyn was not of interest to Mailer and the gossip was. My vague memory of Guilles is that he made a lot of her as a fatherless child. Both by-passed an exploration of her relationship with her mother who was alive at the time of their publications. I don't know much of the considerable research since that time, but it appears ...more
May 28, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it
"This is a story of a girl named Norma Jean Mortenson. She thrived despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles and almost impossible odds. She created and became a woman more fascinating that she ever believed possible. And in the face of her own failing mind, she battled to keep the creation alive-- not for her, but for us."

Although this is such a tragic story, it is very well-written and gives a detailed account of Marilyn Monroe's entire life-- not just her movie star days.

Reading this really
Jan 14, 2010 Mary rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed it! JRT tells a story very well, the characters quite vivid in my mind as Marilyn's life unfolded in the pages.
I can be such a nit-picker when it comes to details of Marilyn's life. Primary, the name on her birth certificate is Mortenson, with a O. Throughout the book it's spelled Mortensen with an E, the spelling of Gladys's second husband, but not her daughter. It's always important to get a person's name spelled right.
The whole mix up of the chapter of "Jasper Dies" is a
Nov 26, 2009 Terra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli is in essense a story of Beauty and the Beast. A beautiful young woman with so much potential who is chased throughout her life by the beast of disappointment, heartbreak, abuse, drugs and doubtful self esteem. A story of a beautiful young woman whose life is but a roller coaster ride with so many ups and down it's no wonder the tragic outcome.

I must confess this is the first I have read of this actress and am glad for the opportunity to
 PuMbA's MoMmy*•.♥.•*
J. Randy Taraborrelli is one of my favorite biographers of all time. I always know that when I read his books I will get the full story and that he has done is massive research behind what he writes. Needless to say he did not let me down in this book.

Marilyn Monroe has become such a wordly icon that her life and death drives many curiousities. Her death left mamy questions unanswered. Her life was not always glamorous, instead I found it to be actually very sad. Even though she became Hollywood
Aug 09, 2012 Jessica rated it it was ok
I bought this book because it was on sale for $4 and I thought "Why not?" Unfortunately, the author is clearly biased in Monroe's favor, and painted a very favorable picture of her as being good, decent, talented, and so on, if also mentally ill and ,therefore, a victim. In addition to his obvious bias, he left out a lot of details about Marilyn's life that I had read in other places. For instance, a few years ago, Playboy released an article documenting an audio tape she had made a few days bef ...more
Sep 13, 2009 RNOCEAN rated it it was amazing
From New York Times bestselling author J. Randy Taraborrelli comes the definitive biography of the most enduring icon in popular American culture. When Marilyn Monroe became famous in the 1950s, the world was told that her mother was either dead or simply not a part of her life. However, that was not true. In fact, her mentally ill mother was very much present in Marilyn's world and the complex family dynamic that unfolded behind the scenes is a story that has never before been told...until now. ...more
Nov 29, 2010 Deena rated it it was ok
I'm not sure why, but I have always been fascinated with Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps it is something about dying young(I feel very sad when I think of Heath Ledger as well), but I also believe it goes beyond that. I think it is the belief that had she been born later and lived in this day and age, she would have gotten help with her mental illnesses and perhaps had better movies in which to play. Having said that, I've only actually read two books on her. I read Goddess, but that was written over 20 ...more
Colleen Martin
Okay, I need to preface this by saying that I'm not a huge Marilyn Monroe fan...I can appreciate what a beautiful woman she was, but I've never seen any of her movies and don't really understand why she's so iconic. And after listening to this book, I still don't understand. It sounds to me like the only redeeming quality she had was her remarkable beauty. The author goes to great lengths to tell us how intelligent she was and how she resented always being given dumb blonde roles, but frankly, P ...more
Calley Nye
Aug 10, 2013 Calley Nye rated it it was amazing
I have always idolized Marilyn Monroe, but I never did too much reading about her. I read this book and my appreciation for her has multiplied tenfold. It was my first Marilyn biography, and it could be my last (though it probably won't be).

The problem with Marilyn was that she was very troubled and had many issues, one of which was lying. So many accounts of events in her life, are based on lies, and people took them as truth. This book attempts to set them straight as. What I appreciate most
Nov 09, 2011 Patti rated it really liked it
This was a good book. It's amazing that Marilyn or Norma Jean, had the strength to get as far as she did and live to realize her dream of becoming famous. I think her life would have turned of differently, if she was allowed to stay with the foster family that was taking care of her. Her mother, while I am sure she actually did love her, she never had her daughter's best interests at heart.

It is also a case of a big celebrity using their fame and fortune to get what they want from doctors who ar
Dec 29, 2009 Christina rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Marilyn Monroe
"Secret Life" is proof that sometimes one's instincts serve one well. I found it 50% off at Barnes & Noble on Christmas Eve and was so drawn to the picture of Marilyn that I picked it up on a whim, assuming I'd read it "at some point." I read the first few pages and before I knew it, I was closing the book and attempting to register everything I'd just learned about Monroe's life. Taraborrelli uncovers a lot of misconceptions about Monroe and his extensive research lends much support to his ...more
I had read several books written about Norma Jeane Mortensen and like all of them you need to believe what you want yourselves. It never matters if you approve about something which is said to have happened, been said ... .
Since I was in school I have been reading about her and I always had the same feeling, that of an interesting, lovely and kind person with her own problems, dreams ... . We have them all and all deal with them as we do.
My friend asked me recently while a documentary about Norm
Jan 19, 2010 Trish rated it it was amazing
I have read a lot of biographies about Marilyn Monroe and found this particular book to read well. I actually found this book to clarify certain claims made by other authors with evidence to support the facts. I liked the way this book began with her birth and kept with the family and people throughout her life. A tragic tale that reads like a work of fiction, but good fiction. Would highly recommend.
Oct 07, 2015 Ashley rated it it was amazing
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Marilyn Monroe. It's detailed, eloquent, and written so that the reader feels like they personally knew the actress. A truly beautiful, yet heartbreaking book.
Jul 02, 2016 Neri. rated it really liked it
Very intimate look into the life of Marilyn Monroe. While reading this, I found out a lot of stuff I never knew before and of course some sort of a death conspiracy version was also mentioned here. Interesting read for her fans and everyone who likes her and her movies.
May 14, 2012 Buqet rated it it was ok
Hediye gelmişti , pek M. Monroe seven birisi değilim o yüzden belki kitap ilgimi çekmedi ama Allah için *taş gibi kadınmış rahmetli :)
Feb 11, 2012 Lani rated it really liked it
I actually tried to read this book once before, but at the time I was in an unhappy place and couldn't take the accounts of Monroe's family history of depression. As someone with a similar family history, and unfortunate personal experience with visiting my mother in a mental ward, it was quite odd to see similarities between myself and Marilyn Monroe. Of course this is a biography, not an autobiography, so I can't know how Monroe handled her situation emotionally. But her relationship with her ...more
I have never paid much attention to Marilyn Monroe's legacy. I've never seen any of her films and I'm not a fan. I found the book by chance and decided to read it anyway.

This biography connects many incidents of Norma Jeane/Marilyn's life - from her childhood until the day of her untimely death. It goes in depth about Marilyn's acting skills, movies that she performed in and the many personal relationships she had; including friendships, working and romantic relationships. This also includes num
Aug 24, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J.Randy Taraborrelli is the newest book on Marilyn Monroe’s life. When in high school I did my senior research paper on the many theories of Marilyn’s death. I read a lot of books at that time and became interested as many others are in Marilyn’s life. I have read more books on Marilyn since that senior year; I have watched all her movies and the movies made about her so when this book came to my library I had to read it. I found that this book was written af ...more
JB Rowley
Jun 28, 2012 JB Rowley rated it really liked it
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

The myth of Marilyn Monroe is intriguing. I came to this book, which appears to be well researched, looking for a window into Marilyn, the person. I certainly got a glimpse of her and developed compassion for the child she was and respect for the woman she was. I say `hats off to Marilyn' for finding her way from what must have been a tremendously disadvantaged start in life to the heights of stardom.

It is not hard to imagine that her world of glamour and public
Jan 05, 2010 Brenda rated it it was amazing
I haven't finished reading the book yet, am half way through but find it to be well written, has unusal information on Marilyn from her beginnings as a child and being in and out of orphanages, to her adult life. Much has been written on her, I'm sure there are some things in this book that you will find you are surprised to read about re: her, as I'm sure much of this is first time written about her.

I find that a few men in my life are interested in reading this book, due in part to her alleged
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Five stars! 7 28 Dec 31, 2014 05:21PM  
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Marilyn: Her Life in Her Own Words
  • Marilyn Monroe: Unseen Archives
  • Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe
  • The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe
  • Marilyn Monroe: The Biography
  • The Complete Marilyn Monroe
  • Teaching the Pig to Dance: A Memoir of Growing Up and Second Chances
  • Bert Stern/ Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting
  • My Sister Marilyn: A Memoir of Marilyn Monroe
  • Marilyn
  • The Marilyn Monroe Treasures
  • Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters
  • Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis
  • Legend: The Life and Death of Marilyn Monroe
  • The Sinatra Files: The Secret FBI Dossier
  • Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando
J. Randy Taraborrelli is an author known for biographies of contemporary entertainers and political figures. He is a featured writer in several entertainment magazines in Canada, England, and Australia. He also appears on television as an entertainment news reporter on shows such as Entertainment Tonight, Good Morning America, Today and CBS This Morning. Taraborrelli resides in Los Angeles, Califo ...more
More about J. Randy Taraborrelli...

Share This Book

“Her makeup artist, Allan Snyder, recalled applying her makeup in the morning while she was still flat on her back in bed. “There was no other way,” he said. “It would take her so long to get up in the morning, we had to start with the makeup before she was out of bed.” 4 likes
“She had told Kazan that she was bored with the roles she was playing because so many of them had been basically the same kind of empty-headed characterization. She wanted nothing ore than to challenge herself with more complex parts--and also wanted others to think of her as being more than a caricature.
Anytime she had an opportunity to broaden her mind, she wanted to take advantage of it.”
More quotes…