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Marilyn Monroe: A Biography

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,865 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Barbara Leaming's Marilyn Monroe is a complex, sympathetic portrait that will forever change the way we view the most enduring icon of America sexuality. To those who think they have heard all there is to hear about Marilyn Monroe, think again. Leaming's book tells a brand-new tale of sexual, psychological, and political intrigue of the highest order. Told for the first ti ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published February 29th 2000 by Crown Publishing Group (NY) (first published September 4th 1998)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  1,865 ratings  ·  98 reviews

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Joe Valdez
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biographies
Published in 1998, this biography of "Marilyn Monroe" is entirely devoted to her celebrity, with very little insight into Norma Jeane Baker or her childhood. The first several pages are more devoted to Elia Kazan and Arthur Miller's visit to L.A. in 1951 than the tragic sex symbol, who author Barbara Leaming refers to as "Marilyn" or "Monroe" throughout. The subject remains blurry in closeup. There is detail about her film deals and work habits, her drugs and reasonable conjecture about why she ...more
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars!

This book is named Marilyn Monroe but it should've been called Marilyn & Arthur, because its mostly about her relationship with her 3rd and last husband Arthur Miller. Arthur Miller is my least favorite of Marilyn's men and seeing as all of her relationships were toxic and horrible this should tell you how truly awful Arthur Miller was. I mean Joe DiMaggio physically abused Marilyn and yet he still managed to treat her better than Arthur Miller.

Marilyn and Arthur met in 1951 but they
Jan 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
For not really knowing anything about this star other than her name and, of course, the famous grate photo and the "happy birthday Mr. President". I even knew about Madonna's video that copied her (pink dress, diamonds...YOU KNOW THE ONE :D) I thought this was an interesting bio. I was amazed to see just how much she fought to be a star, to act and how unsure and scared she was. She always seemed to show everyone how strong she was, but as the book points out, it was all just acting. And she was ...more
May 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: not just marilyn monroe fans but anyone who wants a brilliant read.
Recommended to nine by: a magazine.
this is the book that took me away from my own psycho-traumatic experiences in life and helped me to understand, escape and focus more on the aspect of cognitive psychology and how the past has definitive effects on various personas. i read this book not because it was, "marilyn monroe's story!" but because of the way author barbara leaming had told her story: living through the eyes of the one who lived it at the time. from this book, i learned how to be more empathetic in certain situations, a ...more
Sep 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
I only read the first half of celebrity bio's until they get to be who I know them as.
May 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting and detailed account of Marilyn's career in Hollywood (rather than her earlier life). The information is taken largely from primary texts and the information is incredibly detailed. The result is a retelling of events that occurred and an insight into the reasoning behind the events.

Even if you haven't seen a Marilyn Monroe movie, you know who she was and you are familiar with the iconic image from the movie The Seven Year Itch (white halter dress getup). The name is syno
Aug 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Thirty-six years after Marilyn Monroe's death (at the age of 36), Leaming, prolific celebrity biographer, picks through the bones and neuroses of the ultimate Hollywood icon.

More than 200 books have been written on the subject; only a few biographies (namely, Donald Spoto's revisionist Marilyn Monroe: The Biography) have managed to humanize the fragile actress, who has long since been subsumed by her own mystique. Leaming's relentlessly morose and stand-offish portrait, by contrast, places Monr
Apr 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Great read for anyone who wants to learn more about Marilyn's amazing achievements and also the darker side of her fame. Not the most elegantly written book.
Mar 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I Loved the parts about Marilyn, I learned so much about her. I just didn't care for the many parts that strayed away from her. Other than that I think people should really read this!
Magdalena Llamandra
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
My second Monroe book.
After reading "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" by Taborelli this paled in comparison.

The book skimmed through her early years in just a few pages, which was a huge minus for me.

Also it raced over her marriage with Joe Di Maggio and was extremely chaotic and lacked a proper time system.

The marriage with Miller was looked into in much more depth but a lot from Millers perspective and not as much Marilyn`s... too much political descriptions for my liking relating to Millers
Janis Mills
Mar 18, 2012 rated it liked it
I think I learned a lot more about Arthur Miller reading this book. Rather horrid that he based not one but two plays on his life with two of his wives. Very calculating and I think his decision was conscious.I also learned more about her motivation in engineering her career rise to a modicrum of respect and her plunge into the party scene with the Kennedy/Sinatra that marked her period of deep depression and self loathing. It was a good read but not a great read.
May 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and totally engrossing from page 1. I loved it.
Cheryl Schibley
May 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-biography
People just don't get tired of hearing about Marilyn - this book was very good.
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A story worth reading

Her life was told in such a way that you learned more about her in her truth. The truth was learning to see yourself and love yourself with all your flaws was just as important.
Teresa Granado-Law
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
All through the 80s I read Marilyn biographies, yet I never found one that so deeply delves into just how much havouc and trouble Marilyn stirred up. For example, during movie production. I always thought, "well, yes Marilyn was difficult, but she showed up and did the job." In this work, the author actually has the Fox studio archives, Arthur Miller's papers, MM's Agent's daily planner/notes - daily records of events that she researched extensively to include - there are even the logs of what t ...more
Feb 25, 2012 rated it liked it
A twentieth century icon whose life remains fascinating and endlessly mysterious, even more than forty years after her death, "Marilyn Monroe" still grabs our attention as no other star of her time.

In Leaming's portrait (published in 1998), I learned a lot that I hadn't gleaned from any other tome about this captivating star. One thing remains true through all the books on the subject, however: Marilyn had a sad and lonely childhood; struggled in her adulthood; and died tragically, still chasing
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it

"hirty-six years after Marilyn Monroe's death (at the age of 36), Leaming, prolific celebrity biographer, picks through the bones and neuroses of the ultimate Hollywood icon. More than 200 books have been written on the subject; only a few biographies (namely, Donald Spoto's revisionist Marilyn Monroe: The Biography) have managed to humanize the fragile actress, who has long since been subsumed by her own mystique. Leaming's relentlessly morose and stand-offish portrait, by contrast, plac
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star
A highly thought provoking biography of one of the worlds most glamorous women. The writer has obviously studied her subject well, and compares her research to other well known biographers, almost like a thesis would attempt to do. Focusing primarily on the height of Monroe's fame, and her involvement with senior governmental figures, the author does not attempt to paint Monroe as a holier than thou character. She acknowledges Monroe's personality defects, whilst still expressing sympathy for th ...more
Jack Herbert Christal Gattanella
Interesting not so much because of the person that was Norma Jean whatever, since she was a troubled kid and then became an even more troubled adult with a particular way of being very effective (if affected too?) on screen, but because the story of Monroe also makes a wonderful look at the film and theater world of the late 40's thru the early 1960's as the studio system hit the 'high and beautiful' wave before it broke and rolled back. So many people and films: Billy Wilder, Jane Russell, Howa ...more
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Well written but very heavily reliant on published texts rather than original research, this one is sympathetic to Dr Greenson, the Commie (allegedly according to others) shrink. Seems to believe Marilyn uncomplicatedly committed suicide and makes literally no reference to the conspiracies or the (even I am semi-convinced) at the very least ambiguous last-day events and autopsy reports. However, taking her relationship with Arthur Miller as its central point, I do feel that this biog gets closer ...more
11Jan 2015
25 june 2015
reading this again i have to say this is the 'miller-heavy'version
the fact that it starts in 1951 (as opposed to a chronological order) shows much. i.e writer deems the miller/kazan triangle significant.much of millers writing career in relation to his real life and MM during this time. arthur fans will like this book.

however - excellent analysis of marilyns contract troubles with 20th, greene and MM Productions and of lee and paula expoliting her as we all know they did.

Rae Ganci Hammers
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This might be the best MM biography I've read. Leaming really digs in and gives enough psychological, social, and political context to really address the how's and why's of Marilyn's life. Her struggles with the studio, her calamitous marriages. The way misperceptions (by her and by others) did irreparable harm to her relationships with lovers and colleagues. I appreciated that Leaming choose to begin in 1950 and only call back to earlier years as needed. I feel like other authors have often spe ...more
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: featured-books, star
I think Marilyn Monroe was one of those people that was way a head of her time for her generation.
I think she is one of those women that will always be an idol for women and would have done fabulously for females in our own time. She was a girl that wasn't perfect or flawless, she was a full figured female and she was beautiful. She lived life through her heart instead of her mind and although that would eventually lead to her downfall, I think she was absolutely amazing. This novel describes w
Excellent biography

In no way does this book deserve only 1-2 stars. I found this biography to be utterly engrossing from start to finish. Extremely factual and well researched. This is a fascinating and sympathetic portrait of Marilyn with deep insights especially of her marriages and career, and her time in New York at the Actors Studio. I can't praise this book enough but I believe it is over-priced on Kindle. I bought it when it was on sale and I would not have bought it for $12+. I really wo
Sep 14, 2015 rated it liked it
I decided to give this book 3.5 stars, 4 was too many but 3 seems too low. This is a very detailed, well researched biography about Marilyn. At times while reading this I wondered if the author is actually a Marilyn fan, this biography wasn't very personal about almost just showed the business side at times. Now I feel like I know more about Elia Kazan and Arthur Miller then I ever intended to. There is a lot of good information about Marilyn thats worth reading if you're a big fan ...more
Feb 09, 2016 rated it liked it
It's hard to say exactly how to rate this one. For a book about Marilyn Monroe, the author chose the odd approach of focusing on the people around Monroe to try and illuminate her subject, rather than focusing on Monroe herself. There is a fair amount of pop psychology mixed with what is obviously the author's opinion, not fact itself. At times it feels more like a polemic against Arthur Miller than a Marilyn Monroe biography. The distasteful nature of Marilyn's life aside, the writing makes for ...more
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
For a book about Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn herself speaks very little. The book opens with expectant men who hope to make use of her and ends with ex-lovers who have used her. That in itself seems to be the book's agenda: to portray a woman in the center of the (predominantly) masculine machinations of Hollywood, a victim who nevertheless propels herself toward destruction due to her chronic (and understandable) refusal to trust the best intentions of others. It's a compelling and sympathetic port ...more
Apr 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Arthur Miller Fans
Shelves: biography
Please see my detailed review at Amazon Graceann's "Marilyn Monroe" Review"

I go on at *great* length as to my problems with this biography. It is really the Arthur Miller story - it starts with their first meeting in 1951 and finishes with his staging of After the Fall in 1964. Her face sells the book, but it's really a bait and switch. Read the Amazon review to see what I mean.
Nov 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
I read this book in 9th grade. We had to do a book report on a biography and I chose to read about the life of Miss Marilyn Monroe. This book is incredible - it does an excellent job of giving readers a peek at the heart and soul of one of Hollywood's most famous leading ladies. If you're interested in the life of Marilyn Monroe, in old Hollywood or if you just enjoy biographies in general, I really recommend this read!
Erin Tanner
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've read a lot of books about Marilyn and this one was very different. This novel I think talked more about the behind the scenes of her career and more about her emotional problems, rather than just her scandals. After reading this novel I feel a new sense of sadness for Marilyn. I wish there had been one constant person in Marilyn's life to let her know that she was good enough and didn't need to prove anything to anyone.
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Barbara Leaming is the author of “Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter” (Thomas Dunne Books, April 12, 2016). She has written three New York Times bestsellers, including her recent book “Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis”. Leaming’s book “Churchill Defiant” received The Emery Reves Award from the International Churchill Centre. Her groundbreaking biogra ...more

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“Marilyn, for her part, focused on what was driving Arthur away. She spoke of the monster inside her. By that she seems to have meant the rage that was in sharp contrast to the shyness and sweetness she tended to project. In the beginning, Marilyn said, Arthur had perceived her as a victim, beautiful and innocent. She tried to be those things for him. When inevitably the monster disclosed itself, Miller was shocked and disappointed. He started to pull back.” 24 likes
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