Catching Up With Marilyn in the Year of ‘Blonde’

Marilyn by Richard Avedon

With the Netflix adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ controversial novel, Blonde, due for release later this year, Vogue has compiled a short list of ‘what to read, watch and listen to’ while we wait. Marilyn’s own memoir, My Story, is a good choice, while My Week With Marilyn is worth seeing for Michelle Williams’ performance alone.

But although Karina Longworth’s podcast series, Dead Blondes, offers a crash course in Monroe lore, I would suggest a reliable biography to compare and contrast with Oates’ fictional version. Michelle Morgan’s Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed is a great place to start, while Gary Vitacco Robles’ two-volume Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe is catnip for completists.

You can read Marilyn’s innermost thoughts in Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters. This book was also the basis of Liz Garbus’ documentary, Love, Marilyn. In terms of Marilyn’s films, Some Like It Hot is an obvious choice, but I would also recommend Don’t Bother to Knock, Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch and The Misfits to get a fuller sense of her acting range.

Finally, David Wills’ two books, Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis and Marilyn: In the Flash provide a broad overview of her most iconic images, while no survey of MM would be complete without hearing her sing (numerous compilations are available on CD and vinyl.)