A sure sign of Marilyn’s lasting cultural impact is how often she’s referenced in modern fiction. Sometimes it’s just a lazy way to evoke the glamour of another era, but occasionally you’ll find something more insightful. While reading Last Summer in the City, Gianfranco Calligarich’s 1973 novel set in Rome, I discovered a passage where the hero, Leo Gazzara, wanders into a cinema to escape the rain, and his melancholic feeling while watching Marilyn onscreen anticipates the doomed love affair he will soon experience with the lovely, yet volatile Arianna. Calligarich is a screenwriter, and his writing has a cinematic flair.
“For a while I waited in a doorway, splashed by rain and cursed at by passersby – other castaways seeking salvation, like me, in the dark, cavelike entrance – then, taking advantage of a break in the weather, I ran, hugging the walls, until I reached a small movie theatre nearby. They were showing something with my poor sweetheart, Marilyn Monroe – I refused to think of her as dead – and I watched it all the way through twice, eating salted seeds and listening to the thunder rolling over the roofs of the houses. By the time I came out, I was madly in love with her and very badly disposed toward the world, because a dead sweetheart is already sad enough in and of itself without there having to be rain too.”