Michel Schneider’s Last Words on Marilyn

Michel Schneider, author of Marilyn’s Last Sessions – a novel reimagining her relationship with psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson – died aged 84 in his native France on July 21, 2022. A psychoanalyst himself, Schneider also held government posts in finance and culture during his long career. In recent years, his strident opposition to same-sex marriage and parenting led to accusations of sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.

Marilyn’s Last Sessions was awarded the Prix Interallié in 2006, and was also the basis of a feature-length 2008 documentary. An English translation followed in 2011. However Schneider’s reliance on the discredited Miner transcript has been criticised by Monroe fans.

John Miner, an attorney peripherally involved in the investigation of Marilyn’s death, later claimed to have heard tapes she made for Greenson. Although the tapes have never been located, Miner sold a ‘transcript’ (from memory) to the Los Angeles Times in 2005. The transcript was riddled with factual errors and is now considered unreliable by most reputable biographers.

Since Michel Schneider’s passing, the artist Louison has adapted The Last Sessions as a graphic novel, and now, Schneider’s final book has been posthumously published.

Marilyn: The Loves of Her Life is a nonfiction study, focusing not just on her husbands and lovers, but also family and friends, and her love of animals and children, literature and art. It’s an interesting concept, and beyond the cover – in which an image of a carefree Marilyn blowing a kiss to photographer Eve Arnold during filming of The Misfits in 1960 is overlaid by Marilyn’s own handwritten letter to the Stras­bergs, penned during her brief, unhappy stay at the Payne Whitney psychiatric clinic – the book is illustrated throughout.

“‘Marilyn is my mirror. I listen to her, watch her live and die and I say: “Moi, Marilyn.” What made me discover Marilyn – should I write: my Marilyn – is neither her body with its soft and powerful curves, nor her face full of tenderness and innocence, but her words … In our time without pity, she speaks to us of love. Marilyn’s lesson: not only do we die of not being loved, but we’re not alive if we don’t love.”

One hopes that Schneider’s final words on Marilyn will be less gossipy and self-indulgent than his Last Sessions, but as one of the sample pages contains two rather odd manipulated images of a semi-nude Marilyn alongside her unsent note to Joe DiMaggio (found after she died), I suspect the author’s ‘male gaze’ was not altered by the #MeToo movement.

You can read the first chapter here (in French, of course …)

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