German Novelists Reimagine Marilyn, From Beginning to End

An Evening With Marilyn is a new novel in German, from actress turned author Maxine Wildner, reimagining the night of Marilyn’s last birthday. Maxine’s prior subjects include Hilde Knef, the German actress who began her Hollywood career alongside Marilyn in 1946. (The cover art features a 1953 photo by Gene Kornman.)

“Marilyn Monroe, the sex symbol of a generation, the child that no one wanted, the underrated actress who drove her directors mad – two months before her death, Marilyn celebrates her 36th birthday in a New York restaurant.

Everyone is there: Billy Wilder, the comedy legend who helped Marilyn achieve her greatest successes; Laurence Olivier, who was voted the greatest actor of the 20th century and with whom she had the worst professional experiences; Paula Strasberg, Marilyn’s method acting teacher; Baseball-icon Joe DiMaggio; her schizophrenic mother and even guest of honour JFK might attend. Only Marilyn is late, as usual.

As drinks are served, this illustrious group makes the tragic and inexplicable life of Norma Jeane Baker a.k.a. Marilyn Monroe come to life before our eyes. It takes us from the orphanage to a forced marriage and up to the stars in the Hollywood sky. The last birthday of her life turns into an unforgettable night.”

Marilyn makes a wish on her 36th birthday (Photo by George Barris)

Of course, the real events of June 1, 1962 are already well-documented – taking place not in New York but Los Angeles. After a full working day on the set of Something’s Got to Give, director George Cukor reluctantly allowed the crew to throw a small party for their star at Twentieth Century-Fox. Tensions were running high at the studio, as Marilyn’s ill-health had led to repeated absences and spiralling costs.

After leaving work that day, Marilyn made what would be her final public appearance, opening a charity baseball game at Dodger Stadium. The chilly night air worsened her frail condition, and a doctor signed her off work the next morning. Exasperated studio bosses fired her days later, and sadly, Marilyn would not survive the summer of 1962.

Marilyn is also the subject of another recent novel by German authors Nadja and Claudia Beinert, part of ‘Inspiring Women,’ a 23-volume series by various authors, with other subjects including Grace Kelly and Maria Callas. Focusing on the origins of her remarkable career, Marilyn and the Hollywood Stars is also available in Spanish and Italian. (The Italian cover features another Gene Kornman photo of Marilyn in her gold lamé dress.)

“Los Angeles, 1942: Norma’s childhood is lonely, her refuge in the cinema, where Hollywood actresses are so much more self-confident than she is. With her arranged marriage, she has to give up her dream of becoming a star herself. Nevertheless, Jim becomes her first love and awakens her sensuality. Then a photographer wants to make her famous as a model. In front of the camera, Norma sparkles with vitality, all self-doubt is forgotten. And suddenly she knows: she wants to be in the limelight, that’s the only thing that makes her happy. But first she has to emancipate herself from the prudish rules of her time in order to become who she is today: Marilyn Monroe, the greatest icon in film history.”

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