Cindy De La Hoz is an American film historian, and has previously written about Lana Turner and Lucille Ball, as well as Platinum Fox (2007), a pictorial retrospective of Marilyn Monroe’s career at Twentieth Century Fox. The latter book was followed by a miniature edition, simply entitled Marilyn.
Marilyn Monroe: The Personal Archive is a broader look at Monroe’s life. It also features twenty facsimile documents, and is published in the UK by Carlton Books. In 2008, the US bookstore, Barnes & Noble, released a similar photo-biography with inserts, Jenna Glatzer’s The Marilyn Monroe Treasures, now out of print.
Like Platinum Fox, De La Hoz’s book is lavishly designed, with a cushioned cover and pastel colour scheme. The Personal Archive also boasts a comprehensive selection of photos, including a number by Andre de Dienes and George Barris, two of Monroe’s greatest photographers, who worked with her at the beginning and end of her career respectively. Both men were able to capture the natural, golden beauty behind the Hollywood image.
Die-hard Monroe fans may be a little disappointed that there are few truly rare pictures in this new collection, whereas Platinum Fox contained several previously unseen stills and publicity shots. The biographical text in The Personal Archive is more substantial, but whereas in Platinum Fox, De La Hoz was able to access studio vaults for facts and trivia on Marilyn’s movies, this time around she seems to have relied upon a more limited range of previously published material.
This makes her depiction of Marilyn’s life a little predictable, although De La Hoz has examined her sources carefully and her narrative is more accurate than other recent picture books. Nick Yapp’s Marilyn: Hollywood Icon and Richard Havers’ Marilyn in Words and Pictures are visually stunning, but let down by careless factual errors in the text.
In The Marilyn Monroe Treasures, the most comparable book to Personal Archive, author Jenna Glatzer read quite widely and interviewed people associated with Marilyn, and so Glatzer’s text is fresher and more provocative than De La Hoz. But whatever her writing may lack in sheer dash, De La Hoz compensates for with a sensitive appraisal of Monroe’s character and experience, and her take on Marilyn may be ultimately more reliable than Glatzer’s.
De La Hoz writes, insightfully, of Marilyn’s third marriage, to Arthur Miller:
Early on, Marilyn and Arthur’s marriage was a loving union of two creative, working artists who shared mutual respect and understanding. They held each other in such high esteem that each could easily be disappointed by the other. Marilyn sometimes felt insecure enough to question Arthur’s motives and she believed that he judged her severely. She could become very angry. Arthur’s fighting style was to retreat rather than to argue. As time passed, he failed to live up to the idealistic image of the esteemed, socially conscious writer that she had of him and she came to feel that he did not love her true self. After a while, they operated in everyday life with the knowledge that they had let each other down – merely by being themselves.
De La Hoz’s writing is at its most powerful when she is bold enough to state her opinions, rather than just summarising what has already been said. She also writes well about Marilyn’s film performances, drawing on her research for Platinum Fox. She is particularly eloquent when discussing Marilyn’s role as the wan torch singer, Cherie, in Bus Stop:
Marilyn’s every emotion in the film was telegraphed to the audience in her face, yet it was subtle from beginning to end. She was in character at every moment. Living up to her Method training, she became one with Cherie, complete with an Ozarks accent that never faltered. This training combined with the manifestly cinematic genius of her acting allowed viewers to read her thoughts through the eyes. Many sequences stand out as remarkable. She even manages to wrap her audience up in the intentionally crude performance of ‘That Old Black Magic’. But her greatest moment of all is in the final scene. Through the progression of looks on her face she conveys so much about Cherie; her past as a woman who has been mistreated often, her present as a woman finding pure bliss in the comforting arms of Bo, and her future as a woman who would give up her pipe dreams of fame without a trace of disappointment.
As well as The Marilyn Monroe Treasures, De La Hoz’s text can be compared to an earlier photo-biography, Marilyn: Her Life and Legend by Susan Doll (1990.) Both these books tell a familiar story from a sympathetic, female perspective, and are largely free of the unfounded gossip which has marred so many accounts of Monroe’s life.
The facsimiles, while nothing new to seasoned Monroe fans, are superbly reproduced and attractively packaged in fold-out envelopes with full-page pictures of Marilyn on the back. Here is a complete list of the documents enclosed.
1) a letter written by Grace Goddard requesting orphanage not allow to the child’s mother to visit (the book says “child’s mother” even if it’s really Ida Bolender that GG is talking about)
2) checks issued by Milton Greene on behalf of MM Productions for the care of Marilyn’s mother at Rockhaven
3) a model release form signed by Norma Jeane
4) a cancelled bank check from December 19, 1950 filled out by MM
5) a telegram MM sent to Milton Greene after they first met in 1949
6) MM’s personal script from ‘Niagara’ (9pp)
7) a set design from ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’
8) a letter from 20th Century Fox instructing MM to return to the set for the filming of ‘The Girl In Pink Tights’
9) a love note written by MM to Joe DiMaggio
10) the divorce certificate between MM & Joe
11) a sketch for a costume of Marilyn’s for ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’
12) the bill from psychiatrist Dr Margaret Hohenberg & MM’s payment check
13) the license for Marilyn and Arthur’s dog, Hugo
14) the painted card MM was given by the cast of ‘Let’s Make Love’ to celebrate her 34th birthday
15) journalist Henry Brandon sent a list of questions to MM in January 1960. She wrote her responses on the document in pencil
16) the airline tickets for MM and Paula Strasberg for August 27, 1960
17) a bill for MM’s stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel from April 21-24, 1960
18) MM’s architectural drawing of her kitchen at 12305 5th Helena Drive
19) an invoice sent to MM by Ralph Greenson
20) the contact sheet for MM’s last modeling shoot, with Allan Grant
Finally, there are a few questionable statements in the text, not least the opening quote, ‘Beneath the make-up and behind the smile I am just a girl who wishes for the world’. This is one of many quotes that have been attributed to Marilyn in recent years, but its source is unconfirmed. More seriously, the allegation of a sexual assault by Monroe’s stepfather (which has been contested) is somewhat glossed over. And the story of Marilyn’s miscarriage on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, repeated here, has also been disputed.
Some of the photo captions are a little wide of the mark, but on the whole this is a well-researched book which I would not hesitate to recommend for younger or casual fans, as an introduction to Marilyn. It is certainly not ground-breaking and to those who have read widely about Monroe, it is not essential. Nonetheless, The Personal Archive is great value for money, and can be enjoyed simply for its many lovely photos and the documents which help to reveal a more intimate, and endearing side to an adored, eternal star.