Tag Archives: Marilyn Monroe

Review: ‘Marilyn: The Story of a Woman’ by Kathryn Hyatt

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“Marilyn: The Story of a Woman” is a graphic novel originally published in 1996 by Seven Stories Press. It caught my eye on my last visit on the last day of business at Seattle’s Cinema Books. Funny how we find our comics sometimes. A perfectly compelling work was just sitting on a shelf waiting for me to finally take notice. Kathryn Hyatt proves to be a devoted and thoughtful fan of all things to do with Marilyn Monroe, one of the most celebrated and misunderstood of Hollywood stars.

Stars burn bright and then they burn out. While this holds true for the career of Marilyn Monroe, that is only the briefest of descriptions. What Hyatt does is pay tribute to the human being and the artist. A mountain of books have been written about Marilyn Monroe but her unique life and work forever fascinate generating more and more stories. Hyatt carves out a path in search of some clarity.

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Marilyn Monroe was the committed innocent artist. She was innocent in the sense that she was uncompromising in her pursuit of purity of purpose as she saw it. She had to overcome many obstacles none the least of which were her own feelings of low self-esteem. Even when she seemed to have a control over her own sexuality and image, she was still haunted by misgivings. Hyatt lovingly brings us into that world. For instance, the photo shoot that would lead to the iconic centerfold in Playboy was bittersweet. Hyatt evokes the scene with great empathy. Monroe may be thrilled by the attention upon her beautiful body but, at the same time, she only agrees to pose in order to get her car back from being repossessed. And she continues to replay harsh criticism from earlier years that she is “unphotogenic.”

Hyatt has a nice feel for capturing the mannerisms and movement of Monroe. It’s a mixture of a crunchy underground vibe and a more smooth and polished approach. The zest for pursuing her narrative is clearly there. What I’ve come to find in comics biographies is that the cartoonist’s depiction of the subject is akin to an actor’s portrayal. The best versions aren’t direct impersonations but are the creator’s unique interpretation. Hyatt mapped out in her mind the quintessential Monroe and everything that came before and after. She also had to map out what to focus on in the larger-than-life world of Monroe. And that process is akin to a novelist’s work. The overall result is quite stunning.

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Monroe’s sexuality was, and remains for us in her work, the undeniable focal point. There are a number of well-chosen scenes where Hyatt addresses this key issue. There are a certain number of depictions of Monroe nude which Hyatt handles with grace. Those depictions wouldn’t work if they were simply meant to titillate. If Hyatt had felt a need to really get provocative, she could have taken a lewd turn but, instead, she is interested in humanizing. In that regard, Hyatt includes a scene of Norma Jeane as a little girl appearing naked before her family. It’s an interesting harbinger. We come to see that Marilyn doesn’t have a problem with her own skin but that will not prove to be as simple out in the world.

Much in the same way that the Kennedy dynasty will forever fascinate, the life of Marilyn Monroe will always have something to say on a personal and a universal level. The theme of Hyatt’s book is a close look at a particular woman who managed, by sheer determination, to place herself in the forefront of public discourse. We see Norma Jeane’s struggle to become Marilyn Monroe. It happens gradually, by fits and starts, as she navigates casting couches and fickle to malicious critics. Through the process, she fully appreciated the status she achieved and gave back as much as she could. However, the misgivings would never go away. She was an innocent artist and that is the deeper layer that sustains her legacy.

“Marilyn: The Story of a Woman” can be found at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Biography, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, History, Hollywood, Kathryn Hyatt, Marilyn Monroe, Sex, Sexual Politics, Sexuality

LA Journal: The Hollywood Museum

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Like any great museum, The Hollywood Museum has earned its reputation. It is Hollywood’s attic, with the most extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world. The museum, featuring four floors of breathtaking exhibits, is home to more than 10,000 authentic show biz treasures to delight any movie lover and anyone interested in the history and glamour of Hollywood.

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Like the ocean, the limelight is a force of nature without feelings. It just shines. A few mere mortals become stars under its beam. A select few of these stars, like Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe, feel the radiance and the burn of the light and then transcend it to gain immortality. The Hollywood Museum proves to be a most attractive venue to gaze upon, and learn about, the stars.

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A most charming fact about the museum is that it is housed in the former legendary Max Factor salon. That was a veritable dream factory! You will see beautiful exhibit rooms in what once were the three separate salons for treating blondes, brunettes, and redheads. From there emerged such iconic beauties as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Lucille Ball.

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It’s uncanny how the Max Factor connection is inextricably linked to the museum on many levels: image, beauty, stardom, style, fashion, and glamour.

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Max Factor and Marilyn Monroe certainly go well together.

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There’s a wonderful mix of permanent and temporary exhibits on view. “Tyrone Power: Man, Myth & Movie Idol,” closing this weekend, is an excellent show covering the actor’s life and work in great detail.

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You won’t leave without adding numerous new movies to your must-see list, like “Marie Antoinette,” starring Tyrone Power and Norma Shearer.

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You will rediscover, or discover for the first time, such stars as Theda Bara.

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You can easily wander through the memorabilia and absorb some history on the run. Check out the replica of the Lasky-DeMille Barn, one of Hollywood’s first film studios. You won’t leave without having a fuller appreciation of Hollywood.

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The Pee-wee Herman exhibit! Yes, this place is full of surprises.

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If there’s room for Pee-wee Herman’s suit and bike, then you know this is the right place.

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Whatever your taste, there is something for everyone at the museum. While I’m a movie buff who favors old Hollywood, you’ll find young Hollywood here too for sure, like the above exhibit for “The Hunger Games.” There is so much more I could have covered. I didn’t even go into the Hannibal Lecter exhibit. You’ll have to come see that one for yourself.

The Hollywood Museum is in the Historic Max Factor Building located at 1660 N. Highland Ave. at Hollywood Blvd. For more details, visit our friends at The Hollywood Museum right here.

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Filed under Hollywood, LA Journal, Los Angeles, movies, The Hollywood Museum, Travel, Travelogue