Unseen diary entries show tragic Hollywood star’s intellectual side, not least her thoughts on Italian renaissance art
Her platinum hair, perfect pout and hourglass silhouette made her one of the most recognisable but one-dimensional public figures of the 20th century. Now, as they prepare to bring out a collection of Marilyn Monroe’s private writing, publishers hope to reveal the intellectual and emotional depths of the cinematic icon.
The previously unseen diary entries, musings and poems penned by the actor from her late teens until she apparently took her own life in 1962 at the age of 36, were first bequeathed to Monroe’s friend and acting teacher Lee Strasberg. He left them to his wife, Anna, when he died in 1982.
Fragments, the title of the volume due to appear on bookshelves in October, will be published jointly by the Editions du Seuil in France and Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the United States.
Bernard Comment, an editor at Seuil who was contacted by Anna Strasberg, said the writings would help remind the public that Monroe was more than just a pretty face. “It helps to illuminate her character and gives her an intellectual and literary substance that many people did not suspect,” he told Reuters.
According to Courtney Hodell, an executive editor at the US publishing house, readers will be allowed a glimpse of the personal frustrations and everyday concerns of the woman who became one of the first global superstars through her performances in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot.
As well as notes on her films and passages in which she pushes herself to improve her acting performances, Hodell said, the young star saw fit to pencil in her planned decorations of her flat and a recipe for stuffing. She also devoted time to recording her thoughts on the art of the Italian Renaissance.
“She was a great reader and someone with real writing flair,” Hodell told the Associated Press. “There are fragments of poetry that are really quite beautiful, lines that stop you in your tracks.”
Aesthetic appeal aside, it was often through psychological necessity that Monroe put pen to paper, Comment added. The actor had a string of high-profile relationships and a spell in psychiatric hospital. In those circumstances, he said, it was an outlet for a very troubled mind.
“I think that not only did she enjoy, but she also felt the need [to write], to sort out her life and try to put down the extremely acute feelings that she could have in reaction to certain situations,” he said. There was melancholy running through the book, he added.
While a few of the passages date from her early life, the majority were written between 1951 – soon before Monroe’s acting career took off – and 1962, a period during which her marriages to baseball player Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller, and rumoured affair with John F Kennedy, drew as much attention as her Hollywood performances.
Some of the diary entries reflect the star’s reluctance to be typecast as the token sex symbol, a role that nonetheless came to define her.