Marilyn and Me

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The thirtieth anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe has witnessed the publication of numerous books about the enigmatic sex symbol, most of them concentrating on the question of whether she was the victim of suicide, accidental drug overdose, or murder. Most are sensationalistic and exploitive, the work of authors who did not know the actress. An exception is Susan Strasberg’s MARILYN AND ME. Strasberg is the daughter of Lee Strasberg, the legendary founder of the Actors Studio, and the equally talented drama coach Paula Strasberg. The Strasbergs served as Monroe’s teacher, coach, and surrogate parents and therapists from the mid-1950’s until her death—a period that was marked by her divorce from Joe DiMaggio, marriage to playwright Arthur Miller (also ending in divorce), affairs, miscarriages, and a growing addiction to alcohol and drugs. Convinced of her unrealized and unrecognized talent as a serious actress, the Strasbergs allowed their parental and professional concern with Marilyn to lead to a neglect of the emotional needs of their own children, Susan and John. As a result Susan developed a complex relationship with Monroe. While they became intimate friends, confidantes, even surrogate sisters, there developed in Susan an extreme but largely unverbalized, resentment of Marilyn’s relationship with her parents, especially her father—a conflict which remained unresolved for many years.

MARILYN AND ME is an important work because of the unique relationship between Monroe and Strasberg. It also benefits from the author’s inclusion, when appropriate, of material from interviews with friends and associates of Monroe and/or the Strasbergs. The book is a candid, but sympathetic, recollection of Monroe which enhances the reader’s understanding of the near inevitability of her early death, whatever the cause.