There are few faces more recognizable than Marilyn Monroe. In fact the face was famous even before she took in the name Marilyn Monroe, even as an unknown Norma Jean she had graced the covers of many, many magazines.

I have no idea how many books and documentaries have been made about this icon of the mid 20th century, but it is a huge number. Few though are as in depth and well researched as Marilyn Monroe – Beyond The Legend. It has been aired on a number of influential cable channels, and has now made it to DVD.

One of the most interesting aspects of Marilyn’s career is the very beginning, but to understand it, you also have to understand the entertainment industry of the 1940’s. A rite of passage if you will. You started of as a model, and that certainly was what Norma Jean did. If your picture sold, then you had a chance at breaking into the glamorous movie world. It mattered not one iota what your acting skills were, looks, publicity, and sales were everything.

Rechristened as Marilyn Monroe she did have her opening into movies, but it was less than successful, after two movies she was dropped. One wag actually deemed her unphotogenic! One wonders how many times over the years that person has regretted making such a remark?

The Hollywood drug was in the young lady’s blood, and maybe the turning point was a bit part in the Marx Brothers 1950 movie Love Happy. Not a huge role, but few argue its importance. For the first time the world meets Marilyn the sex symbol.

While everyone was kind to her, there are some that remember Marilyn in a less glowing light, she was on the userous side. Playing up her naivety as a tool to acceptance. Yet few people seemed to object, they knew they were being manipulated, but this young lady could carry it off with panache.

Marilyn also had the ability to manipulate the masses. The now famous nude pose, that has graced the walls of who knows how many young mens bedrooms should have been a career ending event. Hollywood wanted sex, but in a prudish way. Rather than apologize, she went on the offensive, explaining that the photograph was taken out of need, she was broke, and she needed the $50 fee to pay her bills.

As with many actors and actresses there are multiple facets to someones personality and legacy. Marilyn was no different, her life was a set of contradictions, and fame brought scandal, and of course there is her untimely demise.

This particular documentary does not play up the darker side of Marilyn Monroe, rather it focuses on the positive, and there was much positive to be enjoyed. Marilyn was the perfect fit for the time she lived in. The controversy that followed her merely acted as a catalyst to further her career. In a very few years she moved from just another wide eyed Hollywood starlet to the icon that we all remember today.

There are many questions that may never be answered about Marilyn Monroe, but do we need the answers? Would the answers make her more or less? Likely it would not matter, Marilyn Monroe has left her mark, a mark that forever changed the movie, and indeed entire entertainment industry.

I cannot recommend this DVD enough, it is a wonderful patchwork quilt of historical clips, contemporary interviews with those that knew her, and a great running commentary by Richard Widmark, a man worthy of his own program in this great series of DVD’s that are released under The Hollywood Collection title by Janson Media. I am a fan of history, but not an expert by any means. This kind of high class and in depth documentary is what I love. I suspect that I will be dipping into The Hollywood Collection again in the future.

Also contained on the DVD are a set of extra features that in themselves are interesting:

Marilyn Monroe: Photo Gallery
Meet the Producers slideshow
The Hollywood Collection Preview
Interview with Director Gene Feldman
Trailers: Robert Mitchum • Ingrid • Michael Caine • Gregory Peck

You can order your copy of Marilyn Monroe – Beyond The Legend From Amazon.

Simon Barrett

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