What can I say about The Essential Marilyn Monroe by Joshua Greene? Well quite a lot actually! First of all, run – don’t walk – to your nearest store and order this book. It is, in my humble opinion, not only a gem of a Marilyn book, but one of the best coffee table volumes I have ever seen in my life.
My first observation was the size: It is absolutely huge and incredibly heavy. There are over 300 pages (280 photos) and is around the size of an old vinyl record (from what I can remember of my old records!) The pages are thick – very thick – and have a matte texture. As a frequent and obsessive book sniffer, I can tell you right now that it passed the sniff test with flying colours!
For those of you who may be new to Marilyn or don’t know much about her yet, Milton Greene (Joshua’s father) was Marilyn’s business partner and photographer during her New York days. They worked together from 1953 to 1957 and during that time they came up with some magnificent photographs, as well as starting their own film company. The beautiful thing about their relationship is that they were so comfortable with each other and Marilyn trusted Milton’s photographic judgement completely. The photos they took were like no others, in that they would often trawl the Twentieth Century Fox sound stages, looking for unique places to take their pictures. Each session was a learning experience and some studio shots were actually done so that they could learn more about lighting and posing! Theirs was an extraordinary relationship and it is maddening and tragic that they didn’t work on anything together after January 1957. I wonder what they could have done, had they remained business partners for the rest of Marilyn’s life. We’ll never know.
‘The Essential Marilyn Monroe’ has fifty photographic sessions inside. Now some of those are just one or two pictures long, but others are extended with many photos that have remained unseen until now. What I love is that at the beginning of each session, there is a guide to which page numbers have the unseen photographs. This is a brilliant touch and one I have never seen in other books. The beginning of each session has a small introduction, but then it gets straight into the photos, letting them tell the story. What makes this book different to many of the photo books out there is that the pictures take up all or most of the page. There are no teeny contact sheets that require a magnifying glass to look at them. Absolutely not! Each photo is there in all its glory… No bionic eyes required!
I have always been intrigued by Marilyn’s New York years (and of course my next Marilyn book is dedicated to that particular era) so to have this book is a dream-come-true for me. It has taken me an hour to look through each page and I lost count at the amount of times I heard myself say “Oooh!” or “Wow” or “Goodness me!” (I am English after all!).
The book is one of the more expensive ones – £50 in the UK. However, with the attention to detail, number of pages, amount of unpublished pictures and of course the delicious smell(!) this book is worth every penny. If you can’t afford the price at the moment, be sure to put it on your Christmas list. I think it is simply wonderful and a respectful and honourable way of preserving Marilyn’s memory. Joshua Greene has done a phenomenal job and I hope that he knows just how important this book will be for Marilyn’s legacy. If I had to describe this book in one word, that word would be… Joyful.
Find out more about the book on the publisher’s website by clicking here.