Monday, August 11, 2014

Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love

Author:  C. David Heymann
Genre:  Biography

One Star

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe's elopement in January 1954 caused a sensation unlike any the American public had ever seen.  Joe and Marilyn reveals the true inside story of these iconic figures whose love affair (and ensuing scandals) became Hollywood legend.  Though their marriage lasted only nine months, they remained devoted to each other, even after death:  DiMaggio had a half-dozen red roses delivered three times a week to her crypt for twenty years.

Based on extensive archival research and personal interviews with Monroe and DiMaggio's family and friends, Joe and Marilyn offers great insight into a famously tragic romance.  In an intimate, sensitive, shocking, and richly detailed look at two of America's biggest stars, Heymann delivers the expertise and passion for his subjects that his many fans are hungry for and pens an unforgettable love story for the ages.


Let me first tell you that I love biographies.  It doesn't matter if they're movie stars or war veterans; politicians or animals.  I read them like I read any other book, but with a catch:  in a novel, you expect to connect to the characters somehow, to try and like them or at least be willing to spend a few hours of your time with them (or however long it takes to read the book).  With biographies, you expect to learn about the person; their likes and dislikes, their manner, their thoughts, ideas, and how they lived their lives.  Well, I did learn how Ms. Monroe and Mr. DiMaggio lived their lives.  But it wasn't exactly what I was expecting.

The keyword here from the blurb is "scandals".  The way Mr. Heymann portrays Ms. Monroe is as follows:  A nymphomanic who liked to walk around in the nude and would sleep with anything that wore pants.  (Mr. DiMaggio doesn't fare any better; we are told - but very few examples are given - that he would sleep with any woman who came near him).  In fact, according to this "biography" that's all they did - sleep with each other and anyone else who crossed their paths.  From the way Mr. Heyman describes it, I am sure their marriage didn't survive not because their personalities were so different, but the fact that they couldn't stay faithful to each other (which may or may not even be true).

Nearly everything the author tells us I already knew:  Marilyn's childhood, teenage years, first marriage, the heavy drug use, the Kennedy years, etc.  The only new stuff was the numerous - nay, constant affairs she was having.  It reads as if she were having so many affairs, she wasn't tired from the work she was doing while in Hollywood; all her energy was sapped from having to sleep with so many people.  She slept not only her way through Hollywood, she slept with people right through all her marriages, and it didn't matter who it was.  The author excuses it by stating that 'Marilyn looked as sex as the only thing she had to give to men, so she gave it.' 

What is said of Joe is a little about his first marriage, how badly he treated his wife  and about his horrendous temper and jealousy of any man who looked at Marilyn.  He is portrayed as a man with a terrible temper who disliked the limelight and could not understand Marilyn's desire for a career and to be photographed constantly.  Joe's son from his first marriage, Joe DiMaggio, Jr. also figures heavily in this book, as Marilyn's relationship with him never wavered, even after she divorced his father.  It was a stability in his life that he longed for and appreciated.

I will not spoil the book for others by stating exactly what drove the relationship between Joe and Marilyn.  Suffice it to say that they both loved each other until the day they (respectively) died. I was, however, disappointed to find that this was not truly the love story between Joe and Marilyn; what it was, at least to me, was more about Marilyn's sex life.

Unless you're a baseball fan, you will probably find new and interesting information on Joe Dimaggio, the Yankee Clipper.  For myself, I already knew.  I grew up in a household with a brother who can recite every baseball stat from every year, so I know what a great player he was.  

This book isn't the love story I thought it would be.  It is more of a character analysis - and not a good one - of both Marilyn and Joe.  It's an interesting fact that you can't libel the dead.  Because I feel that they have both been mistreated here.  What could have been a wonderful book about two people who loved each other turned into something else entirely.

There are photos, but only one of Joe and Marilyn together, so if you're expecting more, you won't see it here.  That could be due to Joe's dislike of the press, however.  I've read things in the past written by Marilyn herself which reads nothing like this tripe.  At the last as I see it (and this is just my opinion), is that practically every other page has something about Marilyn's sexploits on it, (it appears the author took 'sex sells' to the nth degree) and they read like a tabloid. Unfortunately, it was not for me.

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