TABLE OF CONTENTS

AMERICAN MYTHS

Marilyn Monroe

MARILYN MONROE, OUR FAVORITE goddess, was born to bridge the gap between life and death, innocence and experience, high culture and low. This fall alone, while the New York Opera was celebrating its golden anniversary with the world premiere of an opera based on her last day, the USA cable-TV network was screening yet another scurrilous docudrama, Marilyn and Bobby: Her Final Affair. Just business as usual: Monroe’s image graced the first issue of Playboy (December 1953) even as Willem de Kooning was painting his own Marilyn, 1954.

This year, devotees can celebrate the 40th anniversary of Marilyn’s apotheosis. It was in 1953–54 that Monroe became indistinguishable from her image—so much so that whatever she might do, she would never seem out of character. Her bombshell performance in Niagara, followed by the back-to-back release of the comedies Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a

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