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The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
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The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

3.9 156
by J. Randy Taraborrelli

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When Norma Jeane Baker became famous as Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s, she said her mother, Gladys Baker, was either dead or not a part of her life, depending on the publicity campaign of the moment. However, neither was true. Marilyn's mentally ill mother was very much present in her world, and the complex family drama that unfolded behind the scenes is a story that


When Norma Jeane Baker became famous as Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s, she said her mother, Gladys Baker, was either dead or not a part of her life, depending on the publicity campaign of the moment. However, neither was true. Marilyn's mentally ill mother was very much present in her world, and the complex family drama that unfolded behind the scenes is a story that has never before been told ... until now.

Here J. Randy Taraborrelli draws detailed portraits of the people so influential in Marilyn's life. He tells the heartbreaking story of a world-famous daughter dealing secretly with a parent's severe paranoid schizophrenia-and exposes the shocking scope of Marilyn's own mental deterioration. Taraborrelli also uncovers the identity of Marilyn's real father and the half-brother she never knew, as well as the truth about her relationship with the Kennedys-Jack, Bobby, and Pat Kennedy Lawford. Based on decades of new research and including the most complete filmography ever compiled, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe is the final word on one of the most fascinating and elusive legends of the twentieth century.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Readable and mesmerizing...This will probably stand as the definitive Monroe biography..."
Library Journal (starred review)"

As Taraborrelli brushes away cobwebs of myth and rumor, his remarkable research and fluid writing captures Marilyn's elan, sensitivity, desperation and despair with a haunting intimacy."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

More years have now passed since the death of Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) than the span of her life, but her aura seems not to have faded at all. Indeed, pop culture tributes and remembrances continue to emerge. To the 300-plus Marilyn biographies in English alone, celebrity biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli (Jackie, Ethel, Joan; Elizabeth; Madonna) adds this full-length, 576-page life of a sex symbol who still speaks to us today. Timeless memories and new information.
Publishers Weekly
Robert Petkoff's diligence as a narrator matches Taraborrelli's accomplishments in generating a fresh analysis of the iconic Marilyn Monroe. With Petkoff's Midas touch, the cast of characters comes to life with crisp clarity and attention to nuance. While there are too many good vocal characterizations to allow for a complete listing, some of the standouts include the mercurial husbands Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio as well as such Rat Pack figures as Peter Lawford and Frank Sinatra. Petkoff's delivery of DiMaggio and Sinatra's ill-fated attempt to spy on Monroe and her romantic companions creates palpable dramatic tension. And as Monroe herself, Petkoff creates a sublime breathy persona that shifts effectively from the girl-next-door Norma Jean to the glamorous Marilyn. Bonus features include a downloadable photo slide show. A Grand Central hardcover. (Aug.)
Library Journal
No. 1 New York Times best-selling author Taraborrelli, who has previously written biographies of Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Jackson, here takes on the legends, myths, and innuendos surrounding the life and death of Marilyn Monroe. Drawing on files released in 2006 under the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with key insiders, he speaks to how the actress's familial history of mental problems impacted the decisions she made throughout her life, reveals the identity of her biological father, details the extent of her relationship with the Kennedys, and more. Actor/narrator Robert Petkoff's (The Link) magnetic reading draws listeners in from the outset. Monroe devotees and celebrity bio fans will enjoy.—Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence
Kirkus Reviews
The miraculous but short and tragic life of Norma Jeane Mortenson (1926-1962). Taraborrelli (Diana Ross: A Unauthorized Biography, 2007, etc.) delves beneath the legend of Marilyn Monroe to uncover the stark facts of the life and times of a singularly vulnerable woman woefully unequipped to deal with the quotidian business of "normal" life, much less the pressures of a Hollywood career and international celebrity. The author devotes much attention to Monroe's mother, Gladys Baker, who suffered from severe mental illness and was institutionalized for most of her adult life. A paranoid schizophrenic, Baker was emotionally distant and unpredictable, necessitating Monroe's years in foster care and, for a short period, an orphanage. Baker's mother, who also suffered from mental illness, committed suicide, and Monroe was haunted by the idea that her own mental health would inevitably fail. Tragically, her fears were well-founded, and, according to Taraborrelli, her entire adult life was a constant struggle to maintain some semblance of emotional equilibrium. Further complicating matters were Monroe's insatiable appetite for various prescription medications; deeply flawed marriages to baseball great Joe DiMaggio, who allegedly beat her, and playwright Arthur Miller, who condescended to her; callous treatment by movie studios; and a disastrous dalliance with President John F. Kennedy (and subsequent obsession with his brother, Robert), which, writes the author, precipitated the emotional spiral that ended in her fatal overdose, an event still shrouded in mystery and the subject of wild speculation. Taraborrelli clearly sympathizes with the beleaguered star, and his reliance on verifiable factsand copious interviews with Monroe's intimates supports his view of Monroe as a hapless victim of heredity and circumstance, an unwanted child who-by dint of an alchemy of physical beauty and sexual allure she herself did not fully understand-became the most wanted woman in the world. A painful and engrossing account of the profoundly damaged personality at the heart of the world's greatest sex symbol.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
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5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

J. Randy Taraborrelli is a respected journalist, a recognizable entertainment personality, and in-demand guest on many television programs including Today, Good Morning America, The Early Show, Entertainment Tonight, and CNN Headline News. He is the bestselling author of thirteen books.

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The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 157 reviews.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
One would think that of all the billions of words written about Marilyn Monroe everything had been made public - at least twice. Not so we discover in The Secret Life Of Marilyn Monroe. Celebrity biographer Taraborrelli who is known for digging deeper than most for collecting data about his subjects really went over the top with this one. He interviewed innumerable sources, all documented in his itemized 30 pages of interviews; everyone from James Dougherty, Marilyn's first husband, to Arthur Miller, whom he found "Maddeningly difficult and not at all open, to Peter Lawford to Mitzi Gaynor. Perhaps some of the most revelatory information found in this book comes from the files released in 2006 under the Freedom of Information Act. The author details a "truly extraordinary" 3-page document containing information by an FBI agent describing the relationship between Marilyn and Robert Kennedy. This volume (and it is a volume - 560 pages with previously unpublished photographs) will probably stand as the ultimate word on the ill-fated star. Unfortunately, it is a sad story, sadder than many of us knew. Gladys Baker, her mother who was denied in many publicity releases, was mentally ill suffering from severe paranoid schizophrenia. Marilyn's early years were spent at the Los Angeles Orphans' Home. To come from those circumstances to become one of the most famous movie stars in the world is quite a feat. Regrettably, it seems to have taken a dreadful toll as Marilyn began to deteriorate mentally. For those who want the definitive story of the woman called the world's greatest sex symbol, here it is, filled with details and minutia from the day she was born until the hour of her untimely death. Taraborrelli has completed a yeoman's task in presenting the story of Marilyn Monroe. One only wishes it could have had a happy ending. - Gail Cooke
Alla_S More than 1 year ago
In the "Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe," J. Randy Taraborrelli explores the enigmatic life of perhaps the most famous actress of the twentieth century. He introduces the reader to Norma Jean Mortensen, an unlikely future Hollywood phenomenon, who spends her childhood being an unwanted guest, moved around to different houses and caretakers, as she grows up fatherless and nearly motherless-with Gladys Monroe being institutionalized in various mental facilities. Armed with extensive research and interviews from the people who knew Marilyn best, Taraborrelli explores Norma Jean's surprising transformation into Marilyn Monroe and her life in the limelight. Most interesting is Marilyn's relationships with men, which Taraborrelli meticulously details in the book. While few were aware of her first husband, Jim Dougherty, Marilyn's future lovers featured the crème de la crème of American society in the 1950s-celebrities like Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, Frank Sinatra, and President John Kennedy among others. However, as Taraborrelli sensationally reveals in this book, despite her incredible success with the opposite sex and her unbelievable movie career, Marilyn was constantly plagued by issues which ultimately led to her death. Some of those issues included her troublesome mother, Marilyn's own growing mental problems, her broken down relationships, fear of abandonment, a spiraling out of control drug addiction, on-going conflicts with Twentieth Century Fox which culminated in her being fired, and a growing obsession with the Kennedys that would mark her last months and potentially contribute to her death. Through it all, Taraborrelli weaves an intriguing portrayal of a Hollywood superstar. Unlike other biographies, he stays away from theories or gossip, and focuses on the facts-making it not only comprehensive but a reliable source of information. Taraborrelli's writing is crisp and to the point, exploring not only the Marilyn Monroe persona, but the real person behind the mask who was undeniably very different from the carefully created media façade we know today. An added bonus is the inclusion of rare Marilyn Monroe photographs and a meticulous appendix at the end of the book. This book will undoubtedly be an interesting read for not only Marilyn's fans, but for anyone looking to be entertained.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book, I think this is as accurate an account of her life and death as any of us will ever know. The author had no bias and took facts and examained them from all sides. The pictures at the end added to the the final chapter.
FantasyAndFiction More than 1 year ago
I loved the way this book was written! It touched on all aspects of her life; her young life, her self made family, her men, her transition and her everlasting inprint in HOLLYWOOD. This book paints a very detailed image of her "Secret Life." Although some people were hoping that "Secret Life" meant scandel in Hollywood; you soon learn that " Secret Life" was used to describe her unknown troubles and broken family issues. Hollywood scadals are no more than frabricated gossip and twisted truths. Real fans are looking for something deeper than that! This book gives fans the answers they are looking for.
Bill_PullmanBP More than 1 year ago
As a huge fan of MM I thought I knew just about all there was to know about this fascinating lady, but Taraborrelli proved me wrong. Using fresh research, including some files recently released by the government, the author adds more color to the affair between Marilyn and President Kennedy, info supplied by an FBI agent who was documenting the affair at the time it occurred! He also interviewed many of the main players from Marilyn's world (many no longer with us) and he was able to review unpublished notes of reporters who covered Marilyn when she was alive. Taraborrelli 's extensive research pays off with one of the most insightful books on Marilyn ever produced. The reader learns of the role Marilyn's mother actually played in her life; I won't give anything away but it is much more extensive than the public ever knew. I was also shocked to learn of the depth of Marilyn's mental problems, I mean any one familiar with her life story knows she had issues, but I never suspected how sick she truly was. This is not just a rehash of old material and I highly recommend it to all interested in this icon's story. For more fascinating Marilyn Monroe reading, do check out "Misfits Country" Marilyn brought to life during the filming of her final movie.
LeighAnnLuvsReading More than 1 year ago
Tearing through the lies and revealing the truth! This book was absolutely written with the up most brilliance. It began with her tragic childhood and ended with her tragic death, just like any other Marilyn Monroe bio, but there was a significant difference. The author tapped in to her SECRET LIFE. It gave great detail on her youth, her transition, her illness and her many men. THE SECRET: SHE IS AND EVER SHALL BE NORMA JEAN!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ill admit im quite fascinated by this woman, but i didnt know even half of the things that this book contained. I never wanted to put it down, i brought it everywhere just incase i would have a few minutes to read. I would definetly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so detailed and so intimate! I felt like I was reading the memoirs of her guardian or her best friend. So different from other books I've read, that have felt more like compilations of news articles and production notes from the movie sets. This book feels very personal and is a must read for any Marilyn fan!
dmh5026 More than 1 year ago
I recently finished an epic 500-page biography of the lovely Norma Jean entitled "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" by J. Randy Taraborrelli. Let me preface this review by saying that I have never seen a Marilyn Monroe movie, nor read any books on her. I came into this with just an image of my head that was a compilation of her most famous photos and the preconceived thought that she and JFK had some good times. I found this book to be completely engrossing...the tale is almost too good to be true in the sense that it reads like a work of fiction. It is hard to believe that Marilyn lived with so many demons, but her path to fame is nonetheless extraordinary. Taraborrelli is a wonderful biographic writer. It was never dry or boring and filled the pages with such life and detail that a film documentary could probably stand toe-to-toe with its pages. If you are a new to biographical works, this is a great first-read. Not that it's a "training-wheels" type of book in any sense, it is very dense and very long, but her life's story is so mesmerizing that you sometimes forget it was real. I now look forward to watching some of Marilyn's work. Her trials, tribulations and many heartbreaks and mental breakdowns were hard to read at times, but in the end it seemed to only add to her goddess-like quality that makes her seem just a little bit unreal. Highly recommended!
Gail_Jones More than 1 year ago
Taraborrelli has an interesting take on Marilyn's life. He focuses a lot on her relationships with other people but mostly with her mother. Any fan of Monroe knows of the hardships she had to face in her childhood but Taraborelli shows how they took a toll on her as an adult. Very good read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is awesome book! In parts it is a little disturbing, but over all its amazing! You should read the sample. If you can not afford the book, the sample is great. I also recommend: Wrapped in a rainbow, hunger games, and the bible. Keep on reading!! #4stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most everything I have read or researched about Marilyn Monroe has been not very flattering. While by no means does Mr. Taraborrelli sugar coat anything, he is much more sympathetic to her mental state. It is not a boring run of the mill Marilyn book. I liked it, but then again...I like her. Keep Reading!
TheMisses More than 1 year ago
I am an adoring fan of Marilyn Monroe especially her quotes, so i decided to read a book about her life. This book goes into great detail from the time she was a little girl to her death. I now have a better understanding as to why marilyn developed the sexual character that she did, in my opinion it was because she didnt have a family to tell her that what she was doing was inappropriate. I learned a great deal about the true Marilyn Monroe and it is a tragedy that she had to die. This book was very interesting, for me there was never a dull moment, the author did a great job!
GeekGirl67 More than 1 year ago
This book is nothing if not thorough... a good read but only for the die hard fan.... more like an encyclopedia.
Serena Kiefer More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much. While it was very depressing, you wonder hiw she made it through everyday. She had love with no boundaries and intelligence that couldve stopped you in your tracks. Although nobody gave her the option to be outspoken. I wish i could have met her and had a chance to ask her questions. Everyone besides ida seemed almost distracted with themselves. A lot of people in this book are looked down upon.
Kristen Harmon More than 1 year ago
Good book for Marilyn fans. It's sad and has many facts that you could not simply google.
cd49 More than 1 year ago
not much new here- not extremely well-written- but interesting enough- and fair. avoids a lot of the smut and gossip usually asscociated with mm-and puts to rest a lot of the myths. on the whole- definitely worth reading to find out more about this woman's life-damaged from the start. one thing i was very troubled by- the lack of footnotes- despite the author's commenting on why he didn't included them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading this book I can no longer call her Marilyn Monroe. She will always be Norma Jean. From the first chapter to the last you are caught in a womans tragic complicated life. You want her to have the Happy Ending, but you know that won't happen. I respect her more now than I ever did and don't think of her as an iconic image of the past, but as a real troubled soul who never found the peace she so despreatly seached for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would definitely recommend this book to others. I wouldn't consider myself a marilyn monroe fan prior to reading this book, bought the book when it was on the nyt bestsellers list, but I am a fan now. Looking forward to seeing her movies. 600+ pages, pics & filmography included. The only thing I didn't like is that it is not in chronological order, author broke it down into phases of her life. Difficult to follow an already chaotic life.
crazycatCT More than 1 year ago
Great book. I really liked the parts about Marilyn's life before she was famous.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a beautifully honest potrait of Marilyn. It goes into her private life with great attention to detail and facts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the way this book went in depth about her life beyond what the media has said. It shows her as a human being, not just a sex symbol. It describes her personality and life in a personal way. I was surprised to find that she was not the person I imagined her to be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago