A sad memorial looms this year, the 50th anniversary of the tragic death of Marilyn Monroe, who died of an overdose to barbiturates in August 1962. I recently enjoyed two well made documentaries about Monroe.
The Legend of Marilyn Monroe
1966, 16 format, b/w, 53 min, dir Terry Sanders
Cast: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lee Strasberg, Paula Strasberg, John Huston (narrator).
A carefully constructed, serious and probing b/w documentary, one of several initiated after Monroe’s death. Using primary footage, the doc delves into Marilyn’s childhood — fatherless, shunted between foster homes, and eventually disconnected from her mother. It also explores the meaning of celebrity. With narration by John Huston, who of course directed the actress in “The Misfits.” Presented in an evening curated by UCLA Film & Television Archive programmer, Shannon Kelley.
2011, 52 min, France/USA, Dir: Laurent Morlet
Laurent Morlet’s fascinating documentary follows the screen icon’s most dedicated fans – members of the ‘Marilyn Remembered’ club. From the club’s president of 30 years, to the most famous Marilyn impersonator, to a serious collector of Monroe memorabilia, to a costume designer who moved to the U.S. at age 14 “because of Marilyn,” the ‘Marilyn Remembered’ club members, interesting and even poignant subjects, united in their sincere adoration of the blonde actress. A very watchable, fun and respectful film whose neutral approach to its content hearkens the art of documentarian Frederick Wiseman. Presented at the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater.
MM, above, poses backstage the evening of her “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” performance at Madison Square Garden, May 1962.
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