Marilyn: A Biography

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Marilyn: A Biography
Author Norman Mailer
Country United States
Language English
Subject Biography
Genre Non-fiction
Published 1973 Grosset and Dunlap
Pages 272 pages
ISBN 978-0448010298 (hardcover)
Preceded by St. George and the Godfather
Followed by The Fight

Norman Mailer's 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe (usually designated Marilyn: A Biography)[a] was a large-format book of glamor photographs of Monroe for which Mailer supplied the text. Originally hired to write an introduction by Lawrence Schiller, who put the book package together, Mailer expanded the introduction into a long essay.

The book was particularly controversial. The book's final chapter states that Monroe was murdered by agents of the FBI and CIA who resented her supposed affair with Robert F. Kennedy. In his own 1987 autobiography Timebends, the playwright Arthur Miller, a former husband to Monroe, wrote scathingly of Mailer: "[Mailer] was himself in drag, acting out his own Hollywood fantasies of fame and sex unlimited and power."


Mailer used the biographies Marilyn Monroe (Maurice Zolotow, 1960), Marilyn: an untold story (Norman Rosten, 1967) and - Norma Jean: the life of Marilyn Monroe (Fred Lawrence Guiles, 1969) as sources.


Critical reception was mixed. While the photographs were praised, critics gave Mailer's text a critical drubbing, particularly his then-novel assertion that government agents murdered Monroe, an assertion later became a staple of many subsequent Monroe biographies.

In a 60 Minutes interview broadcast on 13 July 1973, Mailer asked his interlocutor Mike Wallace if he gave his thesis about Monroe's "murder" any credence. Wallace said he did not. Mailer admitted to Wallace that he wrote the book for money and that the Kennedy murder scenario made the book more salable.

The book was also enormously successful, selling more copies than any of his works except The Naked and the Dead. It remained in print for decades, but was out of print in the United States as of 2011.[1]

Two later works that Mailer co-wrote presented imagined words and thoughts in Monroe's voice: the 1980 book Of Women and Their Elegance and the 1986 play Strawhead, which was produced off Broadway starring his daughter Kate Mailer.

See also[edit]

Marilyn: Norma Jean (1988) by Gloria Steinem


  1. ^ The book is commonly referenced as Marilyn: A Biography, e.g. in Michael Lennon's Critical essays ... and an Oxford reference book. But that is a dubitable title. The display type on the title page begins with "Marilyn" on the top line, "a biography by" on another, and "Norman" and "Mailer" on two more.


  1. ^ "Top 100 most sought after out-of-print books in 2011". Book Finder. Retrieved 22 May 2012.