One of the most impressive looking Marilyn Monroe books in my collection is a very heavy hardback book called Marilyn Monroe - Platinum Fox by Cindy De La Hoz. It is a large format coffee table type book with around 260 pages in and a stunning cover design with a drawing of Marilyn with her red lips matching the writing of 'Marilyn Monroe.'
Cindy De La Hoz has written several books on film stars such as Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly. I own a book she co-wrote on Lana Turner (Review to follow!) which is probably the most beautiful book in my entire film star collection, so she is an experienced and reputable author in this genre.
In a similar way to the book I previously reviewed - Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years by Tony Nourmand - Platinum Fox covers the movies Marilyn made between 1947 and 1962 for 20th Century Fox. This covers twenty-one films and the book is split into three main sections - Beginnings (her four earliest films there), Foxiest Starlet eight films including the classic All About Eve) and The Platinum Years (nine films including many of her best known and her final uncompleted Something's Got To Give).
The book is beautifully presented and a perfect mix of text and photographs. It contains a basic biography, but the emphasis is obviously on her film career at 20th Century Fox rather than her childhood or marriages. She first appeared at the film studios in 1946, when she was twenty years old and trying to get her break into movies. She filmed Dangerous Years in 1947 playing Evie, then Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! gave Marilyn a credit as Betty when the film was released in 1948.
Platinum Fox includes a plot synopsis of her films, background information and photos from each movie. Most of the work she filmed in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! ended up being cut, but this book includes five black and white stills of her and we can see her natural brunette beauty and her curvy figure in a swimsuit. Dangerous Years displayed a bit more of her work in her role as a waitress, but Fox weren't impressed and she acted in her two next films for different studios before returning to Fox in 1950's A Ticket To Tomahawk.
This is an enjoyable film and the now blonde Marilyn makes more of an impact, including performing in song and dance numbers. Platinum Fox includes a colour photo of her with the other showgirls as well as several black and white stills, including a lovely behind-the-scenes one of her costume being adjusted by the wardrobe mistress.
After a fairly short first section of fourteen pages, the middle section is bigger, as it features more of her movies as her career began to take off and her film roles became more important. 1950's All About Eve was a huge movie, winning eleven Academy Awards and featuring an impressive list of actors including Bette David and Celeste Holm. Marilyn was only in two scenes, but looked beautiful and elegant and there are some stunning photos of her in this section.
Her roles slowly grew from a secretary in As Young As You Feel to featuring on the posters for Love Nest, both in 1951. She filmed a third movie that year for Fox - Let's Make It Legal - and it seems the movie studio were beginning to capitalise on her beauty, as she was featured in swimwear in the latter two.
There are some gorgeous photos throughout the book and I especially like the behind-the-scenes ones from this kind of period, as they are not so well known as the later shots. She looks more of a natural beauty, less made up than she was in the mid-1950s and she seems to genuinely enjoy making movies.
Marilyn's first starring role for the studio was in 1952, where she played Nell in Don't Bother to Knock. If anyone ever says to me that Marilyn couldn't act or only played dumb blondes, I suggest they watch this, as she is absolutely amazing in it. She is left in charge of a little girl, but it turns out she has mental problems and the child's life may well be in danger. She outclasses her more famous co-stars Anne Bancroft and Richard Widmark and the stills featured in this book show how her image was much dowdier here. The photos are presented very well, alongside various quotes and snippets of information. This section of the book concludes with her returning to comedy (and a swimsuit!) alongside Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers in Monkey Business then a role in O. Henry's Full House.
The third section features the films you are most likely to be familiar with, the ones that many still love today - Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How To Marry A Millionaire, River of No Return, There's No Business Like Show Business, The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop, Let's Make Love and the uncompleted Something's Got To Give. These follow the format of the earlier films - synopsis, background information, posters and photographic material - but it is the longest part of the book and contains many more photos.
A few of the photos from Niagara are slightly pixelated here, for some reason, though it doesn't detract too much from the enjoyment of the reader. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is my favourite of Marilyn's films and the first one I watched (back in 1987) and the section on this movie includes a brief review of her working relationship with fashion designer William Travilla. Alongside the famous photos of her in the sparkly long red dress and the long pink dress from Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend, there is also a photo of the outfit she wore in the dance routine which ended up cut from the final film.
Her following film How To Marry A Millionaire (1953) showed her acting alongside Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall and displaying her beautiful figure in another famous Travilla creation - the long burgundy dress with the sparkly diagonal shoulder strap. Marilyn Monroe - Platinum Fox features several photos of her in this, alongside more swimsuit poses and ones of her character Pola wearing glasses. The photos of her in the costume tests are particularly good additions to this section, alongside some of the more popular images most fans will be familiar with.
By this stage of the book, I recognise most of the photos and posters reproduced here, so have less interest in those. From her long blonde wig and jeans in the Western film River of No Return to the glitzy camp musical extravaganza of There's No Business Like Show Business, the same old photos surface, though a casual fan may not have seen all of them. The Seven Year Itch is probably the film responsible for most of her iconic images and there are plenty in this book of her white dress flying up over the subway grating.
I am more impressed with Let's Make Love which has a few rarer images and as she looks particularly gorgeous around this time (1960), it is a joy to see them. The behind-the-scenes ones are especially good, including some from her birthday celebration on the set. She was nearing the end of her life here and looking heavier than in the 1950s, but still radiates her own special beauty and makes a hip-length jumper look incredibly sexy!
The final section concentrates on Something's Got to Give, which she began in 1962, but never finished. Her hair was shorter and a whiter blonde and in some of the photos here, she looks all of her thirty six years, but continues to charm and enchant in each still. One of the scenes involved her taking a naked swim in the pool and this was tastefully shot, with some of the photos included here. The final part of the book includes an appendix of all her thirty films (from all studios).
Overall, this book is beautifully put together and includes some interesting information on the films Marilyn did for 20th Century Fox. It is currently being sold at Amazon UK for £15.29 and I would say it is definitely worth that. However, it is not a perfect book. Long term fans of Monroe will recognise maybe 80% of the photos and with the remit being just the movies she did at Fox, you won't find any in-depth discussion of those she completed for other studios. These omissions include some of her most famous films such as The Misfits, Some Like It Hot and The Prince and the Showgirl, so it is a bit of a shame that any fan with a special interest in these will need to buy another book to find out more about them.