If you favorite star doesn’t have a biography yet, just wait a bit. These days, with the rise of indie and even self-publishing, even those among Hollywood history who never quite hit the A list can earn their own titles — even multiple ones.
The sex goddess born as Norma Jeane Mortenson is one of the most written-about celebrities ever, and yet Michelle Morgan offers another in MARILYN MONROE: PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL. Not even the first work on MM by Morgan, the paperback covers the screen goddess’ entire, all-too-brief life, its main narrative literally concluding with the sealing of her coffin.
Released by Skyhorse Publishing in this U.S. edition, Morgan’s book is strong on facts and heavy with research, weaving a thorough, A-to-Z retelling of Monroe’s rags-to-riches story. Without being gossipy, it details all the bumps in the road, from her failed, pre-fame marriage that verges on arranged to the gynecological problems the actress ironically suffered for decades.
All this is relayed in a matter-of-fact style vs. the creative-nonfiction approach of other Monroe bios. What it may lack in panache, it makes up for in authority.
Although ostensibly about his body of work, THE FILMS OF DONALD PLEASENCE in reality is half that and half biography, if not presented in such an exact fraction. The latter appears first, and rather dry. The remainder of Christopher Gullo’s book, published as a trade paperback by Bear Manor Media, is a chronological survey of the HALLOWEEN franchise star’s movies.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide much meat in way of behind-the-scenes stories or cultural impact; instead, the author relies on exhaustive (and exhausting) lists of credits and start-to-finish plot synopses. In other words, it’s more of a reference work — fine if that’s what you seek.
Taking the opposite route with McFarland Publishing’s BEVERLY GARLAND: HER LIFE AND CAREER is Deborah Del Vecchio, who draws upon firsthand interviews and numerous other sources to trace the cult actresses’ long career in the B movies (most notably for Roger Corman) and later TV.
Garland, who passed away in 2008, was not shy about offering her opinions of her work and others’, so the book is awfully lively with feisty quotes (and many photos). Her takedown of the indie noir STARK FEAR is particularly harsh, and keep in mind, this is a woman who starred in more than production that later was lampooned on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. (Hell, I think that’s where I became aware of her.) —Rod Lott