The Genius and the Goddess
Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe
By Jeffrey Meyers
(University of Illinois Press, Hardcover, 9780252035449, 384pp.)
Publication Date: January 2010
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The 1956 wedding of Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller surprised the world. The Genius and the Goddess presents an intimate portrait of the prelude to and ultimate tragedy of their short marriage. Distinguished biographer Jeffrey Meyers skillfully explores why they married, what sustained them for five years, and what ultimately destroyed their marriage and her life.
The greatest American playwright of the twentieth century and the most popular American actress both complemented and wounded one another. Marilyn craved attention and success but became dependent on drugs, alcohol, and sexual adventures. Miller experienced creative agony with her. Their marriage coincided with the creative peak of her career, yet private and public conflict caused both of them great anguish.
Meyers has crafted a richly nuanced dual biography based on his quarter-century friendship with Miller, interviews with major players of stage and screen during the postwar Hollywood era, and extensive archival research. He describes their secret courtship. He also reveals new information about the effect of the HUAC anti-Communist witch-hunts on Miller and his friendship with Elia Kazan. The fascinating cast of characters includes Marilyn's co-stars Sir Laurence Olivier, Yves Montand, Montgomery Clift, and Clark Gable; her leading directors John Huston, Billy Wilder, and George Cukor; and her literary friends Dame Edith Sitwell, Isak Dinesen, Saul Bellow, and Vladimir Nabokov.
Meyers offers the most in-depth account of the making and meaning of The Misfits. Written by Miller for Monroe, this now-classic film was a personal disaster. But Marilyn remained Miller's tragic muse and her character, exalted and tormented, lived on for the next forty years in his work.
Jeffrey Meyers has written extensively on literature, film, and art. He is the author of forty-seven books, including biographies of Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, and George Orwell. Meyers is one of twelve Americans who are Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature and in 2005 received an Award in Literature "to honor exceptional achievement" from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Berkeley, California.
"Prolific biographer Meyers is particularly well equipped for the task of gleaning something new from this heavily harvested field. . . . Meyers recognizes that Miller truly loved Monroe but finally ended the marriage when he realized she was destroying him. He’d spent three years working on a film for her (The Misfits), earning only her scorn, and her needs were too complex and her problems too intractable. In the final chapter, Meyers thoughtfully mines Miller's last plays for nuggets about Monroe."--Kirkus
"A fascinating look at an incongruous match."--Booklist
"A serious, deeply researched look at the marriage of the great playwright and the quintessential screen star."--St. Petersburg Times