by Lester Brathwaite on
Childlike. Innocent. Vulnerable. Beautiful. Shrewd. Intelligent. Talented. A great actress. Not an actress at all. A movie star. A legend. An icon. These are just some of the words used to describe that indelible image known as Marilyn Monroe in itbooks‘ Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis by David Willis and Stephen Schmidt. Monroe, more than any other movie star alive or dead, has been chronicled, dissected, studied, researched and probed again and again in basically every medium that exists. So what could possibly be added to her already copiously-covered canon?
Metamorphosis looks at Monroe’s power in front of the still camera, a power that even marveled the greatest of photographers. Richard Avedon said of Monroe: “She understood photography, and she also understood what makes a great photograph. She related to it as it she were giving a performance. She gave more to the still camera than any actress — any woman — I’ve ever photographed.”
Monroe’s journey from the girl-next-door model to breathy burgeoning starlet and finally the being known as Marilyn Monroe is detailed through a collection of iconic and rare images. She willed herself from the abandoned Norma Jeane Mortenson to an international star through the magic of make-up, styling and photography — and a little nose and chin work, but that’s neither here nor there. There were prettier girls than Marilyn Monroe, certainly better actresses, but what continues to captivate is something more ephemeral than beauty: her spirit. Her charm. Her vivacity, which was just another of her creations. It wasn’t just luck that propelled her to superstardom, but a strong work ethic and a sharp intelligence; it took a lot of smarts to play that dumb.