No matter their age, hardly anyone is unfamiliar with Marilyn Monroe.
As the 50th-anniversary year of her death continues, the blond bombshell is recalled by many famous admirers in “Love, Marilyn,” a documentary by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus (“The Farm: Angola, USA”) making its HBO debut Monday, June 17.
From Glenn Close and Ellen Burstyn to Jeremy Piven and Lindsay Lohan, celebrities weigh in on Monroe’s impact on them … with archival footage, some found recently, offering visuals of the screen icon whose classic movies include “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “Some Like It Hot.”
“I think Marilyn was a product of the 1950s and 1960s,” Garbus tells Zap2it. “Her evolution as a woman – and her carving out the space she did, of sexuality and of vulnerability but also of power – was very resonant in terms of what was happening with femininity at the time. And her struggles with, and dedication to, her craft provide a window into the process of acting.”
Indeed, Garbus was impressed by the depth of her interviewees’ remarks about Monroe. “For instance, Uma Thurman talked about seeing some of [Monroe’s] notes and lists and said, ‘I have lists exactly like that.’ Through their eyes, I understood Marilyn more deeply, and I hope that is the journey the audience goes through.”
Monroe ex-husbands Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio also are evident in “Love, Marilyn,” shown at last year’s Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals.
“There was a remarkable consistency in descriptions of Marilyn,” Garbus reflects, “from those people who knew her well to those who had sort of studied her. She was relentlessly disciplined, hardworking, self-critical, fearful … and an incredibly loyal friend but also an incredibly jealous friend. Certain themes came out over and over.”
That included the circumstances of Monroe’s death, and Garbus acknowledges “the popular lore” about that tragedy.
“Most people really believe it was an accidental overdose,” she says, “sort of a Michael Jackson situation where she was being treated by too many doctors willing to please her, rather than to treat her responsibly.”