When Christie’s auction house puts a passel of Marilyn Monroe’s personal effects on the block Oct. 27 and 28, all eyes will be on the flesh-colored dress in which Monroe cooed ”Happy birthday” to JFK in 1962. A memorable object, to be sure, but not the most revealing. No, that honor goes to the cache of annotated scripts and so-called promptbooks (containing just her dialogue) from several of Monroe’s late-career movies, each with starting bids of $6,000 to $10,000.
Kept under wraps for decades after Monroe willed them to her acting Svengali, Lee Strasberg (it’s Strasberg’s second wife and widow, Anna, who is now putting them up for sale), these for-her-eyes-only study guides constitute an extraordinary set of diaries. In their margins, Monroe scribbled a stream of self-help prescriptives, thoughtful analyses, cryptic code words, and, in the final years of her tortured life, diatribes against the studio hierarchy.
Check Monroe’s script for the Billy Wilder farce Some Like It Hot and you’ll find lines of dialogue penciled in by the actress. Study the frontispiece of Something’s Got to Give, the aborted movie from which Monroe had just been fired when she died in 1962, and you’ll see such acid asides as ”This is funny?” Finally, it is Monroe’s sharp wit and struggle for self-preservation that play out on these pages — a revelatory tribute to the person behind the persona.