Marilyn in Manhattan: Elizabeth Winder On Her New Book

When Marilyn Monroe pulled a disappearing act and resurfaced in New York ready to take control of her career, Hollywood was shocked and everything changed for the world’s favourite blonde.  Author Elizabeth Winder looks at her year of rebirth in the newly released book Marilyn in Manhattan: Her Year of Joy, available now in hardcover and ebook formats.  She talks about her book and her inspiration in an interview for Immortal Marilyn.



What inspired you to write a book about Marilyn Monroe?  Do you consider yourself a fan, and were you a fan prior to writing it?

I actually came late to Marilyn Monroe.  The most popular images of Marilyn are highly stylized– the caked on makeup and gummy red lipstick, the glued on lashes, skintight skirt and baby-doll coo. Somehow I picked up a copy of Norman Mailer’s fictional biography of Marilyn– which is sexist and horrifying but just so beautifully written– I read it in one night and started googling Marilyn obsessively, and found all those amazing photos by Milton Greene.  He photographed her with very little makeup, wearing baggy slips and sweaters or coarse wave skirts and heavy boots. Those photos really made me fall in love with Marilyn.

You went from writing about Sylvia Plath to Marilyn.  On the surface those seem like two vastly different people.  Do you feel there were similarities between them?  If so, did that surprise you?

It’s interesting to compare Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Monroe– I quite like the way Carl Rollyson compares them in his Plath bio American Isis.  They both had such sensitivity and ambition.  They both could command a room– that much is clear from anyone who remembers them.  But Marilyn sparked something protective and nurturing in those who knew here, whereas Sylvia presented as much more self possessed.  I wasn’t surprised by the similarities– I’m drawn to thin-skinned, creative women. Sometimes I imagine Sylvia and Marilyn as roommates.  Marilyn would have driven Sylvia crazy– eating ice cream in bed, crumbs and cigarette butts strewn everywhere, probably borrowing Sylvia’s lipstick because she couldn’t find her own.  Sylvia labeled her nail polish bottles so no one else would use them.   But Sylvia was fascinated by Marilyn, particularly her relationship with Arthur Miller.  I think Sylvia was ahead of her time– she looked beyond Marilyn’s blonde bombshell facade and saw something nuanced and special.

Why did you choose Marilyn’s first year in New York as the focus for your book?

After clicking through pages of photos Milton Greene took of Marilyn I began to read more about their relationship. I was touched by the potential he saw in Marilyn, the way he risked everything for her. I saw a real story there, a story that unfolded over the course of a year. I was shocked that no one had devoted a book to it yet– it seemed almost too good to be true.

The move to New York was a major turning point in Marilyn’s life and career.  Do you think, in the end, that it was a good move for her, in spite of the fact that by the end of her life she found herself back in LA making another fluff comedy?

Breaking from Fox and teaming up with Milton Greene was the best move Marilyn ever made.  In New York she was loved and appreciated. Carson McCullers, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams befriended her.  William Motter Inge wrote a play for her.  I think we underestimate how much this meant to Marilyn– she adored writers, she worshipped them.  In LA she was ridiculed, abused and incredibly lonely. And her friendship with Milton was so life-enhancing, so positive, so full of mutual support and creativity.  If Arthur Miller hadn’t broken them up, I think Marilyn would have lived happily for decades, making movies and possibly even directing.

Marilyn is one of those people about whom there is an incredible amount of misinformation.  What one thing do you most wish the average person knew about her?

I wish they knew that Marilyn was funny– I don’t mean the witty media quips but that warm-hearted kind of funny that makes you smile and want to hug someone.  I wish they knew that Marilyn actually read Ulysses and didn’t just pose with it.  I wish they knew that as a starving model she spent her money on books instead of food. I could go on and on– that’s why I wrote Marilyn in Manhattan– I totally fell in love with her!


Want to win this book?  IM is giving away five copies courtesy of Flatiron Publishing!  Leave us a comment telling us why you’d love to have a copy to be entered in a drawing to win!  

CONTEST CLOSED.  Congrats to our winners!


  • Sirkku says:

    After a very hard time when I couldn’t enjoy anything, not even Marilyn, I’m beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. This book sounds very promising as her time in New York is an especially interesting period in her life. I’d love to have and read it and to get back to enjoying all things Marilyn 🙂

  • Nicole says:

    Marilyn in Manhattan – Her Year of Joy sounds like it is going to be a fantastic read. I have never heard much about her time in New York so I am looking forward to reading about it and learning about that time in her life. I loved the interview with Elizabeth Winder, and would love to win a copy to read! 🙂

  • Jill Hogan says:

    Love the review. I like whats what the author has said. Marilyn was an inspriation on many levels.enjoy reading about the good things she experienced On my wishlist. . Look foward to reading this

  • Hayley Jayne Lever says:

    I cannot wait to read this book; quite simply this time in her life is l, for me a very poignant time, and a very very interesting time. I have been trying to find books relating to this particular period of her life, but apart from a few photo books, there is nothing substantial out there. I adore this woman, like we all do in this group of course. I suffer with bad anxiety and always turn to Marilyn when I’m having a bad time of it. She is my inspiration. Thank you so much to Elizabeth for dedicating a whole book to the start of Marilyn’s New York journey. ❤

  • Grant Discombe says:

    It was a special time in NY in the mid 50’s.
    The Actors Studio ,vibrant clubs and nightlife…..the epicentrre of the dramatic theatre world.
    Marilyn made it richer..
    Wish i was there .. with books like this a way to dream a little 50’s Manhattan …and ♥MM♥

  • Sarah says:

    This sounds like a fantastic book to show the side of Marilyn that not many people know. I am also a very interested in Sylvia Plath and have read her diaries in order to see the Plath beyond the media. I would adore this book as we are saving up to Visit New York, (it’s taking a long time!) as a family and it would be amazing to find the places she visited. Many thanks x

  • Melinda Neal says:

    I would love to know more about the “Actor’s Studio”.So many very well known actors & actresses came from there,along with Marilyn Monroe.Also Marlon Brando.Milton Greene was so much in her corner and showed so much love for Marilyn in his Photos of her.And as we know,New York was a melting pot for the Theatre and the it place to learn acting was the famous “Actor’s Studio”.This book will be a must read!

  • Like the author, Elizabeth Winder, I too wrote a book focusing on the time Marilyn spent living in New York. Reading the excerpts from ” Marilyn in Manhattan” makes me just a wee jealous, that I didn’t write This book. Cannot wait for it to be published, even if I am not fortunate enough to win a copy, I’ve got my copy reserved at Amazon.

  • Jill Adams says:

    Marilyn and New York went together like apple pie and ice cream. The ultimate combination. This book is clearly meant to be on every bookshelf in America and abroad. The images are iconic and everlasting. The happiest of Marilyn’s days as an actress took place in Manhattan. She was taken seriously by her peers and was clearly becoming an actress for the ages. Beauty set against the background of The Big Apple, what more could you ask for. Can’t wait for my copy!

  • Ramon Bertoloni says:

    For my first week in New York I had a couple of days following Marilyn’s past visiting spots where she lived or she acted, or simply posed. It is great a new book appeared about her living in this big great city.

  • Vanessa Roden says:

    Wow, I don’t know how I hadn’t seen this before! Firstly thank you IM for giving us the chance to win a copy
    I’d love to win this book because Marilyn and her time in New York is one of the things that I am less knowledgeable on but also fascinates me. There’s so much that I don’t know but something I would definitely like to learn more about and this book seems like it would really help me with that a great deal. (Posting here too to make sure I’ve entered properly )

  • Mark Carvell says:

    Whenever I see Marlyn’s image as I travel around the world it reminds me of a person who symbolised the complete essence of humanity: joy, love, compassion, dedication, ambition and enhanced by a rare aura that simply lit up and engaged everyone lucky enough to be in her presence. She is miraculously for me – who never met her except in dreams – still able to do this through the communication of her image. On a recent visit to New York I found time to visit the places where she lived, relaxed and hung out – and where those precious and natural images of her smiling on the street, coming out of buildings and waving as she got into cars were captured. And also of course where the location shots from The Seven Year Itch were filmed. I’m sure Elizabeth’s book will complement that experience for me,and that effort of mine to imagine her coming round that corner, crossing the road or leaning out the window – and will enhance my understanding of this important phase in her life.

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