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July 27, 1986

Rogers strongly objects to any comparison of Marilyn Monroe and Madonna, finding it "ludicrous" and "irritating." As Monroe's first, and probably best, biographer, and one who knew the lady personally, may I say that I don't find the comparison that awry.

Madonna has a similar kind of powerful screen presence as Monroe and, at this point in her career, she is more advanced than Marilyn was at hers. Though Monroe had shown us glimpses of her genius in "Asphalt Jungle," "All About Eve" and "Monkey Business," it wasn't until her 19th film, "Niagara," that we saw her project her irresistible image.

Madonna, on the other hand, in "Desperately Seeking Susan," her first film, aside from videos, is already creating a screen persona of terrifying beauty.

In Outtakes (July 20) there's a more serious scholarly lapse, this, on the part of Gloria Steinem. Steinem, who is publishing a new biography of Monroe, says her book will "correct" the fantasies of Monroe's previous biographers--mostly men--and that if the feminist movement had existed then it "might have saved her life."

Steinem is quoted as saying that previous biographers "belittled or ridiculed her efforts at self-education," that they took little or no account of her being victimized by the Hollywood sexual machinery, by exploitative men, and so forth.

In my biography of Marilyn ("Marilyn Monroe," 1960: Harcourt, Brace) I describe Monroe's serious attempts to expand her mind with books and dramatic studies. Far from ridiculing her, I saw a very real thirst for knowledge and beauty and high art in her soul.

I also, and at some length, described Monroe's alienation from her body in "feminist" terms, quoting from Simone de Beauvoir, whose "Second Sex" had made a great impression on me.

Well, having set history straight, my advice to Madonna is that she immediately start reading "Remembrance of Things Past" and commence Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist."



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