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The Right Photographer

June 27, 1993

I have a lot of problems with the latest entry in the "definitive" version of Marilyn Monroe's life by Donald Spoto. Throughout the book, Spoto repeatedly makes damaging claims about Marilyn and others without citing sources (Marilyn's early days as a part-time call girl; her housekeeper Eunice Murray as emotionally unstable).

His distortion of quotes in order to "prove" certain claims (Joe DiMaggio's employer, V. H. Monette, told DiMaggio's biographer, Maury Allen, that Joe had decided to ask Marilyn to remarry him, not that they had decided to remarry) is the height of irresponsibility.

But Spoto does do a great service by discrediting Robert Slatzer--only to find the caption of a picture credited as being taken by Slatzer when it was actually taken by James Mitchell, one of the few photographers George Cukor allowed on the set of "Something's Got to Give."

The fact is, as Spoto so convincingly proves, Slatzer was never married to Monroe, was never an intimate of hers, and met her only once, when he had his picture taken with her during the filming of "Niagara." Indeed, the fact that Slatzer began to make these claims years after Monroe's death should be proof enough that his claims are without merit.

LISA DAVIS, LOS ANGELES

The Times misidentified the photo of Marily Monroe, which was indeed taken by James Mitchell and not Robert Slatzer.--ed.

RUMORS OF HER DEATH . . .

In your review of "Marilyn Monroe--The Biography" by Donald Spoto (Book Review, May 2), you get wrong even the simplest facts: The housekeeper Eunice Murray will be discomfited to learn that she is dead, as you report in your review.

KIRTLEY M. THIESMEYER, FLINTRIDGE

DEFAMING THE DEAD

I am appalled and angered that you would direct attention and give space to Donald Spoto's sleazy, scurrilous biography of Marilyn Monroe. The implication that the psychiatrist and his minion killed M.M. is an accusation of conspiracy and murder, and although untrue, the mere repetition of it, like any big lie, affixes it in the public memory as a fact.

The reviewer treated the book lightly and compared it with other M.M. biographies much in the manner of a cook comparing similar recipes of a favorite dish. But an attempt at character assassination of a serious, dedicated physician who is no longer living and able to defend himself is not a frivolous matter.

The review failed to mention that cowardly biographers can be so bold and daring in their allegations and fictions because of the laxity of our country's libel and slander laws; they offer no protection for the dead. This condition is not universal.

In Switzerland a few years ago someone published M.M. material in which the same psychiatrist was defamed. There followed a successful court action making the offending parties pay damages and publish a retraction. Unfortunately, our general American public is unaware of these legal aspects of publishing and are apt to accept most printed matter without question.

J.L. KAUFMAN, LOS ANGELES

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