Marilyn takes new dip at the limelight

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 1995, 12:00am

IF Marilyn Monroe were alive today she would be almost 70 years old. The thought of a 70-year-old Monroe is quite extraordinary because her death froze her for all time at the peak of her career and her beauty.

An icon even before her suicide in 1962 she represented then, and now, the ultimate in Hollywood glamour. She will never be remembered as the most talented, though she had more than she was often given credit for, and possibly not as the most beautiful, although that is, naturally enough, debatable. She is and will always be, however, Hollywood in all its glory.

There are many books about Marilyn Monroe but reading about her without being able to see her move or hear her speak is just not the same thing. She is, therefore, the perfect subject of a multimedia presentation. This, indeed, is what Bernhard of Hollywood's Marilyn is.

Bruno Bernhard was a German immigrant to America who established a studio in Hollywood in the 1940s and went on to become perhaps the most famous portrait photographer in Hollywood. This alone would have been enough to make him a near immortal, but he did something else . . . he discovered Norma Jean. He took some pictures of a young woman, showed them to a friend and the rest, as they say, is history.

Most of the narrative on the CD-ROM is by Bernhard but his daughter's voice is heard from time to time. Although the CD-ROM is ostensibly about Marilyn, and most of it is, it is called Bernhard of Hollywood's Marilyn . . . so we do get sections that deal with him. This does not detract from the main subject. Quite the contrary, it gives it a slightly different perspective, occasionally.

At the purely organisational level, the CD-ROM is divided into eight sections: Norma Jean 1946-1948, The Birth of Marilyn 1949-1950; The Goddess 1951-1953; Persona 1954; Renaissance 1955-1962; The Legacy; Portrait of My Dad; and, finally, Video Clips.

Each section deals with an aspect of Marilyn's life and career, with voice and video thrown in to give it both variety and depth. The video clips section, for example, has many little vignettes from the early black and white days right up to her death.

Despite the fact that this is supposed to be about Marilyn Monroe, it is difficult not to notice how much things have changed. There are a few interviews in the Video Clips section and all the reporters, keen though they are to ask a question, remain both slightly distant and ever so polite. They always refer to her as Miss Monroe, and if they ask a question that may be a little too personal they preface the question with: 'This may seem a bit personal, Miss Monroe, but . . .' What a totally different world it was then.

The fact that Bruno Bernhard was German is probably a good thing. He was not caught up in the mistique of Hollywood or even American culture and remained always a little distant. His comments are erudite and literate in a way that one has since come to miss. Who else would quote Goethe when describing what was then the most talked about woman in the world? Distance does not make you complex, You come flying out of breath To the light that in the end burns you, butterfly, to death.

There are sections on this CD-ROM that may well surprise even the most avid Marilyn fan. There is, of course, a video clip of the very famous 'Happy Birthday' song that Marilyn sang for president John Kennedy. The clip includes, however, the introduction as well as the song. In the introduction, Peter Lawford, an old friend and later to be possibly the last person to speak to Marilyn before her death, says the usual things about a woman who needs no introduction. When the spotlight comes up on where Marilyn is supposed to make her entrance, she is not there. An embarrassed Lawford waffles on for a bit before she eventually appears.

It is difficult to say if this is staged or not but when she finally does appear, Lawford introduces her as 'the late Marilyn Monroe'. A truly prophetic comment.

This CD-ROM is not going to give you an in-depth analysis of why Marilyn Monroe became who she was, or what her life now means to popular culture. It will not cover all the rumours about her death or supposed affairs with famous men. It is definitely not a gossipy production. It will, however, give you bits and pieces that are not in her films or could never be put into a book.

The CD-ROM is neither a total disaster nor a wonderfully innovative design. It does the job and the job is to give the user some information, video clips, interviews and sound bites about Marilyn Monroe. With a fairly straightforward interface, it is not difficult to use. There is even an option to run the whole thing in German if you would prefer to hear Bernhard's wise comments in the original language.

This is a CD-ROM for the Marilyn fan rather than for those who just want to know something about her. One has the distinct feeling that having viewed it once, one would not really want to devote a great deal of time looking at it again.

It runs on a Macintosh as well as a Windows machine.