Marilyn, Marlon, and Truman
It's not new to say that film stars are the Greek Gods and Goddesses of our time, but I can't think of a better analogy to explain why they hold such a fascination. Movie Stars fulfill the same purpose for us in a lot of the same ways that those ancient beings did. They represent giant ideas and emotions in a comprehensible, human package. This is especially true of those stars from the mid-twentieth century. Not only because their stories are complete, with a beginning and an end, but because their images were so concrete, shaped by themselves and by some of the best PR people in history.
Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart. These are people we think we know. We can reduce them in our minds to one image, to one adjective even. We place our hopes and dreams upon them, see our struggles in theirs, find hope in their triumphant moments. It's almost religious, and sometimes their...people hood... can be usurped by what we need and expect them to be.
In keeping with my current interest in long form journalism (albeit, entertainment journalism) I found two features on two of the great stars of the past, as seen by the fractured and mischievous sensibility of trickster, Truman Capote. Both of them made me rethink what I thought I knew.
The first one is a 1980 article by Truman in which he recounts an intimate encounter with Marilyn, and it's a tellingly different look at someone who often gets reduced to a wispy, powder faced baby doll. The second, is a profile of a profile, the story of how Truman Capote seduced Marlon Brando into giving up more of himself than he'd planned. The resulting piece premiered in The New Yorker in 1957 and was the forerunner of the current trend in celebrity journalism. Both articles are juicy as hell.
For those of you who are also interested in longer articles, and like me were having trouble finding them, longform.org culls some of the greatest pieces on the web, old and new, and will surely provide you with hours of reading pleasure.