Monday, July 2, 2012

The "Diamonds" Marilyn Monroe by Tonner Doll

I never thought I would own this doll.  I watched with interest when she was released at the Tonner Doll Company's Flights of Fancy convention back in May, but knew I couldn't swing the $350 price tag (which, of course, translated into $500 on eBay).  I was drawn to her not because she depicts Marilyn Monroe, but just because she is a rare type of release for Tonner--a 22" inch doll with a new face.  And it's a beautiful face.

On the discussion boards, this doll was met with a ton of criticism for not looking enough like Marilyn Monroe--specifically for not having Marilyn's voluptuous curves.  I am not a Marilyn expert, nor am I interested in finding the perfect Marilyn clone, so I'm a pretty easy audience.  I picture the real Marilyn as having had a tiny waist and a large chest, and this doll fits that image just fine.  She might be a bit too tall and long-legged, but that's about the only critique I can muster.  Despite the online discontent, collectors who saw this doll in person at the convention seemed to think she was lovely--some even used the word "stunning," and this made an impression on me.  Furthermore, I was downright haunted by her unique face.  I kept gazing at pictures of her online, wondering what she might look like in person, waiting to see if her price would drop.  She struck me as something special.

My favorite pictures of this doll were taken by Alison of The Fashion Doll Review.  Alison's pictures are colorful and artistic, and they triggered in me the doll collector's version of falling in love.  That sickness where you know you have to find a certain doll for your collection--somehow.  Coincidentally, Alison put her Diamonds doll up for trade, and I happened to have something I could offer in exchange.  So, in a dream-come-true moment, I got my Marilyn--and I even got the very doll in those gorgeous pictures.  So, with a million thanks to dear Alison (who is a total sweetheart and a blogging superhero...), I have this tall beauty in my house:

"Diamonds," 22 inch tall Marilyn Monroe by Tonner
The doll is packaged in typical Tonner style--in a simple cardboard box with a white outer shipper.  She is secured inside the box with white ribbons and some small pieces of protective foam.  You can read about Tonner's standard packaging in any of my other Tonner doll reviews (like here or here).

Marilyn comes wearing her signature pink dress from the 1953 movie, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

The doll can't shimmy around like Marilyn could, but the dress seems to be an excellent replica, right down to the delicate pink belt and the black lining on the bow.  When this doll first came out, Terri put together a nice comparison post on her blog, showing various Marilyn dolls wearing this particular dress--it's a fun piece with a lively discussion in the comments section.

The thing I like least about the outfit is the gloves.  When we were shopping at FAO Schwarz in Manhattan, my mom pointed out that one of the doll's gloves looked like mittens.  I had never paid much attention to the gloves before that conversation, but my mom is absolutely right.  Because it's impossible to make fingered gloves for these dolls, the gloves look like mittens.  They are mittens.  The effect works pretty well on the smaller dolls, but on a 22" inch doll, well, it looks like she has giant paws:

I don't see any way around the glove finger problem, and you can't do this particular outfit without gloves.  One thing that helps is that the doll is dripping with rhinestone jewelry, and this does a nice job of distracting attention from the mitts:

The dress has a strapless top with small pleats on either side of the bust.  The waistline is accented with a narrow, detachable belt.

The most dramatic feature of the dress is the large bow, lined inside and along one edge with black.  The black trim continues down the back of the dress, forming an edge for one side of a modest slit:

Because of the tight-fitting dress and fairly stiff articulation, this doll's posing options are limited, but she can show off a little bit:

I think she is much more expressive with those big gloves removed:

Oooh!  I have fingers!
Before 2011, the 22" American Model Tonner dolls did not have articulated wrists.  This feature was introduced with the 2011 line, and I think it makes a huge difference in the number and realism of the posing options:

To me, the most exciting thing about this doll is her face.  Not only do I think she is a wonderful replica of Marilyn, but I think the new face sculpture is gorgeous and realistic.  I like her face much more than the standard American Model face.  She might be the most photogenic doll I have ever owned:

Her heavy-lidded eyes and arched eyebrows are perfect.  The shape of her mouth is great, but the paint inside her mouth is strange.  She has a very dark black line all around the inside of her lips:

Presumably, this line was meant to give the impression of some depth inside her mouth, but when you look at it up close, it just looks like a very dark, slightly crude black line.  I'd try to lighten it or even remove it, but I'm too nervous that I'd ruin the rest of the paint.  It looks fine from a distance, so I think I can live with it.

That's not subtle.
Perhaps this line is trying to correct for the fact that the doll has a fairly flat mouth profile:

She doesn't really have a lot of three dimensionality to her lips:

Collagen is a girl's best friend.
Compare the doll to a picture like this that shows a bit of a profile on the real Marilyn.

There's no depth to her upper lip.
So, she has some angles that aren't as pretty as others, but face-on, or in half-profile, this doll is a stunner:

Her hair is a nice length and a pretty color, and I love the curls, but after being relaxed a bit from it's original style, it is uneven.  I'll have to work on it to make the sides level again.  If she tilts her head slightly to the left, it's all good:

She comes with four rhinestone bracelets.  Three of the four are made out of metal with jewelry clasps.  The fourth is a strange hybrid of rhinestones and glittery fabric, and it closes with a snap.  This piece is definitely out of place, and looks a bit like a glorified athletic wrist band:

Which of these is not like the other?
The necklace is huge and heavy and, from what I can see in old picturespretty accurate to the movie:

That's some serious bling.
The gloves each have a separate beige liner (made out of the same material as Tonner stockings).  The gloves come off easily, but are tricky to get back on because of the doll's splayed fingers:

The dress has a very clever closure in the back.  There are four snaps that hold the back of the dress closed, and then right below the fitted waist, there are two small gathered, elasticized areas that make sliding the dress over the doll's hips very easy.

The elastic is concealed by the big bow.
The dress is made out of a shimmery textured fabric that resembles silk shantung.  It could be real silk for all I know.  It is fully lined in white:

Marilyn is wearing matching slip-on heels.  I have no idea what kind of shoe the real Marilyn was wearing in the movie, but these are pretty, and very easy to get on and off:

This doll also comes with two rhinestone earrings, a huge diamond ring napkin holder, a stand, and a doll-sized Tonner Air tee shirt.  With the exception of that one weird bracelet, the accessories are very nice.

Marilyn has the regular 22" American Model body with a Tyler skin tone.  This body looks like a miniature of the current 16" Tyler body, especially with the addition of articulated wrists:

She's not signed by Tonner, which is a major bummer.
Her neck moves side-to-side and up and down.  She has rotational movement at the waist.  The only thing you could say she's missing is jointed ankles, but only Tonner's Antoinette-bodied dolls have that feature.  Well, also, I'd love to see some rotation in the knee joint.  This is just a simple hinge.

The lopsided hair is especially noticeable here.
She has a total of 12 points of articulation.  The joints are a bit stiff, and you have to wrestle her into certain poses, but this could be because she's new, or perhaps because with such a big doll, if the joints weren't so stiff, she'd have trouble holding poses and standing up straight.

Marilyn also has trouble touching her face.  Her elbow and wrist joints don't bend quite enough for her to reach her face in most positions.  She can do the fainting/headache pose with the back of her hand touching her head: 

Oh, my, Mr. President...
But to get this kind of look:

You have to use camera tricks because her fingers never actually get near her mouth:

To eat, she'd need a very long spoon.
Actually, most dolls can't touch their faces (I don't think any of the Tonner dolls can...even the Antoinette-bodied dolls) but after playing with the Monster High dolls, who pose so beautifully, this minor glitch in flexibility is frustrating, especially with so many classic Marilyn Monroe poses that I'd like to recreate.

I found a red sequined dress on eBay that I thought might suit Marilyn perfectly.  The seller says that this dress is one of a very few remaining pieces that were left behind by the late Joe Tai:

There's still one of these dresses left on eBay, if you have a doll who needs it.  Without the creative elasticized closure of the pink dress, this dress has a bit of trouble sliding over Marilyn's hips.  Also, the white lining of the bodice shows a bit too much for my taste (I edited the pictures where this is most obvious), but overall it is a gorgeous dress, and suits this doll's personality and coloring perfectly:

For comparison, here is Marilyn next to another 22" Tonner doll, the Disney Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty:  

Aurora: I'm sleepy...
Marilyn: Hmm.  More like Dopey if you ask me.
I think Marilyn's features look incredibly realistic next to Aurora's more cartoon-like face.  However, the face on the 22" princesses was inspired by the face on the 16" Tonner Cinderella dolls, which are my very favorite dolls of all time.  So, I have a special fondness for this face and I'll chat much more about it in another post. 
Don't worry, you'll see a lot more of me in a bit.
For now, here's one more shot of the lovely Marilyn:

Bottom line?  This doll has some imperfections.  I think that her facial profile is a bit flat, especially around her mouth.  This gives her a few angles that are not as realistic as others.  It seems like the Tonner artists might have tried to remedy the mouth's flatness by drawing a black line along the inside of her lips to add some perceived depth.  I find the mouth paint distracting, especially when I am looking at the doll up close.   Much further down on the criticism spectrum, this doll's size and the stiffness of her joints make her markedly more difficult to manipulate than the 16" Tonner dolls.  Also, while she has a lot of articulation, there were several poses that I wanted to try (to copy the real Marilyn's repertoire) that her joints couldn't achieve.

Enchanted as I was with this doll, I was not willing to spend over $400 for her on eBay.  I might have paid the $350 retail price, but that's still more than I paid for my other American Model sized dolls.  To put things in perspective, though, I recently paid $200 for Tonner's 16" Flamingo, and Marilyn is easily twice the doll she is, both in terms of simple mass, and also in terms of the quality and detail of the outfit and accessories.  Marilyn is also much more limited than Flamingo or any of the other American Model dolls, with an edition size of only 100.  So, I guess the $350 price tag is's just a lot of money.  I hope Tonner will produce a less expensive basic edition of this doll in the future.

All things considered, I am every bit as delighted with this doll as I hoped I would be.  I think the fact that I got her in an excellent trade makes her even more of a treat.  Her face is so much fun to photograph.  Her features are beautifully painted and very realistic...even the dark paint in her mouth looks good in most pictures.  The large Tonner body is striking--when I walk into my display room, this doll commands my attention.  She has 12 points of articulation and a pretty good range of motion.  The pink dress is very well made and all of the details are meticulously copied from the movie.  It is an elegant, perfectly fitted outfit that compliments the doll's statuesque height and dramatic face.  With the addition of six pieces of quality rhinestone jewelry, this doll literally sparkles with decadence and glamour.  I think she is an accurate, flattering depiction of Marilyn Monroe.  The hand painted eyes, in particular, capture the sultry magnetism of Ms. Monroe.  Tonner clearly approached this portrait of an American icon with care and deference, and yet he created a doll that isn't so stereotyped that she couldn't be Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts (?) or simply an anonymous, beautiful face.

Age Level
10 and up.
A fair price at $350.
Excellent quality.  Aside from the strange mouth painting choice, everything about this doll is beautifully and carefully done.
Excellent packaging--an all cardboard box with ribbon ties and a few small plastic bags and protective coverings.
Yes.  Not only is she very limited (LE100), but Diamonds is the first release of Tonner’s new Marilyn Monroe face sculpt.
I think the doll is clearly Marilyn, but if you wanted her to fill another niche in your collection, she’s not so stereotyped that she couldn’t take on other personas.
Recommended.  This is a special doll, but eBay prices are very high.  Ideally, Tonner will produce a less expensive basic version of Marilyn with wardrobe separates.


  1. Wow! She looks STUNNING! They did a great job! :-)

  2. What a pretty doll (even though I can't help thinking she looks a little pissed off all the time, some people just look pretty when they're mad I guess)! It's hard to imagine how big a 22" doll is in real life, she must be very large.

    1. You're right--she can definitely look mad or frustrated--especially in profile. I had to trash a lot of pictures that caught her "angry angle." She doesn't look nearly as grouchy in person, luckily. :D

      I was shocked the first time I saw how big the 22" Tonners are. They are quite substantial!

  3. She's gorgeous! I'm very taken with the detailed rooting of her hair, not being rooted in "just a line" across the top of the forehead, but with angles that lend themselves to the hairstyle.

    1. Thank you, Barb! You always notice things that I miss. I see what you mean about the rooting--she has a widow's peak (although I've always disliked that term!). It goes perfectly with the hair style.

  4. Hello from Spain: This is gorgeous Marilyn Monroe. But these are really expensive doll. Congratulations on your purchase. Her dress and jewelry are very luxurious. His eyes are beautiful. The red dress is also wonderful. Keep in touch

    1. Thank you, Marta! She is very expensive. I am so lucky I found a trade, but I still hope there will be a more affordable version in the future!

  5. She is interesting...but I'll stay with the Cami's :D

  6. Hey, Emily

    I like this doll! She is so unique!
    Check out my version of her dress:

    1. Catherine--I love your site! I have been having so much fun reading about Marilyn and looking at your beautiful slide show books, but when I try to comment, it doesn't work. :( It keeps telling me I need a password. I'll keep trying! Can I join the site somehow?

  7. On the note about how most dolls can't touch their own face, the Monster High dolls can't do that precisely well, though they're better than others. I've sanded/carved the elbow joints on 2 of my MH bodies to let them touch their faces better. (Sadly, my lapsed flickr pro account won't let me access old photos so I can link you to an example.) I've done this with a couple other dolls, but the MH is great for the technique because you can remove the lower arm. An xacto knife will work for the job, but a set of needle files gives a smoother finish.

  8. Her eyes are amazing! LOVE the necklace, too! This is one of the best Marilyn dolls out there imo.

    -John in Missouri

  9. It's a beautiful doll, but I feel she looks more like an Anna Nicole Smith verison, instead of Monroe.

    1. Exactly my thoughts, too... definitely Anna Nicole Smith as Marilyn.

  10. I do love the looks of this doll heaps, but i just cant escape that to me, its not Marilyn. I cant put my finger on it but the face isn't an exact resemblance even of her, and the hair on all the dolls iv seen from tonner isn't the right style, it hangs down too low and isnt styled the right way. And Tonner boasted that thats it bustier, hippier body, but it's nowhere near marilyns body shape. It is beautifull, but im getting more of a Marilyn impersonater

  11. Hi Em--this is a fantastic review! I really love Marilyn in the red dress--she is just amazing! Oh wow! Your photos are great. I'm glad she's found a great home.

    I should state--the napkin ring/diamond ring was actually a bonus favor for the attendees at the convention event, rather than included with this doll. I thought it was a cute touch to include it, but it probably wouldn't be included with most of these dolls.

    And as far as her hair goes--I bet rinsing the gel out would get it to fluff up perfectly.

    (I still think I got the better end of the trade. James Mitchell of Toy Zoo has my half of the trade right now--whee! I can't wait to show you when she's finished. And frankly, I consider you the superstar blogger, LOL!) ;)

  12. I have just recently (yesterday) bought the Tonner "Animal Magnetism" 16" Marilyn Monroe doll. She was the souvenir for the event this doll debuted at. I was EXTREMELY lucky to find a seller on Ebay that worked with me on the pricing. You are right, the prices for this doll AND the "Animal Magnetism" MM doll are THROUGH THE ROOF! I kept making offers and kept getting turned down because i REFUSED to pay 400 for one doll! I paid almost 200 for the one i ordered yesterday. She will be here by Christmas and will DEFINITELY be the center of attention in my Marilyn Monroe doll collection. She will be the 15th Marilyn Monroe doll I own so far. If you like, you can check out my facebook and twitter pages for my collection. Here are the links:

    Hope you enjoy! Your photography is stunning! :)

    -Brittney (Monroe Dolls Collector)


  14. woah buddy take it easy on the caps

  15. Hi I wanna thank you for your reviews, this one helped me so mucho by choosing to get this Marilyn I'm so happy because she is stunning.

    Once I had her I remembered the thing about not touching her face but surprisingly I discovered that mine does touches her face mouth and everything.

    Thanks again, love your blog.