The Mysterious end of Marilyn Monroe
There are few personalities of the twentieth century that have inspired as much enthusiasm and worship as Marilyn Monroe. She is one of Hollywood’s greatest icons and the facts, rumors, and legends about her life and mysterious death are an integral part of Tinseltown’s lore.
Unquestionably, a portion of Marilyn’s enduring fame stems from her sudden death at the age of 36. At first, most people agreed with the official verdict that her death was likely by suicide. But as the years have passed, he persistent questions about her demise have refused to go away. An increasing number of researchers have come to believe that her romantic relationships with the Kennedy clan, both John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, might well have been the cause of her “suicide.” Many of those who believe that she was murdered also believe in a conspiracy that was created to cover up the secret homicide. These lingering questions, doubts, and theories have turned the death of Marilyn Monroe into one of Hollywood’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
Marilyn when she was still Norma Jean
She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926. Her mother, Gladys, had previously been married to a businessman, John Baker. She then wed a gas company meter man named Martin Mortenson. However, they had separated in 1925 and he had filed for divorce many months before Gladys became pregnant with Norma Jeane, making the baby’s father one of a number of different candidates. During much of Norma Jeane’s youth, the erratic Gladys was often institutionalized, which mean that Norma Jeane lived in foster homes and later, an orphanage.
In June 1942, to prevent being sent off to stay in another foster home, the 16-year-old Norma Jeane married James Doughtery, a 22-year-old aircraft factory worker. Doughtery was drafted and sent overseas during the war and Norma Jeane worked in a factory, inspecting parachutes. In 1944, she was photographed by the Army as a promotion to show women on the assembly line contributing to the war effort. One of the photographers asked to take further pictures of her and by the following spring, she had appeared on the covers of 33 national magazines. In July 1946, the would-be actress screen-tested for Twentieth Century Fox and was soon signed to a $75-per-week contract. The studio selected a new name for her, Marilyn Monroe, and gave her a minor part in the film “Scudda-Hoo! Scudda-Hay!” In September, she was granted her first divorce.
Marilyn only had a few small roles at Fox and after six months, her newcomer’s option was dropped. She ended up over at Columbia Pictures (reportedly after being forced to work the “casting couch” option) where she signed a new contract for $125 per week. There, she earned a part in the musical “Ladies of the Chorus.” Rumor has it that she ruined her chances on the lot because she refused to do special favors for studio mogul Harry Cohn. At this time, naïve Marilyn was involved with vocal coach and music arranger Fred Karger. When he dropped her for another girlfriend, Marilyn was devastated.
The goddess “Marilyn Monroe” was born
In 1949, she met agent Johnny Hyde of the William Morris Agency. He was married, short, unattractive, and 31 years older than Marilyn. Nevertheless, the high-powered agent became her mentor and her lover. She also agreed to pose nude for a calendar that year and her career was on its way. Her first major role came in 1950 in “The Asphalt Jungle,” which earned her great reviews. This was followed by “All About Eve” and others. Hyde died in 1950, but by then Marilyn was coming into her own at Fox and became the studio’s new blonde bombshell. Her rapid rise to fame, though, seemed to exacerbate her many insecurities and that made her temperamental both on and off the set. As a marquee attraction, she indulged her newfound power by rejecting studio projects, especially those that would further showcase her as a dumb blonde, an image that she hated. Her pleas to be given more substantial roles were virtually ignored, which only increased her frustration and added to her lack of self-confidence.
In 1952, Marilyn met and fell in love with Joe DiMaggio, the famous baseball player. That same year, she began filming “Niagara” with Joseph Cotten, a film that would establish her stardom, although “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” with Jane Russell would make her a legend.
Marilyn and baseball star Joe DiMaggio. Their marriage didn’t work out, but DiMaggio continued to be in love with her until his death.
On January 14, 1954, Marilyn and DiMaggio were married. The wedding made headlines all over the world, but the “dream romance” was never meant to last. Joe was a jealous type who thought that Marilyn was going to drop out of the movie business and become a housewife, something that she was never destined to be. In the fall of 1954, they separated and were later divorced. Despite this personal crisis, Marilyn’s stardom continued to skyrocket as she filmed her classic role in “The Seven Year Itch.”
In early 1955, Marilyn rebelled further against the studio, went to New York, and joined the Actors Studio, intent on becoming known as a serious actress. Here, she renewed her acquaintance with playwright Arthur Miller and the two of them began an affair that would later lead to marriage. To Marilyn, Miller represented the serious theater and a keen intellect that she found very attractive.
Marilyn returned to Hollywood in February 1956, after a yearlong absence, to film “Bus Stop.” She earned solid reviews for the picture, which prompted her demand for greater control over her films, wishes that the studio ignored because she was difficult on the set and resistant to guidance. As the conflicts with her bosses intensified, so did her consumption of drugs and alcohol.
Marilyn and playwright, Arthur Miller
Marilyn sought relief from her problems by getting married again. She returned to New York in June and she and Arthur Miller were married on June 29. She hoped that this older, kind, and intellectual man would smooth over her escalating problems. Months later, Marilyn suffered a miscarriage, as would happen again in 1957 and 1958. During this emotionally draining period, she flew to England to star opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in “The Prince and The Showgirl.” It was an unhappy shoot and the film failed with both audiences and critics. After London, she returned to Hollywood to make “Some Like It Hot” with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.
It was around this time when her health began to deteriorate thanks to her increased dependency on drugs, especially sleeping pills. She was often late arriving on the set and was unable to remember her lines. In 1960, she began seeing Dr. Ralph Greenson, the so-called “psychoanalyst to the stars.” As was common during this time, he relied heavily on prescribing barbiturates and tranquilizers to accompany his therapy.
July 1960 marked the start of filming for “The Misfits.” The movie was based on a short story by Arthur Miller but while on location, he and Marilyn lived in separate quarters and were hardly speaking. Drugs were flown in for Marilyn from her doctor, but somehow she managed to give an exceptional performance. The shoot would be marked with tragedy, though. On the day after filming was completed, co-star Clark Gable would suffer a serious heart attack and die. Marilyn felt a tremendous amount of guilt over his death, further aggravating her depression.
By late 1960, her marriage with Arthur Miller had completely fallen apart. Their divorce became final in Juarez, Mexico, in January 1961. During the filming of “The Misfits,” Marilyn was often out of control. At one point, she was hospitalized to detoxify and regain a degree of emotional stability. After her divorce from Miller, Marilyn spiraled even further down and began displaying suicidal behavior. In February, her analyst convinced her to enter the psychiatric ward of the Payne Whitney Clinic, where was confined for seven horrifying days. Subjected to a locked, padded cell, Marilyn, now even more distraught, called Joe DiMaggio and asked him to rescue her. He immediately arranged for a discharge.
Marilyn with Jack and Bobby Kennedy
In October 1961, Marilyn had her first meeting with President John F. Kennedy at a dinner party that was hosted by his sister, Pat, and his brother-in-law, actor Peter Lawford, at the couple’s home in Santa Monica, Calif. A few months later, Marilyn and Kennedy met again at a New York dinner gathering. Their third meeting occurred in late March 1962 at the Palm Springs home of Bing Crosby, where she and Kennedy were both houseguests. Reportedly, this is when the president and the movie star began their short-lived affair.
Meanwhile, in 1962, Marilyn purchased the first house that she had ever owned, a Spanish-style home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles. At Greeson’s urging, she hired Eunice Murray as housekeeper. Murray called herself a nurse but had neither the training nor any credentials. Strangely, it is believed that Murray was essentially a “spy” for Greenson, who continued to have more and more control over Marilyn’s life. He saw her almost daily when she was in Hollywood.
Marilyn’s home in Brentwood
After a long period away from the soundstages, Marilyn returned to the studio in April 1962 to begin a romantic comedy called “Something’s Got To Give” with Dean Martin. Although Marilyn looked wonderful, she was an emotional wreck and on the days that she bothered to show up on the set, she was often struggling to remember her dialogue. No one at the studio was very happy, especially in light of the debt that had been recently created for the studio by the schedule and cost overruns on the set of “Cleopatra,” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. As the budget for that film climbed out of control, harried executives decided that by canceling Marilyn’s film, with a lower budget and fewer actors, they could save enough money to finish the filming of “Cleopatra.”
In mid-May 1962, during one of her many absences from the lot, Marilyn went to New York to sing “Happy Birthday” to the president at a Madison Square Garden party. Because Marilyn so brazenly defied the studio with her well-documented absence, her bosses became even angrier. Perhaps realizing that she had gone too far, Marilyn was much more cooperative when she returned to L.A. But by then it was too late. On June 1, Marilyn turned 36 and celebrated with a small party on the set. Six days later, Fox fired her for “unprofessional antics.” The studio also filed a $750,000 lawsuit against their former star and attempted to re-cast her part in the film. However, Dean Martin refused to work with anyone else but Marilyn. Cooler heads soon prevailed and the studio suggested a compromise: after Martin completed other film commitments, the movie would restart with Marilyn again as the leading lady.
In the meantime, Marilyn was contemplating other movie and stage offers, including some in Las Vegas, as well as the possibility of a layout in Playboy magazine. After short visits to New York and Mexico City, the actress returned home. On August 1, Marilyn was signed to a new $250,000 contract to complete “Something’s Got To Give.”
On Saturday, August 4, 1962, Marilyn was at home all day. Her only guest was her publicist, Pat Newcomb. Later reports would claim that Robert F. Kennedy visited the house that day. Around 5 p.m., Greenson, came over for their usual therapy session. Marilyn retired to her bedroom around 8 p.m. and took the telephone from the hall into the room with her. She made several phone calls that night, including one to Joe DiMaggio’s son, Joe Jr., who had recently broken up with his girlfriend. Marilyn called to console him.
She also called Peter Lawford to cancel a dinner invitation. Marilyn allegedly said to Lawford, “Peter, I don’t think I’m going to make it tonight because I don’t feel well. Will you say goodbye to Pat [Lawford’s wife] and to Jack and to yourself, because you’re a nice guy?” Lawford supposedly became concerned about the “goodbye” portion of her call and wanted to rush over to check on her, but was advised not to. As the president’s brother-in-law, it could generate adverse publicity for everyone if there was actually something amiss. Lawford later claimed that he contacted Marilyn’s agent and had that person call the house. Mrs. Murray answered the call at 9:30 p.m. and said that the telephone extension was still in Marilyn’s room, so she must be fine. She always placed the telephone outside her room at night so that her troubled sleep would not be disturbed if it rang. It is unknown if any other calls came into, or were made from, Marilyn’s house that night. The telephone records for the night of August 4 mysteriously disappeared after being obtained by the authorities from the phone company.
According to the “official” account of Marilyn’s death, Eunice Murray noticed a light shining under her bedroom door at about midnight (later revised to 3:25 a.m.). When Marilyn did not respond to Murray’s knocking, the woman went outside and peered through the closed window. Her view of Marilyn on the bed looked “peculiar,” so she telephoned Dr. Greenson. When he arrived, he broke a pane in the French window and opened the door, finding Marilyn on the bed, unconscious. Greenson then called Marilyn’s personal physician, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, who pronounced Marilyn dead at the scene. A short time later, the police were summoned to the house.
The death scene at Marilyn’s house
When LAPD Sergeant Jack Clemmons arrived, he found several people there, including the two doctors and Mrs. Murray. Clemmons later said, “It looked like a convention” and added something “wasn’t kosher.” Clemmons affirmed that he found Marilyn lying naked, facedown, and at an angle on the bed in the sparsely furnished master bedroom. He noted that her arm seemed to be reaching out for the nearby telephone. An empty bottle of sleeping pills was found next to the bed. There were 10 to 14 other bottles on the nightstand, including one that contacted 10 capsules of chloral hydrate, used as a hypnotic. Marilyn’s body was taken to the Westwood Village Mortuary and the house was sealed and placed under guard.
Later, the body was taken to the county morgue, where Los Angeles County Deputy Medical Examiner Thomas T. Noguchi conducted the high-profile autopsy. Noguchi would claim that his youth and relative inexperience caused errors in the case, but later, claimed to have been pressured by his superiors to sign his original autopsy report on Monroe’s death. The official investigation attributed Marilyn’s death to “acute barbiturate poisoning, ingestion of overdose” -- namely Nembutal and chloral hydrate. It was determined to be a suicide. However, a strong forensic doubt can be cast on this conclusion since no barbiturates were actually found in Marilyn’s body, despite the blood and liver levels and the empty bottle of Nembutal found next to the bed.
Marilyn’s crypt at Westwood Memorial Park
After the autopsy, Joe DiMaggio came to Marilyn’s rescue once more. He flew from San Francisco to supervise the funeral arrangements. Marilyn was buried at Westwood Memorial Park, where for the next several decades, red roses were delivered to her crypt each week, courtesy of DiMaggio. Joe died at the age of 85 in 1999 and until the day he died, he regretted losing Marilyn and told friends that he had hoped to remarry her. Reportedly, not long before his death, Joe told his longtime attorney and friend, Morris Engelberg, “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”
Marilyn’s life was over, but she was certainly not being allowed to rest in peace. Controversy and conspiracy theories ran rampant after her death and many refused to believe that she had actually committed suicide. The most popular theories claimed that she had been silenced to protect the reputation of the Kennedy family, as revenge against the Kennedys, or worse.
The inconsistencies were so strange that they prompted a 1985 investigation into Marilyn’s death. According to Walter Schaefer, owner of the Schaefer Ambulance Company, he received a call at about 2 a.m. on the night of Marilyn’s death. He picked her up at her home and delivered her to Santa Monica Hospital, where she died in the emergency room. Inexplicably, though, she was found back at her house, naked, prone on the bed, reaching for the telephone. Deborah Gould, former wife of Marilyn’s friend Peter Lawford, insisted that Lawford and an investigator went to Marilyn’s house to “clean things up” and that Lawford destroyed a note she had written. Gould also stated that Lawford told her, “Marilyn took her last big enema.” At the time of her death, the actress had been taking enemas to facilitate bowel movements, but Gould interpreted this comment to mean something else – namely an enema filled with an overdose of drugs.
Most conspiracy theories about Marilyn’s death seem to connect to her alleged affair with John F. Kennedy. According to a number of accounts, they were attracted to one another after they met yet opinions vary as to just how serious the affair actually was. White House telephone logs show that they spoke on the phone numerous times, yet proving the two had an actual affair has been problematic. Somewhere along the line, the president’s brother, Robert Kennedy, was added to the mix.
According to the stories, Robert Kennedy arrived in L.A. on August 1, 1962 to give a speech to the Bar Association. Apparently, he met Marilyn later that evening at Peter Lawford’s house for an impromptu dinner. Some have speculated that Marilyn organized the dinner herself, while others claim that Bobby arranged the evening, primarily to tell her to stay away from his brother. In any case, the two supposedly ended up making love that night, further complicating matters. Days later, Bobby allegedly rejected Marilyn and warned her again about staying away from the Kennedy family. That forced Marilyn, who was already emotionally distraught, to threaten to expose the contents of her diary – contents that allegedly contained some pretty unsavory information regarding her affair with the president, and about the Kennedys’ collusion with organized crime. As the theory goes, Robert then had to have her silenced – or did someone do it for him?
Another popular theory describes Marilyn’s death at the hands of the mob. As many writers have suggested, the Mafia had a long-standing relationship with the Kennedy family, dating all the way back to Joseph Kennedy and his days as a bootlegger. Underworld legend has it that during the 1960 election, the mob put their muscle behind John Kennedy, especially in Chicago, to insure that he won the presidency. In return, they were given assurances that mob activities would be untouched during the Kennedy administration. But by 1962, it had become painfully obvious that the Kennedys had no intention of keeping up their end of the bargain. In 1960, for example, a mere 19 organized crime figures had been indicted, but within the first two years of the Kennedy administration, 121 Mafia characters were indicted, thanks to Robert Kennedy’s efforts as Attorney General. That left the mob with only one solution – to get the Kennedys out of the way. They tried to do this by first revealing the president’s messy affair with Marilyn, then arranging her death so that the Kennedys appeared to be involved. Unfortunately, for the mob’s efforts anyway, the possible connection between Marilyn and the Kennedys would not really become a part of popular culture until long after almost everyone involved was dead.
If there was a conspiracy behind Marilyn’s death, then based on the contradictions in the case, it would seem to have had to involve her analyst, Dr. Ralph Greenson. He was the man who provided Marilyn with her drugs in the first place. Apparently, on August 4, the day of her death, Greenson gave her a fresh prescription for nembutal. Yet when her body was found in the early morning hours, all 50 pills were gone. Those who believed that she committed suicide have suggested that she simply swallowed all 50 of them. Yet, Noguchi failed to find any trace of drugs in her stomach or intestinal tract when he performed the autopsy. That means that Marilyn had to administer the pills – all 50 of them – rectally. Of course, she could have done this on her own, but if she was trying to kill herself it certainly seems more plausible that she would have just swallowed them with a glass of water. In other words, it seems very possible that someone helped her.
At least one neighbor claimed to have seen Greenson arrive at Marilyn’s house in the early evening with a man who looked like Bobby Kennedy. And if Kennedy was there, he probably came to warn Marilyn away from the family once and for all, and did so with Dr. Greenson’s help. That may have unhinged Marilyn completely, perhaps to the point of hurting herself. That, in turn, may have forced everyone out of the room so that Greenson could administer a sedative. There are accounts that Greenson then left and met up with the rest of the group for dinner at a nearby restaurant. And there are also accounts of Marilyn trying to make a number of frantic calls to Peter Lawford around the same time. In any case, the group apparently returned to her house a few hours later and that’s when she was found unconscious, or even perhaps dead. This may explain why an ambulance driver claimed to take her to the hospital and if a Kennedy really was present, why her body was returned to the house so that it could be “discovered” there.
Regardless, in spite of the hundreds of books written on the subject, no one has ever really been able to solve the mysteries surrounding Marilyn’s death. Part of this has to do with a very real, documented cover-up involving destroyed phone records, a missing diary, and invented alibis. In addition, in the intervening years, almost everyone involved with the case has died, including Peter Lawford, L.A. Police Chief William H. Parker, John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy. In 1985, a Los Angeles grand jury was asked to re-examine Marilyn’s death, but they recommended against re-opening the still-controversial case – there was simply not enough hard evidence to suggest that she had been murdered. Even so, the question remains.
Could this be why Marilyn’s ghost is still rumored to linger in Tinseltown? Perhaps, but one has to wonder just how many places Marilyn’s spirit can haunt? Perhaps the most likely spot to find her ghost would be her former home in Brentwood. Rumor has it that her spirit has been encountered many times in the room where she died. The late Anna Nicole Smith lived in Marilyn’s former home for a time, and she claimed to frequently see and feel Marilyn’s spirit in the house.
One of the most famous locations where Marilyn’s ghost has been encountered has been at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. A hotel employee named Suzanne Leonard was the first to encounter Marilyn’s spectral image in a mirror that was hanging in a hotel office, but she has not been the last. It was later learned that the hotel once hung in Marilyn’s favorite suite, which she often used when she wanted to escape from the pressures of her career. Apparently, Marilyn has been encountered in other ways at the hotel, too. Singer Nick Lachey told a friend in 2006 that he had entered an elevator in the hotel and was stunned to see a gorgeous blonde dressed in sexy 1950s-style evening wear. When he pressed the button for his floor and then turned around for a better look, the woman had vanished. Lachey was convinced that the phantom was Marilyn Monroe.
Marilyn’s ghost has also supposedly been seen at her crypt in the Westwood Village Memorial Park. This haunting is reportedly connected to DiMaggio’s weekly delivery of roses to her grave, which ended with the slugger’s death in 1999. Other admirers still leave flowers and other items at her grave today, but it is Joe’s roses that Marilyn’s specter allegedly waits for. A number of people claim that they have spotted her as a filmy cloud, hovering nearby as she waits for her roses to be delivered to her tomb.
Does her ghost still linger? Perhaps – or perhaps not. It’s true that there are many unanswered questions connected to her death, but it’s also possible that sightings of her ghost are merely wishful thinking on our parts because we just can’t seem to let Marilyn go. Will the troubled young woman ever really rest in peace? Probably not in the way that she deserves to.
From the book BLOODY HOLLYWOOD by Troy Taylor