By: Sarah Key
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 8/21/20- The luscious blonde hair, the bright ruby red lipstick, the curvy figure, the facial beauty mark, and the sexual demeanor are all trademark attributes of classic film star Marilyn Monroe. Born on June 1, 1926 as Norma Jeane Mortensen, Marilyn would soon become the world’s number one sexual icon and beauty sensation to magazines, modeling agents, directors, and many others as her strive to become an actress glowed on theatre marquees.
Creating iconic film scenes while also flashing her charming personality were soon shadowed by her ‘Norma Jeane’ childhood she had from before. She was incredibly unsure of what was in store for the future, but that never took away her goals to find true happiness whether it be to write in her famous red diary, talk with her psychiatrist/psychoanalyst Dr. Ralph Greenson for advice, or to confide in her best friend and actress Jeanne Carmen.
On the night of August 4, 1962, Monroe was met with unfortunate events of what some may say an episode of ‘deep depression and anxiety’. Others have claimed the night was riddled with signs of a ‘murder’. She passed away that Sunday night in her California Brentwood Home, and no one can recall the true reason why. There are many conspiracies told that have turned up moments after her death to even years after, but not many know both sides of the story.
Norma Jeane’s early childhood consisted of living with different families as an orphan after her mother, Gladys Pearl Baker had a mental breakdown and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Jeane was placed in the Los Angeles Orphans Home, where she would grow to feel lonely. As she grew older, Jeane lived in Van Nuys, in 1941, with her mother’s friend Grace Goddard and husband Erwin. Theories speculate he molested Jeane, which led her to become confused and speechless as a young child. She attended Van Nuys High School that year, in which she later dropped out. In 1942, she had to relocate back to the orphanage, as the Goddards were moving because of new job opportunities. Their neighbor had a 21 year-old son named James Dougherty, and Grace Goddard recommended they get married to avoid another orphanage or foster home. Jeane married him on June 19th, 1942. In 1943, Dougherty enlisted in the Merchant Marine and was stationed on Santa Catalina Island, where Jeane would call her new home.
He was soon sent overseas, and Jeane decided to work at the Radioplane Company, which was an American aviation company that produced radio planes for World War II along with drone aircrafts. In 1944, she met photographer David Conover, in which he was sent to shoot ‘uplifting’ photographs of females working during the war. Marilyn thus began her modeling career with Conover. In August 1945, she signed a contract with the Blue Book Model Agency. In 1946, she discovered acting and signed a contract with an acting agency, which led her to be screen tested at 20th Century Fox by Ben Lyon. Head executive Darryl Zanuck gave her a six-month contract. She had to pick a stage name to identify as, so her and Lyon took famous Broadway star Marilyn Miller and her mother’s maiden name Monroe and combined them to create her claim as the Marilyn Monroe. At the start of her career, Dougherty grew to become against her career, so the couple divorced.
“Some of my foster families used to send me to the movies to get me out of the house and there I’d sit all day and way into the night. Up in front, there with the screen so big, a little kid all alone, and I loved it. I loved anything that moved up there and I didn’t miss anything that happened and there was no popcorn either. It was the creative part that kept me going, trying to be an actress. I enjoy acting when you really hit it right. And I guess I’ve always had too much fantasy to be only a housewife…The time I sort of began to think I was famous, I was driving somebody to the airport, and as I came back there was this movie house and I saw my name in lights. I pulled the car up at a distance down the street…And I sat there and said, “So that’s the way it looks,”” Monroe quoted regarding the start of her career.
Jeane made headway into acting through changing into her iconic Marilyn style. Her brunette hair at the time was dyed blonde to enhance photographs and soon after, she began appearing in magazines as the top model in 1946. In 1947, Monroe started appearing in bit parts in films such as Dangerous Years (1947) as waitress Evie and Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1948) as Betty leaving the Church service. Through much learning and attending acting school, Monroe would be working as a contract player at 20th Century-Fox. In March of 1948, Monroe would then sign a six-month contract with Columbia Pictures and star in Ladies of The Chorus (1948) as Peggy Martin. Monroe went from the timid young girl to the open actress where she loved opening herself up to an audience on camera. However, it would be challenging, as she couldn’t make all of the decisions between studio heads. Anxiety and insomnia began to grow in the mind of Marilyn Monroe.
As Monroe was making her way up to top billing, a romantic relationship started between her and legendary/retired New York Yankees baseball star Joe DiMaggio. It is rumored that during this time, Monroe was also dating actor Peter Lawford, who later was a part of the “Rat Pack” and a future brother-in-law of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy. It should also be noted that while dating DiMaggio, she ‘quickly married’ her close friend Bob Slatzer in Tijuana in October 1952. Twentieth Century Fox boss Darryl Zanuck told them he wasn’t going to deal with a marriage when he had a big financial investment with her. They went back to Tijuana and destroyed the marriage certificate, ending the marriage.
1953 would prove to be the most successful year in Monroe’s career, as she would become the top billed star and main character in film. Niagra (1953), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) are examples of a few films she was most known for, that year. Her iconic bombshell personality increases dramatically in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, as her acclaimed musical number in Diamond’s Are a Girl’s Best Friend defined who she was as a talented and hardworking actress, despite what her past held.
In January of 1954, she finally married DiMaggio. In September, Monroe’s most risqué and popular appearance on screen was brought upon her in Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch (1954). In one scene, Monroe is wearing a flashy white dress while standing over the subway draft. It is a hot summer night and she decides to feel the breeze. Doing so, her dress flies up revealing the entirety of her legs and the underside of her dress. The marriage to DiMaggio wouldn’t last long as he was disappointed other men were staring at her in the scene. He didn’t believe in her becoming an actress and wanted her to become a housewife. Monroe filed for divorce nine months into the marriage. She began dating playwright Arthur Miller, and in June 1956, they married. Adding to her anxiety complications, Monroe had a miscarriage in her pregnancy to Miller. Stories claim that around the same time, she was also hospitalized for overdosing her prescribed barbiturates from her psychiatrist, Ralph Greenson and physician Hyman Engelberg. Barbiturates were prescribed to patients who had insomnia and anxiety conflicts, in which the pill, if ingested, would sedate the patients and put them to sleep. It is noted that many believe she was addicted to these drugs and would use them frequently.
Monroe was cast in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959) with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in 1959, and her fellow costars accounted how difficult it was to act beside Monroe herself. She loved acting, but this film would prove too complex for her. The simple line of “It’s me, Sugar” took Monroe 47 takes to say correctly, and Wilder had to eventually paste the line in every drawer next to her and write it on a blackboard in order for her to get it right. Her mental psyche would become disturbed during production, and having a miscarriage before didn’t add to the situation, either.
By 1960, her marriage to Miller would be over, and the last full film Marilyn completed was The Misfits (1961) before her untimely death. She was addicted to the drugs on set, and to make matters worse, she had gallstones and had to have a cholecystectomy. She also had surgery for her endometriosis leaving her in the hospital for four weeks after production. Joe DiMaggio came back into the picture to calm her and take care of her. She regrew a friendship with him again.
It was that year that Marilyn would mark her final home, in Brentwood California at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive.
It is the year 1962, and Monroe would rapidly decline as the pressure in being the world’s most popular sex symbol haunted her mind. She has recalled in many interviews that no one understood who she really was under the “Marilyn” image. She felt her on-screen image was giving off the wrong message to the world, and people treated her as if she bed down with everyone she met.
“First I’m trying to prove to myself that I’m a person. Then maybe I’ll convince myself that I’m an actress,” Monroe once quoted.
The last film she worked on for Fox was George Cukor’s Something’s Got to Give (1962). It was during the film that she would be late to set (which happens to everybody), forget her lines, and become sick with sinusitis. Taking too much time off production, Fox fired her. On May 19th, Monroe would be seen at Madison Square Garden singing her famous performance of Happy Birthday Mr. President to President JFK. Peter Lawford introduced her on stage, and per usual, she was late. Her grand entrance entailed her throwing off her white fur coat and exposing a Jean Louis flesh-colored dress. Her dress was sewn on, and it was embezzled with 2,500 rhinestones. This performance was three months before her death.
JFK and Monroe were two of the most attractive figures in 1962, and gossip arose that the two had affairs with each other after the performance. In 1961, they were both rumored to have been together at Peter Lawford’s Santa Monica Home. Patricia Kennedy Lawford, Lawford’s wife, was a close friend to Marilyn. Not many are sure how Monroe met the Kennedy’s, but it is also rumored that she had a deep love affair with Senator Robert Kennedy, however, as time rolled on, and the secret relationships pursued, she grew to know too much and wrote everything down in her famous red diary.
It is the day of Saturday August 3rd, 1962, the day before her death. Monroe was in the midst of rebuilding her downfalls and began writing her will and creating plans with her best friend Jeanne Carmen to go golfing on August 5th. Carmen was a professional-level golfer on the golf course, and they were scheduled to golf in Monterey. It was speculated that she was to remarry DiMaggio a few weeks after her death, too. No one really knows what occurred between the morning of August 3rd to the night and early mornings of August 4th and 5th. These accounts are from multiple sources and claims from her housekeeper Eunice Murray, Ralph Greenson, her press secretary and member of press agent Arthur Jacobs’ staff Patricia Newcomb, and Monroe’s lawyer Mickey Rudin. The first police officer on the scene, Sergeant Jack Clemmons also was a witness to the scene and the Chief of Police were involved.
It all begins around the morning of August 3rd, she had spent some time with Lawrence Schiller, who photographed publicity photos of her for Something’s Got to Give. Eunice Murray, her housekeeper, was in the house, too. Murray was supposedly fired that week.
“Doctor, I want you to help me get rid of Murray. While she was giving me an enema last night I was thinking to myself, lady, even though you’re very good at this, you’ve got to go…I can’t flat out fire her. Next thing would be a book, Secrets of Marilyn Monroe by her Housekeeper. She’d make a fortune spilling what she knows, and she knows too damn much…I can’t put up with her insolence and disregard for anything I ask her to do,” Monroe quoted in a tape to Dr. Greenson.
Monroe had the feeling Murray was only staying to spy on her, and this was true as Greenson hired her to gather all of the information she knew for future reference. Greenson and Murray were old friends, and Greenson wanted her to stay to “keep her company.” Publicist Newcomb was also present in the house, and spent the night before, but was asked to leave based on a therapy session Greenson would conduct on Monroe at 4:30 PM. He left at 7 PM. Around 7-7:15 PM, Joe DiMaggio Jr. called her to tell her that he broke up with his girlfriend. To her shock, she called Greenson at 7:40 PM to tell him the news. Going into her bedroom at 8 PM, Peter Lawford called her to invite her to a dinner party at his Santa Monica home. Declining the offer, Lawford was curious as to why her voice was slurred on the call. He then called his agent Milton Ebbins, which proved unsuccessful. He then called Monroe’s lawyer Milton Rudin. Rudin called Murray and asked if Monroe was okay. Murray said she was doing fine.
3:30 AM began the horror that would strike Fifth Helena Drive. Murray woke up sensing “something was off,” and tried opening Monroe’s door after seeing her light was still on. Finding it locked, Murray telephoned Greenson. She went outside and looked through the window to see Marilyn lying there motionless with a telephone receiver in her hand. Greenson shortly arrived and entered the room through breaking the outside window. He called her physician Dr. Hyman Engelberg, and he arrived at 3:50 AM, pronouncing her dead. 4:25 AM would mark the time they all notified the Los Angeles Police Department, as the story goes. However, another story, told by Eunice Murray recalls a different scenario.
Murray mentioned she was the one who called Engelberg, and not Greenson. She also claimed that she took Monroe the telephone around 7:30 PM. However, that was the time noted that Lawford called to invite Marilyn to his home, as another tale goes. The times to this story were all eerily mistaken as no one could evenly match up the times to make the story even come close to making sense.
5:00 PM was another time noted that Lawford tried to persuade Marilyn to come over to his home for dinner that night. Lawford’s attempt at giving the time of the second call was 7:30 PM, which could not have been accurate since she was talking to Joe Jr. at that time. Marilyn then calls masseur Ralph Roberts at 9:45 PM…didn’t reach him. His answering service told her he had gone out to dinner with friends and this was the call that she slurred in. At about 10:00 PM, in what appears to have been her final call that night to Jeanne Carmen, there was no mention of slurring, according to Carmen. She was calling to invite Carmen over to her home, but Carmen said she couldn’t. That night again, Marilyn did not put the phone outside the bedroom door. Deborah Gould who was married to Lawford in 1976 for only a few weeks corrected the 7:30 PM call to Lawford inviting her over to 10:00 PM, but this time conflicted with the call Marilyn had with Jeanne Carmen.
In Matthew Smith’s Her Secret Tapes and Mysterious Death Marilyn’s Last Words, it is written that Natalie, the widow of publicist Arthur Jacobs said they were at the Hollywood Bowl that night attending a Harry Mancini concert. She recalled a young man on the Bowl staff crept up the aisle to whisper something to Arthur. Arthur then replied, “Something’s happened over at Marilyn’s house.” This was around 10:30 PM. She didn’t see him for two days after the fact. She said it was Pat Newcomb (Marilyn’s press secretary and member of Arthur Jacobs’ staff) who made the call, and she told Natalie she was the first on the scene. Said she didn’t hear the news of her death until 4:00 AM that Sunday morning, when Marilyn’s lawyer, Milton ‘Mickey’ Rudin, called her. She went straight over she said. However, there is a twist. Newcomb attended Peter Lawford’s dinner party at his beach house on Saturday night. Producer George Durgom said she arrived at 9:30 PM telling everyone Monroe wasn’t attending because she “wasn’t feeling well.”
There were also accounts of Monroe talking to Robert Kennedy that night, wanting to see him. It is claimed that Monroe’s home was bugged, or wire tapped, by surveillance expert Bernard Spindel and private detective Fred Otash to listen in on their calls, and it is written that Bobby was there the night she died. Her home was also supposedly bugged by the mafia (whom Monroe was deeply connected to based on the Kennedy’s and her close friend Frank Sinatra), and J. Edgar Hoover (head of Federal Bureau of Investigation).
Her home was suspected to have been bugged to expose anything that would incriminate the President, whom in which she was rumored to be having affairs with. She threatened to expose many things the Kennedy brothers were secretly exposing to her. Many speculate they murdered her that night, however, there isn’t enough evidence to prove so. Spindel’s tapes were said to have captured “movements” the night she died in which they sounded like “banging” and a “body being placed on the bed” she died in. Police rummaged/ransacked through his home and confiscated the tapes.
Otash told how Lawford had telephoned him “shortly after midnight” on Sunday August 5th to tell him something traumatic had happened. He agreed to a meeting in his office, on Laurel Avenue, and Lawford came at 2 AM. Otash said he looked “half crocked and half nervous.” Lawford said he left from seeing Marilyn dead and that Bobby had been there earlier.
The first officer on the scene was Sergeant Jack Clemmons, that evening, and what he saw came off as interesting. He was called around 4:30 AM by Greenson, four hours after Marilyn had died. (Why would they wait to call four hours after the fact?) He was told Marilyn Monroe was dead, and Murray escorted him to her bedroom. Murray quoted she was the first to discover the scene of her laying flat on the bed, but it was said Greenson was the one that saw her dead. Interestingly enough, Clemmons entered to the sound of the washing machine and a vacuum cleaner running. Why would he hear those running, and why would Murray be doing laundry around 4 AM? Clemmons quoted he felt like he wasn’t alone just with Murray in the house.
“Mrs. Murray told me that Dr. Greenson entered the room saw the pills and saw the body. At which time he called Dr. Engelberg…. [he] pronounced her dead…according to this story that I’m receiving at this time this is all occurring shortly after midnight. And I got the phone call at 4:25 AM. Now if this story is true, that means that these people are in this house for four hours with a dead body, so I asked them, why didn’t you call sooner, let us know sooner, no one wanted to answer me. They tried to ignore me. Finally Dr. Greenson spoke up. He did most of the talking when I was there…Lawford said we had to get permission from the publicity department from the studio before we could notify anybody,” Clemmons said in a 1992 interview on The Marilyn Monroe Files live television special.
On top of his answers not being correctly answered, Clemmons found the home to be “too neat,” and the bed was perfectly clean, minus the other sheets that were being washed. He also believed her body was placed flat on the bed in that “soldier” like position as he called it, based on it looking unnatural. He also noticed there was no drinking glass for the empty capsules sitting on top of her nightstand. Greenson kept hinting at suicide and pointing to all of the evidence, including those empty barbiturate and Nembutal pill bottles. The caps were also neatly placed back onto the bottles. If she committed suicide, she would need water to swallow all of those pills, but there wasn’t a glass anywhere. Some can argue that she swallowed the 50 Nembutal capsules without water as she became addicted to her sleeping pills over time, however, her autopsy, performed by Thomas Noguchi, found empty contents in her stomach. The only interesting verdict was a purplish hue to her colon. There also wasn’t a suicide note, or anything left telling others of her death ahead of time.
The final police reports were also different than the original stories told by Murray and Greenson. Detective Sergeant Robert E. Byron wrote a report from the scene and jotted down the first version of:
..Pronounced on 8/5/62 at 3:45 AM, Possible Accidental, having taken place between the times of 8/4 and 8/5/1962, 3:35 AM at residence located at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive, Brentwood….Marilyn Monroe retired to her bedroom at about eight o’clock in the evening; Mrs. Eunice Murray was not able to arouse Miss Monroe when she went to the door, and when she tried the door again at 3:30 AM when she noted the light still on, she found it to be locked. Thereupon Mrs. Murray observed Miss Monroe through the bedroom window and found her lying on her stomach in the bed and the appearance seemed unnatural. Mrs. Murray then called Miss Monroe’s psychiatrist Dr. Ralph R. Greenson…Upon entering the bedroom window, he found Miss Monroe possibly dead. Then he telephoned Dr. Hyman Engelberg…who came over and then pronounced Miss Monroe dead at 3:35 AM.. Miss Monroe was seen by Dr. Greenson on August 4th 1962 at 5:15 PM at her request, because she was not able to sleep. She was being treated by him for about a year. She was nude when Dr. Greenson found her dead with the telephone receiver in one hand and lying on her stomach. The Police Department was called and when they arrived they found Miss Monroe in the condition described above, except for the telephone, which was removed by Dr. Greenson.
The final report documented by Byron had a few changes Murray told him, and they involved saying that Engelberg pronounced her dead at 3:50 AM not 3:35 AM as stated before, and it was 4:00 AM Engelberg telephoned the police department. It was also said that Greenson broke the window pane and entered through the window. He was said to have removed the phone from Monroe’s hand, as Clemmons didn’t see it before, which would make sense. Greenson was said to have called Engelberg, not Murray. Clemmons also believed Murray to be acting “frightened” and “Dr. Greenson appeared to have been elected spokesperson” in answering all of the questions he asked.
It can be argued that Monroe’s depression contributed to her to want to die peacefully through an overdose, in her sleep, as she was searching for that inner peace her whole life. Also a private person, she most likely didn’t want to write a note of suicide notice. She was also caught many times in trouble with taking her pills and had to be saved numerous times.
Original photographs were airbrushed for final reports to hide the supposed “blood stain” on the wallThrough much research, hundreds of claims and opinions erupted to prove that she did not commit suicide. It seems as if her death, hard to solve, leads to a 50/50 side to both murder and suicide. The facts present lead much more on the side of murder. However,
in photographs taken of the crime scene that evening, one can notice that the window is broken from the inside of the bedroom as the glass was found by detectives to be on the outside. Marilyn also installed new thick carpeting around the house, in which if Murray looked under her door to find her dead, as another story stated that she told, then how could she have seen Miss Monroe if the carpet was too high? The most interesting note is that her door wasn’t actually locked as Murray mentioned in the police report. The A-1 Lock and Safe Company submitted a bill to her estate for repairs made to locks AFTER she died, and Monroe’s secretary Cherie Redmond complained that the doors never had locks on them in the first place. During her autopsy, Noguchi came in to find that her kidneys, stomach, and intestines mysteriously disappeared. Why would they disappear without him knowing?
The Coroner Theodore J. Curphey, who assigned Noguchi to the job, said after the autopsy that he could give the opinion of suicide, and the coroner’s office listed the death as “possible suicide” and another said “probable suicide.” The police report said “possible accidental,” instead.
Again, no one really knows what happened that night in all entirety, but celebrities and close friends of Monroe recognized her positive spirit aside from anxieties and ruled out the suicide verdict. Lawyer John Miner was present at the autopsy and claimed that an enema was the most likely source of her death based on the purplish hue of her colon. Enemas weren’t uncommon, and Monroe used them all the time, however, this can also carry onto a suicidal side where she could have inserted it herself with poison as she was used to them. Murray, a nurse, was also blamed for administering it with a “poison” prescribed by Greenson as he was basically her boss. Bob Slatzer, her second husband, claimed she was murdered as well. Private detective Milo Speriglio was hired by Slatzer to investigate it, and he found that an enema was also likely the cause. Journalist, and radio and television personality Dorothy Kilgallen was one of the first that accepted the suicide claim, but then she was faced with new information present. She recognized she was looking into a murder investigation case. She planned to write a book on it, but never did. Journalist Frank Capell also followed pursuit and claimed it was murder. Carmen, Monroe’s closest friend, was 100% in favor of the idea that other people killed her.
“I will never think that. I don’t think she was suicidal. That’s a lie. She was as happy as I’ve seen her,” Carmen said in regards to Marilyn on the set of her final film Something’s Got to Give (1962).
Monroe’s funeral took place on August 8th and she was interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Out of all the reactions to her death, Joe DiMaggio took it the hardest and wept the entirety of the funeral. In attendance were Greenson, Murray, Arthur Jacobs, Pat Newcomb, Joe Jr., and her lawyers. Not everyone is listed, but the funeral was very private, and the Lawfords, Sinatra, and Slatzer were strangely not invited. DiMaggio leaned over the coffin and kissed it saying, “I love you, my darling, I love you.” Three times a week for the next twenty years, two red roses were sent from him to be on her crypt. In present times, she still receives roses from fans and are replaced weekly as new people visit her each day.
Joe DiMaggio and his son distraught at her funeralThough Monroe struggled with anxieties and toxic energy, she still continued to inspire others years even after her final moments. Her talent in acting and charisma on the big screen inspire others to search for that same happiness she was searching for. Her miscarriages brought her into a depression for some time, but she kept herself smiling through visiting orphanages and giving back to children’s charities. She didn’t want the children to grow up the same way she did, and she made sure to bring hope to everyone around her. Though her death remains a mystery to this day, the truth to her happiness can be found in her determination. She was determined to continue making motion pictures, better herself, and grow as a person. She once quoted, “They will only care if you’re gone,” and this is true in the way thousands impersonate her world wide, kiss her crypt daily, and write articles/books about her. Today, she is still number one in the hearts of fans, and knowing that, Marilyn is sure to have a true smile on her face.
More information on the timing of events from that evening:
Matthew Smith’s Her Secret Tapes and Mysterious Death Marilyn’s Last Words (2003)