Marilyn Monroe achieved great fame for her movies, and seemed to have found happiness with her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller. But Marilyn's unpleasant behavior and her increasing dependency on Arthur Miller to see her through each day strained their marriage considerably. The strain was magnified by Marilyn's discovery of Miller's personal notebook, an event that has been recounted so many times that its true impact on Marilyn is difficult to fully grasp.
In the notebook, Miller had recorded some unflattering personal thoughts about Marilyn and his relationship with her. According to some accounts, his written comments revealed his disappointment in Marilyn's behavior during the production of The Prince and the Showgirl; in other accounts, he had compared Marilyn to his ex-wife.
The story was embellished over time and through many retellings, even by Marilyn herself; one version claims that Miller's personal notes referred to his new bride as a "whore."
Whatever the exact nature of Miller's jottings, some of Marilyn's closest friends, including the Strasbergs, maintained that her discovery was a heartbreaking one that signaled the beginning of the end of her marriage. Miller himself has always denied that this episode had any dire effect on the relationship.
Marilyn Monroe Image Gallery
Despite Marilyn's personal and professional conflicts during production, The Prince and the Showgirl has become one of the actress's most acclaimed films.
Well-crafted and beautifully photographed by Jack Cardiff, the movie tells the story of a turn-of-the-century American showgirl who has a brief encounter with the stuffy Grand Duke Charles, Prince Regent of Carpathia. During the course of their evening together, the unassuming Chorine reunites the Prince with his estranged son, teaching the royal Romeo about mutual respect and fairness.
The improbable teaming of Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier does nothing but enhance this sophisticated comedy. The innocence and sincerity of Marilyn's character, Elsie Marina, perfectly complements the pompousness of Olivier's Prince Regent.
Marilyn's image, with its combination of innocence and sexuality, is once again used to splendid advantage. While Elsie's sexy exterior initially attracts the Prince to the Showgirl, her inner goodness and native wisdom transform him into a fair-minded father and more democratic leader.
Just as Cherie in Bus Stop bore similarities to the woman who portrayed her, so did Elsie Marina recall the real-life Marilyn -- but in a far less tragic way.
Whereas Cherie was searching for respect, just as Marilyn would for most of her career, Elsie's resemblance to the actress was tongue-in-cheek. Like Marilyn, Elsie is never on time, not even to meet her royal date; and, like Marilyn, Elsie is repeatedly described as childlike.
Also, just as Marilyn's strap had broken at the press conference with Olivier, Elsie's dress strap breaks in the presence of the Prince. In real life, Marilyn's insecurities and bad habits caused delays and frustration; on the screen, these same qualities were presented as endearing.
The fusion of Marilyn Monroe with the characters she played was something that Marilyn personally detested, but in The Prince and the Showgirl and Bus Stop, it may have helped her fans accept the less gracious aspects of her real-life personality -- many of which were reported and exaggerated in the press.
Marilyn's involvement in The Prince and the Showgirl earned her worldwide attention. Before the film was completed, she was asked to attend a Royal Command Film Performance before Queen Elizabeth. Along with several other film stars, Marilyn was presented to the Queen, who complimented the famous actress on her curtsy.
After the film was released to much acclaim, particularly in Europe, Marilyn won Italy's David di Donatello Prize for Best Foreign Actress of 1958, as well as France's Crystal Star Award for Best Foreign Actress.
Both awards are considered the equivalent of the Oscar, but Marilyn's chance for the real thing was denied her, as she was once again passed over by Hollywood at Academy Award-nomination time.
Upon their return to the States, Marilyn and Miller retreated to the privacy of a rented cottage in Amagansett, Long Island. Miller completed a few short stories, including "Please Don't Kill Anything," inspired by Marilyn's inability to tolerate suffering in any living creature, and "The Misfits."
Marilyn enjoyed some peaceful days and restful nights at Amagansett, though she still suffered frequent bouts of insomnia. After the stressful experiences in London, the newlyweds were determined to focus on their life together.
Away from the pressures of her career and the fear that few in the film industry respected her, Marilyn was heard to say, "Movies are my business, but Arthur is my life."
A handful of disappointing episodes interrupted the couple's secluded existence. In May 1957, Miller's contempt of Congress trial ended. Marilyn told newsmen she was confident her husband would win his case, but Miller was convicted on two counts of contempt. He received a 30-day suspended sentence and a $500 fine.
Though the penalty was hardly devastating, Miller had fought hard to be acquitted as a matter of principle. He chose to appeal the conviction, which was finally overturned in August 1958.
The spring of 1957 brought another milestone,
as Marilyn severed her personal and business relations with partner Milton Greene. Their friendship had lost much of its initial closeness after her marriage to Miller, while their business association rapidly deteriorated during the production of The Prince and the Showgirl.
During the group's stay in London, Greene had attempted to organize a British subsidiary of Marilyn Monroe Productions, an act that Miller interpreted as conducting business behind Marilyn's back.
In addition, Marilyn resented Greene's congenial relationship with Olivier, and she suspected him of shipping antiques back to the States and billing the charges through Marilyn Monroe Productions.
After returning to New York, communication between the two partners disintegrated completely. Marilyn had trusted Greene in such an idealistic manner that any deal he attempted for his personal benefit -- though perfectly legitimate -- was considered by her to be a betrayal.
Marilyn, with the help of Miller and his lawyers, decided to break with Greene and sue him for control of Marilyn Monroe Productions. Greene eventually settled the matter by accepting a mere $ 100,000 for his share of the company.
Whatever the reasons behind the dissolution of the Greene-Monroe partnership, the ambitious photographer cannot be faulted for the work he did on Marilyn's behalf. Both Bus Stop and The Prince and the Showgirl -- properties Greene personally selected for Marilyn -- were finished within their budgets, and both films were considered critical and popular successes.
The most devastating blow to Marilyn's emotional and mental state occurred during the summer of 1957. Marilyn had become pregnant in June, a stroke of good fortune that left her ecstatic.
She adored children and had always been active in children's charities. She was devoted to Miller's two children by his former marriage and remained close to DiMaggio's son until her death.
Miller once observed, "To understand Marilyn best, you have to see her around children. They love her; her whole approach to life has their kind of simplicity and directness."
Sadly, she could not carry her own baby to full term. A few weeks into her pregnancy, she was in such physical agony that Miller called an ambulance to rush her to Doctor's Hospital in New York. Doctors discovered that her pregnancy was tubular, and were forced to surgically terminate it.
In the weeks following her loss, Marilyn grew increasingly despondent. In an effort to bolster her spirits, Miller discussed his plans for turning "The Misfits" into a suitable dramatic script for her.
He planned to focus on the female character Roslyn, who is mentioned only in the dialogue of the short story, and make her a central part of the action for the film. Marilyn was pleased by the idea but could not fully shake her depression. Her dependency on medication to sleep -- and perhaps escape -- increased significantly.
At least once during this period she sought oblivion by swallowing too much medication, though whether she did so as a destructive act or as an attempt to sleep through her anguish can only be surmised. Marilyn's spirits remained depressed, and she would make no public appearances until the end of January 1958.
While in England, Miller had sold his beloved Connecticut residence. When a 300-acre farm near his previous Roxbury home went on the market, Miller wasted no time in purchasing it.
The reserved, serious-minded writer loved the quiet life of the country, though Marilyn often longed for the stimulation of New York. The couple divided their time between the solitude of their country farm and Marilyn's new apartment in the city. Miller maintained studies at both residences, where he continued to work on his script adaptation of "The Misfits."
After almost two years, Marilyn gets back to movie making with the film Some Like It Hot. Learn more about her role in this movie on the next page.
Marilyn Monroe in 'Some Like It Hot'
After The Prince and the Showgirl wrapped in the fall of 1956, Marilyn did not appear on a movie set until the summer of 1958. Almost two years had passed between projects, during which time Marilyn had attempted -- not too successfully -- to put some of her personal demons behind her.
On August 4, 1958, Marilyn began work with director Billy Wilder on Some Like It Hot -- a production fraught with horrendous fighting, debilitating health problems, heartbreaking disappointments, and harsh accusations.
Yet, the film would also be her greatest financial success -- her most popular triumph. The tragedy of her life was that such extreme highs and lows were so often wrapped in the same package.
A spoof of the gangster era in Chicago, Some Like It Hot tells the story of two musicians who accidentally witness a gangland shooting not unlike the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
To escape Chicago and possible retaliation by the mob, the two buddies, played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, don dresses and join an unsuspecting all-girl orchestra headed for Florida. Marilyn costars as the band's ukulele player, a kooky singer named Sugar Kane, who befriends the two new "girls."
The skirt-chaser played by Curtis falls for Sugar, but the ambitious blonde has confided that her life's goal is to marry a millionaire. This farce of false identities takes a complex twist when Curtis embarks on a second masquerade as a wealthy oil magnate in order to woo the beautiful Sugar.
A comical subplot highlights Jack Lemmon's talent for physical comedy: While disguised as a woman, Lemmon is aggressively courted by aging millionaire Osgood Fielding III, played by the rubber-faced comic actor Joe E. Brown.
Through it all, the two male protagonists must keep watchful eyes open for the gangsters, who are determined to track them down and rub them out.
Marilyn realized early on that, as originally conceived, Sugar Kane was little more than a "straight man" for the antics of the two male characters.
She requested that Wilder and his writing collaborator I.A.L Diamond add bits and pieces to the script that would develop Sugar Kane's personality and allow the character to be a more active participant in the fun.
One of the scenes that Wilder and Diamond rewrote is the first appearance of Sugar, captured as she hurriedly wobbles on high heels to catch a train. The rewrite allowed Marilyn to engage in a bit of physical comedy, for as Sugar shimmies along the platform, a sudden blast of steam noisily bursts from the train and across her undulating bottom.
The cheerfully vulgar situation and Sugar's surprised reaction provide the audience with a good laugh and establish immediately the freewheeling nature of Marilyn's portrayal.
Marilyn was pleased with the new scene that Wilder and Diamond came up with. She wanted her character to hold her own in the broad physical comedy intrinsic to a plot involving two men masquerading as women.
By vigorously playing Sugar as a bona-fide kook instead of as just another two-dimensional dumb blonde, Marilyn simultaneously exploited and expanded her image.
Some Like It Hot was photographed in black and white, a decision that was a major point of contention with Marilyn at the outset.
Though this film was an independent project distributed by United Artists, Marilyn's most recent Fox contract stipulated that all her movies be shot in color. She felt that she photographed best in color, and she balked at the plan to shoot her first film in two years in black and white.
Marilyn relented when Wilder showed her color tests of Lemmon and Curtis in their heavy makeup, which assumed a ghastly green tint on film.
As the production continued, Wilder realized that Marilyn's concerns for her character and the quality of the film were the least of his worries. Marilyn's tardiness and absences held up production, pushed the film over its budget, and had a near-disastrous effect on the morale of the cast and crew.
Sometimes hours late, Marilyn kept costars Lemmon and Curtis waiting on the set in full costume and heavy makeup. When she was working, dozens of takes were sometimes required for her to conquer even the simplest of lines.
The need for repeated takes had always been a problem with Marilyn when she felt nervous or insecure. Her drug use and increasing dependence on alcohol during this period greatly magnified the problem.
Her inability to master such lines as "Where is that bourbon?" in less than 40 takes has become the stuff of movie legend. Her costars, particularly Curtis, were upset during these episodes, not only because her problems made for some very long days, but also because their performances became less effective as the number of takes increased.
Curtis's anger at Marilyn over such delays caused him to ridicule or criticize her after filming was completed. His notorious quote about Marilyn -- "Kissing her is like kissing Hitler" -- indicates the degree of tension and resentment that permeated the set.
Regrettably, these tales lead fans to assume that Marilyn was confused or flustered every day of the shoot, which is untrue. Certain sequences, including the exterior beach scenes shot at California's Hotel del Coronado, were mastered in only one or two takes.
Director Billy Wilder's relationship with Marilyn, which began with The Seven Year Itch, deteriorated during the production of Some Like It Hot. After the shoot was completed, Wilder released some disparaging remarks about her to the press.
The hard-bitten director, who had suffered muscle spasms in his back during production, remarked to a reporter that since the film was finished, "[I can] look at my wife again without wanting to hit her because she was a woman."
The comment struck Marilyn and Miller as being particularly cruel because Marilyn suffered another miscarriage after production was completed. Reportedly, the miscarriage resulted from the physical and emotional strain of making the film.
Two years later, at a party celebrating Wilder's next film, The Apartment, Marilyn and the great director mended their differences. Unsubstantiated comments and rumors circulated at the time, claiming that Wilder was willing to work with Marilyn on a third project.
That Wilder thought Marilyn brought something special to the screen is confirmed by his comments praising her "high voltage" and her "luminous" presence.
Of Marilyn's performance in Some Like It Hot, the director remarked, "Marilyn Monroe was very sensitive, difficult, and disorganized. ... In some cases you had to match shots from different takes to make it seem as though she were giving a performance; but there were stretches when she was absolutely phenomenal; one of the great comediennes."
Since Marilyn's death, Wilder's opinion of the legendary actress has remained ambivalent, often contradictory. His conflicting comments reveal not only his admiration for Marilyn's talents but also a deep-seated anger over her unprofessional habits and disregard for her costars.
Wilder's most telling comment about Marilyn was recorded in columnist Earl Wilson's 1971 book, The Show Business Nobody Knows. The director reminisced, "I miss her. It was like going to the dentist, making a picture with her. It was hell at the time, but after it was over, it was wonderful."
In retrospect, the comedic brilliance of Some Like It Hot makes irrelevant the torture that was involved in its creation. Some film historians regard the picture as Wilder's masterpiece, while others name it as the finest American comedy of the sound era.
As a spoof of the gangster-film genre, it is unparalleled. Monroe biographers generally regard the film as the peak of Marilyn's acting career; the innocent aspect of her image was never put to better use and is a key element in the film's success.
Some Like It Hot epitomizes the themes Wilder explored throughout his career. Many of his pictures revolve around some sort of con or swindle -- a murder-for-profit scheme in Double Indemnity; a reporter's opportunistic manipulation of tragedy in The Big Carnival; the double lives of adulterous business executives in The Apartment.
Although photographed in black and white,
the film sacrifices none of Marilyn's considerable allure.
Though Wilder's characters are seldom thoroughly bad, they are often cynical, corrupted, or interested only in personal gain, often at the expense of the feelings or well-being of others.
Wilder typically underlined their deceitful intentions by providing a sharply contrasting character, an innocent figure who is fascinated or victimized by the world's corruption.
In Some Like It Hot, Sugar's sincerity exposes the chicanery of the male characters. The two musicians attempt to deceive the women in the orchestra with their masquerade, while Curtis misleads Sugar further with his oil magnate's disguise. On a more farcical level, Lemmon's character deceives millionaire Osgood Fielding III by leading him on sexually.
Although Sugar -- momentarily swept up in the thrill of being romanced by an apparent oil millionaire -- makes a halfhearted attempt to pass herself off as a society girl, she never fails to freely reveal her thoughts and feelings, even as the two male characters struggle to conceal theirs.
Wilder's ironic, sometimes caustic view of life is revealed at the end of the story, when all of the deception is exposed, yet few consequences are suffered.
Curtis's character still wins the affection of Sugar, while Osgood Fielding expresses little concern that Lemmon's character is actually a man. "Nobody's perfect," deadpans Joe E. Brown, giving voice to Wilder's acceptance of a less-than-ideal world.
Jack Lemmon's enthusiastic and brilliantly funny performance is a high point of Some Like It Hot, but it is Marilyn's luminous presence and witty interpretation of Sugar that make the film a special one.
Though Sugar is vitally important to the picture, and the image of Marilyn Monroe essential to convey the innocence necessary for the role, Marilyn managed to enrich the character even further. Her insistence on making her characters real -- a result of her Method training -- added a human quality to Sugar.
Some Like It Hot depended on the actors' ability to nimbly handle physical humor and broad farce; despite their personal differences, Marilyn, Curtis, Lemmon, and the rest of the cast (which includes veterans George Raft and Pat O'Brien, cleverly spoofing their own images) faced the challenge.
Together, they created an American film classic. As time passes and memories of the turbulence of the production fade, it will be the film itself that will be remembered. Some Like It Hot -- and Marilyn's wonderful performance -- will endure.
Some Like It Hot was nominated for six Academy Awards, though Marilyn was overlooked in the Best Actress category. The film won only one Oscar -- for costume design in a black-and-white film.
Still, Marilyn's performance did not go totally unrewarded; she won a Golden Globe Award as best actress in a comedy or musical and, once again, received sparkling reviews.
As the decade drew to a close, the contradiction between the turmoil of Marilyn's personal life and the fame of her stardom became more dramatic than ever before.
Two ill-fated pregnancies and an increasing dependency on the escape offered by drugs and alcohol wore Marilyn down, making her distressed in private and even more timid with strangers.
In June 1959, she elected to have surgery to increase her chances of having a child. The effort would prove futile, leaving her insecure about her womanhood.
In her public life, Marilyn's celebrity reached such proportions that she was invited to meet Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev during his 1959 visit to America. Marilyn flew to Los Angeles to join other stars and studio luminaries at a special luncheon arranged by Twentieth Century-Fox.
If the private Marilyn doubted her identity as a woman, the public Marilyn affirmed it for her. The movie star would remark after her luncheon with the powerful world leader, "Khrushchev looked at me like a man looks at a woman."
Next up: The musical comedy Let's Make Love. Find out about Marilyn's role in this film in the next section.
Marilyn Monroe in 'Let's Make Love'
Arthur Miller completed the screenplay for The Misfits in 1958, about the time Marilyn began working on Some Like It Hot. The Millers assumed that as soon as Marilyn wrapped production on the Wilder comedy, they could begin shooting The Misfits.
Miller had already lined up a powerful ensemble to work on the film: John Huston agreed to direct; Clark Gable, Eli Wallach, and Montgomery Clift were set to costar; and publishing executive Frank Taylor -- Miller's neighbor and friend -- was enlisted as producer.
Taylor, Miller, and Marilyn formed their own production company for the purposes of producing the film. All parties were eager to begin because Miller's dramatic and thoughtful script promised to showcase Marilyn's acting talents to their fullest extent.
Twentieth Century Fox quickly burst everybody's bubble with the news that Marilyn needed to fulfill her contractual obligation to the studio. Marilyn had promised Fox four films in seven years, but she had completed only one to date, Bus Stop.
Fox was pressuring her to do a film for the studio before embarking on another independent feature. Marilyn finally agreed to star in a frothy musical comedy entitled Let's Make Love, which apparently was the least objectionable of the scripts Fox had to offer.
Marilyn asked her husband to improve the script with an extensive rewrite, but even the Pulitzer Prize-winning author could add little to bolster the slight story.
Miller despised the idea of rewriting a trivial film script, particularly one he described as "not worth the paper it was typed on." Still, he tried to tailor Marilyn's role to her talents and image.
Gregory Peck, who was scheduled to costar, bowed out when he read Miller's rewrite, leaving the production without a leading man. Cary Grant, Charlton Heston, and Rock Hudson were asked to step in, but all turned down the Norman Krasna-Arthur Miller scenario.
Finally, French actor Yves Montand agreed take the role.
Montand and his wife, actress Simone Signoret, greatly admired Arthur Miller and shared certain political beliefs with him. The couple had even appeared in the French film version of Miller's The Crucible, which had been adapted by Jean-Paul Sartre.
Marilyn had seen Montand in his one-man show on Broadway and was taken by his Gallic charm. The Millers were eager to befriend the Montands, and the four were often seen together when Let's Make Love first went into production in mid-February of 1960.
Miller noticed that Marilyn's moods began to shift quite rapidly during this period. Though she seemed to accept the tragedy of her most recent miscarriage, she was not altogether happy with married life. Often, her disappointment took the form of vindictiveness or obvious disrespect toward her husband.
She also began to alienate herself from many of her New York friends and acquaintances. On a more positive note, her drug intake decreased as she stopped sedating herself during the day -- at least on some days.
Still, according to some accounts, she was taking more drugs than her new California psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, thought safe.
Soon after shooting of Let's Make Love got underway, both Miller and Signoret were called away from Los Angeles, leaving Marilyn and Montand alone.
Whether the two stars began their love affair at this time, or whether it had developed earlier, is unknown. Montand has always claimed that Marilyn was the aggressor; if so, he did little to discourage her.
Though Miller returned to Hollywood briefly, he did not stay, preferring to weather out his marital problems back east. If reports in the gossip columns are any indication, the two stars did little to hide their affair.
Marilyn's psychiatric care was part of Hollywood gossip at the time, so those columnists who were generally friendly with Marilyn took Montand to task for taking advantage of her.
On the set, Marilyn cooperated with director George Cukor and other cast members -- agreeable behavior that was in stark contrast to her conduct on her last two productions. It is likely that Marilyn was emulating Montand's professionalism, a quality she admired in him.
Montand took at least part of the credit for her improved attitude when he remarked, "She's got so she'll do whatever I ask her to do on the set. Everyone is amazed at her cooperation, and she's constantly looking to me for approval."
Much of the credit, however, must go to George Cukor, an "actor's director" who enjoyed a reputation for bringing out the best in his female stars; Katharine Hepburn was just one of the legendary figures who admired Cukor's sensitive treatment of female characters.
He avoided a reliance on visual technique and concentrated instead on the blocking (movement), characterization, and dialogue delivery of his stars. In effect, the actor was Cukor's basic mode of expression.
It is quite possible that Marilyn felt Cukor was more sympathetic to the character she was playing than other directors had been to her roles in the past. The veteran director was probably at least partially responsible for her cooperative attitude.
Unfortunately, though Marilyn did not impede the shooting schedule, two Hollywood strikes -- first by the Screen Actors Guild and then by the Screen Writers Guild -- held up production of Let's Make Love for over a month.
After the film was completed, Montand broke off his affair with Marilyn. Apparently, he had no intention of leaving Simone Signoret.
He stated publicly, "[Marilyn] has been so kind to me, but she is a simple girl without any guile. Perhaps I was too tender and thought that maybe she was as sophisticated as some of the other ladies I have known. ... Had Marilyn been more sophisticated, none of this ever would have happened. ... Perhaps she had a schoolgirl crush. If she did, I'm sorry. But, nothing will break up my marriage."
During the summer of 1960, when Marilyn was shooting The Misfits and Montand was back in Los Angeles, Marilyn tried to get in touch with her Frenchman but to no avail.
Finally, following the completion of her film, Marilyn met Montand at Idlewild Airport in New York. In the back seat of her limousine, the two bid each other farewell.
The affair itself did not destroy Marilyn's marriage with Miller. It was merely another step toward its gradual disintegration.
However, considering Marilyn's increasingly fragile state and growing tendency to disengage herself from everyday existence, the relationship with Montand was a destructive event in her life.
Despite the real-life sparks generated by the Monroe-Montand liaison, Let's Make Love is a distinctly unengaging musical comedy and remains Marilyn's weakest starring vehicle.
Montand played billionaire Jean-Marc Clement, a world-famous playboy whose eyebrows are raised when he learns of a theater troupe's plan to satirize him in a musical revue.
Intending to stop production, Clement appears at a casting call for the play, where he is immediately smitten by the character played by Marilyn, a singer-dancer named Amanda Dell. Not realizing Clement's true identity, the director hires the billionaire to play himself in the show.
Clement uses the opportunity to court Amanda, who continually expresses her distaste for irresponsible, playboy-type billionaires. Predictably, Amanda falls in love with Clement, whom she believes to be merely a starving actor.
The film's cast included Tony Randall and Wilfrid Hyde-White in supporting roles, and spotlighted Milton Berle, Gene Kelly, and Bing Crosby in cameo appearances as themselves.
These ingredients, though contrived, are far from hopeless. Unfortunately, the slight script makes use of Marilyn's image but not her talent.
Lacking believable characterization and subtlety of treatment, the film merely recycles famous Monroe bits from other movies and borrows elements of her life that fans would readily recognize.
Marilyn's character, Amanda, is a musical comedy actress, but she attends night school to better herself. Amanda is a proponent of Method acting, which is indicated when she instructs Clement to pretend he owns a limousine in order to get in the proper frame of mind to portray a rich man.
One of Amanda's musical numbers puts her in a white, flouncy, V-necked dress, which is blown upward during the course of the number -- an obvious reference to The Seven Year Itch. Together, these bits and pieces add up to very little.
Despite the flimsiness of Let's Make Love, Marilyn's sexuality and spark are evident in one of the film's musical numbers -- the scorching "My Heart Belongs to Daddy."
Aside from that highlight, only Milton Berle's routine with Montand, in which the veteran comic tries to teach the Frenchman about American comedy, stands out.
Though most Monroe biographers have deemed the film a critical and popular failure, first-run reviews of Let's Make Love are actually mixed. In addition, there is no indication that the film crashed at the box office, though it certainly was not the popular hit that Fox executives had counted on.
With Let's Make Love behind her, Marilyn could finally get to work on The Misfits. Find out about this movie on the next page.
Arthur Miller's Valentine to Marilyn Monroe
In July 1960, principal production finally began on The Misfits, which was Miller's valentine to Marilyn. Directed by John Huston, written by Arthur Miller, and starring Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, and Eli Wallach, The Misfits promised to be a powerhouse film as well as Marilyn's chance to prove her acting abilities.
In retrospect, both statements are true. A haunting film with beautiful imagery, The Misfits is not only a provocative parable about the vanishing West but a splendid showcase for Marilyn, cast in the most serious and challenging role of her career.
At the time, however, the movie seemed doomed by Marilyn's personal struggles, which cast a pall over the production and threatened to overshadow the power of the film itself.
The Misfits is a sophisticated allegory about three men, alienated from society and the last of a dying breed, who belong to a West long since gone.
Nevada cowboys Gay Langland (Gable) and Perce Howland (Clift) are outsiders because of their rugged individualism; the airplane pilot Guido (Wallach) has been adrift since the death of his wife. Together, they capture beautiful wild mustangs, which they sell to a manufacturer of dog food.
Despite the presence of three strong male leads, the focus of the film is Marilyn's character, Roslyn Tabor. Roslyn's sensitivity and ethereal beauty draw each of the men to her.
Though supposedly friends, the men cannot relate to each other. They relate only to Roslyn, for she represents something each of them needs or desires. Each man bares his heart to her, and each has his own theory about what makes her special.
Roslyn herself feels isolated from society, at least temporarily, because she has come to Reno for a divorce. Reno, the divorce capital of the world, provides the perfect setting for a story of alienation.
Roslyn forces the men to confront their barren existences when she pleads with them not to kill the wild mustangs they have worked so hard to round up. But the three believe that their occupation gives them a freedom that is better than the slavery of working for "wages."
Paradoxically, it is this "freedom" that keeps them isolated from society and alienated from other human beings. Their steadfast adherence to their brand of independence is both their strength and their weakness.
Like the cowboys, the wild horses are the last of a vanishing breed -- a parallel that eludes the three men. By killing off the horses, the cowboys are destroying the last vestiges of the lifestyle they so desperately cling to. In killing the horses, they are essentially killing themselves.
In the end, Roslyn wins. The horses are set free, and she and Gay ride off together toward "that big star straight on," which will take them "right home." Despite the lack of any concrete solutions to the characters' personal dilemmas, the film's ending is a positive one.
Not surprisingly, The Misfits is closely identified with Miller and Monroe, yet a story involving a group of characters who embark on a doomed quest is typical of director John Huston's output, as well.
In Huston's films, the hero is often an obsessed professional who risks everything for the quest, just as Gay dedicates himself so passionately to capturing the wild mustangs.
Huston's female characters generally disrupt the quest, or otherwise tempt the hero into losing sight of his goals. So it is that Huston's women are generally destructive characters.
In The Misfits, however, Roslyn is a positive force, and her disruption of the cowboys' goal to sell mustangs for dog food becomes an affirmation of life.
The shoot of The Misfits was a tortuous one. Away from her psychiatrist and emotionally estranged from Miller, Marilyn increased her prescription-drug intake considerably, a situation made more dangerous by her drinking.
Her despair during the first few weeks of production darkened until it seemed as though she would be swallowed up completely. Miller had hoped that The Misfits would bring Marilyn back to him, but he quickly realized that "if there was a key to Marilyn's despair I did not possess it."
Marilyn grew increasingly bitter toward Miller, directing all of her hostility and frustration at him, though he did little to warrant such treatment.
Marilyn felt betrayed by her marriage, perhaps because it did not meet her high expectations for happiness. And once Marilyn felt betrayed, she exiled all involved parties from her life.
Looking for excuses to expel Miller, she lashed out at his screenplay for The Misfits, complaining, "He could have written me anything, and he comes up with this. If that's what he thinks of me, well, then, I'm not for him and he's not for me."
Near the end of August, Marilyn suffered a breakdown and was evacuated to Westside Hospital in Los Angeles. As the mercury in Nevada topped 100 degrees, her pale body was wrapped in a wet sheet and carried into a plane for the flight west.
Under the care of her psychiatrist and her internist, Marilyn stayed in the hospital ten days while production was shut down.
In apparent affirmation that Marilyn's precarious health was by then public knowledge, columnist Louella Parsons reported that the star was "a very sick girl, much sicker than at first believed."
Marilyn returned to the set the following week, though production would be halted periodically throughout September because of Marilyn's problems.
Aside from the tenuousness of Marilyn's mental and emotional state, the production labored beneath the shadows of other potential disasters.
Montgomery Clift, a self-destructive soul who had disfigured his handsome looks by accidentally driving his car into a telephone pole in 1957, was as dependent on alcohol and drugs as Marilyn, prompting the sensitive actress to exclaim, "He's the only person I know who's in worse shape than I am."
His reputation was such that insurance companies would no longer underwrite Clift in a film. However, because of the efforts of Miller, Huston, and powerful Hollywood executive Lew Wasserman, insurance on the tragic actor finally came through.
Despite his dubious reputation and his excessive drinking on the set, Clift never missed a day of work and had learned his entire part before shooting began. Yet, at the time, his participation was a source of considerable anxiety.
Following The Misfits, Cliff would make only three more films before succumbing to coronary-artery disease in 1966.
Other on-set problems included Paula Strasberg's almost total monopoly of Marilyn. The two spent a great deal of time together on and off the set.
They exhaustively discussed lines, strategy, and characterization, usually while sequestered in Marilyn's air-conditioned limousine. At one point, Marilyn moved out of the hotel suite she shared with Miller and into Strasberg's.
Huston's style of direction, in which he trusted the actors' contribution to characterization, allowed Strasberg a great deal of leeway in terms of her influence on Marilyn. Yet, Huston did not respect Strasberg and would not let her interfere with his direction.
Clark Gable's participation in The Misfits must have seemed to Marilyn like a gift from the gods. Her adulation of Gable went all the way back to her childhood, when she had fantasized that the handsome actor was her father.
Her presumed real father, C. Stanley Gifford, is said to have resembled Gable -- at least as much as any mere mortal could. In 1947, Marilyn took singing and acting lessons from actor John Carroll, who was considered a Gable lookalike.
Finally, in 1954, at a party thrown in her honor, Marilyn was able to meet the King of Hollywood. They dined, danced, and cheerfully discussed making a film together someday. She was thrilled when Gable agreed in 1958 to take the lead role of Gay Langland in The Misfits.
Just as Marilyn had always dreamed, Gable proved to be not just a consummate professional, but a strong, sensitive gentleman. As the grueling location shoot of The Misfits was made more unbearable by the long waits for Marilyn, Gable showed no anger or hostility toward the obviously ill actress.
On the set, Marilyn claimed, "The place was full of so-called men, but Clark was the one who brought a chair for me between the takes."
According to his agent, Charles Chasin, the legendary movie star realized that The Misfits was one of the best of his 70 films. Yet privately Gable admitted his frustration with Marilyn's behavior and hinted at his growing fatigue from his participation in the film.
Even nature seemed intent on complicating production of The Misfits -- Reno's summer temperatures often reached an excruciating 108 degrees. With several cast members in various states of deteriorating health, the climate itself became an enemy.
Despite these obstacles, and despite Marilyn's dependency on drugs and alcohol, Huston obtained a remarkable performance from his star.
Though some biographers accuse Marilyn of walking through the role in a state of suspended animation, their assessments are unfair ones, grounded in hindsight and based on the sensationalized anecdotes about her substance abuse.
In truth, Marilyn's performance is credible and forceful and owes much to her Method training, which allowed her to immerse herself totally in the role of Roslyn.
In addition, Miller's effective blending of the real-life Marilyn Monroe with the fictional Roslyn helped Marilyn's characterization,
as did Huston's directorial approach, in which the actors were given leeway to explore their characters.
Huston had had a long-standing respect for Marilyn, and retained it, despite the exasperation of directing The Misfits. He blamed her troubles on doctors who gave her too much medication, as well as on the studios that condoned it.
In a 1981 interview, Huston declared Marilyn to be a fine actress, "not an actress in the technical sense, but . . . she had that ability to go down within herself and pull up an emotion and give it."
But for all of Marilyn's efforts and the good work of the other people connected with the film, The Misfits opened to mixed reviews and poor box-office results --neither a fair nor fitting end to Marilyn's remarkable career.
After The Misfits shoot, Marilyn separates from Miller and becomes more and more depressed. Learn about her downward spiral in the next section.
Marilyn Monroe's Depression
On November 11, she officially announced their separation to columnist Earl Wilson. The press swarmed her New York residence and a tearful Marilyn emerged to confirm the story.
According to one Monroe biographer, newsmen were so eager to get to her that one reporter shoved his microphone into her mouth, chipping one of her teeth in the process.
Marilyn attempted to go into seclusion, but her efforts were thwarted by the announcement of Clark Gable's death on November 16. Gable had had a massive heart attack the day after The Misfits had wrapped, but many had believed he was improving.
His sudden death was a severe blow.
Marilyn took the news so badly that she was unable to make a coherent statement to the press, who kept calling for her comments.
Finally, she managed a brief statement: "This is a great shock to me. I'm deeply sorry. Clark Gable was one of the finest
men I ever met."
Rumors began flying that Kay Gable, Clark's young widow who was pregnant with his first child, blamed Marilyn for her husband's death. Kay claimed that the stress Gable had had to endure during the filming of The Misfits, including the daily delays in excessive heat, had led to his heart attack.
Upon hearing this, Marilyn spiraled into a dark depression -- the thought that she had caused the death of the man she had idolized since childhood was too much to bear.
The following May, Kay Gable would invite Marilyn to the christening of Gable's son, John Clark Gable. A grateful Marilyn took the invitation as a sign that Kay no longer held her responsible for any part in her husband's death.
As the winter of 1960-61 deepened, so did Marilyn's feelings of despair and hopelessness. Christmas without Miller or Montand underscored her loneliness, though Joe DiMaggio entered her life once more and renewed their relationship.
A close friendship developed between the former husband and wife, and the press spread rumors of a possible reconciliation.
In January, Marilyn flew to Mexico for a quick divorce from Arthur Miller and then drew up a new will. She made her half-sister Berniece Miracle a major beneficiary, though she had seen Miracle only a few times during her life.
She also made provisions for the care of her mother,and left money to various friends as well as to her secretary, May Reis.
She gave Lee Strasberg and one of her psychiatrists, Dr. Marianne Kris, portions of her estate and also left Strasberg all of her personal effects and clothing.
Sadly, the will is the document of a woman with only the thinnest shred of a family and just a few friends. Most of the latter were not close personal friends, but colleagues, employees, or doctors -- those who had some financial or industry relationship with Marilyn.
In February of 1961, Marilyn entered the Payne-Whitney Clinic in New York at the suggestion of her East Coast psychiatrist, Dr. Kris. From the start, Marilyn was not comfortable at Payne-Whitney.
Surprised at the security precautions, which included barred windows and glass panes in the door so that nurses could glance inside, she rebelled at being treated "like a nut." She felt that the employees at the clinic were checking on her more often than on the other patients because she was a movie star.
She was allowed a limited number of phone calls, which she used to reach Joe DiMaggio in Florida. DiMaggio returned to New York, arranged Marilyn's discharge from Payne-Whitney, and placed her in Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
Upon her release from Columbia three weeks later, reporters and photographers disgraced themselves in an insensitive display outside the hospital's doors. They surrounded Marilyn, screaming tasteless questions and blocking her exit to a waiting limousine.
Sixteen police officers and hospital security men were needed to get her safely to her car. She spent part of the next month in Florida with DiMaggio, who continued to look after her as much as she would allow until her death.
In addition to her precarious emotional and mental health, Marilyn experienced a variety of physical disorders as well. In May 1961, she entered Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles for gynecological surgery.
The following month, she found herself in the Polyclinic Hospital of New York for a gallbladder operation. In addition, Marilyn suffered from an ulcerated colon and abnormal bleeding from the uterus.
Because of her delicate mental and physical conditions, Marilyn did not work as an actress at all in 1961. To learn more about Marilyn's final film, see the next page.
Marilyn Monroe's Final Film
As 1962 began, Marilyn's psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson suggested that she buy a house of her own -- something that he hoped would bring her some sense of security. Despite her fame and fortune, Marilyn had never owned a house by herself.
With the help of Eunice Murray, Marilyn found a home she liked in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. The single-story, Mexican-style house was attractive but modest.
A tile with a coat of arms and a Latin inscription was planted just outside the front door. The inscription read, "Cursum Perficio," or, "I am finishing my journey." Marilyn had less than six months to live.
Marilyn's February 1962 purchase of her new home and her winning of a Golden Globe Award as the "world's film favorite" in March, would be the last two high points of her life.
According to some accounts, Greenson had been able to minimize Marilyn's drug intake for a short time, but she quickly began to slide back into old habits as disappointments mounted and the future seemed too painful to face.
In April, Marilyn returned to Twentieth Century-Fox to begin production on Something's Got to Give, an updated version of a 1940 comedy hit entitled My Favorite Wife. George Cukor was set to direct.
From the start, Marilyn disliked the Nunally Johnson-Walter Bernstein script, which was not yet finalized when shooting began. By 1962, the chief production executive at Fox was Peter Levathes, a onetime advertising executive known for his hostility toward actors.
Levathes had just come through some monumental problems during the production of Cleopatra and was faced with crippling cost overruns because of that film. To say there were tensions on the set of Something's Got to Give is a gross understatement.
Marilyn reported to work at Fox for hair, makeup, and costume tests, though neither Dr. Greenson nor Marilyn's internist felt she should undertake the production of a new film. She had contracted a virus that spring, which left her fatigued and weakened.
Realizing that Marilyn was ill, the studio executives, Cukor, and costar Dean Martin agreed to arrange the shooting schedule around her. Despite this consideration, Marilyn showed up for work only six days during the month of May.
Toward the end of May, Marilyn made a quick trip to New York. Peter Lawford had asked her to sing "Happy Birthday" at a massive birthday celebration for President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.
Despite her virus and her film commitment, Marilyn heartily agreed to go. Arthur Miller's father, Isidore, escorted his former daughter-in-law to the party, where she sang her breathy and notoriously suggestive version of "Happy Birthday" to Kennedy.
Marilyn's performance and Kennedy's subsequent quip ("I can now retire from politics after having 'Happy Birthday' sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.") are chilling in light of the later revelations about their affair, and what fate had in store for JFK.
The event is made more ironic by Lawford's opening remarks, in which he referred to the tardy actress as "the late Marilyn Monroe."
The Fox executives were livid with Marilyn for appearing at the Kennedy bash in New York. If she was too sick to show up for work, then she should have been too sick to fly across the country for a personal appearance.
The event signaled a turning point in Fox's treatment of Marilyn; henceforth, they would take a hard line.
Marilyn showed up for work more frequently over the next two weeks. In production at that time was a swimming pool sequence in which Marilyn was supposed to wear a flesh-colored bathing suit to suggest that she was swimming nude.
Possibly because of the titillating nature of the scene, several photographers had been invited to shoot publicity stills. The photographers got an added bonus that night because Marilyn immediately shucked her suit and paddled around au naturel.
Newsreel and still lensmen scampered to capture the famous "nude swim," during which a carefree Marilyn playfully teased the photographers with glimpses of her naked body.
Her true love -- the camera -- remained faithful to the end, and Marilyn did not disappoint.
On June 1, Marilyn turned 36 years old, and the cast and crew surprised her with a small birthday celebration on the set. It was also her last day of work. Out of 33 shooting days, Marilyn had showed up on the set only 12 times.
Often hours late when she did appear, she seldom got through more than one script page per day -- at least according to a studio statement released to the press. On June 8, 1962, production chief Peter Levathes fired Marilyn from Something's Got to Give.
Plans were made to replace Marilyn with Lee Remick, who said at the time, "I don't know whether to feel sorry for [Marilyn] or not. I feel she should have been replaced. The movie business is crumbling down around our ears because of that kind of behavior. Actors shouldn't be allowed to get away with that kind of thing."
Marilyn was devastated by her dismissal and considered it a personal rejection. Dean Martin, perhaps out of friendship or loyalty to Marilyn, refused to continue the film with Remick. (The picture was eventually reworked as a vehicle for Doris Day and James Garner, and released in 1963 as Move Over, Darling.)
Besides still photographs, all that remains of Something's Got to Give are snippets of Marilyn's wardrobe tests and a few scenes, including the swimming pool sequence.
In this footage, Marilyn looks more beautiful than ever before; lithe and trim, her hair a soft, pure platinum, she seems more a creature of light and air than one of flesh. The public saw this footage for the first time in Marilyn, a 1963 Fox compilation film hosted by Rock Hudson.
For details on Marilyn's alleged romances with Frank Sinatra and John F. Kennedy, see the next page.
Marilyn Monroe's Romantic Links to Frank Sinatra and JFK
Sometime after her split with Arthur Miller, Marilyn began dating Frank Sinatra and became an unofficial member of Sinatra's "Rat Pack," that group of show-business cronies with whom the legendary singer maintained close personal and professional ties.
Core members of the Rat Pack included Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop.
Marilyn had known Sinatra for many years, and some biographers speculate that the two may have enjoyed a relationship years earlier, though no hard evidence exists to support this.
Their friendship was probably renewed during the shooting of The Misfits, when Marilyn was flown to Los Angeles after her breakdown. Supposedly, Sinatra called to inquire about her health and wish her well.
Earlier, he had invited the cast of The Misfits to watch him perform at the Cal-Neva Lodge. Sinatra was in the process of purchasing the lodge, which was located near Lake Tahoe, directly on the border of California and Nevada.
Marilyn would visit the lodge several times over the remaining two years of her life. (The singer would later sell the business, when his link with organized crime was leaked to the press and the public.)
Sinatra gave Marilyn a small white poodle to replace the dog she lost in the divorce with Miller. Marilyn, who always had a spirited sense of humor, called the dog "Maf," which was short for Mafia.
Marilyn had known actor Peter Lawford
since her starlet days, when he had escorted her to a few Hollywood functions.
Her association with both Sinatra and Lawford undoubtedly brought her into contact with John Kennedy, perhaps as early as July of 1960, when the young senator clinched the Democratic nomination for president. At the time, Lawford was married to Pat Kennedy, JFK's younger sister.
According to some accounts, Marilyn was one of those in attendance at the L.A. Coliseum when John Kennedy made his acceptance speech, and she appeared at the celebration bash at Romanoffs restaurant afterward. There she was introduced to the next President of the United States.
However, a few biographers maintain that she had met Kennedy as far back as 1951, when the two had attended a couple of parties in Los Angeles thrown by agent Charles Feldman; such claims are not substantiated by hard evidence or credible eyewitness accounts.
Lawford's third wife, Deborah Gould, has stated that Kennedy first met Marilyn during the 1960 presidential campaign but that the meeting occurred a few months prior to Kennedy's July nomination.
Whatever the case, it is generally accepted that Marilyn Monroe and John Kennedy were engaged in a love affair throughout 1961, if not earlier. A November 1960 column by Art Buchwald supports these theories.
Titled "Let's Be Firm on Monroe Doctrine," the item read, "Who will be the next ambassador to Monroe? This is one of the many problems President-elect Kennedy will have to work on in January. Obviously you can't leave Monroe adrift. There are too many greedy people eyeing her, and now that Ambassador Miller has left she could flounder around without any direction."
In the next section, you'll learn about Marilyn's final days and untimely death.
Marilyn Monroe's Death
Marilyn's dismissal from Something's Got to Give coincided with a wildly chaotic lifestyle: She dated several men, took dangerous quantities of sleeping pills, and relied on daily visits to Dr. Greenson to see her through each 24-hour period.
It is widely alleged that, sometime during 1962, Marilyn began a relationship with John Kennedy's very married brother, Robert.
The younger Kennedy not only served as Attorney General for the President, but it also seems that he eased Marilyn Monroe out of his older brother's life. Reportedly, JFK's advisers felt that his affair with Marilyn was politically dangerous and encouraged him to break it off.
Speculation on Marilyn's affair with Robert Kennedy is based on numerous eyewitness reports of their meetings together, particularly at Peter Lawford's beachfront home in Malibu. However, specific facts regarding their relationship are even more scarce than those involving Marilyn and JFK.
Details conflict and versions of the same anecdotes are contradictory. Some biographers maintain that Marilyn met RFK at one of Lawford's dinner parties in 1961, while others suggest she was introduced to him at the New York birthday bash in May 1962.
What does remain difficult to discount is that Marilyn made repeated phone calls to the Justice Department -- where Attorney General Robert Kennedy worked -- shortly after she was fired by Fox.
At this point, the speculation takes a decidedly unbelievable turn. In the summer of 1962, Robert Kennedy and/or his advisers supposedly concluded that his involvement with Marilyn -- like his brother's -- was potentially dangerous.
Their decision was based not only on Marilyn's perilous mental state but also on the knowledge that organized crime figures were determined to ruin RFK.
As Attorney General, Kennedy had gone after such top mobsters as Sam Giancana and such Mafia-connected union leaders as Jimmy Hoffa. Both of these men vowed publicly and privately to destroy the younger Kennedy.
Some evidence suggests that Marilyn's house was bugged in the weeks before her death and that the actress herself knew about it.
Many have speculated that certain organized crime leaders -- eager to catch Robert Kennedy literally with his pants down -- were responsible for the wiretaps in Marilyn's home.
Whatever the true facts, RFK apparently called off the relationship a short time after Marilyn's dismissal from Fox.
The last few days of Marilyn's life have been detailed many times in often-contradictory accounts.
Desperate attempts to reach Robert Kennedy by phone are coupled with news that Twentieth Century-Fox may call her back to complete Something's Got to Give; rumors of her endlessly drugged state are mingled with discussions about her plans to decorate her new home; reports of her lack of interest in her physical appearance are belied by the personal satisfaction she felt in Bert Stern's photographic session with
her in July.
On August 4, 1962, Marilyn spent the morning talking with her publicist, Pat Newcomb, and the rest of the day making phone calls to her friends. Dr. Greenson visited her for a short time in the early evening.
The number of people who claim to have talked with Marilyn on her last day is phenomenal -- everyone from Joe DiMaggio, Jr., to Marlon Brando, from Sidney Skolsky to Isidore Miller.
From her bedroom, Marilyn continued to make phone calls into the night. With each call, her speech became more slurred, a reaction that was not unusual for her during this period of heavy sedative use.
Apparently, none of her friends were sufficiently alarmed to have someone check on her. Supposedly, Marilyn called Peter Lawford that evening to say goodbye.
Then, sometime during the night of August 4-5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe died alone, her white phone still clutched in her hand.
Just as the press had hounded Marilyn in life, so they descended upon her in death, photographing her blanketed body as it was moved out of the house, into the ambulance, and away to the morgue. Pat Newcomb lashed out at the reporters for their lack of sensitivity, calling them "vultures."
The publicist may not have been too far off the mark, for one reporter was heard to say, "I'm just as sorry as the next fellow about Marilyn Monroe. But as long as she had to do it, what a break that she did it in August."
Marilyn's death was ruled a "probable suicide." Her funeral took place on August 8, at the Westwood Memorial Park Chapel in Westwood, California.
Arrangements were made by Joe DiMaggio, with the help of Marilyn's half-sister, Berniece Miracle, and Marilyn's business manager, Inez Melson. The services were conducted by Rev. A.J. Soldan, who read the 23rd Psalm, the 14th chapter of the Book of John, and excerpts from the 46th and 139th Psalms.
Lee Strasberg delivered a short eulogy, and Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow" was selected as the music. DiMaggio allowed only a few people to attend the funeral; Marilyn's most recent Hollywood acquaintances were noticeably absent.
Almost immediately, newspapers published rumors involving inconsistencies in accounts of Marilyn's death. An article in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner related unsubstantiated stories about her body being secretly moved from its place in the morgue.
Another article in the same paper reported on the considerable gaps in the timetable of events from the fateful evening. Friends and colleagues interviewed at the time seemed torn over whether Marilyn had committed suicide or succumbed to an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.
Over the years, various self-styled "investigators" have claimed that members of organized crime killed Marilyn to frame the Kennedys, that the CIA killed her to discredit the Kennedy administration, or that the Kennedys themselves killed her to avoid public scandal.
None of the proponents of these theories have uncovered enough evidence to make a credible newspaper story, let alone a legal case.
For all of the hints of mystery surrounding Marilyn's death, the official investigators never felt a need to pursue the case beyond a superficial level. More than likely, there was no crime, only the covering up of unwise relationships.
Some doubt that there was even a suicide, speculating that, on the last night of her life, Marilyn had wanted merely to sleep through her despair, as she had done so many times before. Her mind fuzzied, she simply lost track of the number of sleeping pills she had swallowed.
Perhaps in trying to come to grips with the tragic struggle of Marilyn's life, we have become obsessed with explaining her death. No matter, for any attempt to unmask the truth about her last hours remains futile. Marilyn Monroe took her secrets with her.
For a look at some theories about Marilyn's death, see the next section.
Marilyn Monroe: Murdered?
That Marilyn Monroe's popularity was immense during her lifetime is understandable, but the escalation of her fame since her death is considered nothing short of a phenomenon, and has been a continual source of fascination to biographers, cultural critics, and her fans.
Undoubtedly, part of our unending interest in Marilyn is due to her premature death and the mysterious circumstances surrounding it.
Occasional efforts are made to persuade the Los Angeles police to reopen her case. At such times, speculation and rumor run rampant as a few more bits and pieces of information come to light.
In 1974, Robert Slatzer, a onetime friend to Marilyn who claims to have married her in 1953, authored a book alleging that the famous star had been murdered.
Entitled The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe, the book cites her relationship with both Kennedys, probes into the questions surrounding her death, and comes up with a provocative -- but ultimately unconvincing -- conspiracy theory.
Slatzer hired a private detective named Milo Speriglio to obtain hard evidence to support his theory. Speriglio has devoted more than 15 years to the case and claims to know who murdered Marilyn and why, though he can't prove it.
In 1982, he offered a reward of $10,000 for Marilyn's so-called "red diary," which the detective claims details her conversations with Robert Kennedy. Supposedly, Slatzer saw the diary a few days before Marilyn died, while coroner's aide Lionel Grandison noticed it in the coroner's room.
Interestingly, Speriglio's announcement about the diary coincided with the publication of his first book, Marilyn Monroe: Murder Cover-Up, which recaps Slatzer's book and brings the investigation up to date.
Later that year, a collector of rare books offered $150,000 for the diary, which has
yet to surface; many people doubt its existence altogether.
In 1986, Speriglio wrote a second book on the Monroe case, The Marilyn Conspiracy, which is an updated version of his earlier work. That same year, Speriglio called a press conference to demand that the case be reopened. His request was denied.
Though many doubt the veracity of Slatzer and Speriglio's theories and conclusions,
the rumors of a murder or a cover-up serve to keep Marilyn's name in the news, as do the tributes and retrospectives that surface on the anniversary of her death.
The murder rumors add a tone of notoriety to her story, while the tributes and accolades remind us that there was much more to her than love affairs and an unexplained death. Both types of publicity tend to escalate her myth, assigning her a permanent place in the annals of Hollywood folklore.