The Hoollywood star – who is immortalised in a myriad tattoos – is the most alluring and despairing woman of the last century. This is our definitive tribute
Alone. Locked into her bedroom. Deceased. It is the night between 4th and 5th August 1962 in a villa in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood, at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive. Last residence of Norma Jeane Baker Mortenson, known to the whole world by her stage name Marilyn Monroe.
1962 was supposed to have been her comeback year after a 1961 which with all the hospital stays and convalescences had kept her far from the movie sets. Dumped by her third husband Arthur Miller and even Frank Sinatra, Marilyn had fallen into a deep depression marked by pills and self-neglect. All she had left was the Kennedy brothers (John Fitzgerald and Bob) both of whom had been lovers, targets of her emotional bulimia.
Monroe didn’t make a single movie in 1961. Her last hit was ‘The Misfits’, a superb western directed by John Houston which the star managed to finish in 1960 when she was already dogged by various health issues. And she hadn’t had any real success at the box office since the light comedy ‘Let’s Make Love’, directed by George Cukor which had hit the screens two years earlier. Nonetheless, Cukor had chosen her again for the never to be finished ‘Something’s Got to Give’ (1962) and her presence on the set had been turning it into a nightmare.
Shooting was supposed to have begun in January, but Marilyn wasn’t available until April, sending medical certificates to the set to get herself excused. And when she did finally decide to get started, she fought with all of the cast (which included Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse) complaining continually about how cold it was on set. On May 23rd 1962 they shot the famous “pool scene” which left Hollywood breathless. Throughout the whole time (and we’re talking about 8 hours of footage), the stunning actress swam naked for the movie camera as well as the photographer from Life magazine.
Marilyn would appear nude in the magazine with one of her vainest ever statements: «I did it because I wanted to keep Liz Taylor off the cover of the magazines». Only that it was a false move. Staying in the water for so long undermined her already fragile health and shooting was put on hold. Marilyn was only available 12 days so 20th Century Fox had to fire her and claimed half a million dollars in damages.
Not much is known about the final months of her life which she spent in the house in Brentwood. Not until the night of August 4th. Marilyn was locked in her room, hanging on the telephone, exhausted by her attempts (all futile) to get in touch with Bob Kennedy. Around ten o’clock, her housekeeper Eunice Murray saw light from under the door. She knocked but there was no reply.
The light was still on at 3.30 a.m. so she called the psychiatrist Ralph Greenson who forced the door and realised the seriousness of the situation. They called her doctor Hyman Engelberg who declared Marilyn dead. The room was searched by lieutenant Robert E. Byron who could find nothing out of place (apart from the bruising) and confirmed the doctor’s theory. Marilyn had committed suicide by swallowing a lethal dose of Pentobarbital: forty-seven pills. That was the official version.
Then, on the publication of some scandalous books the most outrageous theories emerged. From those which believed Marilyn to have been assassinated by the mafia clan of Sam Giancana to the idea that it had been the Kennedy brothers who decided to get rid of her for fear that her hysterics would ruin their respective political careers.
All we know for sure is that after the autopsy, Marilyn was buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. The big-hearted Joe Di Maggio was the only one who would never abandon her, after all the hundreds of men who amused themselves with her. The old Yankees champion would come once a week (for twenty years straight) and place a bunch of red roses on the grave of his ex-wife. He chose red because it was the colour of passion…