Images and content by: Jud A. Traum
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(This is copyrighted material, used with permission from the estate of Jud Traum. Please do not copy or reprint the following without expressed written permission from the copyright owner.)
Lee Strasberg, the most renowned drama coach in the world, was Marilyn Monroe’s mentor and good friend. She honored him by leaving all her personal possessions to him in her will. Unaware of this, he eulogized her at her funeral:
For the entire world she became a symbol of the eternal feminine.
She was more than a sex symbol of her time.
She was talented, worthy of superstar acclaim.
Born Norma Jean Baker in 1926, Marilyn Monroe was to become the woman who electrified the world. Through trials and tribulations, her charm, beauty and perseverance captured the affection of presidents John F. Kennedy and Sukarno, as well as hordes of the rich and famous. Her early life was as much a mystery as her baffling death. In her youth, neighbors characterized Marilyn as the girl next door. Fellow performers found her an extremely complicated person.
At the age of sixteen, starved for love and affection, she married twenty-one year old James Daugherty. While he was serving in World War II, in debt and in need of money for rent, she agreed to nude photo sessions, showing the world everything in her famous erotic poses. Her career as a sex symbol was launched. Searching for her real true self, but thwarted by the media and movie moguls, she continued her fruitless quest.
Later in 1956, I was introduced to Marilyn Monroe by my friend, Josh Logan, while he was directing her in the Twentieth Century film, Bus Stop. During the frequent pauses between takes, I had the opportunity of speaking to her. We were joined by Josh for lunch in her private dressing room on wheels. She appeared nervous and withdrawn as she picked lightly at her salad. Josh kissed her reassuringly on the cheek, saying she was doing great, excused himself and left. Being alone off the set with Marilyn made me feel out of place and uncomfortable. Her demeanor was cold and her mind miles away. It was difficult getting through to her with show biz conversation or small talk. I was saved by a knock on the door and a call to her for a take. As I left, I heard her call out, “I’ll come when I’m good and ready.”
I took some photos and Josh Logan supplied the rest of them to keep and use. When he gave them to me, he explained they expressed her many moods. She was a victim of inferiority and insecurity complexes, had short concentration periods, and had difficulty in memorizing her lines. When there were several lines, she would remember one or two and forget the rest. Josh handled it wisely by instructing the cameras to continue grinding on. He would then piece the good sections together so an award-worthy performance would result. Hope Lange, who worked with her in Bus Stop, claimed Marily was always late and very nervous and frightened before takes. Despite this, Josh Logan was capable of getting the best out of her, so that the critics considered Bus Stop her best performance. Josh claimed Marilyn Monroe was the greatest star with whom he ever worked, despite her phobias. Her acting was natural, charming and beautiful.
The Greatest Star I Ever Worked With.
What a tribute! Josh Logan, one of the world’s greatest producer-showmen, chose Marilyn Monroe for this tribute from all the superstars he directed and worked with. Among them were Helen Hayes, Mary Martin, Bette Davis, Ethel Merman, Dorothy Gish, Nina Foch, Nanette Fabray, Jane Fonda, Kim Novak, Joanne Woodward, Marlene Dietrich, Rosalind Russell, Leslie Caron, Anne Jackson, Mitzi Gaynor, Vanessa Redgrave and Betty Hutton.
Some critics of the time disagreed with Josh Logan. They felt her singing and dancing were not adequate. It is possible they didn’t see or review Irving Berlin’s production of There’s No Business Like Show Business. It would dispel any doubt as to her brilliant acting, singing and dancing expertise. in working with her fellow stars, Ethel Merman, Mitzi Gaynor, Donald O’Connor and Dan Daily, she not only held her own, but received rave reviews for her dancing, her singing and her love scenes. She truly stole the show.
In the early 1950’s, the studios claimed that Marilyn Monroe was their most famous Kinescope star, but failed to admit that she was the most ill-used and underpaid one. Her callous bosses caused her much suffering. As their biggest drawing star, she was cast in mediocre roles strictly for box office reasons, such as those in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Seven Year Itch. Her treatment by MGM drove her to alcohol and barbiturates.
It is a strange coincidence that Marilyn Monroe’s tribulations and untimely death paralleled closely that of her predecessor, the blonde sex symbol of the 1930’s, Jean Harlow, who died at the age of twenty-six. Like Marilyn, Jean Harlow was affected by MGM’s bad treatment. She was also badly underpaid, and was cast in sexually-oriented, profitable “B” pictures. Both their marriages were failures, and the mysterious aspects of their tragically short lives provoked speculation and worldwide interest.
MM – as Marilyn Monroe was so often referred to, is still in vogue thirty years after her death. In 2962, in her last interview with Life Magazine Associate Editor Meriman, Marilyn said, “I don’t mind being burdened with being glamorous and sexual. I feel that beauty and femininity are ageless – I think that sexuality is only attractive when it’s natural and spontaneous. It is a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift.”
The five years preceding MM’s death were her most dramatic. Affaires d’armour were purported to have involved Robert and Jack Kennedy, mob boss Sam Giancana, Frank Sinatra, and others. It was said Peter Lawford arranged their secret rendezvous. Documented for posterity in TV pictures is MM in Madison Square Garden singing, Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy. The expression on her face and quiver in her voice attest to her feelings for him. Many columnists and writers were convinced that her love for the President led to her bizarre death.
On August 4, 1962, Marilyn Monroe mysteriously died. Leads pointed to and headlines throughout the world asserted that it was a suicide. The airwaves were clogged with radio and TV theories. Dozens of books came off the press with myriads of suppositions – all with theories and solutions by so-called Marilyn Monroe authorities.
If the lines of type and publisher’s galleys were laid end to end, it was estimated they would reach from coast to coast.
One actress-author who had a solid basis for her book is Susan Strasberg, daughter of Lee Strasberg, famous dramatic teacher and friend of MM. In a book published in 1992 she writes that while a student, Marilyn lived in the Strasberg home. She verifies how whacked out and near death MM was on doses of pills. Her wracking guilt about her abortions, her failed loves and the studios’ lack of interest in her well-being destroyed her.
Joe DiMaggio, the baseball immortal, MM’s second husband and best friend, took over at her funeral. He ordered several people, including Frank Sinatra and Peter lawford, turned away from the gates. Although it appeared MM conspired to be her own worst enemy, too many other facts led to unanswered questions.
It is interesting to note that when Marilyn married writer-author Arthur Miller, she studied Judaism. This was so that they could have a second marriage ceremony in the Jewish faith. Their divergent careers, which kept them apart much of the time, and sexual inadequacies, were reported to have caused the end of their five-year marriage. Arthur Miller’s published quote of his “abject humility” obviously referred to his perfunctory performances. Similarly, Marilyn was plagued by her own problems. The studios had built her up as the greatest sex symbol of the time. How could she live up to that reputation? Would her fantasizing lovers expect more than she had to give? Would they expect earth-shaking thunder and lightning, ringing bells and an explosive climax? She complained to a friend that she couldn’t possibly live up to her public reputation.
Was it Suicide, Drugs or Murder?
After 30 years, Marilyn’s passing still leaves many unanswered questions. What happened to critical police records? To where did certain medical and autopsy reports disappear?
The following synopsis supplies clues to some of the questions. One can draw one’s own conclusions from the maze of evidence, conjectures and facts.
According to Marily Monroe’s housekeeper, Eunice Murry, on the night of Marilyn’s death, Marilyn put her phone in another room, covering it with pillows so a not to be disturbed. Taking sedation, she put on an eye shade, and wearing only a bra, fell into a drug-induced sleep.
That was Saturday. Earlier that evening she had called Peter Lawford with this cryptic message, “Say goodbye to Jack, and say goodbye to yourself because you’re a nice guy.” Certainly a timely farewell message. Earlier, Bobby Kennedy had discovered Marilyn’s little red diary. He had learned that if kept secrets of her affairs, including both his and Jack’s. According to her maid, he had words with her, insisting she get rid of it. The diary was never found.
Marilyn’s friend, Jeanne Carman, said she had talked to her about being First Lady. Rumor was that Robert Slatzer, MM’s former lover, was heard to tell that she was going to hold a press conference and blow the lid off the whole damn Kennedy thing – not an idle threat. She never lived to do it.
The Kennedy family was said to have put pressure on all media to squelch stories concerning Marilyn, Bob and Jack.
It was found that Marilyn’s house had been bugged, presumably by the mob. Microphones and tapes were also located in Peter Lawford’s Santa Monica home, purportedly used as a rendezvous by Marilyn and the Kennedys.
The CIA, at the request of the government, was supposed to have Giancana arrange to have Marilyn killed. This was reputed by author James Spad in his book. There were still some students of crime that felt Giancana was involved – that he had sent two of his thugs to murder her. About 10:15 that Saturday night they made their move.
Abe Landau, Marilyn’s neighbor, place the time of her death at 1:00 AM. Other witnesses gave varying times from 11:00 PM to 3:00 AM. Jack Clemmons, first officer at the death scene, in his version, said that everything in the room was cleaned up. When the body was found, the phone was back in the room. Everything had been rearranged, including the barbiturates and pills. The finger of suspicion pointed to Sam and Chuck Giancana. Immediately a wide-ranging cover-up was orchestrated by an unknown source.
When questioned, the ambulance driver claimed he picked up the body a little after 10:30 PM. and was ordered to return it to the house about midnight. From midnight to 3:00 AM the cover-up was well under way. At 6:04 AM, the White House log shows that Peter Lawford made a call to President Kennedy. Word circulated that Marilyn Monroe died from an overdose of barbiturates.
John Miner, head of the medical-legal section of the District Attorney’s office, was present while Dr. Maguchy did the autopsy. he tried to determine the cause of the overdose. There were no needle marks and the stomach contained no residue of any drugs. He interviewed Dr. Greenson, Marilyn’s psychologist, then wrote a report clearing up many inconsistencies. He reported that Marilyn had not committed suicide. His reports also mysteriously disappeared, in the same way as had her little diary.
John Meyer, who attended the autopsy, tried to find out how she had ingested the lethal drug overdose. He too believed she hadn’t committed suicide. There was, however, a distinct area of purplish discoloration of the lower part of the colon. This could indicate the drugs were introduced rectally, possibly through an enema. Unfortunately, there could be no further tests. All tissue samples and papers have also vanished.
What did Marilyn Monroe know? What was suppressed in this true-life mystery?
This condensation is the result of research of authors, authorities, columnists, pseudo detectives and experts. You can draw you own conclusions.
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