Marilyn’s life and death is the subject of a new 3-part documentary in the Fox News Channel series, Scandalous. It began last night, and will continue over the next two Sundays. It’s being aired in the US and Australia, but not as yet in Europe. Interviewees include authors Gary Vitacco Robles, Charles Casillo, Donald McGovern and Keith Badman, plus Elisa Jordan of LA Woman Tours and photographer Larry Schiller and Leigh Weiner’s son Devik. This alone could make it worth watching, although fans have already complained about the use of Marilyn’s autopsy photo on both the show and tabloid coverage.
“You know, she would stop whatever she was doing to wave to truck drivers and cabbies who yelled ‘Marilyn!’ to her. She had a lot of their standards … That’s the element, the quality, which every young girl in America could recognise.
I think the major reason for her myth becoming larger and larger every day, for the legend growing on such a gigantic scale, is not the tragedy of her life. It’s the joy of the girl; she presented the joyous moment of a vibrant woman.
More important, she represents the freedom which kids have today. Only, she was fifteen or twenty years ahead of the times, so she paid the price for her freedom.
Anyway, I want to show the nice moments in her life. I think in my own way I don’t gloss over what we look upon as vicious in life. What the hell! You’ve got to be tough to survive in the movie world. And in individual relationships with people. In the emotional life.”Sam Shaw, The Joy of Marilyn in the Camera Eye
As we reach the 57th anniversary of Marilyn’s death, Megan Monroe reminds us of her true legacy in a timely blog post.
“So many people and society tend to view Marilyn as a victim, passed around from man to man and used throughout her lifetime. This both angers and frustrates not just me, but many fans, who have spent years taking the time to research legitimate sources and find out who Marilyn herself was. Often her death is viewed as a conspiracy-fueled, gossip-loving debate, so much so that she ends up no longer seeming like a young woman anymore, but an object of fascination.
It seems to me that it’s easier for people to believe in the distasteful lies and conspiracies that surround not just Marilyn, but many other celebrities and icons before and after her. People cannot comprehend someone as beautiful, talented and loved as her to have any demons or hardships … In the end Marilyn ends up being turned into a former shadow of her true self, which is just not acceptable to me and so many others – therefore, I will continue to try and dispel the lies and bring back her true character.
Furthermore, Marilyn’s death does not define her – intended or accidental it is still and will always be a tragedy, but, it does not take away from her 36 years of life and the achievements she made during and after her lifetime … Ultimately, this was the real Marilyn, the person that so often gets lost in the publicity of hearsay and money making headlines. “
Photos of Marilyn taken by George Barris in 1962 (taken from the original negatives, and signed by Barris) will go under the hammer for a starting price of $500 each at the Heritage Auctions‘ Entertainment, Music & Posters sale, set for July 20-21. Photos by William Carroll, Andre de Dienes and Kashio Aoki are also on offer, plus images from Ray Anthony’s ‘My Marilyn’ party, the hand-print ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and a silk-screen print by Bert Stern.
Among the more unusual items are a newspaper clipping accompanying an original photo of Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio on Redington Beach in Florida; and a grave marker from Marilyn’s crypt at Westwood Memorial Park, plus vintage photos and slides of fans paying their respects.
UPDATE: Marilyn’s grave marker sold for $7,500 – view results here
In a tribute to filmmaker Agnès Varda, who died last week aged 90, Genna Rivieccio notes on her Culled Culture blog the parallels between Marilyn’s life and the tragic young heroine faced with a cancer diagnosis played by Corinne Marchand in Cléo From 5 to 7, the movie released just a few months before Marilyn’s death, and which helped to launch the French New Wave.
“Although Cléo is beautiful and has a relatively successful singing career, the dark shadow potentially case by the reaper above her won’t go away, nor is it remedied by seeing a fortune teller at the outset of the movie, one who confirms all her worst fears about waiting for some potentially fatal test results from her doctor.
Distraught at first over the reading, Cléo insists to herself that ‘as long as I’m beautiful, I’m alive,’ because ‘ugliness is a kind of death’ so how can she be suffering from it if she’s not aesthetically hideous? Even so, she is aware that if she is dying, it’s only the inside that will matter now–not from a personality or ‘good person’ standpoint, but in terms of it affecting whether or not her demise is imminent. To that former notion, however, Cléo suddenly becomes hyperconscious of the vacuity of her life. Buying hats, lounging around, cursing men. What does it all mean? And what can she do to go on preserving that vacuous little life? Thus, she tells her maid, Angèle (Dominique Davray) that she’ll kill herself if it turns out to be cancer. Angèle does little to comfort her, noting that ‘men hate illness’ and that Cléo ought not to wear a new hat on Tuesday as it’s bad luck.
So, too, did Cléo, a singer who bemoans wanting to project more poignant lyrics but then grows filled with melancholy as she sings a new composition filled with too much death imagery to bear. She wants to remain as she always has been in order to survive, to feel somewhat happy: at the surface of things. Unfortunately, like Marilyn Monroe before her, the woman endlessly preoccupied with her image and looks ends up driving any potential for real and meaningful love away. And as we all know, especially Narcissus, a reflection can’t reciprocate anything, nor love or hate you as much as you do it. Cléo’s childlike [im]maturity, is, in fact, directly related to her self-obsession. In being faced with the reality that her death is imminent, however, she is forced to come to grips with certain truths both about herself and existence that she never would have otherwise.”
PS: And if you should doubt Marilyn’s influence on the nouvelle vague, this photo taken by George Barris just weeks before her death is glimpsed briefly in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a 1964 musical directed by Varda’s husband, Jacques Demy, and starring lifelong MM fan Catherine Deneuve. (According to IMDB, the film is set in 1957 which makes it a goof.) And in Demy’s 1963 film Bay of Angels, Jeanne Moreau donned a Monroesque blonde wig to play an unhappy divorcee (not unlike Roslyn in The Misfits) who becomes addicted to gambling.
On the weird side of Marilyn fandom, in Take A Break: Fate & Fortune‘s May issue, Emma Pearce of Cornwall shares her belief that MM is haunting her home – via a reproduction of a painting by Renato Casaro which she found in a rubbish tip (depicting Marilyn as Jesus, with Bogart and Elvis among her disciples, in a pastiche of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.) Maybe the ghost isn’t Marilyn, but an angry critic?
Further afield, the second issue of German magazine Nostalgie features a lovely Monroe cover. Sadly, the usual conspiracy theories about her death are trotted out inside.
Thanks to Fraser and Johan
Actress Barbara Eden is best-known for her zany role in the 1960s sitcom, I Dream Of Jeannie. She also starred in the TV spin-off of How to Marry a Millionaire, which ran from 1957-59. Her ditzy character, ‘Loco Jones’, was a blend of the roles played by Marilyn and Betty Grable in the 1953 movie. And as Barbara revealed in a recent interview for Studio 10, she would later meet Marilyn in the flesh.
“She eventually met Monroe, as they both shared the same stand-in – Evelyn Moriarty. Recalling the meeting, Eden said: ‘Marilyn was over there doing wardrobe tests. I’m standing there with [Evelyn], and Marilyn came out and [Evelyn] said, “Marilyn, I want you to meet my other star”.’
Monroe was filming her last movie at the time and Evelyn later confided in Barbara following the famous actress’ death, claiming she never believed the reports at the time.
‘Evelyn said, ‘”She would never take her own life”. I just feel it was probably an accident,’ Eden said. ‘She wanted to get to sleep, and took too many [pills]… I hope that’s what it was.'”
Comic book author Alan Moore (whose past creations include V for Vendetta and Watchmen) puts his own spin on Marilyn’s mysterious death in the final issue of his Cinema Purgatorio anthology – to be published on May 29, as Rich Johnson reports for the Bleeding Cool website.
“Cinema Purgatorio is the anthology that Alan Moore has been curating for the past two years for Bleeding Cool’s publisher, Avatar Press. Each perfect bound paperback volume begins with a comic by Moore and Kevin O’Neill that names the title, with someone trapped in a cinema in purgatory, watching classic films that have been twisted to reflect aspects of humanity of its history – especially that of movies. So we’ve had the tales of the Warner Brothers told using the Marx Brothers. Or corruption in cinema with the Keystone Kops.”
Actor Gianni Russo claims to have had an affair with Marilyn in his forthcoming memoir, Hollywood Godfather, as Michael Kaplan reports for the New York Post. Born in 1943, he began his career running errands for mobster Frank Costello. He made his screen debut as Carlo Rizzi, the abusive husband of Connie Corleone (Talia Shire), who is murdered by her brother Michael (Al Pacino) in The Godfather (1972.) Offscreen, Russo has released an album and a wine range, and was once a Las Vegas restaurateur.
Russo’s alleged affair with Marilyn rests on a snapshot taken at Frank Sinatra’s Cal-Neva Lodge near Lake Tahoe a week before her death in 1962. He identifies himself as the young man at her left (with singer Buddy Greco at right), which may be true although his face is conveniently hidden from view. Moreover, the photo in itself is no proof of anything more than a brief acquaintance (at best.)
Russo claims that the affair began when he was sixteen and Marilyn thirty-three, which would date it back to 1959. He adds that their affair lasted for four years, but Marilyn died three years later. (I also highly doubt that Marilyn would have dated a teenager, when all her significant relationships were with older men.)
Costello had asked Russo to spy on Marilyn when she began her affair with John F. Kennedy, he contends (in fact, she may not have met the future president until much later.) He also believes that Marilyn was a gangster’s moll for many years, and it was the Mob who moved her to New York during her 1955 dispute with Twentieth Century Fox. This is untrue, as Marilyn arranged the move with photographer Milton Greene.
Predictably, Russo also claims to know the truth about how Marilyn died. Mobster Sam Giancana had arranged to film her in flagrante with President Kennedy and his brother Robert during her last visit to Cal-Neva, Russo says. However, there is no conclusive evidence that Giancana was there that weekend, and the Kennedys were both elsewhere. Marilyn was invited by Sinatra himself.
Finally, Russo says that Marilyn was murdered by injection administered by a mob-connected M.D., probably on the orders of Bobby Kennedy. For more information on the Mafia and Marilyn’s death, I can highly recommend Donald McGovern’s Murder Orthodoxies.
As recently announced here, the retired Los Angeles County coroner, Craig Harvey, spoke at length about Marilyn’s death during an LA Woman Tours/Dearly Departed event in October. Elisa Jordan has posted a full report on the Marilyn Remembered Facebook group.
“Craig Harvey has researched Marilyn’s passing more than anyone (literally) because of the public’s interest and media requests. Here are some take-away moments from Craig’s lecture and Q&A:
* Expert conclusion: suicide
* No signs of foul play
* A coroner investigation team did not exist until 1967. The investigation was as thorough as possible for 1962. NOTE: Because of this, the coroner’s office never entered the scene.
* In 1962, bodies were routinely removed to local funeral homes. If it was deemed necessary to have an autopsy performed, the body then went to the coroner’s office. In Marilyn’s case, she was taken to Westwood and then to the coroner’s office. In other words, this was an extra thorough investigation. The officers at the scene had determined suicide so an autopsy shows how thorough they were trying to be.
* The paper work indicates that only Marilyn’s body was removed from the scene. No artifacts from her home were taken—this includes any sort of diary.
* Lionel Grandison, who said he saw a red diary, would not have had access to any physical evidence, such as a diary. All he did was process paper work.
* No puncture marks were found on Marilyn’s body (extra: puncture wounds take about 24 hours to heal)
* Dr. Thomas Noguchi does not recall John Miner being present at the autopsy, but made the distinction (per my question) that he doesn’t recall being alone either. He made that clear but in other words, there is no record of John Miner being present. Today everybody attending an autopsy must sign a log.
* He has never known of a case in which enemas had administered a fatal overdose.
* Marilyn lived for quite a while after taking pills. Her body slowly shut itself down. This explains her empty stomach and body chemistry.
* Marilyn took between 25-40 pills. Today there is better technology to get a more exact estimate.
* Someone asked about Marilyn not throwing up. Answer: some overdoses vomit and some do not. Marilyn did not, nor was there foam around her mouth. Same with expelling the contents of bladder and colon—some people expel and others do not. Marilyn did not.
* Dr. Noguchi did not request any pictures of Marilyn be taken during the autopsy. The postmortem photo that Anthony Summers published was taken by someone in the LAPD. It was not authorized. NOTE: In the state of California, coroner photos are not ‘confidential’ but they *are* protected by law. In theory, they are not made public. They are sometimes stolen or leaked during a court trial, which doesn’t apply to Marilyn. But it does explain how that particular photo got out—it was a rogue in the LAPD.
* With toxicology, it is relatively easy to find which drugs are in the system and how much (especially these days). The hard part that takes a while to figure out is determining how said drugs would affect an individual’s body. It’s different for every person.
* Technically, anyone can request that a case be reopened. This explains the 1982 investigation.”