In 2017, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was buried in the vault next to Marilyn’s at Westwood Memorial Park. Now an adjacent space is being offered for $475,000, as Steve Lopez reports for the Los Angeles Times. (The photo shows Marsha Ebert, whose parents are also buried in a less expensive plot at Westwood, guiding Lopez to Marilyn’s final resting place. In keeping with these difficult times, Marsha removed her face-mask only when the photo was taken.)
“‘Be buried adjacent to Marilyn Monroe and Hugh Hefner,’ said an ad that ran in the L.A. Times a couple of weeks ago. ‘The last prominent bench estate location in Westwood Village Memorial Park. Accommodates four people.’
I called the number in the advertisement and a gent named John Thill answered the phone in Florida, where he now lives. Thill, 66, writes textbooks in the business field. He told me he has lived in Los Angeles and San Diego, and that one of his favorite Marilyn Monroe movies was Some Like It Hot, which was filmed at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego.
Now that Thill’s in Florida, he told me, the plot lost some of its appeal. He first listed it last year at $790,000 and then dropped the price recently. He’s gotten several nibbles, and said he stands to make ‘a little money’ if he can sell near the list price.”
With cinemas currently closed, there’s a shortage of current movie news. In a blatant attempt to fill the gap, an article rehashing conspiracy theories about Marilyn’s death has been posted on the Film Daily blog. But its credibility is blown by the inclusion of a photo of President John F. Kennedy with another blonde actress and singer, Dorothy Provine – in costume for her TV series, The Roaring 20s, which ran from 1960-62.
A quick internet search indicates this isn’t the first time Dorothy has been mistaken for Marilyn, despite there being little resemblance beyond their hair colour. But the Divine Marilyn blog correctly identified Dorothy back in 2015, with a post showing photos of President Kennedy meeting famous women of the era. For an informed read on Marilyn’s tragic death, try David Marshall’s The DD Group or Donald McGovern’s Murder Orthodoxies.
In their new book, Cinema ’62, Stephen Farber and Michael McClellan make the case for 1962 as an all-time great year in film – citing The Miracle Worker, To Kill a Mockingbird, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane among its finest releases. While Marilyn’s abandoned last movie wouldn’t make the grade, the authors have referenced another prestigious title from 1962 first offered to her. (In John Huston’s Freud, starring Montgomery Clift, her role was played by newcomer Suzannah York – more details here.)
“Marilyn Monroe, the greatest star of the 1950s and early 1960s, was known not only for her sensual image and temperamental behaviour on the set. She was also, like many actors of the era, a passionate devotee of psychoanalysis who spent years sampling the wares of a series of fashionable doctors. In 1960 John Huston, who had directed her in one of her best early films, The Asphalt Jungle, and in her latest picture (which would turn out to be her last), The Misfits, offered her a key role in his ambitious tribute to the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Marilyn was intrigued by the opportunity to tackle such a demanding dramatic role, but she ultimately turned it down, partly at the urging of her current analyst, Ralph Greenson, a close friend of Anna Freud, who was vehemently opposed to the idea of a Hollywoood picture about her sainted father’s life. In a letter to Huston dated November 5, 1960, just after The Misfits finished shooting, Marilyn declined the role. ‘I have it on good authority that the Freud family does not approve of anyone making a picture on the life of Freud,’ she wrote, then added that she could not be involved in the project, in part because of ‘my personal regard for his work.'”
Elsewhere in Cinema ’62, the authors discuss Marilyn’s demise and the loss felt within the movie industry and beyond.
“Tragically, Hollywood found its most luminous star permanently dimmed in August 1962 when Marilyn Monroe’s sudden death at the age of thirty-six rocked the movie industry and saddened fans worldwide. Monroe had been fired in June from George Cukor’s presciently titled and unfinished Something’s Got to Give after delaying production with her erratic behaviour. The emerging New Hollywood could no longer indulge its eccentric stars, not even the last great creation of the old studio and star system. Monroe had been the highest-ranked female box office draw three times in the mid-1950s but yielded that spot to Elizabeth Taylor and Doris Day by the start of the 1960s, when she dropped out of the poll. However, Monroe would soon be immortalised as a cultural and screen icon, while her passing symbolised both the decline of female stars in the Hollywood firmament and the demise of the classical studio era. Fortunately, thanks to the creative vision of some veteran filmmakers as well as some brand-new voices, the cinema of 1962 remained as vital as ever.”
A spurious report published in UK tabloid The Sun suggests that the truth about Marilyn’s death may be held in a mysterious box file.
“Private detective Becky Altringer told Sun Online how she discovered the box of papers ‘restricted until 2039’ which she believes may contain the answers as to how and why the screen legend died back in 1962 – in a university library in Los Angeles.
The strange box belongs to Marilyn’s personal psychiatrist Dr Ralph Greenson … ‘Box 39’ is stored in the special collections section of UCLA library but sealed to the public until 2039 – although the list of contents – which is public – shows it contains various documents and letters relating to Marilyn.
‘I’m 100% positive Marilyn Monroe did not commit suicide – not if you go by all the facts of the case,’ Becky revealed. ‘There’s so many unanswered questions and there shouldn’t be. Marilyn Monroe was the only person whose organs and tests and everything that had been with her death disappeared. How does this happen unless it’s a cover up?'”
However, the box is not as mysterious as Ms Altringer seems to believe. All those documents were made available to Donald Spoto while writing his biography of Marilyn, published in 1992. After Spoto alleged that Greenson had accidentally killed Marilyn with an enema (a theory which has found little favour with medical experts), his surviving relatives decided to seal the documents. The theory proposed by author Donald Wolfe and others that Greenson killed Marilyn by ‘hot-shot’ has also been widely criticised.
In fact, ‘Box 39’ consists mostly of Greenson’s correspondence with fellow psychiatrists Dr Anna Freud and Dr Marianne Kris, who had also treated Marilyn in the past. As another Monroe biographer, Gary Vitacco-Robles (who is also a practicing psychotherapist) points out, Spoto should have focused more on Marilyn’s physician, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, and his liberal use of prescriptions.
And regarding Altringer’s claim that Marilyn’s organs were removed, only tissue samples were taken and their disposal was standard procedure in 1962. Donald McGovern, author of Murder Orthodoxies: A Non-Conspiracist’s View of Marilyn Monroe’s Death, comments further on her autopsy:
“In his memoir, Dr. Thomas Noguchi noted that Dr. Raymond J. Abernathy, the head toxicologist at the time, tested Marilyn’s blood and her liver but did not test the organ dissections since the results clearly indicated an ingested overdose and suicide … Marilyn’s liver contained three times the volume of barbiturates than her tested blood. Therefore, Marilyn was not administered a hot shot and certainly not directly into her heart. The branch of pharmacology known as pharmacokinetics explains scientifically why the volume of barbiturates in Marilyn’s liver precludes the use of an enema and an injection.”
The daughter of an insurance executive, Natalie made her Broadway debut at twelve years old, and modelled and acted on television as a teenager. She met the press agent Arthur P. Jacobs on the set of her first film in 1956, and went on to star with Dean Stockwell in The Restless Ones (1957.) She also appeared in episodes of TV’s Bonanza and The Asphalt Jungle, a series based on the 1950 movie.
After her first marriage was annulled, Natalie was cast in Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962), a family film produced at Twentieth Century Fox, starring James Stewart and Maureen O’Hara, with a script by Nunnally Johnson (How to Marry a Millionaire) and directed by Henry Koster (O. Henry’s Full House.) It is believed that she became engaged to Jacobs, who was eighteen years her senior, at around this time, although they would not marry until 1968.
On August 4th, 1962 – the eve of her 22nd birthday – Natalie was celebrating at a concert at the Hollywood Bowl with Jacobs, plus director Mervyn LeRoy and his wife. (At first it was thought to be a Henry Mancini concert, but it since emerged that pianists Ferrante & Steicher were performing there on that night.) According to Natalie, a messenger came to their box at around 10:30 pm, bringing news to Jacobs that his client of seven years, Marilyn Monroe, was either dead or dying at her home in Brentwood. Jacobs asked the LeRoys to drive Natalie home to her apartment on Canon Drive, just a few doors away from where Marilyn’s publicist, Pat Newcomb (then part of Jacobs’ company), lived.
Interviewed by author Anthony Summers, Natalie said she thought the call came from Newcomb. She later told another biographer, Donald Spoto, that she ‘had the distinct impression’ that the message was actually from Marilyn’s lawyer, Milton Rudin. ‘Arthur said it was horrendous,’ she recalled. ‘He never gave me any details, and I never asked him. He said only that it was too dreadful to discuss.’ She didn’t see him again for two days. Natalie’s account has been added to the many controversies surrounding Marilyn’s time of death.
In January 1963, Natalie appeared in an episode of The Twilight Zone. A few months later she was hit by a car and suffered a ruptured disc in her back, and would spend the next year recovering in a back brace. She went on to play roles in four of the Planet of the Apes movie series, which Jacobs produced. He died in 1973, and Natalie took over his production company and sold the franchise rights to Fox.
In 1974, she married Gucci executive Roberto Carmine Foggia, and they had two children, Alessandra and Francesco. Her last screen credit was a 1978 episode of Quincy, M.E. She would marry twice more, and spent years volunteering at Mother Theresa’s hospice in Calcutta, India.
Intheir new podcast series,Famous Fates, Vanessa Richardson and Carter Roy profile ‘incredible people whose grandiose lives were matched only by their shocking deaths.’ You can stream an episode dedicated to Marilyn now on Spotify.
The Fox News documentary series, Scandalous: The Death of Marilyn Monroe, has now concluded. While some viewers voiced concerns about sensationalism in the early episodes, most fans watching in the US seem satisfied by the verdict.
“I’m one of the experts interviewed for this three-part special on Marilyn Monroe,” historian Elisa Jordan says. “I’m pleased to be a part of something that gets closer to the truth about her death and debunks a lot of the ridiculous conspiracy theories surrounding her. If you happen to catch it, it’s worth watching. (And I would say that even if I weren’t in it.)”
Fellow contributor Donald McGovern, author of Murder Orthodoxies (reviewed here), has spoken about the dubious origins of conspiracy theories linking the Kennedy brothers to Marilyn’s untimely demise.
“‘The conspiracy theories about Marilyn’s death as they exist now. Did not exist in the 60’s. They grew exponentially from the 60’s to where we are now,’ said Donald McGovern, in the final episode of the Fox Nation series, Scandalous: The Death of Marilyn Monroe.
The documentary details how a right-wing writer [Frank Capell] the head of an anti-Communist group [Maurice Reis], and the first police officer to arrive on the scene of Monroe’s death [Jack Clemmons], conspired to point the finger at [Robert] Kennedy.
The three conspirators met in the months after Monroe’s death, and according to McGovern, ‘that’s when they first got the story from Reis about the Kennedy-Marilyn involvement.’ The show delves into the plan to push the narrative that Monroe did not die of a drug overdose, as the coroner had concluded, but that she was killed on orders from Kennedy.
Central to this scheme was the involvement of one very powerful New York gossip columnist. ‘Walter Winchell serialized what essentially was a theory. That Bobby Kennedy and Marilyn had had an affair and that Bobby Kennedy had Marilyn murdered. I don’t know that Winchell ever comes out and says that. But it’s insinuated,’ recounted McGovern.
The theories surrounding Monroe did not end there. They re-surfaced in the 1970’s, around the 10th anniversary of her death, when novelist Norman Mailer wrote an instant best-selling book, Marilyn: A Biography. In the final chapter of that book, Mailer turns the Capell-Reis-Clemmons conspiracy on its head and suggests that Monroe was killed by the conspirators.
Immediately following Marilyn’s death in 1962, a spike in suicide among young American women was widely reported. Dr. Mary V. Seeman, now a Professor Emerita at the Institute of Medical Science in Toronto, has recalled how the news led her to make a rash decision as a young trainee doctor, in an article for the Psychiatric Times.
“I was a second-year psychiatry resident in New York City at the time, and I remember exactly where I was when I heard of her death. The sad news shook the staff and dazed the patients in our all-women’s hospital ward … The women patients for whom I was responsible were particularly devastated by the news of her death because they identified with her in so many ways. Many had experienced similar childhoods in foster care, had aspired to be film stars, and had suffered through difficult relationships. Like Marilyn, they often had suicidal impulses.
As it was summertime when this happened, the head of our ward was on vacation in Europe. This left me temporarily in psychiatric charge. Once I realized how deeply Marilyn Monroe’s death had affected my patients, I knew that some form of intervention was urgently needed. I immediately invited whoever wanted to do so to join a support group that I would lead … Our group of eight got off to a good start. We cried and shared our feelings. The women talked about their suicidal urges. ‘Her life was so great compared to mine,’ one woman said. Everyone agreed, as she added: ‘She was rich; she was beautiful; she was talented. Look at all the men who loved her!’
‘This group is a catharsis,’ I proudly pronounced to my fellow residents.
But this is what happened next. Three of the women in the group attempted suicide, one very seriously. Fortunately, all three survived. The head nurse, frightened by what had happened, contacted the head of our ward in Europe. He immediately cut his vacation short and returned to New York. The first thing he did was to stop the group. Then, he gave me the worst dressing down of my life. I thought it was the end of my residency, but he allowed me to stay. What came to an end was my early confidence in myself as a therapist. Since then, there has always been a seed of doubt when I see a patient. I now ask myself, ‘By stirring the pot, am I perhaps doing more harm than good?’
Human beings are very easily influenced. What my Marilyn Monroe group had done was to bring together eight vulnerable women who, with the complicity of their group leader, had laid fertile ground for intense behavioral contagion. I had unknowingly created a suicide cluster. Out of a mix of would-be Marilyn Monroes, raw emotions, media prodding, and myself as a greenhorn therapist, the belief had emerged that suicide was the answer to distress.
Today, this is called the Werther effect after the widespread emotional reaction to the 18th century novel The Sorrows of Young Werther by the famous German writer Goethe. The story is about an unhappy lover who ends his life with a pistol. At publication, the book precipitated a massive wave of imitative suicides throughout Germany and much of Europe. This response was not unlike what took place the month after Marilyn Monroe’s death when there was a 10% increase in suicides in the United States.
Are there lessons here for clinicians? I think there are. In the wake of a celebrity suicide, it is wisest to express neither shock nor surprise to one’s patients. Patients who are at risk need to be assessed, monitored, and seen often. Their grief needs to be acknowledged. They also need assurance that you understand, are available, and that there are ways, admittedly difficult, by which one can overcome adverse circumstances and survive anguish …
My own experience suggests that overzealous intervention is not a good idea and that it is best to check with elders in the field who are more experienced before leaping into unknown therapeutic territory. Sensitive topics such as thoughts of suicide need private one-on-one discussion, not group therapy. Membership in a group transforms a person and the results of such transformations can be difficult to foresee.”
Robert Frank, who was considered one of the most important photographers of all time, has died aged 94. Born in Switzerland, he moved to the United States in 1947. Perhaps his most famous work of photojournalism was a 1958 book, The Americans. Frank became an avant-garde filmmaker, capturing beatnik culture in Pull My Daisy (1959); and he also shot the cover of the Rolling Stones’ 1972 album, Exile On Main St.
Speculation about Marilyn’s death makes the pages of Closer in the USA this week (alongside cover star Meryl Streep.) If you’re wondering where all these stories are coming from, it’s partly the Fox News series Scandalous, but also a new podcast, The Killing of Marilyn Monroe. If conspiracy theories aren’t your thing, it might be worth waiting for Marilyn Monroe: Behind the Icon, an upcoming podcast from biographer Gary Vitacco-Robles.