Marilyn, Dr. Greenson and ‘Box 39’

Marilyn by Bert Stern, 1962

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 Aldrige 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 Aldrige 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 Aldrige’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.”

Michael J. Pollard 1939-2019

Michael J. Pollard, the veteran character actor known for his short stature and boyish looks, has died aged 80. He was born in New Jersey to parents of Polish descent, and began attending the Actors’ Studio in the late 1950s. He later shared a memory from that time with Charles Casillo, author of Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon

Aged 19 or 20, Michael was sitting in class when he noticed a beautiful blonde, and said to a fellow student, ‘That looks like Marilyn Monroe’. After learning that the blonde was indeed MM, Pollard asked her to do a scene with him, and she agreed without hesitation. Marilyn suggested a scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote’s novella which was soon to be produced at Paramount. 

As Pollard walked with Marilyn to her 57th Street apartment, several passers-by noticed her and called out, ‘Hi, Marilyn!’ There was no screenplay, so Marilyn adapted a scene from the book where Holly Golightly climbs through her neighbour’s window. ‘I’ve got the most terrible man downstairs,’ she says, stepping in from the fire escape.

As the day approached when they were due to perform the scene, Marilyn admitted, ‘I’m really worried about the lines.’ She tore out pages from the book so they could spread them out over the stage area. When the scene was over, the formidable Lee Strasberg told Pollard it was the best work he had done. 

According to another Monroe biographer, Gary Vitacco Robles, Truman Capote was also present and thought her performance ‘terrifically good’. She was Capote’s first choice to play Holly, and George Axelrod (who had worked with her on The Seven Year Itch and Bus Stop) was hired to write the screenplay, but the role ultimately went to Audrey Hepburn.  

Among Pollard’s early movies was a small part in The Stripper (1963), which had been written by William Inge with Marilyn in mind. After her death, Joanne Woodward was cast instead. He also worked in television, with a memorable role as a child cult leader in Star Trek.

Pollard became a household name as C.W. Moss in Bonnie and Clyde (1967.) He went on to star as Billy the Kid in Dirty Little Billy (1972), and with Robert Redford in the biker movie, Little Fauss and Big Halsy. Michael J. Fox would adopt his middle initial as a tribute to Pollard, whose later films included Dick Tracy (1990), opposite Warren Beatty and Madonna. 

Marilyn Gets ‘Closer’ on TV and Podcast

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.

Fox News Gets ‘Scandalous’ With Marilyn

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.

Marilyn’s Costumes and Jewellery Sold at Julien’s

The results are in for this year’s Legends sale at Julien’s Auctions. A number of photos from the Manfred ‘Linus’ Kreiner archive (see above) were sold, with the Marilyn-related lots fetching up to $3,800. These photos were recently featured in Parade magazine (see here.)

Marilyn at the Fox luncheon for Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev (Manfred Kreiner, 1959)

Within the fan community, biographer Gary Vitacco-Robles won a telegram from Lauren Bacall congratulating Marilyn after her wedding to Joe DiMaggio, for $1,582.50. The biggest Marilyn-related sales, however, were her costume from A Ticket to Tomahawk (sold for $22,400), and her bathrobe from How to Marry a Millionaire (which fetched $28,800.) Here are some more highlights:

  1. A rare ‘Page 3’ copy of Playboy‘s first issue, signed by Hugh Hefner ($16,00)
  2. A cast of Marilyn’s hands and feet from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre ($25,600)
  3. A black chiffon overblouse ($19, 200)
  4. A six-strand, iridiscent crystal necklace in purple and green ($11,250)
  5. A pair of rhinestone clip earrings ($28,125)
  6. Marilyn’s script for Something’s Got to Give, dated August 30, 1961 ($12,800)

And finally, I’ve added the maximum bids for each item featured in my previous posts – learn more about this fascinating auction here.

Marilyn’s How to Marry a Millionaire bathrobe today

Marilyn On the Borderline

In the third episode of May’s month-long mental health awareness vodcast, American Icon: Where Healing Meets Life, Monroe biographer Gary Vitacco Robles will explore the subject of Borderline Personality Disorder with co-host Nina Boski. Tune in here today (Wednesday, May 13) at noon PST/3 pm EST/8 pm GMT (all episodes will be archived on YouTube.)

Marilyn ‘Icon’ Vodcast Explores Childhood Trauma

The second installment of American Icon: Where Healing Meets Life, a new vodcast series from Nina Boski and Monroe biographer Gary Vitacco-Robles, will air today, May 8, at noon PST. It will be repeated at 3 pm and 6 pm; for Eastern time please add 3 hours, or 8 hours in the UK – and tune in here.

“We will be discussing a serious topic of Marilyn surviving the complex traumas of childhood sexual/physical abuse & neglect, its impact on her life, & resources available today for those experiencing the long term impact of trauma. During May as Mental Health Awareness Month, MM is helping us talk about painful & challenging issues to end stigma & start the healing journey. The three-part ‘vodcasts’ will be archived on YouTube as part of the American Icon documentary.”

New Vodcast Explores Marilyn’s Mental Health

American Icon: Where Healing Meets Life, a five-part ‘vodcast’ (video podcast) hosted by Monroe biographer and counsellor Gary Vitacco Robles and Nina Boski (who also presented the Goodnight Marilyn online radio show) will start this Wednesday, May 1st, at midday PST (or 8pm BST.) As part of Mental Health Awareness month, Nina and Gary will discuss how mental illness and addiction shaped Marilyn’s all-too-brief life.  To watch this series, follow the American Icon Facebook page here.

In a recent post for Marilyn Remembered, Gary shared his own perspective on the difficulties she faced:

“Marilyn Monroe was likely challenged with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), episodes of Major Depression and mixed episodes of depression and mania, placing her on the Bipolar Disorder Spectrum. She was also a survivor of childhood trauma & adverse childhood experiences who struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. During Marilyn’s era of limited treatment options, she was prescribed dangerous, addictive medications which led to misuse of prescribed drugs. These mental health disorders are now better understood and treatable with effective & safe interventions and mood stabilizing medications.

Marilyn’s mother, Gladys, was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and spent most of her life institutionalized. Marilyn’s maternal grandmother, Della, was diagnosed on the Bipolar Disorder Spectrum (then called Manic Depression Psychosis]. Marilyn’s maternal great-grandfather, Tilford, took like own life by hanging; suicide is usually the manifestation of a severe psychiatric illness. Her maternal uncle, Marion, took off one day and never returned to his family, possibly a manifestation of an undiagnosed genetically linked mental illness. Marilyn’s early childhood of complex trauma combined with an intergenerational genetic background of mental illness, increased her risk for mental illness & suicide. Many people who admire Marilyn relate to her history of childhood abuse & depression.

[Marilyn’s internist, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, confirmed her Bipolar Disorder diagnosis & her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, wrote at length about her symptoms of BPD which remain in his archive]”

Marilyn and Joe at the Tides Motel

Gary Vitacco-Robles, author of Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, has posted the first installment of an in-depth, 2-part article about Marilyn’s March 1961 holiday with ex-husband Joe DiMaggio in Florida – focusing on the complex love story behind their stay at the Tides Motel – on his Tampa Bay Author blog today.

“When DiMaggio and Marilyn reconnected during the Christmas holidays of 1960, following her separation from playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn felt validated by DiMaggio’s insightful comment that, after progressing in therapy, he realized he would have divorced a man like himself, had he been in her shoes.

DiMaggio deeply loved Marilyn, and  her attraction to him remained strong. ‘Marilyn knew where she stood with him,’ publicist Lois Weber Smith said. ‘He was always there, she could call on him, lean on him, depend on him, be certain of him. It was a marvelous feeling of comfort for her.’

In late march, Marilyn and DiMaggio escaped the hectic pace of their public and professional lives and the cold of New York and together traveled to Tampa Bay’s Suncoast … The couple registered in separate guest rooms across from each other in the main building of the exclusive Tides Resort & Bath Club on the Gulf of Mexico … Eventually, the resort’s management relocated the famous couple to the rooftop for more private sunbathing … In the evenings, the couple dined intimately at the Wine House Restaurant, later the Wine Cellar, on Gulf Boulevard, located next to the Zebra Lounge.”

Marilyn’s Tale of Two Biographers

Marilyn by Earl Leaf (1950)

Film historian Antti Alanen has reviewed Gary Vitacco-Robles’ comprehensive 2014 biography, Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, on his Film Diary blog.

“Where others read detective fiction I read Marilyn Monroe books. Because of their wildly incompatible approaches they have to be taken with a Rashomon attitude. But I have not been diligent recently and thus have missed the best, Gary Vitacco-Robles’s Icon, in two volumes and almost 1600 pages. It is by far the best Marilyn Monroe biography ever …

I should be familiar with the material as my interest now dates back 40 years, but Vitacco-Robles manages to surprise me on each page. There is a lot of new detail, and from his meaningful interpretation a new portrait emerges. Vitacco-Robles’s approach is sober, but his achievement is ‘A Passion of Marilyn Monroe’. He has a sense of the epic in this story, and psychologically he seems to get deeper than anyone else. This book is a hard act to follow.”

Meanwhile, Charles Casillo’s Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon has been favourably reviewed by Kevin Howell at Shelf Awareness.

“Billy Wilder said Marilyn Monroe was ‘a puzzle without any solution,’ but biographer and novelist Charles Casillo has dug deep …  [he] does an outstanding job of sifting through conflicting testimonies … Monroe’s sad but fascinating life has been told many times before, but Casillo’s sympathetic and psychologically nuanced Marilyn Monroe bio is compulsively readable.”