Tag Archives: Letter of Despair

Verdict Reached in ‘Letter of Despair’ Trial

The ‘Letter of Despair‘ trial – concerning a draft note (later typed) from a distraught Marilyn to Lee Strasberg during filming of Some Like it Hot in 1958 – reached its verdict on November 19, with a ruling against the plaintiff, Anna Strasberg, reports the Pasadena Star-News.

“A judge ruled on Wednesday that a handwritten letter by Marilyn Monroe in which she talked about the difficulties of performing before the camera belongs to a buyer who purchased it at auction at $130,000.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin handed down his ruling in favor of Calabasas-based auction house Profiles in History and against 75-year-old Anna Strasberg, the widow of Lee Strasberg, who served for many years as Monroe’s mentor in her acting career.

‘Plaintiff has not proved by the civil standard that the letter was in the possession or owned by Ms. Strasberg,’ the judge said.

Strasberg, who was married to Lee Strasberg from 1968 until his death in 1982, once served as administrator of the Monroe estate and has a large collection of the actress’ memorabilia. She sued Profiles in May 2013, saying she learned the month before, after a New York Post article about it was published, that the letter was missing from her collection. She said she inherited the writing from her late husband and alleged it was stolen.

Profiles attorney Robert Enders maintained the letter was actually a draft version that was found by a housekeeper at the Hotel Bel-Air and it was never sent to Lee Strasberg.

‘I’m very pleased,’ Enders said outside the courtroom. ‘The judge made the right ruling.’

Fruin made multiple findings against Strasberg, including that she did not provide any inventory of Monroe items that included the letter and that there was no envelope showing the writing was sent to the acting pioneer husband.

Had the letter been stolen from Strasberg as she alleged, he noted, it seems likely other items would have been taken as well. Although Strasberg claimed her husband showed her the letter in the late 1960s and that she saw it again in the period of 1988-92 when discussing it with her son, David Strasberg, her account was undercut by the fact her offspring testified he never saw the letter.

Trial testimony showed that after the letter was found by the housekeeper, a series of transactions occurred in which it ended up being bought by a private party in 1996. That same person then used the services of Profiles last year to auction the writing to the current owner, who lives in another state. He and the 1996 buyer were never identified during trial.”

‘Letter of Despair’ Trial Begins

The latest developments in an ongoing legal battle over the ownership of Marilyn’s alleged ‘letter of despair’ to Lee Strasberg are reported at My News LA today.

“Testifying in a trial to determine who owns a letter handwritten by Marilyn Monroe, the widow of the actress’ former mentor told a judge Monday she never sold the correspondence or consented to it being auctioned.

Anna Strasberg, who was married to one-time Monroe acting coach Lee Strasberg until his death in 1982, said the correspondence — dubbed a ‘letter of despair’ in a New York Post article — belongs to her. She said she wants it back from the buyer who paid $130,000 last year as the highest bidder through Calabasas-based auctioneer Profiles in History.

‘I am telling you, somebody took it and sold it,’ Strasberg said during occasionally testy cross-examination by Profiles attorney Robert Enders.

However, the future of the case became uncertain late in the day when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin, who is hearing the trial without a jury, said he may have no basis for finding liability on the part of Profiles. He said he was unaware until today’s testimony that Profiles never owned the letter and that the auctioneer instead acted as the selling agent for yet another private individual who bought the letter in 1996.

‘I’m completely surprised by this,’ Fruin said.

Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, told Fruin he explained during a previous hearing that Profiles attorneys have refused to identify either the 1996 or the 2013 buyer, and that he had no choice but to proceed with the case against the auction house. The issue is further complicated by the fact that the current owner lives in another state and the person cannot be sued in California.

Fruin ordered the attorneys back to court Wednesday to discuss a future course of action.

Strasberg, who once served as administrator of the Monroe estate and has a collection of the actress’ memorabilia, sued Profiles in History in May 2013, saying she learned the month before that the letter was missing from her collection after the New York Post article was published. She said she inherited the writing from her late husband.

According to her court papers, Strasberg thought the handwritten letter was with other Monroe memorabilia, locked in a filing cabinet at home.

The letter was bought via the Internet and sold by Profiles in History.

The buyer is not a party to the case. Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, said that if his client wins at trial, there may be a second legal step needed to get possession of the handwritten letter if the buyer does not relinquish it.

The purchaser lives in another state, but Fruin said he believes he has jurisdiction over the letter because it was auctioned in California.

Asked by Enders if she can corroborate her claims to ownership of the letter, Strasberg acknowledged she never made a police report, filed an insurance claim or listed it in an inventory of former Monroe belongings. But she said the fact it is missing is sufficient.

‘If I don’t have it, that’s documentation enough,’ she said.

Strasberg said she donated some of Monroe’s property over the years for auction, but that it usually consisted of shoes and other items that people in need could use.

Strasberg downplayed Monroe’s tone in the letter, saying it is common for people to say they are ‘going crazy’ without meaning it. She also said her late husband told her it was not unusual for actors to complain about concentration problems.

Strasberg said she took great care after Monroe’s death to protect her image, including stopping commercial uses of her likeness on toilet paper and condoms.

Strasberg said she met Monroe a few times, including once during the actress’ visit to the United Nations, where the plaintiff worked at the time as an assistant to the agency’s cultural director.

Strasberg, a former actress who had roles in two films with Sophia Loren, is the godmother of Drew Barrymore.”

Pre-Trial Hearing for ‘Letter of Despair’

letter of despair

A final hearing before a trial concerning ownership of Marilyn’s so-called ‘letter of despair’ to Lee Strasberg was held at the Los Angeles Superior Court this week, reports Westside Today.

“In a final hearing prior to a trial to determine who owns a letter handwritten by Marilyn Monroe on hotel stationery to her former mentor, an attorney for an auction house told a judge today that a version of the letter typed by the late actress exists.

Robert Enders, an attorney for Calabasas-based auctioneer Profiles in History, told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin that both the written and typed letters to Lee Strasberg have numerous misspellings and corrections.

The Beverly Hilton Hotel is crossed out on the typewritten stationery and the name of the Hotel Bel-Air is inserted, Enders said.

The handwritten letter is on Hotel Bel-Air stationery, Enders said. It is signed by Monroe, but the typed account is not, Enders said.

‘Did Marilyn Monroe type?’ Fruin asked.

Enders said the actress may have typed many letters.

Plaintiff Anna Strasberg, who is administrator of the Monroe estate and has a  collection of the actress’ memorabilia, sued Profiles in History in May 2013, saying she learned the month before that the written version, dubbed a ‘letter of despair’ in a New York Post article, was missing from her collection.

She inherited the writing from her late husband, Lee Strasberg, who also was Monroe’s acting coach.

Both letters are in a safe at a Los Angeles law firm selected by the buyer pending the outcome of the trial, Enders said. The nonjury trial is scheduled Nov. 17.

According to her court papers, Strasberg thought the handwritten letter was with other Monroe memorabilia, locked in a filing cabinet at home.

The letter was bought via the Internet and sold by Profiles in History.

The buyer is not a party to the case. Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, said that if his client wins at trial, there may be a second legal step needed to get possession of the handwritten letter if the buyer does not relinquish it.

The purchaser lives in another state, but Fruin said he believes he has jurisdiction over the letter because it was auctioned in California.

Enders told Fruin the consigner who provided the letter to the auction house said he got it from a member of the housekeeping staff at the Hotel Bel-Air in the 1970s and that it was a draft of a letter never sent Lee Strasberg.

Fruin said the fact that the written and typed versions have so many corrections makes him wonder if Monroe sent either letter to Lee Strasberg because people do not usually forward correspondence in that fashion.

Strasberg, who wants unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, became heir to her husband’s estate, including the Monroe letters, when he died in February 1982 at age 80.

Strasberg is 75 years old and lives on the East Coast, Mancuso said.”

Legal Dispute Over Strasberg Letter

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A letter written by Marilyn to Lee Strasberg, which sold for $156,000 at a Profiles in History auction in 2013, is the subject of a continuing legal dispute concerning Anna Strasberg, executrix of both Lee and Marilyn’s estate, reports the San Fernando Valley Post-Periodical. (The letter was written on Hotel Bel Air stationery, and may date from filming of Some Like it Hot in 1958. You can read a transcript here.)

“A judge told an attorney for an auction house Monday that he wanted to know who was in possession of a letter written by Marilyn Monroe to her longtime mentor and acting coach, pending the outcome of a trial over its ownership.

Robert Enders, an attorney for Calabasas-based auctioneer Profiles in History, said the letter’s purchaser – who is not identified by name or gender in court papers – advised him last week that the letter would be sent to the purchaser’s personal attorney in Los Angeles for safekeeping.

Enders said the person in possession of the letter – from Monroe to acting coach Lee Strasberg – did not give him any specifics about who would receive the letter and when.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin said he wanted answers to both.

In an Aug. 11 hearing, Fruin suggested placing the letter with an independent third party, while its ownership was litigated.

He also asked plaintiff Anna Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, to let him know when his client would be available to be deposed by Enders. Mancuso said the deposition would take place today.

Strasberg sued Profiles in History in May 2013, saying she learned in April 2013 that the letter, dubbed a ‘letter of despair’ in a New York Post article, was missing from her collection, which she inherited from her late husband – the administrator of Monroe’s estate.

According to court papers, Anna Strasberg thought the letter was with other Monroe memorabilia, locked in a filing cabinet at home.

The letter was bought via the Internet and sold by Profiles in History.

The buyer, however, is not a party to the case. Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, however said he may name him as a defendant.

While today’s deposition of his client would be done, he said he would rather wait until he knows whether or not to bring the buyer into the case. That way, Strasberg would only have to be deposed once.

‘I’d like to know who we’re fighting and what we’re fighting over before I take the next step,’ he said.

Strasberg lives on the East Coast, is 75 years old and in poor health, Mancuso said.

Mancuso said Stasberg believed the letter was stolen. But Enders told Fruin the consigner who provided the letter to the auction house said he got it from a member of the housekeeping staff at the Hotel Bel-Air in the 1970s and that it was a draft of a letter never sent Lee Strasberg.

Strasberg, who wants unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, became heir to her husband’s estate, including the Monroe letters, when he died in February 1982 at age 80.”