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.”

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.”

Strasberg Challenges Letter Sale

Marilyn at a benefit for the Actors Studio, 1961

Two months ago, I reported on the upcoming sale of a very personal, and rather sad letter, written by Marilyn to Lee Strasberg. The auction, held by Profiles in History, is due to take place tomorrow, May 30th.

However, Anna Strasberg – Lee’s widow, who has overseen his estate (and Marilyn’s, which he had inherited) for many years – has filed suit at Los Angeles Superior Court to have the item withdrawn from sale, claiming that last month, she discovered the letter was missing from her collection.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think such an intimate letter should be auctioned, out of respect for Marilyn. However, the letter’s provenance remains unclear. For more details, visit SWRNN.

UPDATEMrs Strasberg’s suit has been dismissed, according to SWRNN. Her attorney, Bradley Mancuso, said he would return to court with additional evidence.