In the News: Marilyn’s Last Goodbye

As so many outlandish conspiracy theories have arisen in the 53 years after Marilyn’s death, it is instructive to look back at how the tragic event was covered in the days after the news broke. Firstly, an extract from Time magazine’s obituary, which focused on the ill-fated production of Something’s Got to Give, claiming that only a few minutes of usable footage were shot. This myth persisted until 1990, when Marilyn’s impressive, if unfinished work was shown in public for the first time. (Headlined ‘The Only Blonde in World’, Time‘s obit inspired a painting of the same name by British pop artist, Pauline Boty.)

“She had always been late for everything, but her truancy was never heedlessness. Beset by self-doubt and hints of illness, she would stay alone, missing appointments, keeping whole casts waiting in vain. In the past year, her tardiness was measured in weeks instead of hours … She seemed euphonic and cheerful, even while 20th Century-Fox was filing suit against her in hopes of salvaging $750,000 damages from the wreckage of Something’s Got to Give.”

The New York Times noted the gulf between Marilyn’s ‘golden girl’ image and her sad demise, echoing the shock felt by many fans:

“The life of Marilyn Monroe, the golden girl of the movies, ended as it began, in misery and tragedy.

Her death at the age of 36 closed an incredibly glamorous career and capped a series of somber events that began with her birth as an unwanted, illegitimate baby and went on and on, illuminated during the last dozen years by the lightning of fame.

Her public life was in dazzling contrast to her private life.

No sex symbol of the era other than Brigitte Bardot could match her popularity. Toward the end, she also convinced critics and the public that she could act.

During the years of her greatest success, she saw two of her marriages end in divorce. She suffered at least two miscarriages and was never able to have a child. Her emotional insecurity deepened; her many illnesses came upon her more frequently.

In her last interview, published in the Aug. 3 issue of Life magazine, she told Richard Meryman, an associate editor: ‘I was never used to being happy, so that wasn’t something I ever took for granted.’

Considering her background, this was a statement of exquisite restraint.”

Writing for The National, Lincoln Kerstein – co-founder of the New York Ballet – praised Marilyn’s comedic gifts and unabashed sexuality:

“Marilyn Monroe was supposed to be the Sex Goddess, but somehow no one, including, or indeed first of all, herself, ever believed it. Rather, she was a comedienne impersonating the American idea of the Sex Goddess … When people paid their forty millions to see Monroe, it was for an aesthetic performance, not a simple provocation. And she, perhaps even consciously, exemplified a philosophy which had come to her pragmatically, and which a lot of American women don’t like very much—a philosophy at once hedonistic, full of uncommon common sense, and, even to some intellectuals, deeply disturbing. Her performances indicated that while sex is certainly fun, and often funny, it is only one of many games … Marilyn Monroe’s life was not a waste. She gave delight. She was a criterion of the comic in a rather sad world. Her films will continue to give delight, and it is blasphemy to say she had no use. Her example, our waste of her, has the use of a redemption in artists yet untrained and unborn.”

The Los Angeles Times gave a detailed report about Marilyn’s final days, and the still-disputed circumstances of her death, under the headline ‘Marilyn Monroe Dies; Pills Blamed’…

“Two motion pictures executives were bidding for her services at the time of her death. One of them was reportedly J. Lee Thompson, director of the film The Guns of Navarone, who planned to meet with her Tuesday.

Producer Sam Spiegel also wanted her to star in a picture for him, it was reported.

Miss Monroe had received an offer of $55,00 a week to star in a night club appearance in Las Vegas recently, but she turned it down.

Further evidence that her career was on the upswing was indicated by a typewritten message on a table in her home.

It was from a representation of Anita Loos, creator of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and said:

‘Dear Miss Monroe: On behalf of Anita Loos, now in Europe, we would like to know if you would be interested star role new musical based on French play Gogo. Book by Anita Loos, lyrics by Gladys Shelley and enchanting music by Claude Leville. Can send you script and music if you express interest. (signed) Natalia Danesi Murray.'”

Finally, The Guardian‘s W.J. Weatherby published a personal tribute to Marilyn (click to enlarge.) He would later write a book about their friendship, Conversations With Marilyn.

Los Angeles, 1956: Marilyn Returns

The Los Angeles Times has posted a vintage report from February 25, 1956 – the day after Marilyn flew back to her hometown after a year’s absence, ready to film Bus Stop. (The picture was taken at Los Angeles International Airport – or LAX – by Leigh Wiener, better-known for his photographs of MM’s funeral six years later.)

“Actress Marilyn Monroe flew into town last night and brought activities at International Airport to a standstill.

As she stepped from an American Airlines flagship, hundreds of airport workers streamed out on the flight ramp to catch a glimpse of the glamorous film star.

Scores of newspapers, magazine, television and newsreel cameramen crowded around the New York to Los Angeles plane which arrived one hour and 45 minutes late due to headwinds…”

‘My Week With Marilyn’: Truth or Fantasy?

The Los Angeles Times reports on the mystery surrounding Colin Clark’s story in My Week With Marilyn, speaking to Michelle Williams, and also those who knew Monroe well during this period, including Amy Greene and Joan Copeland (Arthur Miller’s sister.)

‘Michelle Williams, who spent months watching Monroe’s films and devouring biographies on her, acknowledges that she found Clark to be an “unreliable narrator.”

“When you read both of his books, you do get the sense that he’s writing with the advantage of hindsight, and he’s put some awfully big words in his own mouth,” said the actress, who added that before filming she did not speak to anyone who had known Monroe personally. “I think he says in the book that Marilyn wanted to make love, but he said, ‘Oh, no!’ And you’re like, ‘Oh, sure.’ I’m sure that there was a relationship there. To what extent it was consummated, I don’t know.”

“I was there every day, and I knew what was happening. [Clark] was on the set, and he was a gofer — ‘Hey, I need a cup of coffee,’ or whatever. No one regarded him as anything but a gofer,” said Amy Greene, the widow of Milton Greene, a photographer who was vice president of Monroe’s production company…

Director Simon Curtis and screenwriter Adrian Hodges denied they were ever approached by Greene’s relatives. “The fact that these books were in the public arena and had been cherished by people over the years gave me confidence,” said Curtis. “I have no reason to doubt Colin’s version. Who is to say what happened in those bedrooms on those nights?”

“I never heard anything about the romance. That might be somebody’s illusion. Arthur would not have talked to me about that anyway, if there was an affair,” Copeland said. “But as far as I know, the [other] events they describe are pretty accurate. She was often late and kept people waiting on set. And I know that Arthur found it very difficult to work in that situation.”

But Don Murray, 82, who costarred with Monroe in “Bus Stop,” the film she acted in immediately before “Showgirl,” said he thought a Monroe-Clark romance was conceivable.

“I think that it’s quite possible, because of the disillusionment of her marriage, and she was very, very insecure in her relationships and didn’t really believe in loving forever,” Murray said. “I think it’s quite plausible that something happened and they handled it discreetly.”‘

John Miner Dies in LA

John Miner, a former Los Angeles prosecutor who was involved in the original investigation into Marilyn Monroe’s death, has passed away aged 92.

Miner made headlines in 2005 when the Los Angeles Times published a transcript (from memory) of private tapes, supposedly made by Marilyn, for her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson. Some fans have pointed to inconsistencies in the text, summarised in an article, Songs Marilyn Never Sang.

Though Miner claimed to have heard the tapes in the days after Monroe’s death, the recordings have never been traced.

Miner believed that Marilyn was murdered. Most recently he collaborated with collector Keya Morgan on Murder at Fifth Helena Drive, a documentary and book set to be released in 2012 (the 50th anniversary of MM’s death.)

Whatever one may think of Miner’s theories and evidence, his certainty never wavered.

Postscript

An obituary was published in error Friday for a death that occurred a year ago. The article was about former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John W. Miner, who was an investigator in the 1962 death of Marilyn Monroe. The obituary reported that he died Feb. 25. Miner actually died Feb. 25, 2010.

Chicago Tribune