Part I - 1961/62
by Shar Daws
When I first found Marilyn, I had no understanding of her death - I was a child and my first introduction to her was as a living person, (even though she had been dead for around 7 or 8 years by this time) in photos and on TV/Film, she was very much alive - singing and dancing, talking, laughing and beautiful. Her death was a slow dawning on me, but as I became a teenager I wanted to understand more.
When you involve yourself with the facts of Marilyn's last year, ignoring all the bizarre conspiracy theories, looking at plain documented facts, a sense of anxiety and panic rises within you.
Marilyn Monroe was a strong and wilful woman, she knew what she wanted and she knew how to get it, she was focused and motivated. However, during her career she found herself attracting people with dubious motives and it seems Marilyn found it hard to distinguish from those who were her genuine friends from those people that were looking for their own advancement, dragging on the skirt tails of this famous woman.
In the end, these people were like hounds baying for blood, chasing down a vixen, they all wanted control, they all wanted a piece of the kill. At the end, some of them got it.
By 1961, considerable changes had taken place in Monroe's life and career, she was no longer the Starlet climbing the ladder to fame and fortune, she was already at the top, established and twinkling in a black night sky. Not all the changes however, were positive ones. There had been a great deal of upheaval during the last eighteen months, culminating in the death of her third marriage to the playwright Arthur Miller, undoubtedly leaving Monroe emotionally bruised and sore. Their divorce became final on Tuesday 24th January 1961 and around this time it was reported that Marilyn had said 'everybody I ever loved, I still love a little' this is echoed in the play After the Fall (a much denied but a thinly disguised biography of his relationship with Marilyn) which was written by Miller and first performed in January 1964, just under eighteen-months after Marilyn's death. In Act One Miller's character Quentin says 'Honey, you never stop loving whoever you loved. Why must you try?'
Ironically, another of Miller's plays had been transformed into a script as a 'Valentine' to Marilyn. The Misfits premiered in New York on 31st January 1961, just a week after the dissolution of their marriage. The couple had been estranged during the filming of The Misfits and shortly after the film wrapped, her leading man Clarke Gable suffered a fatal heart attack, which compounded Marilyn's misery around this time as not only did she lose a good friend and someone she had admired all her life, even seeing him as a father figure, she also felt she was being held responsible by the Press, who claimed Marilyn's behaviour on location put Gable under undue stress and contributed to his heart attack.
Furthermore, the film was not an unqualified success. Along with her previous film Let's Make Love, it received more than it's fair share of negative criticism.
At the Premier
of The Misfits 1961
Also around this time, negotiations were taking place for Marilyn to play the part of Sadie Thompson in Somerset Maugham's Rain, which was to be adapted for television. Marilyn was to end up withdrawing from the project altogether as she wanted Lee Strasberg to direct her, but this request was refused. Marilyn's loyalty to Lee was so fierce that she pulled out completely, even though it was a role she was desperately wanting to take on.
The effect of this stress was that she became reclusive, taking sleeping pills, spending her time listening to records in a darkened room and losing weight. The activity she persistently pursued, were her visits to her analyst Dr Marianne Kris. Kris suggested her patient needed rest and so she checked her in to Cornell University Hospital, New York. On 5th February 1961, Marilyn signed in under the name of 'Faye Miller' However, on arrival Marilyn was not taken to a normal hospital room, Kris had arranged for her to be admitted into the Payne Whitney Clinic - the psychiatric division, where Marilyn was evaluated as extremely disturbed and therefore, locked into a padded room.
She later told Norman Rosten, Ralph Roberts and Susan Strasberg that she went into an intense state of shock.
On Wednesday 8th, a sympathetic nurse agreed to give her note paper and delivered a message to Lee and Paula Strasberg:
"Dear Lee and Paula,
Dr Kris has put me in the hospital under the care of two idiot doctors. The both should not be my doctors. I'm locked up with these poor nutty people. I'm sure to end up a nut too if I stay in this nightmare. Please help me. This is the last place I should be. I love you both.
P.S. I'm on the dangerous floor. It's like a cell. They had my bathroom door locked and I couldn't get their key to get into it, so I broke the glass. But outside of that I haven't done anything that is uncooperative."
The Strasberg's did not acknowledge her letter and did not come to her rescue.
On Thursday 9th February, Marilyn was permitted to make a phone call. After trying two or three friends, she got no reply. Eventually she reached Joe DiMaggio in Florida. DiMaggio dropped everything he was doing and arrived that same evening demanding Monroe be released into his custody. According to Marilyn he told them he would 'take the hospital apart brick by brick' After consulting with Dr Kris, Marilyn was released.
Leaving hospital it was obvious Marilyn was in a terrible state, she was unhappy, shaking, and anorexic. Joe arranged for her to check into a private room at the more comfortable and less threatening Neurological Institute of the Columbia University Presbyterian Hospital Medical Centre on 10th February. Here Marilyn was able to regain her strength, she was discharged on 5th March. During her stay she wrote to Dr Greenson:
Joe had visited the hospital every day, and when she left on March 5th she looked healthier and happier. Sadly, three days later she attended the funeral of Augusta Miller, Arthur's mother. At the end of March, she went to stay with Joe in Florida
Marilyn Leaving the Columbia University Presbyterian
Hospital Medical Centre 5th March 1961
Attending the funeral of Arthur
Miller's Mother 8th March 1961
Florida with Joe 1961
During April, Marilyn returned to L.A. feeling bright and well, however, she was experiencing a nagging pain in her stomach and right side. She began seeing Dr Greenson as her regular analyst and Dr Engelberg who Greenson recommended, by now she was very dependent on Nembutal for sleeping, Marilyn was extremely sensitive to ambient noise and light, which aggravated her insomnia.
Within days of attending the Christening of the late Clarke Gable's son, Marilyn was admitted to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, for an operation to relieve her chronic endometriosis. The operation was performed by her trusted surgeon Dr Leon Krohn.
Marilyn attends the Christening of Clark Gable's son John Clark
On the 1st June, her 35th birthday, she told a London reporter
"I'm very happy to have reached this age, I feel I'm growing up. It was wonderful being a girl, but it's more wonderful being a woman"
Around this time it has also been suggested, that Marilyn began a brief affair with Frank Sinatra.
Back in New York, on the 28th June she found herself in abject agony with digestive tract illness. Marilyn entered the Manhattan Poly Clinic - this was to be her fifth admission to hospital in ten months. On 29th June a successful two-hour Cholecystectomy (Gallbladder surgery) was performed and Marilyn was able to leave hospital on 11th July. Joe was with her throughout, and they remained in constant contact thereafter.
At this time, Pat Newcomb arrived from L.A. and had brought with her a puppy, a gift from Frank Sinatra - Sinatra had a reputation for having friends of dubious character, allegedly with Mafia contacts, this prompted Marilyn to call the puppy 'Maf Honey' a light-hearted joke, in honour of Frank.
During July, Marilyn also collected some personal items from the former home she had shared with Arthur Miller, this was a very painful time for her.
In early August, Marilyn returned to L.A.
It was noticed by her friends that the more she saw of Dr Greenson, the more miserable she became. Her friend and masseur Ralf Roberts recalled:
"it did not seem to any of us that he was good for her. He began to exert more and more control over her life, dictating who she should have for friends, whom she might visit and so forth. But she felt it was necessary to obey."
Her relationship with Greenson was a complex one. Greenson himself, was soon regularly cancelling appointments with other patients in order to see Marilyn, and he was unethically meeting Marilyn at his home for private sessions.
Dr Ralph Greenson
Towards Christmas '61, Marilyn again told Ralph Roberts that she was having a miserable time in therapy but she was determined to stick it out, she was dreaded starting her new movie. Marilyn had reluctantly accepted the script of Something's Got To Give the Fox Studio co-starring Dean Martin, with filming due to commence on 23rd April 1962. She also told Ralph she was desperately missing her Manhattan friends but that she was looking forward to sharing the Christmas holidays with Joe, who arrived in L.A. on 23rd December.
Greenson had begun taking control of all aspects of Marilyn's life. He advised her to buy a house in L.A. even though (or perhaps because?) he knew she wanted to head back to NY and he wanted to prevent this. He also engaged a personal assistant/housekeeper for Marilyn by the name of Eunice Murray. Eunice was charged with the job of finding a house. As with all things to do with Dr Greenson, his relationship with Eunice was a tangled and complex one, which will be explored more deeply in Influential People. Late January 1962, Eunice located a house in Brentwood as she and Greenson felt it would be the best area for Marilyn.
The house, a mock Spanish Hacienda style property, at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive, Brentwood, was purchased from William and Doris Pagen for $77,500. The sale of the house was straightforward. For a brief moment Marilyn hesitated to sign the contract, saying afterwards 'I felt badly because I was buying a house all alone'
Marilyn moved in to her new home, with the help of Joe on 8th March 1962.
The only home Marilyn ever owened - 12305 5th Helena Drive
According to her biographer Donald Spoto, it was during this time that there may possibly have been a couple of sexual encounters between Marilyn and John F. Kennedy, but Spoto asserts that it was highly unlikely that this was more than a few brief episodes, and comments that no serious biographer of Marilyn Monroe can identify Marilyn and JFK as partners in a love affair.
He goes on to maintain all that is known for certain is that Marilyn and Kennedy met four times between October 1961 and August 1962.
Marilyn had told Ralph Roberts that Saturday 24th March, was the only ocassion she had been intimate with the President. Her fourth and final meeting with Kennedy took place at JFK's birthday celebration gala, Madison Square Gardens on 19th May 1962, where she famously sang Happy Birthday to the President. According to Susan Strasberg, Marilyn told her that she enjoyed the secrecy and drama but would not want that kind of man for life, she was very adament about this.
Shortly after moving into 5th Helena, Marilyn contracted a virus. Pat Newcomb, who was her publicist and friend aggitated Eunice Murray, Greenson became involved and demanded that Marilyn doubled Eunice's salary to $200 per week to keep her from leaving. Unwell, and under the enduring influence of Greenson, Marilyn agreed. Eunice then engaged her son-in-law Norman Jefferies, his brother and two friends to do work in Marilyn's house, but she neglected to tell Marilyn of her personal relationship to Jefferies.
Eunice Murray with her son-in-law and Marilyn's handyman Norman Jefferies - leaving Marilyn's house after her death
The start of filming for Something's Got To Give was postponed to April. The Studio also forbid her to go to New York for the Presidential Gala as they feared a reoccurrence of her illness.
During this time Lee Strasberg negotiated a fee of $5000 per week for Marilyn to have Paula on board as her coach for the film. The studio agreed but Marilyn had to pay half of the fee out of her own pocket. 'Once an ardent Socialist, Lee now knew the value of the dollar'
Marilyn was receiving just $100,000,00 for this movie compared to Dean Martin and George Cukor who were both receiving $300,000,00 each!
Marilyn's daily schedule at this time was as follows:
Mon to Sat:
Facial at Madame Renna's on Sunset Blvd around noon.
Followed by a session with Greenson at his Beverly Hills office.
Script reading with Paula, who was in residence at the Bel-Air Sands Hotel on Sunset.
Marilyn then visited Engelberg, Seigel or specialists treating her for other ailments - she would receive injections and prescriptions during these visits.
After visiting the doctor she would then be driven for food shopping at the Brentwood Mart on San Vincente Blvd or Jurgensens, Beverly Hills.
Late afternoon she would be driven back to Greenson for a session at his home.
This routine was only broken for costume fittings and makeup tests.
Marilyn began each day groggy and confused due to the pills she was taking to deal with her insomnia. However, she appeared at the Studio word perfect and willing to work.
Marilyn on the set of Something's Got To Give with her Co-Star Dean Martin
Shooting finally began on 23rd April 1962, Marilyn was ill, she had awoken with a headache, no voice and impaired respiration. Seen by her dentist (the only physician she could reach at 5am) who diagnosed acute sinusitis. For the rest of the week she was ordered to rest at home, visits from Greenson being the only exception.
April 30th, she appeared on set prompt at 9am but she was still suffering from the severe sinusitis and a temperature of 101°. Forcing herself to work until returning home at 4pm, where she collapsed in bed. Dr Engelberg pronounced her unable to work and ordered her to bed for the rest of the week. The Studio did not believe her, each evening at 10 or 11pm the Studio sent a messenger with revised scripts, confusing and panicking Marilyn even further, in the end there were only four pages left of the original script.
Having coerced Marilyn into being wholly dependent on him, Greenson decided, on 10th May, to take his wife on a five week trip to Europe, leaving Marilyn the drugs Amobarbital and the antidepressant Dexamyl (which was later removed from the drug market in the 1970s) Before leaving, Greenson told Marilyn to dismiss Paula but by the time he left she had decided it would be Eunice that would be sacked, she had always been uncomfortable around her and felt that her meddling and interfering snooping was offensive.
On the 17th May, Marilyn left for New York. Whilst initially she was given permission to attend the Gala, Fox had since changed their minds and filed a Breach of Contract notice on Marilyn for her failure to work. Marilyn was furious with the Studio. However, on 19th May to a packed celebrity audience, she was introduced as 'The late Marilyn Monroe' by Peter Lawford. The crowd went wild for her as she sang Happy Birthday to the President, wearing a flesh coloured sheath dress covered in rhinestones.
Marilyn after performing at Madison Square Gardens with John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert
Back in L.A. on the 20th of May, Eunice Murray had taken the cheque and dismissal as a paid holiday and was cheerfully back at her post, cooking for Marilyn at Fifth Helena. Marilyn had returned tired and was just grateful that someone was there, so for the time being she let it go and things went on as normal.
On the 23rd May, the famous nude scene of Something's Got To Give, was shot and used as a publicity stunt. The constant swimming contributed to Marilyn spiking another temperature, the sinus infection took hold again and Marilyn was unable to report to work for Monday 28th May, despite a huge dose of Penicillin.
The Nude Pool Scene - Somethings Got To Give
Finally, by the 31st May Marilyn felt able to return to work. 1st of June heralded Monroe's 35th birthday. Cukor refused to have any celebrations on set, he wanted a full days work in the can before allowing any celebrations. At 6pm Evelyn Moriarty was allowed to bring in a cake. Eunice arrived and a tense atmosphere prevailed. Marilyn had no plans for the rest of the evening. Joe was on business in Europe but he did call her. Marilyn accepted an invitation to appear at a charity baseball game, retiring alone at 10pm that evening.
1st June 1962 - Marilyn's 36th Birthday
Saturday morning, on the 2nd June, weeping uncontrollably she phoned Greenson's son and daughter. They came to her and found signs of a Dexamyl overdose. They called Milton Wexler on their father's instructions, removing all the medication. On the 3rd June, Wexler was again summoned and provided medication.
By 4th June Marilyn was sober but angry to the core with Greenson. Eunice called Greenson who had not yet arrived in Switzerland. Marilyn refused to report to work on 5th June, Fox decided to file a lawsuit against her. On the evening of the 6th June Greenson arrived at Marilyn's having come directly from the airport and having abandoned his wife abroad.
On the 7th June, Greenson took Marilyn to see the eminent Dr Gurdin. Monroe had black and blue marks on both lower lids, Greenson told Gurdin that she had slipped and fell in the shower. Dr Gurdin felt that Marilyn was under the influence of drugs. Fearful she had broken her nose, all questions Gurdin put to her about her injuries were answered by Ralph Greenson. After examination Gurdin found no evidence of a fracture. Greenson never mentioned this 'accident' and Eunice was told to forget it. Spoto puts Greenson forward, as being responsible for Marilyn's injuries.
Whilst the injuries were visible, Greenson sedated her and kept her friends away.
Greenson attended a meeting with the Fox executives on 8th June. He told them that Strasberg and Newcomb were dispensable, but that he would get Marilyn working again, as he had done during The Misfits. He further astonished everyone by telling them he would assume responsibility for all creative areas of the picture, selecting a new director, camerman etc and to decide what scenes Marilyn would or would not perform and which takes would finally be printed. That evening Fox filed their suit again Marilyn Monroe Productions for $500,00.00.
It can only be imagined how this news made Marilyn feel, the evidence is that she sank further into depression and misery.
During this time, Marilyn received and invitation from Pat and Peter Lawford, who were to be guests of honour at the home of Robert and Ethel Kennedy in Virginia. Marilyn's response was to send the following Telegram:
13th June 1962
"Dear Attorney General and Mrs Kennedy:
I would have been delighted to have accepted your invitation honouring Pat and Peter Lawford. Unfortunately, I am involved in a freedom ride protesting the loss of the minority rights belonging to the few remaining earthbound stars. After all, all we demanded was our right to twinkle.
A second visit to Gurdin, on 14th June, confirmed all would soon be well.
Spoto, pg 591
Spoto, pg 538
Spoto, pg 560
Spoto, pg 536
Spoto pg 506/7
Spoto pg 508
Donald Spoto, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography (1994 Arrow Books) pg 504.
Arthur Miller, After The Fall - (1964 Secker & Warburg London) pg 15