Thursday, December 25, 2014

The "image" of Marilyn Monroe a true "survivor"

Posters, images in beauty salon windows, on notebook covers, the latest biography and photo books, even the most recent conspiracy theory: It seems as if Marilyn Monroe remains the “iconic” symbol of sex appeal. Her images all seem to have that “come hither” expression, and her voice is a kind of soft purring—especially notable during her rendition of “Happy Birthday” at JFK’s birthday gala in 1962. She remains instantly recognizable, even though most people under the age of sixty don’t have the foggiest notion what could justify it, other than the image.

Although when I was young Monroe’s memory was still fresh, I just don’t remember ever seeing her in a movie on television. When I got older and became a collector of “classic” films on DVD, For a long time there no films in my collection in which she appeared until her bit part in All About Eve and the so-called “greatest” comedy of all time, Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot

If I thought of Monroe at all, it was because of her tragic death, reported as a “probable suicide,” but more likely by the “accidental” overdose of sleep and mood suppressant medication. On the Internet I found some images of her face lying on a slab in the Los Angeles coroner’s office. Without make-up or wig, at 36 she didn’t look at all like the images the public had been trained to see. In fact she reminded me of the “boy” that Mitzi Gaynor occasionally portrayed in her Seventies TV specials; no touch-up, just what she looked like in the morning. 

Nevertheless, on occasion I develop a particular fascination with a person for no particular reason, and one day I felt this need to fill this gaping void in my film collection. But who was this person, really. Naturally, I had to investigate the image. I purchased a photo book that supposedly portrayed her “metamorphosis” from the simple girl Norma Jean to the Hollywood“icon” famous around the world. In another book of the Bert Stern photos, supposedly the last taken of her in a formal setting, showed her image with almost no make-up and making no effort to hide a rather ugly scar on her abdomen from a recent surgery. In some photos, she was almost unrecognizable, like a totally different person. She looked older to be sure, but for once the posing was casual, and not meant to evoke a familiar “image,” often appearing either weary or resigned to fate. It was Monroe truly in the “raw.”

I suppose it is safe to say that changing one’s hair color and having a face that reflected an accessible personality that gave even the most unattractive prospect the idea that being a male was the only qualification required for her favors went far in establishing Monroe’s popularity.  The potency of Monroe’s image was such that it could be used as an inside joke in her own movies without the slightest hint of pretension:

Monkey Business:
“I heard what he said, you peroxide kissing bug. I’ll pull that blonde hair out by its black roots.”

The Seven Year Itch
“What blonde in the kitchen?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know. Maybe it’s Marilyn Monroe.”
“Drunk, blind, stinking drunk at 8:30 in the morning!”

The Misfits, when a character finds MM photos posted on a closet door: 
“Oh, don’t look at those, they’re nothing. Gay just hung them for a joke.” 

But what about Monroe’s acting? Was she merely the typical Hollywood star of the period, who exuded a certain personality and charisma that was generally sufficient to rise above any deficiency of the product? That was purportedly what Monroe brought to the screen; no matter how “bad” a film was, her very appearance in a scene aroused the viewer’s interest. Monroe in her most “characteristic” roles usually evinced a certain coquettish vulnerability, sometimes an innocent, almost childlike candidness without guile, only wrapped inside the body of an adult.

I decided to take a closer look at a few of her films. To be fair, I watched three “serious” films, Don’t Bother to Knock—Monroe’s first “staring” role—Niagara, and The Misfits (her last completed film), and her two iconic performances that cemented her “image,” The Seven Year Itch and Some Like it Hot

In Knock, Monroe plays a young woman recently released from a mental institution, after attempting suicide when her would-be pilot husband was killed in a plane crash. A relative gets her a job in a hotel minding a child, who she shoos into bed so she can try on the clothes of the well-off lady staying in the suite. From across the courtyard, Richard Widmark, the airline pilot who’s on the outs with his girlfriend, spies her through the open drapes, and soon afterward he is “invited” over. After a while Monroe’s character is exposed as a bit of a kook, and the girl awakens to reveal as much. Monroe appears ready to push the girl out the window for interfering with her “relationship” with her new “boyfriend.” 

An alarmed Widmark becomes more compassionate when  Monroe enters into a make-believe world where she mistakes him for her former beau and he must fake some fondness for her. Despite her intent to harm the girl for interfering, at the end Widmark promises to make certain she gets the help she needs, and thus winning back the heart of his own doubting girlfriend. My feeling about this film is that this one of those dime-a-dozen femme fatale roles with issues, but Monroe stands out somewhat because that “purr” disguises a menacing design almost to the point that we feel that same “empathy,” even though your logic tells you should feel otherwise. It is the typical female “syndrome” suffering myth. 

In Niagara, Monroe plays another femme fatale in a film noir co-starring Joseph Cotten, who plays a war-damaged man who is trying to reconnect with his no-good slut of a wife during a vacation to the Falls. Monroe deliberately plays a song at a party that she knows will drive her husband nuts because it is a reminder of the “good times” long past. When he does, it establishes a “motive” for the plans she has for him. She enlists her handsome young lover to kill him, who instead is himself killed. Monroe, thinking otherwise, visits the morgue to identify her husband’s body, but faints when she discovers it is her lover instead. She is sent to recuperate in the hospital, but realizes that husband knows the truth and tries to escape. Cotten eventually discovers her in a bell tower and strangles her. 

Niagara is Monroe’s one really “bad” girl role, and she uses that “come hither” look to quite different effect, one of extreme sarcasm. This movie didn’t receive good reviews, not surprisingly, since film noirs were common in those days, and this one’s plot line was telegraphed a mile away. Monroe wanted “serious” film roles, and this one was supposed to be an effort to exhibit her “dramatic” skills. But Monroe’s actual appearance in the film seemed overall peripheral to the action, just present to provide a rationalization for Cotten’s actions. However, Monroe sexuality was still quite evident, reminding me of that line in the recently released with a superb Blu-ray transfer It Happened One Night: “Yes sir, when a cold mama gets hot, boy, she sizzles.” 

In The Misfits, Monroe plays a recent divorcee who doesn’t know what to do with her life. She encounters some people (Clark Gable, Eli Wallach, Montgomery Clift) who are drifters and social “misfits” who see in her some way to find some meaning in their lives, since she seems unpretentious, generous and without guile in her interactions with them. However, she also seems to have a soft heart, which runs counter to their rough character. Eventually Gable, despite their age difference, seems to show just the right amount of compassion to win her heart.This film, written by Monroe’s soon-to-be ex-husband Arthur Miller, the famed dramatist of Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. The screenplay for this film was the only composition Miller wrote during his marriage to Monroe, and was ostensibly meant to be another role to showcase Monroe’s dramatic “chops.” 

Monroe and the critics issued negative reviews at the time, but being the last completed film roles for both Monroe and Gable, it has achieved something of a “cult” status since then. Gable died of a heart attack a few days after the completion of the film; some blamed it on his insistence of doing his own physically-demanding horse-roping stunt, while others pointed an accusing finger at Monroe, who on this film as in all her others was a trying figure to adjust to, because of her constant tardiness and difficulty in remembering her lines, which resulted in dozens of needless takes per shot. 

Nevertheless, The Misfits is actually my favorite Monroe movie, mainly because the performances of the principle leads are so good, and anyone who regards themselves as a “misfit” in society who doesn’t want to live their lives in the dull routine set by society might find the story interesting. Monroe’s whiny performance might grate on some viewers, but personally, I don’t think she ever looked better. 

In The Seven Year Itch, Tom Ewell plays a frumpy middle-aged man who sends his wife and son off for a summer holiday, while he stays in the city to continue making money. By accident he encounters Monroe, who happens to be “minding” an upstairs apartment for some unexplained reason for another man, although it probably isn’t that tough to figure out why. Ewell fantasizes about her, egged-on by his own self-doubt about his attractiveness to other women. Eventually they hook-up; although Monroe suggests a certain flirtatiousness, she really is just an guileless individual who is without judgment—either in herself or toward other people. Ewell approaches the edge, but in the end is grateful for her attentions which have bolstered his own sense of self, and realizes that his place is with his wife and son. This is the film that featured that famous scene when Monroe’s skirt flew up while standing over a subway tunnel vent.

This Billy Wilder-directed film was as he admitted a difficult film to make because of the by now “legendary” difficulty in getting Monroe to the set to begin with, dealing with her mood swings, and then managing to shoot one scene in before the day was out. Yet at the end of the day—that is to say in retrospect after the fact, it was “admitted” that despite all the hardship in working with Monroe, the final result was “worth it.” Perhaps it was; this is a fairly light-weight film for Wilder, but this was quintessential Monroe—totally without self-consciousness in her sex appeal and her interactions with men. 

Some Like It Hot is actually a comedy vehicle whose gimmick is Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon dressed in drag to escape some thugs out to kill them, and forced to hide their attraction to Monroe. She again plays a woman who seems overly friendly, guileless and approachable—with more than obvious sensuality, which of course widens her appeal across a wide swath of generations. I say this not because this is the way I feel about her when I watch this film, but because I can see what could be the basis of her appeal during a time when openly displayed sexuality was still an affront to the Hays Office. Monroe’s sexuality was usually implied, but you could see in her eyes and her expressions that the country was moving one—until the production code became a permanent anachronism after the release of Sidney Lumet’s groundbreaking The Pawnbroker in 1964. 

I have to admit that I liked Let’s Make Love, which was about a wealthy Frenchman (Yves Montand) who in order to win Monroe’s heart, finds himself accidentally playing himself in a play meant to skewer his supposedly heartless, caddish self. I’ve always been a fan of Hollywood musicals of the 1950s, and Monroe certainly played her fair share of musical numbers in films that were not necessarily musicals, but here she showed a more “mature” and even more sexually suggestive approach in the Busby Berkeley/Bob Fosse mode.

These films and countless glamour photo shoots helped explain the “image”; what about the real person? In the film The Final Days, which documented the troubles surrounding Monroe’s final film project, Something’s Got to Give, screenwriter Walter Bernstein describes Monroe as “out of control,” acting like Caesar. Whenever she showed up for work it was like the second coming, and the crew practically “genuflected” before her in relief. Up to a point, he says, he believed her complaints of sickness. He said didn’t get a sense of drinking while on the set, but he felt that Monroe was on pills. She “had those kind of mood swings.” Bernstein also observed that “I never felt, except for very rare intervals, there was a normal, healthy person there.” Yet Monroe had the “biggest power of all, whether to show up or not.” Eventually the crew thought her behavior was just manipulation. They were trying to do their best work, “and here was this person pissing on it,” said Bernstein. 

Co-producer Gene Allen noted that Monroe’s performance was dependent on how she looked; if she was sick, then it made sense for her to delay work. Yet according to Allen, “All this talk about these colds and things, I never saw any evidence of it. After the 17th day calling in sick, (director George) Cukor, the studio had been very, very, very patient with her. Nobody else that I know could have gotten with as much as she did on this picture. There would have been decisions made long before there were on this.”

Cukor found it nearly impossible to work with Monroe, let alone “direct” her. Peggy Shannon, who worked on the set as a hair stylist, noted that Monroe’s publicist “Pat Newcomb took control of Marilyn. Between her and Paula Strasberg (her acting “coach”), she was like a caged animal. Nobody could get near her. George Cukor couldn’t talk to her unless he went through Newcomb first.” Producer Henry Weinstein—whose “job” was simply to get Monroe on the set—said that “Paula and Newcomb didn’t help her at all, just pumped her up full of stuff so they could use her.”

Sound man Richard Raguse observed that “You got the inmates running the asylum”—meaning Monroe. Even co-star Dean Martin, who exhibited seemingly boundless patience, finally ran out of it and essentially “quit” after the 17th time Monroe failed to show for filming. Monroe was subsequently fired from the film. Over one hundred people on the set lost their jobs on that day, seemingly the victim of Monroe’s failure to take into account anyone’s lives but her own. An indication of just how much trouble her absences meant to the production was demonstrated in the “restoration” of the completed scenes: Only 35 minutes of the film had been completed.

There are a great many biographies about Monroe, and obviously finding one that is less adoration and more “dispassionate” is not easy to find. Donald Spoto’s 2001 Marilyn Monroe: A Biography seems more “detailed” than others, while J. Randy Tamborrelli’s more recent The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe appears to be a more “honest” portrait.

These books offer different “takes” on why Monroe was responsible for costly delays on virtually every film she worked on, and explanations of her personality and behavior that eventually led to her death. Spoto’s biography certainly impressed feminist author Erica Jong, who wrote in a review in the Washington Post that she had been “seduced” by Spoto’s “fairness, his accuracy, his lack of hysteria, his willingness to probe behind the myths, his empathy, his feminism, his extraordinary humanity.” One suspects that for those who actually knew Monroe and found it difficult to tolerate her disturbing lack of self-control despite the love they had for her, those were terms that caused one’s eyes to roll in its partisan naiveté. 

Spoto’s book is not only clearly not objective in its reverence for his subject, but its total white-washing of her failings, blaming her failings and mental instability on the “evil” people around her, it is natural that a feminist author would be pleased by such a translation of her life. For me, that was the first indication that Spoto’s account was not to be trusted. The UK’s Daily Telegraph review was not much better, claiming that the book gave Monroe the “treatment” she deserves, allowing her to “emerge” as a “human being.” The problem, of course, is that human beings are not “perfect,” and they have to take some responsibility for their failings. 

Jong went on to praise Spoto’s “exposure” of the “trials” of being a female actor in Hollywood. Yet the reality was that Monroe was the most famous and loved star in Hollywood in the 1950s, and she literally threw it all away because she could not control her own behavior. She could have been much more had she been even a little less insensitive to her fellow actors and crew members on the various films she appeared in. She also had a contempt for studio heads, who eventually took her indifference to their concerns about budget over-runs caused by her many absences to be a personal rather than a business affront. Many have noted that Monroe abused her star status to the point that she assumed that nothing she could do to damage the production of a film would be the cause of any punishment. Any other actor or actress would have been fired or not even allowed to work with her kind of work ethic. 

Spoto’s lack of objectivity couldn’t be clearer in his handling of Monroe’s second husband, Joe DiMaggio. He barely mentions his abusive behavior toward Monroe over her supposed lack of “propriety.”  His claim that DiMaggio and Monroe intended to remarry is news to everyone else. He doesn’t mention that even after their divorce, DiMaggio had an almost sociopathic fascination with Monroe. According to Maureen Callahan, commenting on a new book about their relationship in the New York Post, “He dated girls who looked like her, and in one of the book’s more outrageous claims, DiMaggio spent $10,000 on a life-size sex doll made in Monroe’s image. One year after Monroe filed for divorce, he showed it to a stewardess he was seeing. ‘She’s Marilyn the Magnificent,’ DiMaggio said. ‘She can do anything Marilyn can do, except talk.’”

Spoto leaves no stone unturned that “explains” Monroe’s behavior as either a symptom of a “tortured” childhood and by people who “used” her. Yet much of what is “known” about Monroe’s early life comes from her own claims, which in many instances—for example, the number of foster homes she said she was in—tended to be whatever she was feeling that day; if she was feeling bad and in need of pity, it could be as many as 10, when in fact it was 2—or 3. And she used people just as much as they used her; she could be extremely indifferent to how her behavior was affecting those around her.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that Monroe did have some compassion for those who she perceived were less fortunate than her, or perhaps “identified” with on a certain level (i.e. as a “victim”).  On the night of her last birthday, she attended a muscular dystrophy fundraising event at Dodgers’ Stadium, where she probably “shocked” her fans in the South by putting her arms around a black boy. But the result of this was that her sinus infection flared-up and caused her to call in sick for that fateful last time. She also turned down an invitation to a private party that Robert Kennedy was attending, hosted by his sister. “Dear Attorney General and Mrs. Robert Kennedy: I would have been delighted to have accepted your invitation honoring 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. Marilyn Monroe.”

So, one has a slight hesitation to call her a spoiled “diva” as we see today. She did have medical “issues,” and if she indeed had a genetic disposition toward mental illness—which Spoto vehemently denies—she can hardly be blamed for having succumbed to it. The problem was that those around her had to suffer too. 

In the more recent biography, Taraborrelli states that his intention is to cut away the myths about Monroe and find the “truth” between the idolized icon on the pedestal and the cautionary tale of excessive stardom. He notes that there have been countless accounts and biographies of her life whose objectivity are all over the map. He notes that many—if not most—of these so-called biographers take many of the myths about her life as fact, especially those perpetrated by Monroe herself, as if someone of her unstable personality could be trusted. 

Does he succeed? I’m not a Monroe fanatic who claims to know everything there is to know about her, even after reading this book. I can only go on impression. Taraborrelli is no more or less held in “thrall” of his subject than Spoto; you always have to question one’s “objectivity” when they always refer to their subject by his or her first name. On occasion he seems to lose his objectivity; after describing all the turmoil and massive cost overruns caused by her lateness, her personal “issues,” her failure to remember even simple lines and repeated takes on the set of Some Like it Hot, sometimes taking three days to shoot a scene that should have taken an hour to complete, Monroe was still beyond reproach for the “result.” 

One should note that Monroe was very well paid for even poor work or not working at all; on Hot, she received  the equivalent of $2 million in today’s money, plus about $20 million from 10 percent of the gross (not net) box office receipts. Billy Wilder admitted that he could have “killed her” for all the problems she was causing on the set despite the money she was being paid. Yet in the end, her performance was “magical” and the film would have been “nothing” with her. Why? Almost any attractive blonde actress at the time who could read lines and act reasonably well could have served more than adequately as a foil with the two real stars of the movie, Curtis and Lemmon. Yet Monroe still had that certain “something” that no other actress. Perhaps it was true.

Tarraborrelli also makes short shrift of how Monroe’s obsession with personal issues effected the livelihood of film crews; as noted before, over 100 people lost their jobs on the set of Something’s Got to Give when she was finally fired after failing to show up for work for the greater part of the month. Just what was wrong with her? Spoto blames her behavior on the supposition that Monroe wasn’t “motivated” to work on a “bad” film; but she didn’t act any differently when she was doing a “good” film. Taraborrelli obviously read Spoto’s book, because he on at least one occasion directly quotes from it, criticizing that writer’s dismissal of Monroe’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson’s—and others—belief that Monroe, like her mother and grandmother, suffered from “borderline paranoid schizophrenia.” Others would add their belief that Monroe was a “manic-depressive”—or suffering from bi-polar disease.

Her attorney, Mike Rudin, claimed that at times she would  in “crisis” even over what she was having for lunch—and often times over an “imagined” crisis. Monroe did in fact suffer from insomnia, but obviously didn’t help her “forget” her other problems, allowing her to dwell on her psychological issues. Her personal doctor, Hyman Engleberg, noted that besides booze, she gave herself injections of Nembutal, phenobarbital and Seconal—which she called her “vitamin” shots. She was quite adept at pill taking, often acquired without control through “doctor shopping.” She once shocked onlookers by pricking gelatin tablets to allow the liquid to flow out and enter her blood stream faster. She would say that “she knew what she was doing.” She obviously didn’t, since she was clearly an addict—toward the end always looking as if she was “on pills” as Bernstein observed. 

During the so-called “lost weekend” a few months before she died, Frank Sinatra had heard that she was out-of-sorts, allegedly because of the Kennedy brothers of whom he had grown to dislike, and invited her to a resort where he was giving a performance, so that she could “relax.” Before the weekend was over, he had his people get her out of town as quickly as possible, because he didn’t want the bad publicity of her dying on his “watch.” Tarraborrelli—without citing Spoto by name—had reason to derid his claim that her psychiatrist Greenson spread  “unsubstantiated” reports and “lies” about Monroe’s condition; after all, her psychiatrist—well known and respected at the time—was only giving his professional diagnosis.

Monroe’s capacity for insensitivity for others was in evidence during her famous Douglas Kirkland photo session during that time. Her head publicist, Michael Selsman, was to go over the proofs with Kirkland and Monroe. Selsman’s wife, actress Carol Lynley, was nine-months pregnant and he didn’t want to leave her alone at home, so he took her along. But Monroe forbid her to enter her apartment, forcing her sit in the car, which Selsman assumed would be a 15-minute session. Instead, Monroe spent hours nit-picking and cutting-up photos she did not like, despite Kirkland’s protests that the proofs were his property, and that he could be trusted not to use the ones she disliked. Selsman would later recall that Monroe refused to allow him to leave to attend to his pregnant wife until she was finished. Interestingly, during the Bert Stern sessions, which Monroe agreed to pose partially nude through see-through scarves, she merely used a transparent marker to “x” out the photos she disliked.

The problem with Monroe was that it was almost impossible to treat her psychological issues—much as was the case with Karen Carpenter, who while everyone saw as an incredibly thin person virtually disappearing before their eyes,  herself who only saw someone in the mirror who still looked “fat.” It seemed impossible to make Monroe recognize the truth. Greenson—not from his own initiative but through the suggestion of a colleague—allowed Monroe to spend days (but not nights) at his home with his family, so she could experience a “normal” familial atmosphere. But reality and her paranoia were on a collision course. 

The reality was that Monroe took more and more drugs to help her ease the paranoia that she saw as her “reality.” No matter how much people loved her and wanted to help her—Spoto never gives the people he disparages even that benefit—she was simply out of control. Even when she was “forgiven” by Fox management and given a huge new contract and some control of her film projects, it still just wasn’t enough. 

There were 15 bottles of pills on her night table the night she died, August 5, 1962. Some of these medications included vitamins to boost her resistance to colds and sinus infections, which she was curiously quite susceptible to. At first, professionals gave her injections of these vitamins; in later life, she had a habit of injecting herself without any assistance or oversight. Spoto’s claimed that her housemaid, Eunice Murray, through Greenson’s direction, gave Monroe what turned out to be the lethal addition of chloral hydrate as an enema, which quickly metabolized the fatal amount of Nembutal she had already ingested. Yet Monroe had been administering her own enemas for years (as many other actresses of the time did for such reasons as weight control). 

Taraborrelli also noted that Monroe had overdosed—whether accidentally or deliberately—too many times for her friends and associates to count. Until her last day, there was always someone was on the scene to save her from dying.It was her misfortune that she did this one time too many; on her last night, there was no one who was concerned enough to be bothered after all they had tolerated with her to check on her until it was too late. Spoto’s own account of Monroe’s demise is of course much more sinister, but given his obvious dislike of Murray and Greenson, his account must be questioned, if for no other reason than his personal bias. 

Taraborrelli apparently is the first biographer to go into detail about Monroe’s failed quest to develop a “family” relationship outside her failed marriages. She developed a relationship with her half-sister Berniece (almost never mentioned by Spoto), maintained a close watch on her mother at an expensive funny farm, and unsuccessfully attempted to establish a relationship with the man she believed to be her father, Charles Gifford, who denied parentage. Again, Spoto either doesn’t mention or gives little credence to these relationships. Yet Taraborrelli quotes direct sources—such as Gifford’s son—thus justifying the claim by some reviewers that his biography is more “definitive” than others, including Spoto’s. 

The problem with any view of Monroe is that her contemporaries who were just as famous and adored as she was seemed not to have the “issues” that she possessed (Elizabeth Taylor’s equally infamous behavior—especially as an “inmate running the asylum” during the filming of Cleopatra—was more due to her considerably inflated ego). They were responsible to their colleagues and their work, and took their celebrity in stride. Monroe seemed always fighting to maintain the illusion the public had of her, quite the opposite of the reality. How can someone with a straight face say that while others coped with work and success reasonably well without suicidal tendencies, Monroe was essentially just as “normal”? She clearly was not, and of course we belatedly discover that not only did Robin Williams—who recently committed suicide—not only had a serious drug problem, but also suffered from bipolar disorder and its wild mood swings. 

To elaborate further, Taraborrelli has this interesting passage in his book:

In 1995, Dean Martin recalled. “I met Marilyn in 1953, before she met Frank, before she met Peter (Lawford), before she knew any of us. I met her before she was all screwed up, so I knew what she was like then and what she had become, and I felt badly for the kid. At the same time, I was a little tired of all the bullshit. There was only so much you could take. In fact, no one had an easy life. We were all screwed up in our own ways. We all had problems. We were all doing drugs, let’s face it. I was no saint, either. But I showed up for work. You had to show up for work. That was the priority. You had to be glad you had a job and you had to show up for work. I’m not saying she wasn’t sick all of those days. Who knows? I wasn’t following her around like the FBI, I was just sitting on my ass waiting for her to show up at the studio. So when I had my chance to get out, I did. However, the few scenes we did, I enjoyed, but getting to them…oh my God, I mean, the takes, one after the other, it would drive any man crazy. But…look…I like her. She was a good kid. But when you looked into her eyes, there was nothing there. No warmth. No life. It was all illusion. She looked great on film, yeah.  But in person…she was a ghost.”

Unfortunately, there have been the conspiracy theorists who claim that Monroe was murdered, probably on the “direction” of or behest of Robert Kennedy. Thumbing through one of these books, I was aghast by its blame-everyone-but-Marilyn take, sometimes hysterically so.  All suggestions that Monroe had repeated episodes of accidental or deliberate overdose were rejected or ignored; basically, everyone who had anything “bad” to say about Monroe were liars. But Dr. Engleberg stated that she had been dead for several hours when he arrived at the scene. He believed she was in a manic phase and then something happened to suddenly depress her. Taraborrelli found no “smoking gun” to substantiate any of the claims made by the conspiracy theorists. Even Spoto has the good sense to reject a “murder” mystery.

This was the “real” Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps it goes without saying that we would prefer to stay with the “image.”

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