In 1925, married Gladys Mortensen had an affair with a co-worker, thought to be Charles Stanley Gifford, at RKO Pictures.
On 1st June 1926, at approximately 9.30am, Gladys gave birth to a baby girl at Los Angeles General Hospital, whom she would call Norma Jeane. On the birth certificate she listed her estranged husband’s name as the child’s father, albeit misspelt, as Mortenson.
Almost two weeks later Gladys and Norma Jean moved into the home of Ida and Wayne Bolender. Gladys started back to work shortly after this, eventually moving in with her friend Grace McKee, in order to be closer to work, seeing Norma Jeane on weekends.
According to the reports, whilst at the Bolenders home, Della Hogan, Norma Jeane’s maternal grandmother, attempted to smother her with a pillow. Subsequently, Della was banned from the house. Della did attempt to break into the house again and the police were called. Ida Bolender later recalled “She did come over one day for no reason I know of. She just broke the glass of our front door and I believe we called the police.”
1927 – 1934
Aside from that her time living with the Boldenders as foster parents was a reasonably happy time. She was raised in a strict household but with love and companionship in the form of Lester Bolender, the Bolenders adopted son, who was of similar age to Norma Jeane. The Bolenders had attempted to adopt Norma Jeane but Gladys would not allow it.
In 1933 Gladys took Norma Jeane to live with her in an apartment on Afton Place, eventually moving into a house on Arbol Street, near Hollywood.
Gladys had a family boarding with them at that time, the Atkinsons – George, Maude and their daughter, Nell. In 1934 Gladys was admitted to Los Angeles County General’s Psych Ward after being found laughing and crying under the stairs in Arbol Drive. Before Gladys took Norma Jeane to live in Arbol Drive Gladys’ grandfather had committed suicide. It is believed that she had a nervous breakdown following this, and then upon hearing that her son, Robert ‘Jasper’ Baker, from her first marriage to Jasper Baker, had died of tuberculosis of the kidneys. Gladys had not seen Robert or her daughter Berniece since Jasper had kidnapped the children after their divorce in 1922. Gladys was declared insane.
Norma Jeane stayed living in Arbol Drive with the Atkinsons. While Gladys was in hospital, her best friend Grace McKee (later Goddard) was in charge of taking care of Norma Jeane and Gladys’ affairs. Upon deeming the Atkinsons to be neglectful, Grace sent Norma Jeane to live in the home of Sam and Enid Knebelkamp. Over the following months Norma Jeane lived with several friends and family of Grace’s. It was during this period that Marilyn later claimed to have been molested by a man named Mr. Kimmel who rented a room with her foster family.
“When he unlocked the door and let me out, I ran to tell my “aunt’ what Mr. Kimmel had done. “I want to tell you something,” I stammered, “about Mr. Kimmel. He – he -” My aunt interrupted. “Don’t you dare say anything against Mr. Kimmel,” she said angrily. “Mr. Kimmel’s a fine man. He’s my star boarder!”
It was following this that Marilyn later claimed she developed a stutter.
“This was the first time I remember ever stammering. A shocking experience like that can cause almost anything to happen. I think it caused me to stutter for the first time.”
As a child Norma Jeane spent a lot of time with Grace McKee. Grace adored Norma Jeane and, both being big Jean Harlow fans, they would go to the movies at any available opportunity. Grace would also often bring Norma Jeane into her workplace at the film library of Columbia Studios to show her off to her co-workers and have Norma Jeane tell them she was going to be a movie star when she grew up. Some colleagues went so far as to say Grace was obsessed with Norma Jeane and had brainwashed her in this regard. It was later speculated that, as a child Marilyn put her hands and feet into the prints at Graumans Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard and dreamed of becoming an actress when she grew up.
In September 1935 Norma Jeane was placed into the Los Angeles County Orphanage. The already shy child felt nobody cared for her. Grace continued to visit her regularly but the placement had a lasting and somewhat damaging effect on the young Norma Jeane.
1936 – 1938
In March 1936, Grace was awarded custody of Norma Jeane. They lived together until November 1937 at which point Norma Jeane was placed with Olive Monroe – her uncle’s wife – her three children and her mother, Ida Martin. In August 1938 Norma Jeane was placed with Ana Lower where she spent 16 months and came to look on her as a surrogate mother.
“This woman became the greatest influence of my life.”
In early 1939 Grace received a letter from Berniece Baker, Gladys’ daughter, saying that Gladys had informed her of her half sister, Norma Jeane. Prior to this Berniece was unaware that Norma Jeane existed and had presumed her mother dead after her father had kidnapped herself and her brother. Grace wrote Norma Jeane a letter informing her of her half sister Berniece, Norma Jeane was also unaware she had siblings up to this point but was thrilled to find out that she had family. Once Grace passed the letter on to Norma Jeane, herself and Berniece began to correspond and so started a relationship that would last until her death.
1940 – 1945
In March 1940, due to Ana’s health issues, Norma Jeane returned to live with Grace and Doc Goddard. Within a couple of years Doc Goddard’s work took the family out of Los Angeles but due to Norma Jeane’s care order, she was unable to go with them. Grace encouraged marriage with the 15 year old Norma Jeane. Though not keen on the idea, at this point it was a choice of either going back to the orphanage, or getting married to the neighbours son, James Dougherty who at 21, was 5 years older than her. Norma Jeane chose the latter and on 19th June 1942, at the tender age of 16, they were married at the home of Mr. and Mrs Chester Howell.
Married life was not ideal for Norma Jeane as she later said, “My marriage brought me neither happiness nor pain. My husband and I hardly spoke to each other. This wasn’t because we were angry. We had nothing to say.”
It was, however, the lesser of two evils. In 1943 Norma Jeane and Jim moved to Catalina Island where Jim was stationed with the Merchant Marines. In 1944, during World War Two, Jim was drafted to go to Australia leaving Norma Jeane living with his parents. In an effort to do her bit to help the troops, Norma Jeane started to work at Radioplane soon after; first as a parachute inspector, and later spraying glue on the planes fuselages to give it strength. In spite of how she later said marriage bored her, Norma Jeane continued to write to Grace about how much she missed Jim. In the Autumn of 1944 David Conover arrived at Radioplane to take pictures of the girls there to boost troops morale – Norma Jeane was amongst those photographed and this was a moment that changed her life.
In March 1945 Norma Jeane quit her job at Radioplane and began posing for photographers for mens magazines and advertisements. On August 2nd 1945 Norma Jeane signed with Blue Book Modelling Agency and shortly after started being photographed by Andre de Diennes. Over the next few months Norma Jeane posed for Joseph Jasgur and Earl Moran and had her curly brown hair bleached and straightened. Norma Jeane also started divorce proceedings against Jim.
In July 1946 Norma Jeane met Ben Lyon who signed her to 20th Century Fox. The following month while doing a screen test for “The Shocking Mrs. Pilgrim”, she met make up artist Allen “Whitey” Snyder, this was the beginning of a friendship that lasted the rest of her life. That same month Norma Jeane met with Ben Lyon to discuss her name. After going over a number of options (including Norma Monroe and Clare Norman) they settled on Marilyn Monroe, after the silent screen actress Marilyn Miller, and Gladys’ maiden name.
Marilyn later said of her new name; “I never liked the name Marilyn. I’ve often wished that I had held out that day for Jean Monroe. But I guess it’s too late to do anything about it now.”
1947 – 1949
Following bit parts in the movies “Scudda Hoo, Scudda Hay!” and “Dangerous Years” in late July 1947 Fox announced they wouldn’t be renewing Marilyn’s contract. She was officially dropped the following month. It was over a year before Marilyn was picked up again, when, in September 1948, she was signed by Columbia Pictures. While at Columbia Marilyn filmed “Ladies of the Chorus” under the drama coach Natasha Lytess, met and began dating Fred Karger, and, at a New Years Eve party, Marilyn met Johnny Hyde who began to represent her into 1949. It was in 1949 that she also posed nude for Tom Kelley in the “Golden Dreams” photo, signing the release as “Mona Monroe”. Marilyn filmed a walk on spot in the Marx Brothers movie “Love Happy” and filmed “The Asphalt Jungle” before the years end.
1950 was spent filming and promoting “All About Eve”, “A Ticket to Tomahawk” and “The Asphalt Jungle”. At some point between January and May 1950, Marilyn received a chin implant under Dr. John Pangman, who worked in Dr. Michael Gurdin’s office. At the time, Harrison Carroll released the news that Marilyn had had a “fall” to explain away the stitches on her chin. In later years a small indented scar was visible under her chin.
While Marilyn was completing screen tests for “As Young As You Feel”, Johnny Hyde suffered a heart attack in Palm Springs. He died the next day. Marilyn was there and said she held him just after he passed away hoping he would wake up after Hyde had told her, should he die, she would just need to hold him in her arms and life would come back again. Finding her belongings outside the home they shared, Marilyn moved in with Natasha Lytess. Marilyn was banned from Hyde’s funeral by his children but attended anway and is said to have stood by his graveside until sunset. Following the receipt of a mink stole Hyde had arranged for before his death, a few days after the funeral, Marilyn attempted suicide. Natasha Lytess found her and Marilyn was rushed to hospital to have her stomach pumped.
In January 1951, Marilyn began shooting “As Young As You Feel”. It was on the set of this movie that she met Elia Kazan and playwright Arthur Miller for the first time. Marilyn and Kazan became close during this shoot, despite his being married, and soon were lovers. Kazan invited Marilyn to a party, but already having a date, asked Miller if he could escort Marilyn along. As things turned out Marilyn and Miller got along very well and she started to fall hard for the paywright. Miller, it seemed was interested in Marilyn for more than just her beauty, and it terrified him. The chemistry between the two was said to be so strong that Miller cut short his trip to California to go home to his wife for fear he would do something he would regret.
In 1952 Marilyn also began filming for “Let’s Make It Legal”, “Love Nest” and “Clash By Night” and completed costume tests for “Don’t Bother To Knock”.
In January 1952, Marilyn had photos taken by Phillippe Halsman for “Life” magazine, recorded “Do It Again”, had costume tests for “We’re Not Married” and attended the “Stars of Tomorrow” awards where she received her first Henrietta Award (later part of the Golden Globes) for “The Best Young Box Office Personality”.
On March 8th 1952, Marilyn met Joe DiMaggio at Villa Nova for their first public date. It has been suggested that the couple had met prior to this and were dating privately. Also in March, Marilyn attended Dr. Eliot Corday with severe abdominal pain and fever, she was diagnosed with appendicitis. It would be another 3 months before she had her appendix removed. She taped the following message to her abdomen for the doctor;
Dear Mr. Rabwin,
Cut as little as possible, I know it seems vain but that doesn’t really enter in to it. The fact I’m a woman is important and means much more to me.
Save please (I can’t ask enough) what you can – I’m in your hands. You have children and you must know what it means – please Dr. Rabwin – I know somehow you will!
Thank you – thank you – thank you – For God’s sakes dear doctor no ovaries removed – please again do whatever you can to prevent large scars.
Thanking you with all my heart.
While suffering with her appendicitis, news broke that Marilyn was the nude woman in the “Golden Dreams” calendar. As a rising star Marilyn had also led people to believe that she was an orphan, however, on May 3rd 1952, while Marilyn was still in hospital, news broke that Gladys was indeed alive and well. Marilyn spent the majority of the rest of 1952 filming and promoting “Monkey Business”, “O’ Henry’s Full House”, “Niagara” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. Marilyn ended the year with DiMaggio surprising her with a Christmas tree, decorations and dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
At the beginning of 1953, Marilyn received a letter from Grace McKee asking for more money to go to Gladys’ care. Marilyn had been paying for her mother’s care since she began earning money, and Gladys was admitted to Rockhaven shortly after this. Marilyn attended the Photoplay Awards and received the “Fastest Rising Star” award. Later that same month, Marilyn attended the Redbook Awards where she was presented with the “Best Young Box Office Personality Award” by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Marlyn was becoming a big star and was receiving bags of fanmail at the Fox press offices.
The following month, on March 9th, “How To Marry A Millionaire” began shooting. Less than a week later, Marilyn was presented with the “Most Promising Newcomer of 1952” award by her new co-star, Lauren Bacall. During the filming of “How To Marry A Millionaire”, the director, Jean Negulesco, and Natasha Lytess argued over how Marilyn should portray her character and he had Lytess removed from the set. Marilyn feigned bronchitis until Lytess was reinstated.
On 26th June 1953, Marilyn and her “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” co-star, Jane Russell, placed their hand and footprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. The same place Norma Jeane used to go to see her favourite movie stars as a child. The following month Marilyn flew to Banff, Canada, to begin filming of “River Of No Return” with Robert Mitchum. While on set Marilyn sprained her ankle after slipping on some rocks and ended up on crutches.
Once filming had concluded and Marilyn had returned to Los Angeles, she was photographed by Milton Greene for the first time, she was wearing a camel coat. The following day Milton photographed Marilyn in their first studio collaboration for Look Magazine. In these photos Marilyn was seen with a mandolin and was wearing a long skirt.
On 28th September 1953, Marilyn’s former guardian Grace Goddard died due to an overdose of barbiturates. According to Berniece Miracle, they were both told of her death but not the cause. They assumed it was due to her liver cancer. Upon Grace’s death, Inez Melson, Marilyn’s business manager, took over Gladys’ care. Towards the end of 1953 Marilyn was signed up to complete a film called “The Girl In Pink Tights”, however, Marilyn, thinking the script was awful, refused to report to set. Natasha Lytess sided with Fox during the ensuing argument and thus began the breakdown of their student/teacher relationship. Marilyn spent the following Christmas in San Francisco with DiMaggio’s family.
1954 began with Marilyn being suspended by Fox for her failure to appear on set for “The Girl In Pink Tights”. Little over a week later DiMaggio asked Marilyn to marry him, and, just two days later, on 14th January 1954, they were married at the San Francisco Courthouse. Subsequently, Fox removed her suspension. After being elected 1953’s Female World Film Favourite by the Hollywood Foreign Press, Marilyn returned to Los Angeles and sent the following telegram to Fox;
“I finally received the script. Am exceedingly sorry but I do not like it. Sincerely, Marilyn Monroe.”
Fox placed Marilyn under suspension again for her failure to appear on set to begin filming “The Girl In Pink Tights”. At the end of January 1954 both Marilyn and Joe, along with Joe’s friend Frank “Lefty” O’Doul and his wife Jean, left San Francisco to travel to Tokyo. DiMaggio and O’Doul were going to train Japanese baseball players while Marilyn was to perform for the troops in Korea. At the airport for departure, the press noticed Marilyn had her thumb in a splint. At the time she claimed she caught it in a door and that DiMaggio was there and heard the crack, it has been speculated since that this was the first sign that all was not well with their marriage.
While there Marilyn visited army hospitals and performed for the 1st Marine Division, the 7th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division, 160th Regiment Infantry, 25th Marine Division, 45th Division, at the ChuChon K47 Base and at the Daegu Base. On her return to Japan, Marilyn told DiMaggio “Joe, you never heard such cheering.” Without missing a beat he is said to have replied “Yes I have. Don’t let it go to your head. They’ll boo you as loud as they cheer you. Just miss the ball once, and see.” This cutting remark was said to have upset Marilyn hugely, made all the worse by then being diagnosed with pneumonia. She left for home the next day telling reporters “I’m ill and just want to go to bed.”
On their return to the US, Marilyn began rehearsals and filming for “There’s No Business Like Showbusiness” following the end of her suspension. However, on receipt of her new contract, Marilyn was appalled to find that none of the creative control she held previously was included. Marilyn began discussions with Charles Feldman – her new agent – and Fox, and, while willing to relinquish some of her choices (like camera operators and directors) she insisted on having final say on her choreographer and drama coach. Marilyn also insisted that if there was a disagreement on anything, that she should have the final say, which was a bone of contention with Fox.
While filming “There’s No Business Like Showbusiness”, Marilyn visited Marlon Brando on the set of “Desiree” and was reported to have bruises on her arms (These are visible in photos from that day). It was during the filming of Marilyn’s “Heatwave” number for “There’s No Business Like Showbusiness” that DiMaggio, a visitor on set, got upset about how skimpy her outfit was. When Marilyn approached DiMaggio to hug him, he threw her off him in front of the cast, crew and press. Marilyn laughed it off, saying he didn’t want to get her makeup on his suit but Joe refused to have pictures taken with her.
On the same day, Marilyn met Lee, Paula and Susan Strasberg for the first time. Marilyn told Susan during this encounter that she wanted to go to New York to study acting under Lee Strasberg at The Actors Studio.
Later in the year, Marilyn filmed the famous skirt-blowing scene in “The Seven Year Itch” which DiMaggio was persuaded to attend by friend Walter Winchell. DiMaggio was furious to see his wife’s skirt blowing up above her waist, her legs and underwear visible to the massive crowd of spectators who had gathered to watch. DiMaggio stormed away from the scene and Marilyn later returned to her hotel room – there has been speculation as to what followed – some say there was physical abuse leaving Marilyn covered in bruises, others saying there was merely a shouting match between the two. Whatever happened between the two that night, it certainly spelled the end of their marriage, with Marilyn filing for divorce less than a month later.
DiMaggio’s jealousy and possessiveness became clear, when, the following month – having had private investigators following Marilyn – himself, Frank Sinatra and his team of private investigators broke into the apartment of 39 year old Florence Kotz. The group, having gotten information from the private investigators, had thought they would find Marilyn and her vocal coach Hal Schaefer together, instead they found themselves standing over Kotz while she screamed that they had the wrong apartment. Schaefer and Marilyn snuck out of the upstairs apartment while the ruckus was going on and DiMaggio had his private investigators stop following Marilyn.
All her adult life Marilyn suffered with endometriosis, a condition where the endometrial tissue forms on the outside of the uterus, which left her in crippling pain each month. In November 1954, Marilyn was admitted to hospital for surgery on her endometriosis and also had chest x-rays taken. Amy Greene sent Marilyn a card at this time asking her to come and stay with herself and husband, Milton, in Connecticut.
With 1954 coming to a close, Marilyn fired Charles Feldman as her agent, requested copies of all her contracts, was told by Fox that she must honour her contract with them, travelled to New York to spend Christmas with the Greenes and, on the eve of the New Year, formed Marilyn Monroe Productions.
The formation of Marilyn Monroe Productions was undertaken with Milton Greene as a partner. During Marilyn’s stay in New York City, beginning in January 1955, Milton paid all of her expenses. In February 1955, Marilyn attended The Actors Studio for the first time. Over the course of the next few months Marilyn also saw a lot of Joe DiMaggio again.
At the premiere of “East of Eden” in March 1955 Marilyn, serving as an usherette, spoke to Arthur Miller, in attendance with his sister Joan Copeland and Arthur later called Paula Strasberg to look for Marilyn’s telephone number. On 9th August 1955 Marilyn went to Bement, Illinois to celebrate the opening of the Abraham Lincoln Museum as well as the town’s centaury. Eve Arnold accompanied Marilyn to document the trip with photos. While there Marilyn attended an art exhibit, judged a beard contest, delivered a speech at the Abraham Lincoln Museum and gave a series of press and radio interviews. After returning to New York Marilyn spent the remainder of 1955 at classes in The Actors Studio, attending the theatre, spending time with friends and submitting her contract terms to Fox for acceptance. Among the terms was the fact that Marilyn got script approval, choreographer approval, cameraman approval, the ability to have an acting coach on set and the director must be from her approved list of directors, which consisted of the following;
Vittorio De Sica
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
William Wyler and
Over the course of the year Marilyn began a romantic relationship with the now separated Arthur Miller. On New Years Eve 1955, Marilyn signed her new contract with Fox.
In February 1956 Marilyn and Laurence Olivier began talks on making “The Sleeping Prince”. Marilyn paid Terrance Rattigan $125,000 for the movie rights and an additional $50,000 for the screenplay. Olivier agreed to co-star as long as he could direct and co-produce. On 10th February 1956 Marilyn filed to legally change her name to “Marilyn Monroe”.
Between March and May 1956 filming for “Bus Stop” took place. During this time Marilyn was hospitalised due to exhaustion and prescribed medicines for fluid build-up in her eyes. Marilyn was also in the heady stage of romance with Arthur Miller, as, with Miller in Reno awaiting his divorce from his first wife Mary, they exchanged several love letters and saw each other when possible. However, a cloud was cast over this time with Miller being ordered to appear before the House Un-American Activities board on 14th June 1956. Miller refused to name names during this investigation and Marilyn was proud of him.
Upon leaving the HUAC in Washington on 21st June 1956, Miller announced to the gathered press that he intended to marry Marilyn. An unknowing Marilyn was informed of this while in New York and so, held a press conference in the lobby of her Sutton Place residence. Just one day later, both Marilyn and Arthur appeared before the press at Sutton Place to officially announce their wedding. They also took this opportunity to plead Miller’s innocence with regards to the HUAC investigation. The HUAC decided to give Miller a further 10 days to name names but he refused to do so and was later charged with contempt.
Less than a week after announcing their intention to marry, Marilyn and Miller travel to South Salem to get a marriage licence. On their return to Miller’s house in Roxbury, Connecticut, the couple were chased by members of the press, leading to a car accident in which Princess Mara Scherbatoff was killed, when the car she was travelling in hit a tree. Marilyn was devastated and later told Amy Greene that she thought it was a bad omen that it happened on her wedding day. At 7.30pm on that same day 29th June 1956 Marilyn and Miller were married by Seymour Rabinowitz in a civil ceremony at the Westchester County Courthouse. Only a handful of people were in attendance. On 1st July 1956, Marilyn officially converted to Judaism – Later that day Marilyn and Miller were married in a traditional Jewish ceremony.
Only two weeks after their wedding the Millers left the US to start filming “The Sleeping Prince” in London. The Millers arrival in London was a whirlwind of press, screen tests, attending plays and parties. Marilyn and Miller learned shortly after their arrival that Miller was being charged with contempt. Miller returned to the US soon after this. When Miller arrived back in the US he was asked if he would name fellow writers who had attended communist meetings, to which he replied, “My conscience will not allow me to use the name of another person.”
The following week Miller returned to London and the couple continue to attend theatre performances in the evening whilst Marilyn reported to set during the daytime. Filming ended and on 20th November 1956 the Millers return to New York.
January 1957 began with Marilyn and Miller leaving New York to honeymoon in Moot Point, Jamaica. Whilst there they stayed in Lady Pamela Bird’s Villa and had lunch at the ‘Half Moon’ in Montego Bay. On her return to New York, Marilyn had Milton photograph her in what is now known as the ‘red dress sitting’. It was their last collaboration, as their friendship broke down when Marilyn found that Milton had been misappropriating funds from Marilyn Monroe Productions for personal use. It was a very acrimonious and public split, as Milton went to the press following the disagreement, leaving Marilyn little choice but to make a public statement on the matter.
In April 1957 Marilyn and Miller viewed a rough cut of “The Sleeping Prince”, renamed “The Prince And The Showgirl” which, a month later Marilyn expressed her displeasure about in a letter to Warner. Miller’s trial with the HUAC started in May, which he travelled to Washington D.C . for. Miller was found guilty of one charge of contempt, fined $500 and given a one month suspended sentence. Miller immediately appealed and was ultimately found not guilty on all charges two years later.
The summer of 1957 was a very happy time in her life; she didn’t have much in the way of work on and was enjoying being newly married, living a quiet life with her husband. However, tragedy struck when, on 1st August 1957, whilst tending to her garden at the summer home she shared with Miller in Amagansett, New York, Marilyn suffered terrible pains in her abdomen. She was rushed to hospitaland it was discovered that she was suffering an ectopic pregnancy. Marilyn lost the baby. The loss plunged Marilyn into a depression which, it’s said, led to her attempting to take her life once again. Luckily Miller was there and got to Marilyn before it proved fatal.
Marilyn saw out the remainder of the year setting up home in Roxbury, Connecticut and negotiating a part in “The Blue Angel” with Spencer Tracy. 1957 was the first year for seven years that Marilyn did not film a movie.
The following year, 1958, began with negotiations on “The Blue Angel” falling through due to Marilyn deciding to make, what is now considered one of, if not the, best comedies of all time, “Some Like It Hot”, with Billy Wilder.
Marilyn left New York for Los Angeles to film “Some Like It Hot” in July. At this same time Miller was in discussions with his publisher, Frank Taylor, to make “The Misfits”. While in Los Angeles Marilyn attended Dr. Michael Gurdin, who told her the chin implant from 1950 had now dissolved. Filming of “Some Like It Hot” began on August 4th. Shortly after this, in September, Marilyn discovered she was pregnant again. Filming was difficult with Marilyn appearing late on set and demanding retakes when she, or Paula, weren’t happy with something. This also led to acrimony amongst Marilyn and the other cast members and crew. As a result, there was a wrap party on 6th November that Marilyn wasn’t invited to. The following day Marilyn checked into Cedars of Lebanon when she thought she was having a miscarriage. It was a false alarm but doctors told her that she must cut down on her intake of alcohol and prescription drugs. A week later Marilyn returned to New York where, the following month, she miscarried her baby between four and five months. Both Marilyn and Miller were devastated. A week before Christmas Marilyn’s miscarriage was announced to the press – herself and Miller were photographed leaving the hospital. Marilyn smiled for the cameras and fans gathered but, according to Miller, once alone, she cried the whole way home to Roxbury.
Much of 1959 was spent in discussions for, costume tests, rehearsals and filming of “Let’s Make Love”. Marilyn hated the script but Fox wanted her in a movie that year as, per her contract, she still had 4 movies to make for them. Miller agreed to rewrite the script for them and tried to make more of Marilyn’s part. Upon reading the rewrites Gregory Peck pulled out of the movie and Miller suggested that Yves Montand come on board. Montand, a famous French actor, agreed to star and filming went ahead. After viewing the rushes it became evident that the movie was a flop.
In the midst of Miller’s rewrites, Huston agreed to direct “The Misfits” telling Miller he had a “Brilliant Screenplay”. Montgomery Clift also agreed to star alongside Marilyn for it. The year ended with Marilyn calling in sick to the set of “Let’s Make Love”.
In January 1960, filming for “Let’s Make Love” began with Marilyn frequently calling in sick. Miller attempted further rewrites of “The Misfits” with John Huston, including a trip to Ireland specifically for this purpose. Yves Montand got very upset with Marilyn not coming to set and left her a note in her dressing room to this effect. Marilyn was distressed and had Miller invite Montand and his wife, Simone Signoret, over to explain her position and apologise.
In February, the Oscar nominations were announced and, although “Some Like It Hot” was nominated seven times, Marilyn was snubbed. On 7th March the Actors Union joined the Authors Guild on strike which meant all production on “Let’s Make Love” was suspended. The following day Marilyn won the Golden Globe for her performance in “Some Like It Hot”.
After a fractious time, Marilyn filmed her last scene for “Let’s Make Love” in June 1960. Filming of “The Misfits” began with the Millers travelling to Nevada at the end of July 1960. Not long after they arrived, Frank Sinatra invited the cast to his show at Cal Neva’s Indian room. John Huston had been gambling while there and, by 16th August, his debts were approximately $50,000.
There were Magnum photographers sent to set in pairs to document the film process – filming was strenuous by all accounts, not least due to the fact the Millers marriage was breaking down, but add to that the heat on set, Marilyn’s prescription drug dependence and constant rewrites of the script, and the whole situation was a ticking timebomb. On 25th August Huston was informed the films budget was gone. The next day Paula Strasberg found Marilyn unconscious in her room at the Maples Hotel following another overdose of prescription medication. Marilyn was airlifted to Westside Hospital, treated for “extreme exhaustion” and, under doctors orders, she took a week off. Huston told the crew that filming was suspended due to Marilyn having a nervous breakdown. Miller was outraged that Marilyn was being used as a scapegoat to cover up Hustons gambling debts.
Not long after filming had finished Marilyn learned that Clark Gable had had a heart attack. Once Marilyn was back in New York with Miller, at her insistence, he packed up his belongings and left the apartment they had shared. Their decision to divorce was announced in the papers on 12th November 1960. Mere days later Clark Gable had another heart attack and died – Marilyn was devastated. The press speculated that his death was brought on by being left waiting for Marilyn to come to set, not taking into account he was suffering with hypertension and insisted on doing his own stunts, which included being dragged by mustangs through the desert.
At the beginning of 1961 Marilyn began to socialise with Joe DiMaggio again. At this point in her life Marilyn was attending psychiatrist, Dr. Marianne Kris regularly. On 5th February 1961 Kris took Marilyn to Cornell University New York Hospital and she was admitted to the Payne Whitney Clinic, psychiatric division. This was deeply disturbing to Marilyn for a few reasons:
- Kris had initially told Marilyn that she would be going into hospital for respite, not to the psychiatric department;
- Given her family history of being admitted to psychiatric hospitals, this would have scared her;
- Marilyn was locked in a room with no phone or contact with the outside world, making her feel all the more that the doctors thought she was crazy.
While there Marilyn wrote a couple of letters, one to the Strasberg’s and one to Dr. Kris begging them to please come and have her released. The letters were not replied to. It is thought that the Strasberg’s then rang DiMaggio, who demanded that Dr. Kris have her released. For years the story went that DiMaggio marched up to the hospital and told them to release Marilyn to him or he would take the hospital down “brick by brick” till he got her – while he may have said that to Kris when he called her – it was actually Dr. Kris and Ralph Roberts (Marilyn’s friend and masseuse) that collected her at the hospital. Marilyn and Dr. Kris fought about her commitment and never saw each other again.
At 5pm on that same day, Marilyn checked into Columbia Presbyterian Medical Centre, where she stayed for three weeks. DiMaggio visited her every day. On her release, Marilyn told the press “I feel wonderful!”
Following her hospital stay, Marilyn travelled to Florida with DiMaggio where they were photographed frequently by the press, going to dinner, taking walks on the beach and attending a baseball game.
On 11th June, having received a letter asking her to go, Marilyn attended the christening of Clark & Kay Gable’s son. The child was born after Gable’s death and the invite meant a lot to Marilyn as it proved that Kay Gable didn’t blame her for her husband’s death.
Over the course of the year Marilyn had surgery again for her endometriosis and also had her gallbladder removed due to being diagnosed with cholangitis.
In October 1961 George Cukor agreed to shoot “Something’s Got To Give” with Marilyn. However, Marilyn felt the script was weak and didn’t sign the contract, leading to her suspension by Fox. Marilyn argued that Cukor hadn’t signed on yet either. Cukor signed on at the end of November 1961. Marilyn spoke to Marlon Brando in early December about forming their own production company. Marilyn then wrote a long letter to Lee Strasberg asking him to be involved with the production company and asking if he would be prepared to move out to the West Coast in order to be part of it. Marilyn said “This letter concerns my future plans and therefore concerns yours as well since my future development as an artist is based on our working together…”
Joe DiMaggio flew out to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with Marilyn having received a call from Ralph Greenson telling him she would otherwise be alone.
On the advice of her psychiatrist, Ralph Greenson, Marilyn started looking for a home in Los Angeles. She settled on a Spanish style house in Brentwood and in January 1962, she bought 12305 Fifth Helena Drive. Joe DiMaggio gave her $5,750 to put the deposit down. Shortly after this Marilyn met Bobby Kennedy for the first time and subsequently wrote a letter to Arthur Miller’s son telling him that during the meeting she had discussed civil rights with him. Just days later on 6th February, Marilyn sat down with Richard Meryman for a six hours that would prove to be her last published interview. On the 20th February Marilyn travelled to Mexico to buy items and furniture for her new house. Joe DiMaggio was pictured seeing her off at the airport. On her return to Los Angeles, Marilyn attended the Golden Globes with Jose Bolanos, a man she met while in Mexico. She won the World Film Favourite of 1962. At the beginning of March Marilyn moved into 12305 Fifth Helena Drive with the help of DiMaggio, though most of her belongings were still in storage in New York. On 24th March Marilyn attended a party at Bing Crosby’s home, which was also attended by President JFK. While Marilyn and JFK had on five separate occasions attended the same functions as each other, this was the only time neither had their partners present and thus, was the only time they could have had an “affair”. The only corroborator of this was Ralph Roberts who claimed to have received a call from Marilyn while at the party. Roberts claimed Marilyn was alone with a male who spoke with a Bostonian accent and she was asking how to massage his back so as to make him feel better, as he had back trouble. This has led most people to assume she was speaking about JFK, though Marilyn never actually said that this was who she was with.
By April 1962 Marilyn was in costume and makeup tests for “Somethings Got To Give”. At this time Marilyn had also been requested, by the White House, to appear at JFK’s birthday Gala in Madison Square Garden, to sing Happy Birthday to the President. Rewrites were taking place throughout April on “Somethings Got To Give”. On 21st April Marilyn called in sick – it is important to note that Fox’s doctor, Dr. Lee Siegel, confirmed this and diagnosed Marilyn with laryngitis and a headache. As a result, Marilyn missed the first week of filming “Something’s Got to Give”. Marilyn went to work on set on 30th April but the next day she fainted within an hour of arriving on set and was sent home. Both Dr. Engleberg, her personal physician, and Dr. Siegel diagnosed Marilyn with a sinus infection. Marilyn was ordered to be on bed rest for a few days but failed to go to work for the next week and half. By 11th May Peter Levathes, Production Chief at Fox, called Milton Rudin and informed him that Marilyn should not go to New York for the President’s birthday gala. On 14th May Marilyn arrived on set at 6.10am and worked for 10 hours. For the following two days Marilyn arrived on set on time and worked all day. On 17th May Marilyn left the set at 11.30am to travel to New York for JFK’s birthday gala. Fox’s lawyers drafted a letter to Milton Rudin accusing Marilyn of breach of contract by absenteeism and warned of the consequences. The following day, despite receiving her breach of contract letter, Marilyn rehearsed her performance of ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’.
On May 19th 1962, Marilyn attended the JFK birthday gala, with her ex husband Arthur Miller’s father, Isadore Miller as her escort. Marilyn had hairdresser Kenneth Battelle – better known as “Mr. Kenneth” – do her hair, and a dress designed by Bob Mackie and William Travilla was flown in especially for the event. The night included JFK’s brother in law, and actor, Peter Lawford constantly introducing Marilyn where she didn’t appear, as a humorous nod to her lateness in general, and a completely rehearsed and choreographed breathy performance of “Happy Birthday” with a verse of special lyrics for JFK. Marilyn was dropped home that night at 4am and had Ralph Roberts give her a massage. She flew back to Los Angeles the following day to face the music at Fox.
Marilyn arrived on set on 21st May at 6.15am, she asked for no close ups and refused to film with Dean Martin due to him having a cold, but worked all day with Christopher Morley, who played her son in the movie. Dean Martin was out sick for the rest of that week but Marilyn was on set and filmed scenes with Cyd Charisse. Marilyn sent a memo to director George Cukor explaining that she had been advised by her doctors not to film with Dean Martin until he was well again. On the 23rd of May Marilyn filmed all day in the pool, only taking one 20 minute lunch break. She also filmed all day the next two days, including with Dean Martin filming the after pool scenes. The next few days Marilyn was out sick, diagnosed with an ear infection and resulting insomnia – this was thought to have been brought on by the days filming in the pool. Marilyn was back in work on 29th May and filmed all day with Dean Martin beside the pool. On 31st May Marilyn filmed her scenes with Wally Cox. On 1st June 1962, Marilyn arrived on set on time and filmed all day. After filming all day the cast and crew wheeled out a birthday cake and they all celebrated her birthday on set. Cukor had the crew under strict instructions to hide the cake until they got a full day’s work out of Marilyn. This was her final day on set.
The following day, Dr. Milton Wexler, a colleague of Greenson’s who was caring for Marilyn while Dr. Greenson was away in Europe, took away all of Marilyn’s medication. Marilyn had a complete mental breakdown. Marilyn was refusing to go to set at all and had become paranoid as to who was on her side or Fox’s. Greenson was contacted and agreed to come back to Los Angeles as soon as possible. With Marilyn not on set, Dean Martin walked off. When Greenson arrived back on 6th June, he rushed to Marilyn and found her heavily sedated. Greenson proceeded to call Fox and promise them he would get Marilyn back on set within just 5 days. The next day Marilyn attended Dr. Gurdin with Dr. Greenson by her side. Marilyn had bruising to her face and received x-rays. According to Gurdin, Marilyn said little or nothing, with Greenson doing all the talking. Greenson said Marilyn had slipped in the shower. Upon examining the x-ray Gurdin said he couldn’t see any damage. However, looking at the x-ray today shows Marilyn did have a slight fracture.
On 8th June 1962, three days before Greenson had promised to have her back on set, Fox officially fired Marilyn. Fox announced that they had hired Lee Remick to replace Marilyn after her “repeated wilful breaches of her contract. No justification was given by Miss Monroe for her failure to report for photography on many occasions.” Upon the hiring of Lee Remick, Dean Martin quit the production and released his own statement saying “…I signed to do the film with Marilyn Monroe and I will do it with no one else.” Fox filed a lawsuit against Marilyn in the sum of $500,000. On this same day Marilyn sent a telegram to George Cukor saying; “Dear George, Please believe me that it was not my doing. I had so looked forward to working with you. Warmly, Marilyn”. On 11th June Marilyn called Darryl Zanuck who told her that he intended taking over Fox again and she would be allowed to finish “Something’s Got To Give” once he was back in charge.
Following a smear campaign by Fox, Marilyn began sending telegrams to the crew with the same message she had conveyed to Cukor. After receiving an invite to a party from Robert & Ethel Kennedy, Marilyn responded “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 of the few remaining earthbound stars. After all, all we demanded was our right to twinkle. Marilyn Monroe.”
Marilyn spent the next few days trying to get her furniture delivered from Mexico and having a dinner for Joan Greenson’s birthday at her house. On 23rd June Marilyn met with Peter Levathes to discuss rehiring her. Marilyn then went to the Bel Air Hotel for the first of three days shooting with Bert Stern. These photos would become known as the Last Sitting. All of the approximate 2,500 photos were later compiled in a book called The Complete Last Sitting. The following day Marilyn met with George Barris, and Bobby Kennedy called to 12305 Fifth Helena to see her new home. On 28th June Marilyn met with Fox to discuss rehiring. Fox told her she would have to give up having creative control, Pat Newcomb, Paula Strasberg and Dr. Greenson on set, and would have to issue a public apology.
On 4th July Marilyn attended a barbeque at the Lawford residence where Bobby Kennedy was in attendance. Marilyn spent the next four weeks in daily sessions with Dr. Greenson, sometimes twice a day, amidst meeting George Barris for photoshoots and Richard Meryman and photographer Allen Grant coming to talk and take photos to accompany her interview for Life magazine.
On 20th July Marilyn had surgery on her endometriosis which rules out any rumours or conspiracy theories about the fact that she could have been pregnant before she died. On July 25th Marilyn had a meeting with Fox and was guaranteed to be rehired. That weekend Marilyn travelled to Cal Neva for the weekend. She was pictured with Frank Sinatra, Buddy Greco and Peter Lawford and seemed to have had a good time. Rumours have surrounded that weekend but given Marilyn didn’t see Greenson on her return to Brentwood, it’s unlikely anything traumatic happened.
On 1st August a new contract was allegedly drawn up for Marilyn at Fox but this contract has never been seen publicly and it is said to be housed in the Fox archive vault. Over the next few days Marilyn had one or more sessions with Dr. Greenson either at his house or at her own. On 3rd August Dr. Hyman Engleberg visited Marilyn at home. Engleberg gave her a $10 injection and a prescription for Nembutal, a bottle of pink tablets (maybe barbiturates) with no label and twenty five Phenergan tablets. That night Pat Newcomb stayed over with Marilyn.
The following morning, 4th August, Marilyn and Pat Newcomb had an argument over the fact Pat had slept till noon. After receiving some of her new furniture and a plant delivery, Marilyn had a session with Dr. Greenson, during which Greenson asked Pat to leave. Greenson was at Marilyn’s house from about 3pm/4pm until approximately 7pm. Before he left, Greenson suggested that Marilyn get Eunice Murray to bring her for a drive down by the beach. Marilyn had also been invited to the Lawfords that evening for one of their dinner parties but declined saying she was tired. At approximately 7.30pm, after Greenson had gone home to get ready for a dinner party he was attending with his wife, Marilyn took a call from Joe DiMaggio Jnr. They talked for about half an hour and Marilyn was happy to hear that he was after breaking his engagement off as she thought he was too young to be married. Marilyn then called Greenson to inform him of this. It’s thought that they had cross words over her medication but Greenson was rushing to his dinner party and so the call ended swiftly. It is suggested and seems likely that Marilyn took some Chloral Hydrate to sleep before DiMaggio Jnr’s call but, being disturbed by the call, they didn’t have much of any effect, so, she decided to take the Nembutal that she was used to – not realising that her tolerance had dropped whilst being weaned off – and simply took too many. At approximately 9pm on 4th August Marilyn lay unconscious in her bed and, although Peter Lawford was concerned about her and her lawyer Milton Rudin had called to check on her, it seems communication was lacking and no one did. In the early hours of the next morning, Marilyn was discovered by her housekeeper, Eunice Murray, unfortunately by then, she had passed away in her sleep.
Marilyn’s funeral was held on 8th August in Westwood Memorial Park. Joe DiMaggio helped to organise the funeral with Marilyn’s half sister, Berniece Miracle. A small amount of friends and family were invited, including Arthur Miller who was unable to attend but sent flowers. DiMaggio famously would not allow a lot of Marilyn’sfriends attend, as he felt their friendship had contributed to her downward spiral & eventual death. Even Pat Lawford, who was arguably Marilyn’s best friend, and had travelled from Hyannisport to attend the services, was denied entry.
Marilyn was entombed at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. To this day her’s is the most visited grave in the cemetery and the 4th most visited grave in the world.