On August 5, 1962, newspapers around the world relayed the news of the death of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) the night before at her home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, California at the age of thirty-six. The cause of death was listed as suicide from an overdose of the drugs Pentobarbital and chloral hydrate. However, decades after her death, several question still remain regarding that tragic night of August 4, 1962. What really happened that night and why was she paid a visit by then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) and his brother-in-law Peter Lawford (1923-1984)?
The image we have been given of Monroe is a drug-addicted sex symbol, starved for validation from the opposite sex and unable to cope with the rigors of Hollywood. Her previous suicide attempts gave credence to this perpetuated image and for many, it was the ending that they expected for quite some time. Her life reads like a tragic novel of a heroine unable to fully come to terms with herself and seeking love and affection in all of the wrong places. However in just thirty-six years, she lived a live that some can only dream of. At at one point in her life, she was the most desired woman in the world. Donald H. Wolfe takes us back in time to the those final days in August, 1962 to piece together what really did happen and why.
The book opens by revisiting the night of August 4 and the pandemonium that ensued following Monroe’s death. Immediately we learn of several disturbing facts that set the tone of the book. Wolfe does an incredible job of keeping the suspense going and the reader engaged. And rightfully so, he not only explores her death but also provides a concise biography that sets the stage for events that took place later in her life. Behind the facade of a starlet singing happy birthday to the President, lay a woman raised in a childhood which could best be described as tragic. However, in order to understand Monroe’s life and her death, it is necessary to explore her beginnings which Wolfe presents to us without breaking the momentum of the book. And I can assure you that once you start you will be hard pressed to put it down.
Although the book is about Monroe’s final days, there are many sub-stories that are told which gives us an inside view of the inner-workings of Hollywood and politics in the middle of the twentieth century. As she moves through one circle to the next, some of the biggest names in show business, sports and politics make an appearance in her life such as John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), Clark Gable (1901-1960), J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) and Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999). However, among all of the people who cross paths with her, her life takes a much darker and tragic turn through her association with the Kennedys and their associates and it is this relationship that forms the crux the remaining third of the book. After you have finished the book, you may come to see the administration in a different light. Today it is public knowledge that an affair did take place between Jack Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. And if all accounts are correct, Monroe and Robert Kennedy also had their intimate moments. The sexual content is fodder for gossips and tabloid magazines. But what was critical was the true nature of their relationship and the many secrets Monroe possessed about the most powerful man in the country. In fact, it is quite possible that she did have the power to bring down a presidency. Was this the reason for the urgent visits by J. Edgar Hoover to the White House in May, 1962 and that last visit by Robert Kennedy on the day she died? Or was this the reason for the heated arguments that took place between Monroe and Robert Kennedy in the weeks leading up to her death? And how much did she know about their association with Frank Sinatra and mobster Sam Giancana? Certainly, many of their discussions which were likely picked up by the FBI may never be known. Other recordings by the President are locked away in the Kennedy library. A little over one year after Monroe’s death, John Kennedy himself was cut down in a hail of bullets in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Several years later, Bobby would be gone as well, also the victim of an assassination at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California on June 5, 1968. In death they joined a long list of political figures and stars that died during the turbulent decade of the 1960s.
Marilyn Monroe remains a sex icon decades after her death. Young women still hang posters of her on their walls and purchase t-shirts with her image. In death, she became a legend whose left this world far too soon. Her life was in some ways a soap opera with affairs, fairy tale romances, political scandals, drugs, mental health issues and tragically, broken homes. Sadly, many people in her life failed her not just on one but on several occasions. But if there is one inspiring aspect of the story, it is her resiliency to move forward in life and command respect even in the most difficult of times. And had her life taken a slightly different course, then perhaps she might still be alive today well into her senior years and full of knowledge about Hollywood’s golden era. This is the story of the life and final days of Marilyn Monroe, a true Hollywood icon.
Marilyn Monroe remains to this day one of Hollywood’s biggest sex symbols. Her image continues to be promoted today through articles about her life, books, posters and even documentaries. When she died suddenly on August 5, 1962, she left behind millions of fans, a career and a film industry in which she was at the top of its list of stars. Her marriages and love affairs have been documented relentlessly and her sex appealed is desired by young men looking to be the next great sex symbol in Hollywood. But just who was the real Marilyn Monroe? When she died she was only thirty-six years of age, far too young to have written a complete autobiography or to have experienced all that life has to offer. However, prior to her death, she had begun to tell her life story to friend and business associate Milton Green. Green kept the manuscript along with thousands of photos he took of the late actress. His son Joshua, has preserved the images digitally restoring them in the process. When he found the manuscript he had it published into this short but revealing book about the early life of Norma Jean Mortenson.
This book is her story told in her own words. Her story is not glamorous nor is it tragic. In fact, aside from her early childhood memories and living situation that changed regularly, there isn’t much that stands out in the way of chaos. For the most part, she was a normal girl trying to have a normal life. I believe that is imperative that the reader abandon any preconceived notions about Monroe’s life. Her marriage to Joe DiMaggio and later love affair with President Kennedy are fodder for gossip columns and distract from her life behind the camera. In fact, the images we see of her on film and in pictures do not come close to revealing the real Marilyn Monroe.
It is incredible that fifty-four years after her death that you can still find her face on posters at most stores. Recently on a trip to IKEA, a poster with her image was among the many that the store sells. In just thirty-six years, she created a legacy that is certain to last for an eternity. Sadly, the book ends right after she marries DiMaggio. She has just set out to entertain troops in Korea. We know that there is more to her story and that her life took a darker and more sinister turn. Rumors about the real cause or her death have survived since she passed and show no signs of slowing down. It remains to be seen if we will ever know the truth about her death and why it happened. And even if the truth is known, the loss of the late icon will still be felt.
Her story is short but highly entertaining. There are no pieces of gossip about other stars and it will be surprising for some to learn how unassuming she actually was at the time. She is very candid about her experiences and gives of a welcoming charm that explains the never-ending infatuation the media has with her. I believe that if she had lived, she would have finished this manuscript and it would be by far one of the best autobiographies we have seen. But even in its shortness, Marilyn does a good job of telling us her story.