Was Monroe such a nuisance or danger to the Kennedy political dynasty and legacy that she needed to be eliminated?
Marilyn Monroe’s death 60 years ago continues to elicit controversy
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Marilyn Monroe is the quintessential Hollywood icon. She graced fans with her radiant natural beauty and was the perfect embodiment of a sex symbol. Like a shooting star, her light would shine only for a brief period—until her tragic death on August 4, 1962, at age 36. Before Marilyn Monroe was Marilyn Monroe she was born Norma Jeane Mortenson (later baptized as Norma Jeane Baker). She was just an ordinary woman, who had dreams and aspirations to become famous. Those goals would come to fruition as Monroe became one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1950s and early 1960s.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death. The loss of one of Hollywood’s biggest actresses and sex symbols reinforced a predictable narrative about the Hollywood spotlight. Money and fame do not guarantee happiness or a long life. Monroe is a prime example and her death has been shrouded in mystery, speculation, conjecture, gossip—and a plethora of conspiracy theories.
According to a biography of Marilyn Monroe on history.com, the Hollywood actress, who experienced success as a leading actress—could not find happiness away from the cameras. She had two high-profile marriages to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller—both ending in divorce. In 1961, she battled depression and was under the constant care of a psychiatrist named Dr. Ralph Greenson. Monroe became erratic in the last months of her life and she lived as a recluse in her home—located in the Brentwood neighbourhood in Los Angeles.
Even on the last day of her life, the events leading up to Monroe’s death are still vague and mysterious. Once again from Monroe’s biography on history.com, on August 5, 1962, after midnight, Monroe’s housekeeper, Eunice Murray, noticed her bedroom light was on. Murray attempted to open the door, but it was locked. She then phoned Dr. Greenson who later broke a window to access the bedroom. Upon entering, he found Monroe lying in bed, deceased. However, police were called four hours later.
Sergeant Jack Clemmons of the LAPD was the first police officer to arrive at Monroe’s house. In the 1992 television documentary, The Marilyn Files, Clemmons recalled the house being very neat and tidy. Another incident that raised suspicion was the washing machine was being used. “Well, the story [is] that they discovered the situation at midnight and waited four hours to call the police,” he said. “That [did not] make any sense at all.” Clemmons believed there was more concern in making Monroe’s house look neat and tidy, for the pending media that would be arriving to cover Monroe’s death. After observing this, Clemmons offered his theory as to what was transpiring, “After I got into an unofficial investigation and was in it for a while,” he said. “It became apparent to me that what was [happening] was evidence was being destroyed.”
Furthermore, Bob Slatzer, author of the book, The Marilyn Files, stated he was also at the Monroe house and noticed something else that was suspect: “Well, the thing that struck me as being curious was the fact that the window that Dr. Greenson allegedly broke, to gain access to Marilyn’s bedroom. The majority of the glass was lying on the outside on the ground, rather than on the inside.”
According to the death certificate filed with the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder County Clerk as reported by einvestigator.com, Marilyn Monroe’s autopsy report stated that she died of “acute barbiturate poisoning” due to “ingestion of overdose.” This conclusion has been highly debated by reporters, investigators and conspiracy theorists. Other questions have been posed since her death that remain unanswered. Did Marilyn Monroe commit suicide? Or was it an accidental drug overdose? Or was she the victim of a mob hit due to her high-profile romances with John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy? And this poses the biggest question: was Monroe such a nuisance or danger to the Kennedy political dynasty and legacy that she needed to be eliminated?
Monroe’s association with the Kennedys was dangerous and it led to her eventual demise. An August 2018 article in Time magazine reported that Monroe had affairs with both John Kennedy and his brother, Robert. Monroe’s biographer, James Spada, told People magazine in 2012 (contained in the Time article): “It was pretty clear that Marilyn had had sexual relations with both Bobby and Jack.” On May 19, 1962, Monroe flew to New York to serenade JFK at his 45th birthday party at Madison Square Garden. Monroe’s sexy and sultry rendition of “Happy Birthday” has become iconic; along with the outfit she wore: a skintight, glittering dress. A September 2020 article on biography.com about the famous dress stated on the night of JFK’s birthday celebrations, Monroe, “…was sewn into a special outfit for the occasion—a Jean Louis-designed, flesh-coloured gown embedded with more than 2,500 rhinestones and tailored to hug her curves.”
After both affairs ended, Monroe, who was upset and hurt, was going to disclose her affairs with JFK and RFK to the press. Frank A. Capell, in his 1964 book, The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe, alleges that Monroe’s death was the result of homicide that was made to look like a suicide. A 12-page FBI memo from July 1964, included a letter advising Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, about the publication of Capell’s book—and his allegations made about Monroe and Kennedy having an affair. One page from the memo states Monroe’s involvement with Kennedy “‘was well known to her friends and reporters in the Hollywood area,’ but was never publicized.”
Moreover, the memo continues in detailing Capell’s allegations, “The author suggests that Miss Monroe ‘was led to believe his intentions were serious,’ and that Kennedy had promised to divorce his wife and marry her.” And when Kennedy did not do as he had promised, Monroe “threatened to expose their relationship,” which would have been damaging to his “presidential aspirations. It was then that Kennedy decided ‘to take drastic action.’” In contrast, Monroe’s biographer, Matthew Smith, in a January 2006 interview with ABC News, alleges someone else other than the Kennedys was responsible for Monroe’s death. “The important thing about it was that she wasn’t suicidal,” he said. “Some people believe the Kennedys had to with it; I don’t at all. I believe it was the disenchanted survivors of the Bay of Pigs, the CIA agents.”
Nevertheless, another person who believes Monroe was murdered is former LAPD detective, Mike Rothmiller. In his book, Bombshell: The Night Bobby Kennedy Killed Marilyn Monroe, Rothmiller alleges that Monroe kept a diary detailing her affair with then Attorney General, Robert Kennedy. And Kennedy, along with actor Peter Lawford, were at Monroe’s home searching for the diary the night she died. Tensions were escalating as Kennedy urged Monroe to give him the diary. Then Kennedy was alleged to have given Monroe something to drink, after which she later passed out.
According to a July 2021 article in the Latin Times about Rothmiller’s book, “Rothmiller found documents in Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) archives that show that Monroe was murdered in 1962 to protect the Kennedy family. According to him, it was Bobby who gave Monroe the poisoned drink in the presence of actor Peter Lawford. When Rothmiller put the facts to Lawford, 20 years later, he broke down and confessed.”
After Monroe had passed out, the Latin Times reported two men would later enter the premises: “Lawford initially thought they were neighbours, later he [realized] they were detectives or secret service agents. Bobby nodded to the men, who then entered the house. Lawford knew Monroe was not merely ‘out of it.’ She was dead.” For the remainder of his life, Robert Kennedy denied he had ever been at Monroe’s residence the night she died as the Latin Times stated, “Meanwhile, [an] LAPD search team found the diary, and got rid of the glass that Bobby gave Monroe.”
However, in the 2014 documentary, The Missing Evidence: The Death of Marilyn Monroe, a credible witness contradicted Kennedy’s assertion he was not at Monroe’s house the night she died. On August 5, 1962, at 12:10 am, a Beverly Hills detective named Lynn Franklin, pulled over a speeding vehicle on Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles—travelling 70 mph in a 30 mph zone. It had just left Marilyn Monroe’s residence. As Franklin approached the car, he noticed Peter Lawford was the driver and Dr. Greenson was in the passenger seat. And seated in the back was none other than Robert Kennedy. Lawford was driving Kennedy to the airport at the time the vehicle was pulled over.
As well, in a 1983 interview with the BBC, Eunice Murray, told Monroe’s biographer, Anthony Summers, that Robert Kennedy was at Monroe’s house the night she died. Summers recalled Murray’s recollections of that night, as reported on people.com in August 2017. Summers stated there was a “moment where she put her head in her hands and said words to the effect of, ‘Oh, why do I have to keep covering this up?’ I said, ‘Covering what up, Mrs. Murray?’ She said, ‘Well of course Bobby Kennedy was there [on August 4], and of course, there was an affair with Bobby Kennedy.’” But according to the same Monroe biography on history.com, Murray changed her version of the events that evening several times over the years, “…the reliability of these and other statements made by Murray are questionable.”
Before her death, Monroe gave an interview to Lawrence Schiller, who was on assignment covering the Hollywood star for Look magazine. Schiller had been on the set of Monroe’s final film, Something’s Got to Give (the film was not completed). He would take several famous photos of Monroe at a poolside, where she was nude. Monroe would be very candid and revealed her deepest worry. “I’ve always wanted a baby,” she said. “Having a child, that’s always been my biggest fear. I want a child and I fear a child. Whenever it came close, my body said no and I lost the baby.”
Monroe was also very self-reflective about her fame and realized people loved her because she was projecting the image of Marilyn Monroe, not the image of Norma Jeane. “I never wanted to be Marilyn—it just happened,” she said. “Marilyn’s like a veil I wear over Norma Jeane.” And during a photo session, Monroe told Schiller, “I always have a full-length mirror next to the camera when I’m doing publicity stills. That way, I know how I look.” Schiller then asked, “So, do you pose for the photographer or for the mirror?” Monroe replied without hesitation, “The mirror. I can always find Marilyn in the mirror.”
Lastly, Marilyn Monroe remains one of the most recognizable and enduring icons of the 20th Century. She has been immortalized in books, films, plays, websites, social media, artwork, music and fashion. The image of her beautiful smile with her trademark blonde curly hair, red lips and voluptuous figure is timeless. Her death may never be solved. And in many ways, the tragic and mysterious circumstances surrounding Marilyn Monroe’s death adds to her everlasting and universal appeal. One thing is for certain, her death, solidified her immortality.