Out of all the faces that graced the golden age of Hollywood, there are none like Marilyn Monroe’s. Her platinum hair and red lips are infamous in pop culture, and within her movies, her talent shines bright. She was hilarious, hard-working, and kind. But all she ever wanted was to be a good actress; that was her wish until the day she died. Her life has inspired conspiracy theorists, books and television, and just all-around chatter. But who was this exceptional woman at her core? Where did she come from?
In the newest crime(ish) documentary by Netflix, The Mystery Of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes, her life is rehashed through the various tapes recorded by her psychiatrist in her final years. Irish journalist, Anthony Summers, uncovered and discussed these tapes while writing his book, Goddess: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.
Born Norma Jean Mortenson, with a troubled home life, young Norma dreamed of being in the pictures one day. In and out of foster homes and psychiatric institutions for her mother, she spent hours daydreaming. She went to the movie theaters constantly, not leaving her seat even when the movie was finished.
While Marilyn was strong and confident on the outside, her private life was reserved and quiet. She took refuge in different men because they gave her love and support. In her life, she married three times. First, James Dougherty married when Marilyn was Norma Jean and just 16 years old, and he 20. While their marriage was a happy one, Norma’s Hollywood ambitions were too great for the young Navy couple.
The next was Joe Dimaggio, the famous Yankee player. Their nine-month marriage was one of love and passion. But as Monroe’s career boomed, Joe’s reported jealousy and involvement in her contracts brought a wave of tension to their marriage. They split, and a year later, she met and married writer Arthur Miller. While this marriage was her longest, it did have its problems.
Meanwhile, the world loved Marilyn; she starred in films like Some Like it Hot, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds, or Seven Year Itch. Although these films may not be well known to modern audiences, Marilyn’s career flourished—even if her personal life took a hit. These movies feature iconic moments like the sewer grate scene, or the “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” routine.
But throughout the 60s, it was alleged that Jack and Robert Kennedy began seeing Monroe. Through this connection, the CIA targeted Marilyn for knowledge of nuclear weapons. They grew interested in her because Marilyn openly spoke on politics and her opinions about the Kennedys. Summers hones in on Marilyn’s home being wiretapped, recording all her conversations featured in the documentary. This is the birth of the theories buzzing around her death.
Marilyn’s life began spiraling during this period. Like everyone in Hollywood, Marilyn used amphetamines and barbiturates for years. In her last months, she would arrive late to movie sets and work herself to exhaustion. She suffered for a long time, and on August 4, 1962, she died of an accidental barbiturate overdose. At 36, her life came to a tragic end. Her dreams of love and children were never lived.
The documentary discusses the conspiracies of her death. Was it “murder” or an overdose? In the end, her death is a heartbreaking end. Forget the Kennedys, the drama, and her past. Remember the woman at her core and love her for what she contributed to Hollywood. Her dream to be an exceptional actress came true. And she will never be forgotten.