Netflix’s latest documentary, “The Marilyn Monroe Mystery: The Unheard Tapes,” explores the convoluted investigation behind Marilyn Monroe’s death. On August 4, 1962, Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood home after suffering from acute barbiturate poisoning. Her cause of death was immediately ruled an overdose, but many were quick to suggest there was more to it than that and speculated that she may have committed suicide or was killed by an acquaintance.
Nearly 60 years later, Monroe’s haunting life and death are revisited once again, this time through a series of tapes obtained and collected by investigative journalist Anthony Summers. The audio recordings, never made public before the documentary, feature confessions from members of Monroe’s inner circle, including Hollywood elites, prominent casting agents and his closest associates.
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From an infamous Hollywood “black book” to Monroe’s ties to the Kennedy brothers, here are six heartbreaking revelations from the documentary:
one Hollywood’s little black book
A tape of the major Hollywood agent who founded the eponymous agency Al Rosen, which represented prominent names such as Cary Grant, Frederic March and Judy Garland, revealed that numerous casting directors had their own “black book”, containing the names of young actors, often those with no connections in the industry, who were considered sexually attractive. In short, it was a book that listed those whom these men considered available for casting. According to Rosen, Monroe was a household name in several black books.
“In this business, in the golden years, every casting director, every studio used to have a black book, you know what I mean?” he said. “So all the girls, you know, I’m talking about kids who were coming in, like Marilyn Monroe, you know, when they started, all the casting directors, they would write in their black book who could have sex.”
“You see, the business has changed since then…it used to be sex,” she continued. “Remember it.”
Rosen also implied that Monroe was sexually involved in and consequently exploited by numerous powerful figures in Hollywood, including Joseph M. Schenck, who was the chairman of the board of directors for 20th Century Fox.
two a worrying childhood
Monroe spent two years in an orphanage, four years with a guardian after her mother was sent to an insane asylum, and in between she jumped from one foster home to another. When asked about her childhood, Monroe frequently referred to herself as “homeless” rather than an orphan.
“Yeah, I was never used to being happy,” Monroe is heard saying in an old clip. “So that wasn’t something she was counting on.”
Monroe’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, also saw Monroe as “a woman deprived of childhood”. In her patient files, Greenson refers to Monroe as “a waif” and frequently attributes her paranoid reactions, which he claimed were not schizophrenic but “more masochistic” in nature, to childhood trauma and abandonment. It is later revealed that Greenson attempted to treat Monroe by introducing her to her own family. Over time, Monroe grew closer to Greenson’s wife, Hildi Greenson, her daughter, Joan Greenson, and her son, Danny Greenson, who is also a psychiatrist.
3 Abuse and lasting trauma
Although Monroe never explicitly named her abusers, she endured years of sexual abuse during her youth.
“She knew people who were psychotic from [being molested] and he felt like he at least survived that,” said Monroe’s friend, fellow actress Peggy Feury. Monroe recounted the abuse in one case, saying, “I knew it was wrong, but to tell you the truth, I think I was more curious than another thing. No one ever talked to me about sex and frankly I never thought it was that important.”
Monroe’s close friend, clothing manufacturer Henry Rosenfeld, later told Summers that Monroe wanted to know more about her biological father, whose identity is still unknown. According to Rosenfeld, Monroe once said that he wanted to “put on a black wig, pick up his father at a bar [and] Make love to her.” Then she would say, “Well, how does it feel now to have a daughter you’ve made love to?”
4 The brief marriage with Joe DiMaggio
The couple dated for about two years before marrying in 1954. The famous movie icon and the New York Yankees star were known as a perfect match and revered for their public romance. But things quickly took a turn for the worse just a few months into their honeymoon.
DiMaggio, who retired from Major League Baseball when he met Monroe, soon became possessive of his wife and struggled with a marriage in which he felt overshadowed by Monroe’s fame. The relationship reached a boiling point after Monroe finished filming the famous flying skirt scene in Billy Wilder’s 1955 romantic comedy “The Seven Year Itch.”
“Joe DiMaggio, you know, was watching it, and he didn’t like it very much, his wife making a show of herself,” Wilder told Summers.
The hairdresser on Monroe’s set, Gladys Whitten, also noted DiMaggio’s anger in her conversation with Summers. She said the couple shared a hotel suite and one night, when they stayed private, DiMaggio “hit her [Monroe] up a bit.”
“Marilyn said she was screaming and screaming for us,” Whitten recalled. “But we couldn’t hear her through those thick walls, you know?” He added that Monroe returned to the film set with bruises on her shoulders.
Monroe then filed for divorce in October. “Our marriage was not a happy one, it ended in nine months, unfortunately. I don’t know what else to say,” she told reporters at a news conference with her lawyer.
5 Monroe’s relationship with Arthur Miller
The acclaimed playwright of “The Crucible” and “Death of a Salesman” was 11 years older than Monroe, 29, when the pair started dating. As Summers described in the documentary, Miller and Monroe’s relationship was essentially a “Svengali situation”.
Shortly after their marriage, the couple traveled to London to make a film called “The Prince and the Showgirl” for their production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions. During the filming of the film, Monroe stumbled upon Miller’s notes, which were on display.
“It was something about how disappointed he was in me. How he thought I was some kind of angel, but now he assumed I was wrong,” Monroe was quoted by Summers as saying. “He had married a woman just as flawed as his previous wife had been.”
In his notes, Miller also called Monroe “a whore.” The couple separated in 1960.
6 the Kennedys
Monroe used to party with Peter Lawford, a member of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack, and his wife, Patricia Kennedy, sister of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
“Peter would obviously be, you know, sort of a pimp for both Kennedys,” said Jeanne Martin, the ex-wife of singer and actor Dean Martin. “They would do it as soon as possible in front of anyone.” Martin claimed that the Kennedys behaved the way they did because of his father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., who told his sons to “have sex as often as you can with as many women as you want.”
Monroe’s alleged affair with John F. Kennedy continued throughout his presidency. She was also thought to have been in a relationship with Robert F. Kennedy, who was married at the time, and frequently referred to him as “The General”. Arthur James, a friend of Monroe’s, told Summers that the actor “had nothing but love.” [and] nothing but admiration” for Robert.
“The Mysteries of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes” is currently streaming on Netflix. Watch a trailer below, via Youtube.
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