Natasha Lytess: Friend or Foe?

Many a biography on Marilyn Monroe mentions Natasha Lytess, a figure who claimed, “I made Marilyn famous,” asserting her influence on Marilyn’s career. Contrarily, accounts also describe how after collaborating on more than 20 films, Marilyn abruptly severed ties with her acting coach of eight years. The reality of this situation, however, may be layered with complexity.

WHO IS NATASHA LYTESS?

Natasha Lytess, born Natalia Postmann in Berlin, sought refuge in Los Angeles from Nazi persecution. After her acting career in the U.S. didn’t pan out, she turned to coaching, and teaching stars like Mamie Van Doren and Virginia Leith.

In April 1948, at Columbia Pictures, Lytess was introduced to Marilyn, who she initially found grating, saying her “voice got on my nerves.” Nonetheless, Lytess took Marilyn under her wing, commencing an intensive coaching routine.

WORKING WITH MARILYN

Lytess began coaching Marilyn for “Ladies of the Chorus” (1948), which sparked a professional relationship that would span numerous projects. Natasha’s coaching was so integral that she left her Columbia position to work exclusively with Marilyn. Directors like John Huston saw the effect of Lytess’s coaching first-hand; by “The Misfits” (1960), Marilyn’s reliance on her acting coaches (then Paula Strasberg) during filming was evident.

Directors’ frustrations peaked when Marilyn sought Lytess’s approval on set, evidenced by Marilyn glancing towards her at crucial moments. Jean Negulesco, after multiple retakes, barred Lytess from the set of “How to Marry a Millionaire” — a decision he reversed when Marilyn insisted on Lytess’s presence.

Billy Wilder navigated this by telling Natasha how he wanted Marilyn to perform, setting a precedent that would challenge directors and strain Marilyn’s professional and personal relationships.

THE FRIENDSHIP

In late 1950, Marilyn and Natasha’s relationship intensified when Marilyn moved in with Natasha, her daughter, and maid, isolating Marilyn and focusing her life on her craft.

Natasha’s claim of a romantic dimension — “I took her in my arms one day, and I told her ‘I want to love you’” — stands in contrast to Marilyn’s own words in “My Story”: “Now having fallen in love, I knew what I was. It wasn’t a lesbian.” quashing the myth that Marilyn and Lytess had a romance.

Financial interdependence was also notable. Natasha earned $500 a week, plus $250 for the private courses she gave to Marilyn, meaning she was making more money than her student. In 1951, Marilyn asked the William Morris agency for a $200 deduction in her monthly salary from 20th Century Fox so that she may cover a dental bill of $1,800 for Natasha. Marilyn once sold a treasured gift from Johnny Hyde to assist Natasha financially, despite already paying her hefty weekly coaching fees.

Natasha’s aversion to Marilyn’s beau, Joe DiMaggio, was blunt — “He is a man with a closed, vapid look” — yet Marilyn’s affection for Joe was unfazed, leading to their marriage in 1954. Their professional parting came after “The Seven Year Itch,” when Marilyn, changing course in life, stopped taking Natasha’s calls.

OUT WITH THE OLD

Natasha’s public discussions of Marilyn, including unauthorised media appearances and interviews, likely contributed to Marilyn’s withdrawal. Despite her student being “insignificant” and that she would be “easily forgotten”, Natasha had no qualms when it came to talking about her to newspapers and gossip columnists. It isn’t a surprise that Marilyn had reached the end of her tether with Natasha by the end of 1954. As a private person, Marilyn wasn’t a fan of discussing her personal life with the media. However, Lytess felt zero shame in doing it for her, using Marilyn’s name as a gateway for her publicity. Lytess’s behaviour had bordered on the obsessive, as she remarked, “I am her private property, she knows that.” Plans for a tell-all book may have been the final straw in their professional rift.

Despite Joe DiMaggio’s purported influence, Marilyn’s independence was clear by 1955 in her decision to leave both Natasha and Joe behind. In March 1955, Natasha spoke with columnist Hedda Hopper stating she hadn’t “heard a peep” from the star. Although listed as an anonymous source, it can only be assumed that it was Natasha who spoke to Steven Cronin for an article titled “The Storm About Monroe”. This source stated “Marilyn Monroe doesn’t know her own mind” and was “unhappy while she was married to Joe DiMaggio”. Marilyn, however, kept her opinions of the dramatic coach to herself.

Despite not talking to Marilyn for half a decade, Natasha couldn’t seem to let Marilyn go. In 1960, researcher Jane Wilkie spoke to Natasha and ended up not publishing Lytess’ manuscript which did nothing but complain about her former pupil.

In 1962, Natasha had written yet another memoir which she sold for $10,000. Marilyn’s press agents attempted to purchase it back from France-Dimanche but the publishers said they’ll make more money by keeping it. The first article was entitled “Marilyn Monroe: Her Secret Life, I Made Her – Body and Soul.” As suggested by the title, the article is nothing but the ramblings of a woman who is obsessed with the sex life of Marilyn Monroe. The articles were published on 15, 22 and 29 July 1962, weeks before Marilyn passed away. The fourth instalment was published on the day Marilyn had been found dead in her home. However, Natasha didn’t stop her verbal abuse. She continued writing about Marilyn after the 5 August, discussing Marilyn’s death and why she had killed herself… And it was all because of men and how they viewed her as nothing but a sexual object.

The article never portrayed any sadness for Marilyn’s passing, just more bitterness. In 1964, before passing away from cancer, Natasha said “I wish I had one-tenth of Marilyn’s cleverness. The truth is, my life and my feelings were very much in her hands. I was the older one, the teacher, but she knew the depth of my attachment to her, and she exploited those feelings as only a beautiful younger person can. She said she was the needy one. Alas, it was the reverse. My life with her was a constant denial of myself.” This backhanded compliment demonstrates her relentless resentment and disdain which lasted for over ten years. Natasha continued her belittling remarks about Marilyn long after their communications had ended, and was obsessed with Marilyn’s sexual habits, love life, fame and career. 

This tangled narrative of mentorship, dependence, and eventual estrangement illuminates the fraught but impactful relationship between Marilyn Monroe and Natasha Lytess, leaving a legacy of influence and controversy.

Celebrating the Legacy of Eve Arnold and Marilyn Monroe

This article includes affiliate links, yet it is not a sponsored piece, nor have I been commissioned to write it. I would like to thank Michael Arnold for inviting me to become an affiliate.

ALL ABOUT EVE

Eve Arnold was born on 21 April 1912 in Philadelphia, as the seventh of nine children to Rabbi William Cohen and his wife, Bessie. The couple had emigrated from Russia to the United States, fleeing anti-Semitic persecution. Despite William Cohen’s education, he could only secure employment as a pedlar, resulting in a childhood marked by financial hardship for Eve.

Initially aspiring to a medical career, Eve’s trajectory changed when she was working as a bookkeeper for a New York estate agency during the Second World War. A gift from a boyfriend, a Rolleicord camera, awakened her passion for photography. In 1943, she responded to a newspaper advertisement for an ‘amateur photographer’ and soon found herself managing America’s inaugural automated film-processing plant in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Though her formal education in photography was limited to a six-week course at the New School for Social Research, under the tutelage of Alexey Brodovitch, the art director at ‘Harper’s Bazaar’, Eve continued to refine her craft through experience and feedback from renowned photographers like Richard Avedon.

Her first major assignment came in 1950 when she covered fashion shows held in deconsecrated churches in Harlem. According to Brigitte Lardinois in ‘Eve Arnold’s People’ (2009), Eve pioneered a unique approach to fashion photography by capturing candid moments backstage, a departure from the staged studio photos that were the norm at the time.

During this period, American society was still deeply segregated, and mainstream publications rarely featured black individuals. However, Eve’s groundbreaking work found an international audience, notably in Europe. Displeased with the condescending captions used in Britain’s ‘Picture Post’, she resolved that her images would henceforth stand on their own merit.

In 1951, Eve approached Magnum Photos, a cooperative founded by Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Around the same time, Inge Morath joined Magnum’s Paris office, and together they became the agency’s first female photojournalists. Lardinois notes that Eve described Magnum as a ‘family’, a place where she absorbed storytelling techniques from Bresson, learnt the art of introducing light into her photos from Morath, and gleaned insights into technical discipline from Erich Hartmann, among others.

Elliott Erwitt, who met Eve at the start of his career, remembered her as a homemaker. Married with a young son, Eve was living in Port Jefferson, Long Island, and, according to Erwitt, may have viewed photography as an escape from the monotony of domestic life.

Despite her talents, Eve often found herself relegated to ‘women’s page’ assignments, a reflection of the gender biases at Magnum, as noted by Mary Panzer, a former curator at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery. Eve’s husband, industrial engineer Arnold Arnold, whom she married in 1948, encouraged her to cover the lives of black Southern workers who had migrated north.

Eve once wrote, “If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.” This ethos is evident in her portraits, like the 1954 image of a vulnerable prostitute in a Havana brothel, admired by photographer Mary McCartney for its non-judgmental empathy.

Yet Eve also faced her share of critics, including her own mother, Bessie. Upon seeing Eve’s photographs of the first few minutes of a newborn’s life published in ‘Life’ magazine in 1954, Bessie inquired, “What’s to admire?”

MARLENE AND MARILYN

Eve Arnold first encountered the aura of Hollywood glamour when she photographed Marlene Dietrich during a recording session for ‘Esquire,’ an upmarket men’s magazine. Her introduction to Marilyn Monroe came later, at a Manhattan soirée hosted by John Huston at the renowned 21 Club. According to Eve, Marilyn quipped, “If you could do that well with Marlene, can you imagine what you could do with me?”

At that point, Marilyn was still a burgeoning star, having just landed a minor role in John Huston’s 1950 film, ‘The Asphalt Jungle.’ Their meeting could have occurred shortly thereafter, as they were introduced by photographer Sam Shaw, a friend of Monroe’s since 1951. By 1952, when Eve’s Dietrich story was published, Marilyn Monroe was steadily becoming a household name.

Eve became only one of three females to professional photograph Marilyn, alongside Jean Howard and Inge Morath.

BEMENT, 1955

In the early hours of an August morning in 1955, Marilyn Monroe, a chronic insomniac, called Eve Arnold. Monroe was flying out to Bement, Illinois, a town where her idol, Abraham Lincoln, had stayed during his historic debates with Senator Stephen Douglas in 1858. “I’m going to bring art to the masses,” Monroe declared. She scribbled a speech on the plane to Chicago and rehearsed it en route to Bement, evoking a misplaced sense of recent loss that, according to Arnold, made it sound as if it was President Eisenhower, not Lincoln, who had just passed away.

Arriving in Bement amid media frenzy, an exhausted Monroe briefly retreated before stepping out to engage with her public. She judged a Lincoln lookalike contest, admired local art, and delivered her speech. Arnold’s photographs from this eccentric episode capture a Marilyn who radiated genuine warmth, treating each fan — regardless of age or social standing — with equal grace.

Eve observed that Marilyn was always keenly aware of photographers, performing her best for every shot. “With me, she began to relax, but if she sensed I wanted more from her, she gave it generously,” Eve noted.

SUMMER OF ’55

The duo met again during in the Summer of 1955 and that Labor Day weekend, they chose an abandoned playground near Mount Sinai, Long Island, to avoid a spectacle. Marilyn brought along multiple swimsuits and a copy of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses,’ which she confessed to reading in fragments, captivated but also challenged by its complexity.

Eve seized the moment to photograph Marilyn reading Joyce, and these iconic images have since adorned countless publications. They continued to a deserted marshland just before 5 pm, often referred to as ‘the magic hour,’ when daylight turns most picturesque. Marilyn wore a leopard-print one-piece, delighting in the comedic juxtaposition of a “leopard in the bulrushes.”

“As the sunlight dimmed, she emerged, mud-caked but exhilarated and laughing,” Arnold remembered. “The session ended, but the captured moments remained, etched in the soft saffron hues of the setting sun.”

IT’S NOT JUST THE CAMERA SNAPPING…

In February of 1956, Eve found herself amidst the glitz and glamour of a press conference at New York’s Plaza Hotel, thanks to an invitation from Marilyn publicist, Lois Smith. The event was to announce Marilyn’s latest film venture (the only film she made with Marilyn Monroe Productions), ‘The Sleeping Prince.” The film would be featuring Sir Laurence Olivier and written by Sir Terence Rattigan, both of whom had flown in from London for the occasion.

Upon arriving early at Smith’s request, Eve made her way to an anxious Marilyn in her dressing room. “Marilyn was often paralysed by the prospect of tackling a problem,” Eve noted. “It’s not that she lacked commitment; rather, it was the initial leap into the fray that unsettled her.” This marked the first of many lengthy waits for Olivier and Rattigan.

Marilyn eventually emerged, resplendent in a black velvet gown. “Her alabaster skin and blonde hair created a striking contrast against her dark attire,” Eve mused. When complimented, Marilyn responded with a wink, saying, “Just watch me.”

Though not particularly fond of press conferences, Eve found her unique position as a female photographer advantageous. “My male colleagues always made way for me,” she said. The press conference was slow to start, dominated by a somewhat rigid Olivier. However, when Marilyn’s dress strap fortuitously snapped, the atmosphere shifted dramatically. Eve suspected this ‘accident’ was calculated. “Suddenly, the room came alive with laughter,” Eve recounted. “Marilyn had transformed a mundane press meet into an event.”

THE MISFITS, 1960

Fast forward to 1960, and Eve Arnold one of the many Magnum photographers  in Reno, Nevada to cover the filming of ‘The Misfits.’ Marilyn, then 34 was visibly drained and in need of a break.

Eve was initially booked in for a two-week stint but ended up staying for two months. “Being a woman helped,” Eve explained. “It sidestepped the usual male-female dynamics my male counterparts often rely on to get intimate shots.”

Choosing to work without an assistant to maintain the delicate balance of their relationship, Eve was the only photographer granted access to Marilyn’s inner circle.

Eve observed the complexity of gaining Marilyn’s loyalty and her inner circle. “Marilyn sometimes questioned the authenticity of these relationships, considering they were on her payroll,” she said. “But their devotion was unwavering, never reduced to mere sycophancy.”

Through these intricate interactions and pivotal moments, Eve Arnold immortalised not just the icon, but the woman behind the myth — capturing Marilyn Monroe in her full complexity, framed against the unforgiving lens of fame.

As the crew wrapped up and headed back to Los Angeles, Marilyn proposed a studio session for publicity photographs at Paramount. Eve Arnold had reservations. “I’ve never been a fan of the artificial nature of studio photography, but Marilyn relished it,” she said. Despite her hesitancy, Eve acknowledged the advantages: “The studio environment offers an unmatched level of control. One can manipulate the lighting, the timing, and even the subject’s attire to achieve the desired outcome.”

The photo session was versatile, capturing Monroe in various outfits and poses, including an iconic series of her draped-in sheets. “Being photographed for Marilyn was akin to being cherished,” said Eve. “She was enchanted by the experience, declaring it the best working conditions she’d ever had.”

The atmosphere darkened soon after, with the news of Clark Gable’s death and the public announcement of Marilyn’s separation from her husband, Arthur Miller. When Eve visited Monroe, they were besieged by reporters. Monroe was distraught over Gable’s passing; he had been her childhood idol and a kind co-star during the filming of ‘The Misfits’.

“Marilyn had always fantasised about Gable being her father,” Eve recalled. “Now, she was sitting in front of proof sheets featuring her in a love scene with him, and she sighed, ‘Can you imagine what being kissed by him meant to me?'”

Looking at images Eve took from the film her grandson, Michael Arnold, reflected on one image with a particular fondness, noting it’s distinctiveness from the typical Marilyn portrayals: “There is something about the one where she’s in the car,’ he muses. ‘It’s not the typical glamour shot you often see with Monroe, there’s an ordinariness about it… she is going about her craft, she’s learning her lines. There’s something about the composition which makes it special.”

In the days that followed, Eve and Marilyn painstakingly sorted through the photographs. “Marilyn was quick to understand the nuances of photo editing,” Eve noted. “She would often acquiesce to my explanations, or we would engage in a spirited discussion until one of us gave in.”

ONE LAST TIME

By July 1961, Marilyn was recuperating from gallbladder surgery. Despite her frailty, she insisted on doing a small photo session with Eve at her New York apartment for a feature on her hairdresser, Kenneth Battelle. “She was her usual luminous self,” said Eve. “We used just one roll of film. I didn’t want to exhaust her.”

Eve had been invited to witness history a year later but could not oblige. The missed opportunity to photograph Marilyn singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to President Kennedy weighed heavily on Eve, especially after Marilyn’s untimely death in 1962. Reflecting on her relationship with Marilyn in a 1987 documentary, Eve Arnold expressed deep regret for missing that last chance to capture the enigmatic star.

“In our numerous interactions, what always struck me was the duality of Marilyn—her public persona juxtaposed with her private vulnerabilities,” Eve mused. “In many ways, she was an unretouched woman in a retouched industry. And perhaps that’s why the camera—and indeed the world—loved her so.”

KEEPING THE LEGACY ALIVE

Eve Arnold’s passing in London in 2012, at the age of 99, made headlines. Her portfolio straddled the worlds of glamour and the gritty reality of life, capturing everyone from celebrities to those on the margins of society.

For Michael, Eve was more than a grandmother; she was a “really cool woman that was like a friend and mentor,” replete with an endless trove of tales. Managing her extensive archive, he discovered her desire for photography to be universally accessible, recalling her first London exhibition where she sold prints at nominal prices, only to find dealers later selling them at a steep profit.

Michael’s recent endeavour to produce posters and affordable museum-quality prints aims to immortalise Eve’s legacy and acquaint new audiences with her oeuvre—themes still resonating today such as racism, sexism, and inequality, all imbued with humanity. He attributes her ethos of making photography available to her upbringing in a poor Russian Jewish immigrant family, a past that silently fuelled her artistic philosophy.

Out of an estimated quarter-million photographs taken by Arnold over her career, only a fraction has been digitised, hinting at the expansive, largely unexplored works that her photos represent. To fund this extensive process, Michael is selling archival print editions 10 x 12 museum-quality prints here for just £280.

Let me know what your favourite Eve Arnold photo is in the comments!

Sources: Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold, The Telegraph, EveArnold.com

Marilyn and The Method

The complex relationship between Lee and Paula Strasberg and Marilyn Monroe has been dissected by insiders, historians, and ardent fans alike.

Views on its impact range from beneficial to detrimental with some supporting Marilyn’s love and admiration for them and others condemning them for not realising Marilyn’s personal struggles.

Lee Strasberg, a figure as influential as he was controversial, shaped the acting careers of numerous stars including Al Pacino, James Dean and Jane Fonda who once remarked, “I’m not sure I even would have become an actress were it not for him.”

However, the role the Strasbergs played in Marilyn’s life and career remains far less clear-cut which was recognised by many including Marlon Brando, who worked with the Strasbergs himself.

He stated: “Lee was criticized–and correctly, I think–by his role, and that of his wife, Paula, in the grooming, I suppose we can call it, of Marilyn Monroe. I called it remedial tutoring, and any actor who requires round-the-clock ministrations in the reading of a line or a call sheet is not a serious actor. Marilyn was a lovely and sad woman, but she needed help that extended far beyond the exercises given to her by Lee and Paula. Lee and Paula wanted the reflected fame that came by being in Marilyn’s orbit. They were seduced and betrayed and battered.”

Did Lee, Paula, and The Method serve as catalysts for both Marilyn’s personal life and professional career, or did they impede the former while advancing the latter?

THE EVOLUTION OF AN ARTIST: THE INFLUENCES THAT SHAPED MARILYN’S CAREER

Admired for her naturalism, Marilyn had a long-standing fascination with Italian stage actor Elenora Duse. Photographs from 1951 and 1952 often show her framed picture of Duse placed conspicuously on her bookshelf or bedside table. Marilyn considered Duse’s commitment to art and refusal to compromise as inspirational, and these sentiments were echoed in her own career.

Even prior to her Strasberg tutelage, Marilyn had already established herself as a remarkable talent. In films like How to Marry a Millionaire and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, she had demonstrated her exceptional timing, musicality, and movement. Directors like Billy Wilder praised her aptitude for comedy, stating, “The greatest thing about Marilyn is not her chest…It is her ear. She can read comedy better than anyone else in the world.”

Marilyn’s earlier dramatic performances, such as in The Asphalt Jungle and Clash by Night, were also critically acclaimed, showcasing her emotional depth. Initially coached by Natasha Lytess, who was a student of Max Reinhardt, Marilyn had praised Lytess for her early guidance on Edward R. Murrow’s show Person to Person. However, due to Natasha’s interference of her private life and rumoured book about Marilyn, she was replaced.

Another key influence during Marilyn’s years with Lytess was Michael Chekhov, a student of Stanislavski and nephew of the famous playwright Anton Chekhov. Marilyn revered Chekhov, dedicating a chapter to him in her posthumously published memoir, My Story. According to Marilyn, working with Chekhov elevated acting from a profession to “a sort of religion.”

In Henry Hathaway’s Niagara, even though she wasn’t the lead, Marilyn dominated the screen, captivating audiences as both a femme fatale and a victim. Hathaway, known for being exacting with actors, lauded her, describing her as “marvellous to work with, very easy to direct and terrifically ambitious to do better.”

Marilyn was undeniably a skilled actress but yearned for roles that would offer her greater artistic satisfaction. During her final interview with Life magazine in 1962, she spoke candidly: “We not only want to be good; we have to be.” She also shared a personal anecdote about nervousness, revealing Strasberg’s insight that “nervousness indicates sensitivity.”

THE NEW YORK CHAPTER: REBIRTH, REBELLION, AND REALISATION

Despite having iconic roles in films like Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Marry a Millionaire, Marilyn felt both underpaid and pigeonholed. Her discontent led her to decline a role in The Girl in Pink Tights, resulting in a suspension from Fox Studios in 1954. Ultimately, she returned to the fold with There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954) and The Seven Year Itch (1955), a blockbuster that solidified her celebrity status, yet her dissatisfaction lingered. By late 1954, she had moved to New York City to establish Marilyn Monroe Productions with her friend and photographer Milton Greene announcing this formation to the press in January 1955.

It was during Marilyn’s time in New York, that Marilyn and the Strasbergs relationship began. Isaac Butler, in his seminal book The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act, indicates that Marilyn’s path to the Strasbergs was facilitated by theatrical producer and co-founder of the Actors Studio, Cheryl Crawford. According to Butler, “Crawford took a liking to Marilyn and brought her to the Actors Studio. Soon Marilyn began studying with Strasberg at Malin Studios.” Marilyn’s commitment was such that she eventually took private lessons from Strasberg, forming a familial bond with the couple and their family.

Butler also cites Lee Strasberg as claiming: “I made Marilyn an actress… even though she was already a star. I worked out her problems for her too.” Butler counters these statements as “dubious,” pointing out that Marilyn had already received considerable training before her association with the Strasbergs. Butler asserts that regardless of the debate, Marilyn herself believed she needed them, and their alliance unquestionably propelled both the Method acting approach and Strasberg’s Actor’s Studio to new heights of recognition.

Although not officially produced by Marilyn Monroe Productions, Marilyn enjoyed her newfound power and brokered a more favourable contract relishing increased creative control with her first collaborative project, Bus Stop. Distributed by Fox, Bus Stop was a pivotal film that allowed her to work with Paula Strasberg on set for the first time. Adding to the allure, the film’s director, Joshua Logan, was a Stanislavski protégé, a fact Marilyn relished.

Public and industry opinion initially scoffed at Marilyn’s bold career shifts, but perceptions evolved as her artistic ambitions became evident. A glowing 1956 cover story in Time magazine reported her enriching experience studying under Strasberg in New York. Notables like Elia Kazan praised her acting prowess, and Marilyn herself said, “For the first time, I felt accepted, not as a freak, but as myself.” Time’s profile concluded with tantalising glimpses into her future projects, like a TV adaptation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and her desire to play Grushenka in The Brothers Karamazov. The project had long been a dream for Marilyn, ever since she read the book in 1949. “That book was the most touching thing I’d ever read or heard of,” Marilyn recalled. “I asked Natasha whether it would make a good movie. She said yes, but not for me – yet.” Although an opportunity arose for her to take on the coveted role, Marilyn was compelled to decline. Discord between her business manager, Milton Greene, and her husband, Arthur Miller, coupled with Miller’s impending court case, created an untenable situation. Consequently, the film was ultimately released in 1958 with Maria Schell assuming the leading lady role that Marilyn had so deeply desired.

Marilyn’s shift to New York and her dalliance with Method acting significantly altered her image. No longer merely a Hollywood starlet, she became an emblem for actresses striving for artistic respect. Her actions emboldened others in the industry to challenge their typecasting.

NAVIGATING THE DEPTHS: MARILYN AND LEE STRASBERG’S METHOD

Lee Strasberg co-founded New York City’s Group Theatre in 1931 and took over as director of the Actors Studio in 1951. His techniques encompassed a range of practices including improvisation, sense memory, and affective memory. Strasberg even encouraged psychotherapy to delve into one’s personal history to evoke a more authentic emotional response on stage or screen. Marilyn, already in psychoanalysis, found some of these methods to be both revelatory and at times painful. Beyond the hyperbolic claim of making Marilyn an actress, Lee Strasberg noted in interviews that Marilyn “can call up emotionally what is required for a scene. Her range is infinite.”

Patricia Bosworth, who knew Marilyn through the Actors Studio and was a friend of Lee’s daughter Susan Strasberg, wrote about the intensity of these exercises in a Vanity Fair article. Marilyn would often follow her sessions with psychoanalyst Dr. Kris by visiting Strasberg for sense-memory exercises designed to tap into her “real tragic power.” Yet, delving into the memories of her early years as Norma Jeane Baker was often a painful experience. Marilyn once admitted to Susan that she would sometimes fabricate answers when Strasberg’s inquiries became too probing.

The question is: was the deep self-examination a catalyst for creative expression or a source of further emotional complications? Marilyn’s on-screen performances indicate a newfound depth, suggesting a positive impact. In a 1960 interview with Marie Claire France’s editor-in-chief, Georges Belmont, Marilyn revealed Strasberg’s transformative influence on her life: “Lee Strasberg, I think he probably changed my life more than any other human being that I’ve met.”

CONCLUSION

The complexity of Marilyn’s relationship with the Strasbergs and her journey through the world of method acting reflects not just her quest for artistic excellence, but also the nuances of her personal struggles and triumphs. Whether it was her evolving relationships with acting coaches or her courageous forays into challenging roles, Marilyn remained a compelling figure, constantly striving for more, both as an artist and a human being.

Marilyn Monroe’s “Chilling Call” to Jackie Kennedy

In 2023, biographer J. Randy Taraborelli claimed in his book Jackie: Public, Private, Secret that Marilyn Monroe had made a phone call to Jackie Kennedy in April of 1962. This revelation has sparked interest and speculation about the alleged interaction between the two iconic figures. However, upon closer examination and fact-checking, several discrepancies and uncertainties emerge regarding the details of this phone call and its context.

THE ALLEGED PHONE CALL

According to Taraborelli’s book, Marilyn Monroe called the Hyannis Port residence of John F. Kennedy, but Jackie Kennedy answered instead. Taraborelli suggests that Marilyn simply wanted to say “hello” to Jack, leaving Jackie “stunned.” Taraborelli claims that Jackie described Marilyn’s voice as “haunting” and noted its sad and ethereal quality. The book describes how Jackie’s sister, Lee Radziwill, was friends with Marilyn and had heard rumours about an affair with Robert Kennedy too.

INCONSISTENCIES

While Taraborelli presents this phone call as a pivotal moment, it is essential to consider the lack of concrete evidence supporting its occurrence. Without direct testimony or corroborating records, we must approach these claims with caution. Moreover, Taraborelli’s reliance on family members’ recollections adds an additional layer of uncertainty, as memories and perceptions can be influenced by time and personal biases.

Additionally, it is worth noting that J. Randy Taraborelli has faced criticism in the past for potential inaccuracies and errors in his biographies, particularly those related to Marilyn Monroe. This raises the question of the reliability and credibility of the information presented in his books. It is not uncommon for authors to embellish or create stories to generate interest and sell books, adding to the already existing rumours and speculations surrounding famous figures. For instance, the case of Allan Whitey Snyder, Marilyn’s makeup artist and friend, provided a foreword for Robert Slatzer’s book and shared tales with Anthony Summers about Marilyn and Slatzer’s alleged relationship despite a lack of substantial evidence. These instances serve as reminders to approach such claims with caution and to critically evaluate the sources and their motives.

DATES AND LOCATIONS

Taraborelli states that the alleged affair between Marilyn and John F. Kennedy occurred on March 24, 1962, during a weekend at Bing Crosby’s Palm Springs home. Which is the most accurate item in his statements. Jackie was in India and Pakistan at the time with her sister.

As for the phone call taking place in April 1962, historical records and newspaper reports from that time do not provide conclusive evidence of Jackie’s presence at Hyannis Port. Instead, official archives indicate that Jackie was engaged in official duties and travels in Washington, Palm Beach, and Arlington during that period. Marilyn’s telephone records, which have been publicly available, do not include the Hyannis Port phone number, further casting doubt on the claim.

LEE RADZIWILL

There is no evidence to suggest a personal relationship or direct interactions between Marilyn Monroe and Lee Radziwill, Jackie Kennedy’s sister. Marilyn and Lee belonged to different social circles, making it unlikely that they had a close connection. While it is possible that Lee may have heard rumours about an alleged affair with either Kennedy, the association between the Kennedys and Marilyn Monroe did not gain prominence until the 1970s.

JACKIE’S ABSENCE FROM BIRTHDAY GALA

Contrary to the claim made by Taraborelli, Jackie Kennedy’s absence from the famous event at Madison Square Garden, where Marilyn performed “Happy Birthday, Mr President,” was not directly related to any alleged phone call. Jackie had other engagements in Washington, D.C., and Virginia at that time. The event itself was a fundraiser, not solely a celebration of the President’s upcoming birthday. Jackie often left her husband to attend events solo whilst she took on her duty as First Lady.

While the alleged phone call between Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy continues to captivate the public imagination, it is crucial to approach the claims with scepticism due to the lack of concrete evidence and inconsistencies.

Historical records, official archives, and the absence of corroborating sources raise doubts about the veracity of the phone call and its significance. As with many historical accounts, separating fact from speculation can be challenging, and further research may be necessary to uncover the complete truth behind these intriguing claims.

You can read more about Marilyn and JFK here and Bobby here.

Who Is Robert Slatzer?

QUESTIONABLE FOUNDATIONS

It is essential to note that Slatzer’s purported connection with Marilyn primarily centres around their time on the set of the film Niagara. Slatzer managed to gain access to the set using his press pass, resulting in several photographs of him and Marilyn together. However, these photographs primarily depict their interactions during filming, and the evidence beyond that is limited.

Furthermore, the lack of additional supporting evidence, such as letters or documented interactions, casts further doubt on the depth of their relationship as portrayed by Slatzer. While he possesses a signed photograph, it is plausible that he obtained it during his time on the set rather than through a personal connection with Marilyn.

Many have stated Marilyn would not have posed this way with a fan however Marilyn often took photos with fans, co-stars, crew and photographers in a “familiar” fashion.

THE FLAWED MARRIAGE NARRATIVE

One of Slatzer’s central claims revolves around his alleged marriage to Marilyn in October 1952, followed by an annulment at the studio’s behest. However, inconsistencies emerge that undermine this narrative. During that period, Marilyn was romantically involved with Joe DiMaggio, and there is no credible evidence to suggest any romantic liaisons with other men. Moreover, records indicate Marilyn’s presence at a party hosted by Photoplay on October 3, 1952, and a receipt from JAX department store in Beverly Hills shows clothing purchases on October 4th, which contradicts Slatzer’s claims of being with Marilyn in Mexico on those days.

SLATZER’S MEDIA APPEARANCES

Slatzer’s frequent mentions in the press during the time he claimed to be connected to Marilyn raise doubts about his credibility. Marilyn was known for her wariness of those who sought to exploit her fame, which seems to be exactly what Slatzer attempted to do. Reports of his attempts to woo Marilyn through phone calls and mail, as well as his mention in various publications, add another layer of scepticism to his claims.

ALLAN “WHITEY” SNYDER

In the 1970s, Marilyn’s personal makeup artist and friend, Allan “Whitey” Snyder, wrote the foreword to Slatzer’s book, seemingly indicating a close relationship between Slatzer and Marilyn. While some fans attribute Snyder’s endorsement to naivety or being deceived by Slatzer, Anthony Summers’ biography reveals quotes from Snyder that suggest a familiarity between Marilyn and Slatzer and how Marilyn “always loved him”. However, there is no other documentation, mention in phone books, or letters from either Marilyn or Slatzer that corroborate their close connection. Furthermore, other friends of Marilyn have made no mention of Slatzer’s involvement.

INVOLVEMENT OF A MARRIAGE WITNESS

Slatzer’s claim of having a boxer friend serve as a witness to his marriage to Marilyn adds further doubts to his story. The boxer, Noble “Kid,” Chissell initially supported Slatzer’s claims but later admitted to lying due to financial pressures – accepting a mere $100 for the lie. Additionally, Slatzer’s assertion of having interviewed Pat Newcomb for his book is contradicted by Donald Spoto, who confirms that Newcomb denied ever meeting Slatzer.

THE CONFIDENTIAL ARTICLE

In Anthony Summers’ book, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, a Confidential magazine article from May 1957 is mentioned that appeared during Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller, discussing her connection with Robert Slatzer. Summers notes that Slatzer himself confirmed the contents of the article. While the article does not mention a marriage, it does acknowledge that Marilyn and Slatzer knew each other, lending a degree of credibility to Slatzer’s connection with Marilyn. However, it is important to realise that Slatzer embellished other aspects of his tale, further raising doubts about his overall credibility.

CONSIDERING MARILYN’S PRIVACY AND ACTIONS

An interesting opinion, albeit not from a specific source, suggests that once the article in Confidential hit the stands in 1957, Marilyn would have severed all ties with Slatzer if they had known each other to begin with. Marilyn was fiercely protective of her privacy and had previously cut off friends (Natasha Lytess) for breaching her trust. It is plausible that the article in Confidential insinuating a sexual relationship would have greatly angered her. Furthermore, Marilyn’s actions during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl, where she fired her butler and maid for revealing details about their cottage’s decor, demonstrate her unwavering commitment to maintaining her privacy and safeguarding her personal life.

SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE

In 1991, Robert Slatzer claimed to have revealed 12 new images of Marilyn Monroe from the set of the unfinished film Something’s Got to Give in 1962. However, it’s important to note that the credited photographers from the set are well-established professionals such as William H. Daniels, Charles Lang, Franz Planer, Leo Tover, and Lawrence Schiller, with no mention of Slatzer. These photographers are recognised for their work on the film, lending credibility to their involvement.

While Slatzer did present these images as evidence of his presence on the set, there is little definitive evidence to support his claim. None of the photographs features Slatzer alongside Marilyn Monroe, and there is no independent corroboration or documentation to verify his presence on the set. Given these factors, it is reasonable to approach Slatzer’s assertions with cynicism and rely on established and credited sources for accurate information regarding Marilyn Monroe and the production of Something’s Got to Give.

However, even if he did manage to get on the set just as he had done with Niagara, this does not necessarily mean he had a personal connection to Marilyn.

CONTROVERSIAL BOOK AND CONSPIRACY THEORIES

In 1974, Slatzer published a book that aimed to provide an intimate account of his alleged marriage and friendship with Marilyn. The book also delved into controversial conspiracy theories surrounding Marilyn’s death, implicating the Kennedy family. However, these claims are met with scepticism. Slatzer’s attempts to have an article published on Monroe’s death conspiracy were rejected by a journalist, and witnesses cited in his book later admitted to fabricating their involvement. Furthermore, there is a lack of evidence supporting the notion of a lifelong relationship between Slatzer and Marilyn.

SELLING MARILYN’S ITEMS

In a troubling pattern of exploitation, Slatzer even attempted to sell items purportedly belonging to Marilyn, using photos of himself alongside her as the only evidence of provenance.

This practice raises significant concerns about the authenticity and legitimacy of the items in question. Without proper documentation or corroborating evidence, relying solely on photographs of Slatzer with Marilyn as proof is highly dubious. It is essential to exercise caution when evaluating such claims and to demand more substantial evidence before accepting any items as genuine Marilyn Monroe artefacts.

The attempt to profit from Marilyn’s fame through the sale of items tied to her name, with weak or nonexistent provenance, further highlights the need for careful scrutiny and critical analysis when engaging with the complex web of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia. Preserving the integrity and authenticity of her legacy is of utmost importance, and it is crucial to approach claims of ownership with caution until supported by rigorous documentation and evidence.

SCHOLORARY CONSENSUS

The claims made by Slatzer are widely disputed by Marilyn Monroe’s biographers and historians. The inconsistencies, contradictions, and lack of substantial evidence cast doubt on the authenticity of his alleged relationship with Marilyn. The prevailing scholarly consensus suggests that Slatzer’s accounts are likely fabricated or exaggerated for personal gain.

The story surrounding Robert Slatzer and his connection to Marilyn Monroe remains enshrouded in controversy. While Slatzer presented a narrative filled with intrigue, his claims lack substantial evidence and are marred by inconsistencies. The scholarly community widely rejects his assertions, dismissing them as potentially opportunistic fabrications. As we continue to explore the life and legacy of Marilyn Monroe, it is essential to approach such claims with a critical eye, relying on credible evidence to separate fact from fiction.

Evaluating Marilyn Monroe’s Inner Circle

Marilyn Monroe’s inner circle was a select group of individuals who held a special place in her life, even though the composition of this circle often reflected the complexities of her relationships. While some were tied to her through marriage or employment, the connections they shared with Marilyn were marked by loyalty, honesty, and a range of dynamics that shed light on different facets of her life. Marilyn’s relationships comprised a diverse array of friendships, each contributing to her life’s tapestry. Their individual recollections, when woven together, offer a multi-dimensional portrait of Marilyn Monroe—a woman who navigated fame, creativity, and personal complexities with a select group of individuals who knew her intimately.

MILTON & AMY GREENE

All I did was believe in her. She was a marvelous, loving, wonderful person I don’t think many people understood. – Milton Greene

Milton Greene, a renowned photographer, is often regarded as one of Marilyn’s closest friends. Their friendship began in the early 1950s, and Milton captured many iconic images of Marilyn. While rumours of romantic involvement between them exist (coming from Milton), there is little evidence to support this claim. Considering Marilyn’s relationship with Joe DiMaggio at the time, it seems unlikely that a romantic affair occurred. However, speculation remains.

Milton’s wife, Amy Greene, was also close to Marilyn (another reason an affair seemed unlikely). Their friendship appeared to be amicable, with Marilyn even conducting interviews at their home and living with them for a short time.

Their friendship began to deteriorate, reportedly triggered by Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller. Amy Greene, Milton’s wife, recounts, “Arthur was always jealous of Milton, which is interesting in a way. Arthur had another life. Why should he be jealous?”

The rift in their friendship became more pronounced in 1956 during the filming of The Sleeping Prince. Marilyn felt betrayed by Milton’s growing closeness to Laurence Olivier, with whom she was having difficulties on set. Arthur’s correspondence during 1956 emphasised his desire for control in Marilyn Monroe Productions (MMP) and his belief that Marilyn need not maintain a personal relationship with Milton.

A final photoshoot of Marilyn and Milton occurred in January 1957, coinciding with escalating tensions within MMP. Both Arthur and Milton traded blame for the struggles faced by MMP. Despite the accusations, no substantial evidence implicating Milton was presented. Marilyn found herself torn between her loyalty to her friend and business partner Milton and her husband Arthur, ultimately siding with the latter.

News of Marilyn’s death in 1962 reached Milton while he was in Paris. He held the belief that Marilyn did not intentionally take her own life. Her passing deeply affected him, given the closeness they shared and the unresolved conflicts. It’s regrettable that Milton and Marilyn did not reconnect after her divorce from Arthur, leaving questions about unexplored possibilities.

Can Milton’s account be considered a credible source of information about Marilyn and her life? Pertinent sources do not suggest he had a penchant for sensationalism, apart from unverified claims of a potential affair, which Amy Greene, the primary source of such anecdotes, has not implied.

Although some stories may have surfaced in Milton and Amy’s later years, it’s important to differentiate between sensationalism and plausible accounts. Amy herself has contradicted several claims on camera that have been made in books.

ALLAN SNYDER

Allan “Whitey” Snyder shared a profound friendship with Marilyn spanning over a decade. He first worked on her makeup for her 1946 screen test, maintaining this role until 1962. This enduring partnership stood out as one of the few stable relationships in Marilyn’s life.

Their connection was marked by its sweetness and depth. Beyond their professional collaboration, Marilyn entrusted and confided in Whitey. She even reportedly asked him to do her funeral makeup in case she passed away before he did, to which he responded with a playful remark, “Sure, drop off the body whilst it’s still warm.”

Marilyn’s sense of humour shone through in a gift she bestowed upon Whitey – a gold money clip engraved with the words, “Whitey Dear, While I’m still warm, Marilyn.” This whimsical gesture culminated in the sale of the clip for over $21,000.

While their bond was strong, it’s worth noting that Whitey wrote the foreword for Robert Slatzer’s controversial book, raising questions about his honesty. He also made contentious claims about Marilyn’s alleged “affair” with Slatzer which has since been proven to be false.

Synder wrote: “Quite often while I was making her up she would tell me Bob sent me his best or mention that they had just talked on the phone or even tell me about a date she had with him that night…In my opinion, she always loved him very much.” 

Despite these complexities, he was among the few individuals who could provide insight into Marilyn’s mental state during her final weeks, given their enduring connection. In the time leading up to her passing, he remarked, “Since her divorce from Arthur Miller, she’s been in her best condition for a long time. She’s happy!”

Whitey Snyder’s role extended beyond friendship; he served as both a pallbearer at Marilyn’s funeral and her makeup artist, fulfilling his promise to her. It is unfortunate however that he promoted a false relationship with someone who caused Marilyn much grief in her life (and death) with his lies.

RALPH ROBERTS

During Marilyn’s filming of Let’s Make Love in 1959, Ralph Roberts stepped in as a reliable friend, often coming to her aid during the late hours of the night or early morning. He began providing her with massages to alleviate tension and insomnia, forming a close bond with her.

Their friendship provided Marilyn a safe space to discuss a variety of topics, from relationships and politics to her body, movies, and acting. Ralph’s presence became a source of comfort, and his significance in her life extended to a minor role in The Misfits as the ambulance driver who tends to Montgomery Clift in the rodeo scene.

After Marilyn’s passing, Ralph penned a memoir titled Mimosa chronicling their deep friendship. Despite his efforts, the memoir struggled to find a publisher due to its lack of sensational content. Eventually, excerpts from Mimosa were shared on a family website following Ralph’s own demise. In November 2021, the story of their profound friendship was finally released to the public.

In the realm of Marilyn’s associates, Ralph and Whitey stand out as trustworthy voices. Their testimonies offer insights into a side of Marilyn that many never got to see. In a circle where many remain silent, they emerge as figures whose accounts can be relied upon to provide a genuine understanding of Marilyn’s life and character.

SIDNEY SKOLSKY

Sidney Skolsky, a gossip columnist and friend of Marilyn since her rise to stardom, walked a fine line between journalism and friendship.

While his profession often involved creating stories, Marilyn may have understood the nature of their friendship and the potential publicity benefits it could bring.

Therefore, it’s important to approach Skolsky’s accounts with caution and cross-reference his claims with other reliable sources. While some of his articles and gossip snippets may be harmless, it’s necessary to discern between verifiable interviews and potentially fabricated narratives.

NORMAN ROSTEN

She was a difficult woman, you know. We liked her and we said the nicest things about her and she deserved them; but, she was trouble and she brought that whole baggage of emotional difficulties of her childhood with her. – Norman Rosten

Norman Rosten, a poet and playwright, was friends with both Marilyn and Arthur Miller. Marilyn met Rosten in 1955 and even vacationed with him and his family, wrote to him regularly and entrusted him with her poetry.

His long-standing relationship with Marilyn allowed him to witness aspects of her life beyond the glamour of stardom. Rosten’s firsthand knowledge and close friendship with Marilyn make him a credible source for understanding her personal struggles and aspirations as stated in his book Marilyn: An Untold Story.

His observations, along with other reliable accounts, provide valuable insights into the complex woman behind the public image. Rosten remained loyal to Marilyn commenting on the callousness of After the Fall by Arthur Miller as well as stating that Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio “should have had the happily ever after among her three marriages.”

Rosten even wrote some poems about Marilyn after her passing.

 

Pat Newcomb

At the core of her, she was really strong… and that was something we tended to forget, because she seemed so vulnerable, and one always felt it necessary to watch out for her. – Pat Newcomb

Pat Newcomb, who briefly worked as Marilyn’s publicist during the filming of Bus Stop, and then again in the 1960s, developed a close friendship with her.

Pat supported Marilyn during difficult times, including her divorce from Arthur Miller. Her frankness and honesty about Marilyn’s well-being, as well as her emotional outburst upon hearing of Marilyn’s death, highlight the depth of their friendship.

While Pat has remained private about their relationship, her genuine concern for Marilyn’s well-being reinforces her reliability as a source.

EUNICE MURRAY

“It’s my feeling that Marilyn looked forward to her tomorrows.” – Eunice Murray

Eunice Murray, hired as Marilyn’s housekeeper in 1961 by Ralph Greenson, is a more complex figure within Marilyn’s inner circle.

While she may have had insights into Marilyn’s daily life, her conflicting statements and lack of consistency regarding Marilyn’s death raise doubts about her reliability. Murray’s devotion to Dr. Ralph Greenson, coupled with her personal insecurities, may have influenced her recollections.

It’s widely believed that Marilyn was considering relieving Murray from her duties on the day she passed away, along with Greenson. This has led to speculation that they might have been involved in her death. However, the idea of orchestrating a murder to retain employment seems counterintuitive and unlikely as an act of revenge. A more plausible scenario is that Murray’s desire to travel during the summer prompted Marilyn to dismiss her, accompanied by a financial settlement. There are indications that Marilyn was intentionally creating some distance from those she had relied upon, and it’s possible that Greenson’s attempts to dissuade her earlier in the day could have triggered her emotional state. Yet, the exact details remain enigmatic and open to speculation.

It’s important to approach her statements with caution and consider the inconsistencies when evaluating her credibility.

GEORGE BARRIS

“Marilyn certainly had a sense of humour. I subsequently followed Marilyn around for days, interviewing her and taking photos. She was great to work with.” – George Barris

George Barris stands as an enduring presence in Marilyn’s life, credited as a close friend and collaborator. Their connection is palpable in the photographs they created together, capturing Marilyn’s essence and allure. Barris’s lens documented Marilyn leaning out of a brownstone window on 61st Street in Manhattan, a chance encounter that blossomed into a series of iconic images. He recounts his initial glimpse of Marilyn from behind, an unexpected click of the camera’s shutters, and the ensuing laughter that broke the ice between them.

While Barris is renowned for photographing Marilyn in 1954 and 1962, the scope of their relationship is marked by these significant moments. He captured Marilyn’s last professional photographs before her passing, a testament to their bond. Barris and Marilyn shared aspirations of writing a book together, a project thwarted by her untimely death. Despite this, Barris carried on and eventually authored the book himself in 1995 with many of the excerpts being released just after she had passed.

The authenticity of their rapport is reflected in Barris’s presence at Marilyn’s funeral, a testament to the depth of their connection. However, it’s worth noting that personal perspectives, like that of Barris’s daughter Caroline, might colour the narrative. Barris has also made various claims about how Marilyn died and made offensive and prejudiced comments about Italians (namely Joe DiMaggio). This dimension of subjectivity should be acknowledged when interpreting their relationship.

NATASHA LYTESS

“My only protection in the world is Marilyn Monroe. I created this girl – I fought for her… Her faith and security are mine.” – Natasha Lytess

Natasha Lytess played a pivotal role in Marilyn’s life, serving as her acting coach from 1948 for a span of seven years. This association saw Marilyn honing her craft and evolving into the iconic actress she became. Natasha’s perspective on their relationship reflects both admiration and complexity.

Natasha’s accounts depict her instrumental contribution to Marilyn’s success, underscored by a sense of ownership over Marilyn’s talents. However, their relationship eventually frayed, driven by Marilyn’s decision to sever ties due to Natasha’s intent to publish a book about her. Despite this, Marilyn retained a semblance of decorum when speaking about Natasha in subsequent interactions.

Natasha’s portrayal of their relationship, at times infused with bitterness and even the claim of romantic involvement, demands a discerning approach. Marilyn’s own declarations about her sexual orientation cast doubt on this aspect. Natasha’s self-promotion and self-centeredness further colour her perspective.

LEE AND PAULA STRASBERG

“She can call up emotionally what is required for a scene. Her range is infinite.” – Lee Strasberg

The influence of Lee and Paula Strasberg on Marilyn’s life cannot be understated. Marilyn’s enrollment at the Actor’s Studio marked the beginning of a significant chapter in her career, placing her under the tutelage of these esteemed acting coaches. Lee’s observation of Marilyn’s depth as an actress and her ability to embody the emotional complexities of a scene speaks to the impact of their training.

The Strasbergs, especially Paula, became integral to Marilyn’s life, extending beyond mentorship to friendship. The dynamic, however, raises questions about professional boundaries as Paula often took precedence over directors on set. Their connection was further reinforced by their daughter Susan, who considered herself akin to Marilyn’s sister.

Despite their role in shaping Marilyn’s performances, their involvement in her personal life prompts reflection on potential exploitation. The Strasbergs’ prominence in Marilyn’s life is evident in their status as primary beneficiaries in her will, underscoring the depth of their connection.

JOE DIMAGGIO

“I could never talk about her. Never.” – Joe DiMaggio

Joe DiMaggio’s relationship with Marilyn Monroe spanned through tumultuous phases, reflecting the complexities of love in the spotlight. Their journey began in 1952 when they crossed paths and embarked on a two-year courtship, culminating in their marriage in 1954. Yet, the all-consuming glare of Marilyn’s skyrocketing fame cast shadows on their union, leading to their divorce by October of the same year.

Their intertwined lives saw periods of distance, with Joe’s baseball career and Marilyn’s cinematic ascension often at odds with the tranquillity they sought. A significant shift emerged in 1955 when Marilyn crossed paths with playwright Arthur Miller, sparking an affair that reshaped the landscape of her heart. The subsequent divorce from Miller in 1961 marked a pivotal juncture, as Joe and Marilyn’s friendship rekindled.

Publicly, Marilyn denied any romantic involvement with Joe, asserting that they were mere friends. However, Joe’s steadfast devotion to her remained unswayed. He proved a pillar of strength during her challenges, playing a pivotal role in her release from Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic. His unwavering commitment extended to facilitating her transition to a new home in Los Angeles, a testament to their unique bond.

In a heartrending twist, it was Joe who orchestrated Marilyn’s final farewell, at the behest of her half-sister Berniece Miracle. The depth of his love and respect for Marilyn was evident in his silent dedication to her memory after her passing. His discretion and reluctance to share intimate details with the public stand as a tribute to the intimacy they shared, upholding the sanctity of their connection.

The letters exchanged between Marilyn and Joe offer an unfiltered view of their relationship, untarnished by sensationalism. These private exchanges offer a poignant glimpse into their emotions, reinforcing the genuineness of their feelings. Through his actions and the candid insights found in their letters, Joe’s commitment to Marilyn emerges as a profound testimony to their enduring bond.

You can read more about Joe and Marilyn’s relationship here

 

ARTHUR MILLER

Arthur Miller and Marilyn’s relationship was marked by an encounter laden with passion and heartache. Their meeting, documented through Miller’s recollections and interviews, unfolded against a backdrop of Marilyn’s tears—a poignant response likely triggered by the recent passing of her agent, Johnny Hyde, in December 1950.

There are photographs of Marilyn engrossed in Miller’s literary works, and her public admiration for him was evident in interviews. Sidney Skolsky, a columnist and close associate of Marilyn, recounted her proclamation that she could envision herself marrying Miller someday.

Their relationship progressed while Miller was married to his long-time partner Mary Slattery, leading to a complex affair. The delicate balance of their relationship came into focus as it weathered challenges, ultimately leading to their engagement and subsequent marriage in 1956. However, like many unions, theirs encountered obstacles—such as the loss of their two unborn children, Marilyn’s addiction to prescription drugs, Arthur’s career struggles and Marilyn’s affair with co-star Yves Montand eventually leading to a divorce in November 1960.

Their relationship’s dynamics were noted by Ralph Roberts, who revealed Marilyn’s declaration of being done with Miller towards the end of filming The Misfits, punctuated by a vehement instruction from Arthur to leave. Miller’s later marriage to photographer Inge Morath followed, adding another layer to the complexities and a possible struggle for Marilyn’s already weakened mental state.

Critique of Arthur’s conduct after Marilyn’s passing sparks a spirited debate among fans. As a writer, Miller infused his words with romanticism and poetry, yet the play After the Fall, written during their marriage and released posthumously, drew both praise and criticism. Depicting characters with echoes of their relationship, ignited discussions about artistic expression versus taste.

Perceptions of Arthur’s trustworthiness oscillate, influenced by his writer role and connection to Marilyn. Through his letters, shades of jealousy and control emerged, underlining the intricate layers of their bond. As both wrestled with self-esteem, their journey remains an intimate narrative documented through their letters, shedding light on their vulnerabilities.

 

BERNIECE MIRACLE

In 1944, prior to her transformation into the iconic Marilyn Monroe, Norma Jeane first encountered her estranged half-sister, Berniece Miracle. Their meeting happened before Norma Jeane’s rapid rise to fame, and this encounter remained memorable, bridging the gap between their distinct life paths.

Over the years, their connection remained unbroken. In 1961, following Marilyn’s divorce from Arthur Miller and her cholecystectomy surgery, Berniece paid a visit to Marilyn’s residence in New York. This reunion held deep significance, showcasing the enduring strength of their bond.

Tragedy struck the subsequent year with Marilyn’s untimely passing. In her final will, Marilyn left Berniece £10,000, a testament to the lasting affection between them. Alongside Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn’s second husband, and Inez Melson, her business manager, Berniece played a pivotal role in arranging Marilyn’s funeral, underscoring the depth of their connection.

In an interview with ina.fr, Berniece shared her doubts about Marilyn’s death being a suicide. Recalling their last conversation, she revealed Marilyn’s excitement about her upcoming plans. Berniece recounted Marilyn’s enthusiasm for her new house and her involvement in designing curtains, highlighting her sense of anticipation and happiness.

To immortalize their unique relationship and shed light on their intertwined lives, Berniece collaborated with her daughter, Mona, to co-author My Sister Marilyn: A Memoir of Marilyn Monroe. Published on 1st June 1994—Marilyn’s birthday—this poignant memoir chronicled their rare shared moments. The book delved into not only their personal relationship but also the difficulties they faced due to their mother’s mental health struggles.

Within the pages of the memoir, readers gain insight into their shared upbringing marked by the absence of a stable maternal figure. Berniece and Marilyn found strength in each other, navigating life’s challenges through unwavering support.

Accompanied by a collection of exclusive photographs, My Sister Marilyn garnered accolades from critics, including Entertainment Weekly, which praised it as an invaluable portrayal of Marilyn. It remains the sole authorised biography of Marilyn’s family. Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that the passage of time may have introduced minor inaccuracies in the recollections documented in the book.

Despite maintaining a low profile, Berniece led a diverse professional life, serving as a manufacturing inspector, bookkeeper, and costume designer. Her existence was marked by unassuming dedication, rather than the pursuit of public attention. Tragically, Berniece passed away in Asheville, North Carolina, on 25 May 2014, at the age of 94, marking the end of a life characterised by a unique bond that transcended the challenges of fame and adversity.