Natasha Lytess: Friend or Foe?

Read almost any biography on Marilyn and you will find Natasha Lytess’s name. Why? If you were to ask Natasha she’d claim it is because she made Marilyn famous. You will also read how after more than 20 pictures together, Marilyn cruelly shunned her acting coach of eight years. But was it really like that? Did Marilyn simply cut off someone who had supported her for almost a decade?


Natasha Lytess aka Natalia Postmann was born in Berlin and immigrated to Los Angeles after the Nazis came to power in Germany.

After failing at her own acting career in the States, she became a drama coach with students such as Mamie Van Doren and Virginia Leith.

In April 1948, she was assigned a new student at Columbia pictures where she was employed. The starlet was working for six months at the studio and had been offered acting classes. The 21-year-old, whom she described as, “in a shell” had a voice that “voice got on my nerves” was Marilyn Monroe.


Natasha began working with Marilyn in 1948, for her supporting role in Ladies of the Chorus teaching her how to talk and act on screen.

After their first movie together, Natasha started to give Marilyn private and intensive coaching prior to all her auditions. They worked three days and nights a week rehearsing for The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and when Marilyn got the part, Lytess quit her role at Columbia to coach Marilyn full-time.

John Huston was the first of Marilyn’s directors to have Natasha guide Marilyn through almost every scene. Dealing with her reliance on her drama coach was a habit which he witnessed again in 1960 when directing her in The Misfits.

Many directors who worked with Marilyn throughout the years experienced immense frustration when she would often turn to her dramatic coaches for approval (or disapproval) as opposed to the directors themselves. You can witness her glance over at Natasha at approximately 1:10 in this scene.

Jean Negulesco became so frustrated from shooting retakes, he banned Natasha from the set of How to Marry a Millionaire. However, Marilyn refused to work without her present feeling as if without Nattasha she wouldn’t be able to perform. He relented and Natasha was back, sitting next to or closely behind Negulesco shaking her head when she disapproved of a scene, causing Marilyn to call for another take.

Billy Wilder would end up telling Natasha what he wanted from Marilyn and who would relay it to the actress. This early habit became an occupational hazard for directors in years to come, sabotaging many of Marilyn’s business and personal relationships. This style of working would provide a sense of dread for the cast and crew who worked with her as having the coaches on set was more of a hindrance than a benefit to her acting and confidence.


In the fall of 1950, Marilyn moved in with Natasha, her daughter and maid where she and her coach could work continuously on her craft. However, this was undoubtedly a confined lifestyle for Marilyn, giving her little time for herself or anyone else.

Stories have been released over the years, even from Natasha herself, implying that there was a romantic relationship between the two. “I took her in my arms one day, and I told her ‘I want to love you.’ I remember she looked at me and said, ‘You don’t have to love me, Natasha – just as long as you work with me.’”

This claim is contrasted by the fact that Natasha admitted to not finding Marilyn beautiful and that she had had a face “as wooden as a ventriloquist’s dummy… She was tense and apprehensive, utterly unsure of herself.”

Marilyn stated in her autobiography, My Story, that she was most certainly heterosexual, “Now having fallen in love, I knew what I was. It wasn’t a lesbian.”

When Marilyn’s agent Johnny Hyde died, Marilyn sold her mink stole that he gifted her in order to help Natasha financially whilst still paying Natasha for private tutoring. 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.

Despite being closely monitored by Natasha, in 1952, Marilyn had begun dating Joe DiMaggio, much to Natasha’s dismay, and she wasn’t afraid to say how she felt about the baseball star. Natasha “disliked him at once. He is a man with a closed, vapid look.”

This opinion however didn’t phase Marilyn, who went on to marry Joe “the often morose baseball star-with-muscles” in 1954. It was after the completion of The Seven Year Itch that year that Marilyn stopped taking Natasha’s calls and refused to see the woman who was her “only protection in the world”.


Marilyn had been belittled and exploited by Natasha for eight years before she finally broke off their relationship – both working and personal.

In 1952, when she was still working with Marilyn, she openly admitted “She was very inhibited” and “unable to take refuge in her own insignificance”. 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 own publicity. For example, in 1954, she was a secret guest on What’s My Line? as Marilyn’s dramatic coach. One has to wonder if she asked Marilyn’s permission to appear on the show or whether she did out of her own desire to be known as the woman who “put the world at her feet”.

Not only did Natasha seem to control Marilyn on set but the relationship was borderline obsessive. “I created this girl – I fought for her… I am her private property, she knows that. Her faith and security are mine.”

It is said and can be believed based on patterns of behaviour, that the driving force behind the end of the relationship was Natasha planning on writing a book about Marilyn.

Many have blamed Joe DiMaggio for this professional break-up and that he attempted to drive a wedge between Marilyn and Natasha. However, the couple split up soon after The Seven Year Itch was completed. If Marilyn had felt the need for support during the divorce proceedings, Natasha would’ve been the first person by her side.

Alas, Marilyn had completely shunned her former teacher and was in the process of divorcing the man Lytess openly loathed. Marilyn was ready to head East leaving Hollywood, Natasha and her marriage behind her. She wanted to start afresh.

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. The “one of the few women in Hollywood who has worked with Marilyn closely for many years” can only be Lytess because who else? This source stated “Marilyn Monroe doesn’t know her own mind” and was “unhappy while she was married to Joe DiMaggio”. The piece continues to drive at Marilyn’s miserable marriage which clarifies that Natasha was still happy to continue discussing private matters that weren’t hers to divulge.

Despite Natasha’s years of catty remarks, Marilyn 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’s 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 was her pathetic attempt to give herself some sense of purpose and to be recognised as somebody when really, all she did was exploit her student.

Part II: Marilyn’s Peers: Who Can We Trust?

Finding reliable sources is a tricky job, especially when those sources are meant to have been friends or close in some way to Marilyn Monroe. But who within Marilyn’s circle of friends or her acquaintances can be deemed as reliable and who can’t?

This is a sensitive topic because a few of these people are still alive OR have families who are still very assured by their relative’s version of the truth. This is all completely my own opinion based on what I have read and researched. It’s important to remember with any post, I have not read every book, seen every interview etc. so some of those mentioned may have said things untrue and vice versa. But we are generally speaking when talking facts here! I don’t think all of those with stories about Marilyn are intentionally lying when they are making errors. Some definitely are but I will mention those when the time comes… 

Here are some of the people that “knew” Marilyn and are therefore often immediately deemed as trustworthy sources… But are they?

It is important to remember that people’s memories, especially over time can adjust the narrative to how things really are. It’s human nature so I don’t necessarily believe that all of those who have told inaccurate stories are doing it intentionally.


ALLAN WHITEY SNYDER – Makeup artist & friend

Whitey knew Marilyn for over a decade and was a very good friend to her. He first did her make-up for her screen test in 1946 all the way up until 1962, showing a continuous stable relationship, one of the few she had.

Marilyn’s relationship with Whitey was beyond sweet, to say the least. He worked with her, yes but she also confided and trusted him, even asking her to do her funeral makeup if she passed away before he did. He joked and said, “sure, drop off the body whilst it’s still warm.”

Marilyn had a sense of humour, and as a joke apparently bought him a gold money clip with the engraving, “Whitey Dear, While I’m still warm, Marilyn.” The clip sold for over $21k.

Although Marilyn and Whitey were close, he did write the foreword for Robert Slatzer’s highly questionable book not to mention he made many contentious claims about Marilyn and Slatzer’s “affair”.

He never believed Marilyn killed herself (intentionally), and is possibly one of the few people that can attest to her mental state in the final weeks of her life seeing as he knew her longer than many of her peers. He stated not long before she died, “Since her divorce from Arthur Miller, she’s been in her best condition for a long time. She’s happy!”

Whitey was a pallbearer at her funeral as well as her make-up artist, as promised.

RALPH ROBERTS- Masseuse & friend

Like Whitey, Ralph was a reliable friend who always came to Marilyn’s aid when she needed him, which turns out would be in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning.

Whilst Marilyn filmed Let’s Make Love, Ralph began giving her massages. This helped relieve her tension and insomnia. During this time she opened up to Ralph discussing relationships, politics, her body, movies and acting. Ralph became one of Marilyn’s closest friends and even played a small part in The Misfits (the ambulance driver who treats Montgomery Clift at the rodeo scene).

When Marilyn passed away Ralph wrote a memoir, Mimosa, about their friendship. Due to the content not being sensational enough, he was unable to find a publisher. Extracts from Mimosa were posted on a family website after Ralph’s own death and in November 2021 the story of their friendship was released.

Ralph and Whitey are probably two of the only people whose testimonies about Marilyn’s life I trust other than Joe and Pat (who never really said ANYTHING). They knew a side of Marilyn that many did not.

SIDNEY SKOLSKY – Columnist & friend

As part of his job as a columnist, Sidney would have made up some stories about Marilyn; it was his job. But it is just as likely Marilyn knew this came with the territory of being friends with a gossip columnist. Again with many articles and books by those who knew her, we need to cross reference and fact check claims. But overall Sidney’s articles and gossip snippets are quite harmless. Let’s not forget that she would be able to successfully use her friendship with Sidney as a publicity tool also!

One claim that does create some bizarre questioning is that apparently, on the day Marilyn and Joe were married, she told Sidney that she was going to marry Arthur Miller. Not a likely thing to do on your honeymoon… But still, it sells. So take his tales with a pinch of salt, unless of course, it is an actual interview.

NORMAN ROSTEN – Poet & friend

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

Marilyn met Norman in 1955 through friend and photographer, Sam Shaw. He was a poet and a playwright, friends with Arthur Miller as well as Marilyn. He is one of the few people who knew about their affair before it went public and remained friends with the couple throughout their marriage.

Marilyn went on vacations with the Rostens, including their daughter Patricia and shared a special bond with the family. Marilyn had even left $5000 for Patricia’s education in her will.

Marilyn would often send her poems to Norman and even hired his wife Hedda to be an assistant. She was part of the Miller’s entourage in 1956 when they were in England.

Even after her divorce from Arthur, Marilyn and the Rostens remained friendly.

They knew the real Marilyn, the side of her that wasn’t dripping in jewels or coiffured. They knew the sensitive woman who wished to fit in with intellectuals and poets, not the movie stars. The Rostens, again, had no sensationalized tale about their friend, only stories about her very human qualities.

PAT NEWCOMB – Publicist & friend

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 worked for Marilyn briefly in 1956 during the filming of Bus Stop. There were rumours of an alleged falling out but in 1960 when Rupert Allan (Marilyn’s publicist) moved to Monaco to represent Princess Grace, he was replaced with Pat with no objections.

Marilyn was very generous to Pat, gifting her a mink coat and a car. Pat in turn was there for Marilyn as more than a publicist but as a friend, staying by her side through some of her toughest times including her divorce from Arthur Miller.

Pat had shared her opinions on the likes of Greenson and Eunice Murray, complaining they were too interfering and controlling of Marilyn, being frank and honest about Marilyn’s wellbeing. However, Pat is most well known for being with Marilyn on her last day alive, before Greenson had told her to go home.

When Pat had discovered news of Marilyn’s passing she went to the property in Brentwood still in her pyjamas, and screamed at photographers “Keep shooting, vultures!”

When asked how she was feeling, Pat retorted, “How would you feel if your best friend died?”

Despite working tirelessly to field press inquiries the Arthur Jacobs agency had decided to fire her due to her outburst.

Pat is particularly private and has only discussed Marilyn, her last day alive and their relationship briefly. But it’s clear from what she has said and how devoted she was to Marilyn, that their friendship was genuine.

EUNICE MURRAY – Housekeeper

It’s my feeling that Marilyn looked forward to her tomorrows.

Eunice Murray

Eunice Murray was hired by Ralph Greenson in 1961 as Marilyn’s housekeeper and, many say, “spy”. She would report Marilyn’s coming and goings as well as who called and who she called to the man who hired her (although Marilyn was the one who paid her salary).

Mrs Murray, like Marilyn, was incredibly dependent on Greenson due to her own personal insecurities and messy past.

It is widely believed Marilyn was going to relieve Murray from her duties the day she died, as well as Greenson, hence the rumour that perhaps they were responsible for her death… However, it would seem counterproductive to murder someone if you wanted to stay employed by them and it’s unlikely they would’ve pursued this action as a form of revenge. The likely situation is that due to Murray wanting to travel that summer, Marilyn dismissed her and wrote her a cheque. It is indeed rumoured she was distancing herself from those she depended on and Greenson may have upset her that afternoon in his attempts to dissuade her, but this will remain a mystery and cannot be up for debate.

But can Mrs Murray be trusted? Well, I feel Eunice has only really had opportunities to discuss Marilyn’s death (considering she was the one in the house with her) and not much else. Her opinion and her relationship with Marilyn will be defined by that factor alone. She was an elderly woman, who may just have gotten the information incorrect or confused about Marilyn’s death. It’s also likely she wanted to protect Greenson from his negligence (although it was Engleberg who prescribed the drugs). Again, due to her devotion to Greenson more than Marilyn and her confusion and grief, I wouldn’t say she was a reliable source. She was never consistent with her statements regarding Marilyn’s death, and over the years just went along with the popular theory of that decade.


Jeanne Carmen was an actress who later came to biographer Anthony Summers stating she was Marilyn’s best friend. As well as Robert Slatzer, Summers’ book is largely based on their testimony. A major red flag… Why did he not check their claims?

She claimed Marilyn knew mobsters, that she herself met Bobby Kennedy (no records, dates or general proof of this) and that they lived in the same street (again, no records)… This list goes on.

Jeanne never even met Marilyn Monroe. There is no reference to Jeanne in Marilyn’s possessions such as letters, phone books, or photos and there’s no mention in any press clippings. There is no proof Marilyn even knew who she was let alone were best friends. She claims all of her photos of her with Marilyn were lost in a fire… sounds fake, right? You can read more about Jeanne Carmen here.

So, can she be trusted?


  • José Bolaños (screenwriter) – Knew Marilyn for a hot minute, claimed they were going to get married and adopt. Unlikely…
  • Colin Clark (third assistant director on The Prince and the Showgirl) – Colin barely saw Marilyn at all due to her entourage preventing outsiders and her lack of interest in anyone but Arthur. My Week With Marilyn was written for monetary gain and fame only. His dates on significant events occurring are the biggest tell of his unreliability. Considering these were meant to be diary entries at the time, there should be no opportunity for errors to be made.
  • Peter Lawford (friend) – His name is often associated with Marilyn’s passing however what he actually said and what is claimed are two separate things. He may have never said half of what is claimed. Either way, him being concerned about Marilyn on the night she died, but not actively doing anything other than calling people must have weighed heavily on his conscious. Due to inconsistencies and half of the claims not even coming from Peter himself, he would not be deemed a trustworthy source. You can read more about that here.
  • Walter Winchell and Dorothy Kilgallen – Gossip columnists who loved to stir the pot… Dorothy seemed to have an obsession with putting down Marilyn and putting conspiracies front and centre. Winchell (oddly, a friend of Joe DiMaggio’s) loved a bit of drama. Again, if any articles come from them it’s unlikely to be anything other than gossip. They weren’t close to Marilyn like other journalists were.

Marilyn and Her Pets

When you Google search “Marilyn Monroe’s Pets” it’s very obvious that she wasn’t afraid of dogs! From a young age, Marilyn was incredibly affectionate towards animals. Her first husband, James Dougherty said that Norma Jeane loved animals so much that she had been upset about seeing a cow in the rain. She had even tried bringing it to the house. Needless to say, Jim denied this request.

Over the years Marilyn came to own many pets, all of which she adored.


Tippy, next to Marilyn’s last pet, is possibly the most well-known.

Tippy was a black and white mixed breed dog adopted by Norma Jeane in 1931 whilst she was living with her foster family, Albert and Ida Bolender. He was the centre of the little girl’s world. Unfortunately in 1933, Tippy was killed, traumatising the child.

There are two speculations on his death. One was that he was hit by a car, which is what a Bolender relative had told Norma Jeane. Another was that because of his barking, a neighbour shot him in the head. The latter was told by Ida to give comfort to Norma Jeane that he died instantaneously and with little pain.

Either way, it is said Norma Jeane had found the body on the driveway where Ida had kept him until her husband returned home to proceed with the burial.

Norma Jeane’s grief and disbelief that he died painlessly seemed to have been a contributing factor to Norma Jeane’s removal from the family as she is said to have been inconsolable and paranoid of lying.


In 1943, whilst married to James Dougherty, Norma Jeane adopted a stray Collie named Muggsy. They lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Avalon, a place where Norma Jeane had few friends. Muggsy made a good companion whilst Jim was working with the Merchant Marines.

In 1945, Norma Jeane had started taking her modelling career more seriously, something her mother-in-law had criticised. Norma Jeane had been living with Ethel Dougherty whilst Jim was travelling since 1944 but Norma Jeane left her and Muggsy to live with Aunt Ana Lower.


May 17, 1950, California, Beverly Hills, Marilyn Monroe.

Josefina was gifted to Marilyn Monroe in 1950 for her twenty-third birthday by the chairman of the studio, Joseph Schenck whom the dog was named after.

The chihuahua was included in a photo session Marilyn had with Earl Leaf that same year at Johnny Hyde’s home (her agent) where she had been living.

That autumn Marilyn had moved in with Natasha Lytess (her acting coach), bringing Josefina. She was feeding her calves liver and bought her an expensive quilt blanket to sleep on.

Sadly, after Johnny Hyde passed away in 1951, Marilyn had to move into the Beverly Carlton Hotel, as Natasha was unable to afford rent (Marilyn had even sold her mink coat from Johnny to help Natasha). The Beverly Carlton did not permit dogs so Marilyn had to put her beloved pet up for adoption.

Below are photos of the new owner (Mrs Smithe) and “Josefa” with another dog, also called Tippy. This shows Marilyn was still in contact with the new owners two years after giving Josefina as the photos were dated June 1953. It’s not true that the dog died less than a year after being in Marilyn’s care.

Heritage Auctions note that the dog was given to Marilyn in 1948 but this is incorrect. The pencilled annotations on the Eastman Agency card show the date 14th April 1944 and therefore relate to a different set of photos as Josefina was not owned by Marilyn until 6 years later.


In 1956, when arriving in New York, Marilyn had two carriers. One contained a dog (which we will discuss shortly) and the other, a cat called Mitsou. Mitsou had fallen pregnant and Marilyn had supposedly become insufferable, giving her friends updates on the feline and pampering the pet to excessive lengths. According to Norman Rosten, he had considered changing his telephone number. Susan Strasberg had said Marilyn would play classical music and made a special bed for her pet.

The cat delivered several kittens but delivering the kittens wasn’t easy for Marilyn. She had telephoned Norman Rosten asking him to come over and help but instead, he said for her to name a kitten after him, gave her his love and hung up. She tried the veterinary surgeries but they didn’t believe the frantic woman on the other end of the line, claiming to be Marilyn Monroe was serious. Eventually, Marilyn managed to get her publicist Lois Weber Smith to contact a vet the next day.


Marilyn and Hugo in 1957. Photo by Sam Shaw.

Along with Mitsou, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller owned a Bassett hound named Hugo (who Arthur nicknamed Flash). During her marriage to Arthur, they would spend a large amount of their married life in a rustic house in Roxbury. Hugo was photographed with Marilyn and Arthur on several occasions in both Amagansett (where they lived in the summer of 1957), Roxbury and Manhattan.

She would write to her step-children Bobby and Jane from Hugo’s perspective updating them on his goings-on. Marilyn also photographed the children playing with the lovable pooch.

Letter to Bobby from “Hugo”
Bobby Miller and Hugo

In 1958, when Marilyn’s depression worsened, Marilyn felt Hugo was also feeling depressed. His vet recommended some whiskey which Norman Rosten witnessed Marilyn delivering to him on a spoon to help lift his spirits. As he stumbled around, Marilyn was concerned about his genitals due to his short legs, telling him to be careful. Marilyn decided to look elsewhere for remedies out of concern that he would hurt himself.

She said to Georges Belmont for Marie Claire in 1960: “I get up about eight-thirty or so, and sometimes when I’m waiting for our breakfast to be ready- we have an excellent cook – I take my dog, Hugo, for a walk. But when the cook is out, I get up early and fix Arthur’s breakfast because I think a man should never have to fix his own meals. I’m very old-fashioned that way.”

In 1960, Arthur got custody over Hugo, as they were to continue living in the country whilst Marilyn took possession of the city apartment.


Whilst living in Roxbury, Marilyn and Arthur bought a horse named Ebony from Frank Taylor and his wife. Taylor had published Arthur’s first novel and the family had become close to the Millers.

Marilyn and Arthur also owned a couple of parakeets, Butch and Clyde. It’s said that Butch could talk and during a flight once shouted, “I’m Marilyn’s bird!”

On 18th August 1958, Marilyn’s business manager Inez Melson, wrote to Marilyn discussing the birds and how their training is going.

Now about “Butch” and Clyde. I’m beginning to think that perhaps “Clyde” should be “Claudia”. I’m almost certain that it is a little hen. She is a very nervous bird and isn’t taming as quickly as Butch. However, she is much tamer than she was… Both birds are absolutely darling.

Pat loves them and Butch is fond of Pat. Will do more for him than for me. We let each of them out each day for a stay on the play pen and they love it… A few evenings back, they were all on the play pen, Josie, Bobo, Butch and Clyde… Your children are going to love the birds and have lots of fun with them.

Pat is Inez’s husband. Inez owned two parakeets herself, Josie and Bobo.


In 1959, Marilyn and Arthur began to have an abundance of pets. Not only did Roxbury have a horse, dog and parakeets, they also acquired a pregnant Siamese cat, which Marilyn christened Sugar Finney, named after a character in a folk novel. She assisted Sugar Finney in delivering her kittens in the kitchen. Not only did Hugo write to Arthur’s children but so did the cat!

Hazel Washington was Marilyn’s personal maid


After the divorce from Arthur Miller in January 1961, Marilyn was given a poodle, maltese mix puppy. One story is that the pup was raised by the housekeepers of artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant in Scotland. Then supposedly, Natalie Wood’s mother, Maria Gurdin purchased him and had the dog shipped to California.


However, on the American Kennel Club’s forms, Maf’s breeder is listed as Maria S. Gurdin of Van Nuys, California dated January 16, 1961 with the father being Andre du Bois and the mother being Shoo-Shoo.

The purchaser of Maf is also a mystery. One story goes that Frank Sinatra bought the puppy from Gurdin and gave him to Marilyn. Another, and more likely story in my opinion, is that Pat Newcomb (who was also publicist for Natalie Wood) bought the puppy for Marilyn for company after her divorce.

Marilyn and Maf by Eric Skipsey in 1961

In March/April 1961 the dog was named ‘Mafia’ by Marilyn, a tongue-in-cheek reference to Frank Sinatra who was rumoured to have underworld connections. His name was then shortened to ‘Maf’, or ‘Maf-Honey’.

I had also considered that perhaps when Marilyn saw Maria’s name on the paperwork, she read it as “Mafia” and thought it would be funny to name him as such.

Maf’s NY dog licence from 1961 and LA license 1962
American Kennel Club form

In August 1961, Marilyn moved back to LA with Maf (the same Doheny Drive apartment block she had lived in almost a decade ago) across the street from Frank Sinatra’s secretary, Gloria Lovell.

At the end of that year, Marilyn posed with Maf at the Beverly Hills Hotel for photos with Eric Skipsey.

In March 1962, Marilyn moved from Doheny to Brentwood to a modest hacienda. The guest house would double up as Maf’s home, where he slept on a beaver coat Arthur Miller had gifted her. Maf was required to sleep in the guest house due to his barking at the wind at night, disturbing her already failing sleep habits.

Marilyn would throw the ball around the garden each evening for Maf to return to her as the sun went down. This routine occurred on Marilyn’s last evening alive before she put him to bed in the guest house.

After Marilyn’s death in August 1962, Maf was adopted by Gloria Lovell her friend and ex-neighbour. It’s believed Maf died after being hit by a dairy van in 1974.