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by Marijane Gray


“I’ve never fooled anyone. I’ve let people fool themselves. They didn’t bother to find out who and what I was. Instead they would invent a character for me.”

 Marilyn Monroe

There are very few deaths that garner rampant speculation and conspiracy theories, either at the time they occur or decades after the fact. John F. Kennedy and the grassy knoll. Natalie Wood and her mysterious drowning. The Black Dahlia and the puzzle of who actually killed her. Where Jimmy Hoffa might be these days. The difference between all these famous deaths and that of Marilyn Monroe is that each of the conspiracy theories surrounding them have to do with the circumstances and facts of the death itself, not the person who died. In the case of Marilyn, the speculation has evolved beyond the circumstances of her death into an outright character assassination: that she was a drug addict and alcoholic, that she was suicidally depressed over a failed career and failed love affair, that she was vengefully going to spill secrets to the press. In the years after her death, when few were still living to contradict these salacious stories  and defend her, a legion of opportunists, con men and outright liars surfaced to tarnish her image. Perhaps they were looking for money or fame for themselves, perhaps they were looking for some way to glom onto the Monroe glamour and legend, but all have done a terrible disservice to this remarkable woman. Even more unfortunately, documentary filmmakers and authors alike took their accounts at face value and now the lies have so permeated the public consciousness that they are accepted as fact. Illustrated are some of the more common lies oft-repeated about Marilyn Monroe and the mysterious circumstances of her death.


One would think something so simple as a time of death would be easy to determine, but not so with Marilyn Monroe. Reports vary widely from 8 p.m on August 4th to 3:45 a.m on August 5th, and everything in between. It is crucial to pinpoint the time of death because once that is established it becomes quite easy to dispel the accounts of the hangers-on who attempted to place themselves at the scene that evening. With the revelation of a new crime scene photo issued by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Homicide Division last year, the estimated time of death can be determined with an accuracy of within two hours- and it’s not when you think it is.

Differing accounts all list different times. Eunice Murray, Marilyn’s housekeeper, first said that she became alarmed and the actress was unresponsive behind a locked door around midnight. Then she changed her story to say it was at 3 a.m. Dr. Engelberg says he pronounced her dead at 3:35 a.m.The coroner’s report and  death certificate lists the time of death as 3:40 a.m. How could it be possible that her time of death was five minutes after she was pronounced dead, particularly considering that there is plenty of evidence that she had died far earlier?

Many are familiar with the photo of the police officer’s hand pointing to an array of prescription bottles on Marilyn’s nightstand. Until last year, few people realized that photo had been cropped and the full version of it shows Marilyn’s body lying in bed. As heartbreaking as this is to look at, it provides vital clues in unraveling the mystery of that night.  In the photo there is a dark blotchy discoloration evident on her back- this is lividity. Lividity is caused when the blood circulation ceases and it pools at the lowest points of the body. The pattern can only be altered if the body is moved within the first six hours after death,after six hours it becomes ‘fixed’ in place.  For it to be visible on her back while she was in a face down position, the lividity had to have been fixed in place which only occurs 6-8 hours after death. Since the photo had to have been taken between around 4:30 a.m (when police arrived) and around 6 a.m. when she was removed from the house, that gives us a very narrow time frame to work with. If we reasonably assume the photo was taken around 5 a.m, that will push our time of death back to between 8-11 p.m on August 4th.

When Sgt. Jack Clemmons arrived on scene he noted advanced rigor mortis. The undertaker Guy Hockett arrived at 5:40 a.m and also noted the advanced rigor mortis and estimated the time of death as being between 8 and 10 pm the evening before but was told to alter his report to match the witness statements.He said that the rigor mortis was so advanced that he had some difficulty maneuvering her onto the gurney that would take her to the mortuary van . Rigor mortis begins three hours after death, gradually increasing over a twelve hour period.  Full rigor mortis occurs approximately 0-12 hours after death, with advanced rigor mortis occurring about 6-8 hours after- again placing the time squarely between 8 and 10 p.m on August 4th.


A prevailing rumor is that an ambulance containing James Hall and Murray Leibowitz was called to Fifth Helena Drive and picked up a comatose Marilyn Monroe the evening of August 4 at 10:25 pm. It is then stated that Marilyn began coming around from resuscitation attempts by James Hall, but was interrupted by Dr. Greenson who then plunged a needle into her heart which resulted in her death. Depending on which version you read this either happened in Marilyn’s bedroom or in the ambulance. She was then either loaded into the ambulance or was already there, and on the way to Santa Monica Hospital the ambulance was ordered to turn around and return her body to her home. The head of the ambulance company, Walt Schaefer said in a 1985 BBC documentary “She was alive when she was picked up”.

There are several major flaws in this story. There are credible reports that a Schaefer ambulance arrived at the scene just after Pat Newcomb-which puts it at around 6  in the morning. Driver Ken Hunter testified at the 1982 inquiry at the DAs office that Pat was ‘standing outside screaming’, which matches accounts. He said he entered the room,could tell she was dead and that the body was cold. His partner Rick Stone touched her to confirm it. They were told the body would only be removed by the coroner and left.

James Hall is the one who claimed that an ambulance arrived early in the evening, picked up a comatose MM, and following orders from Greenson, who gave her a shot in either  the sternum or ribs depending on where you read it, and then  returned her to her home. However:

1. Walt Schaefer, the ambulance company owner was not present, has no firsthand account or documentation of a call being made, and did not ever make mention of this until that 1985 BBC documentary.

2. James Hall’s partner, Murray Leibowitz denied that they were at the house that morning.

3. The needle story: a needle of that variety would leave an enormous puncture wound due to the size of the type of needle required and where it was placed.Thomas Noguchi,who performed the autopsy,  and John Miner, the police investigator,  famously said there were no needle marks and one like that would have left a large puncture as well as damaged the underlying bones.  Also, for safety and hygiene reasons doctors are not permitted to keep those types of needles in their bags.

4. And this is the clincher….we’ve already established that lividity was fixed by 4 am when the first officer arrived on scene. This is not speculation, it’s clearly evident in the photos that she had fixed lividity on her back. That kind of lividity takes at least 6-8 hours to set in, which puts her time of death between 8-10 pm. James Hall claims to have been there at 10:25. Now, that can not be so because we already know she was deceased by that time from  the lividity that  shows that she had been on her back for a full 6-8 hours BEFORE 4 am. If her body had been moved the lividity pattern would have changed in a way that is impossible to intentionally manipulate.

In the early 80s, Hall was given a polygraph test about the events of August 4 and failed miserably. He was also paid $40,000 for an interview with The Globe newspaper. When complaints were made as to the truthfulness of Hall’s statements, The Globe’s editor said the story ”sells papers”.


While there is no denying that Marilyn had a near-dangerous dependency on pills, she was hardly the addled junkie that the media often likes to portray her as. Marilyn Monroe was both a terrible insomniac and had crippling anxiety, and only took doctor prescribed drugs for both. She did not use recreational drugs, although she did have a taste for champagne. In the 1950’s, it was commonplace for studio doctors to prescribe amphetamines  to get the stars to work for early morning calls, then subsequently prescribe opiates so they could get to sleep at night. Marilyn agonized over dreadful performance anxiety- she was so dumbstruck with fear at the idea of disappointing her audience, at being less than perfect, that she took anti-anxiety pills just to get herself on the set. She was terribly afflicted by insomnia- famously saying ‘Who said nights were for sleep?’.  At the time and as it’s repeated it’s thought of as a coy and sexy Marilynism, but once you know of the insomnia she suffered from it becomes a wistful plea for a good night’s rest.

By the early 1950’s Marilyn was taking her pills for anxiety and insomnia regularly, and by the late 1950’s she was unable to stop taking them. Rather than treat the source of her problems, the doctors simply threw ever increasing prescriptions at her, and trusting her doctors she took them without realizing the harmful effects. The doctors themselves were often naive to any potential harm.

In the last years of her life, Marilyn was taking chloral hydrate for sleep (already a rarely prescribe drug in the early 1960s), Nembutal and Seconal for anxiety and insomnia. Although her psychiatrist made very vocal claims that he was attempting to wean her off them, in reality he was prescribing unethically large amounts of pills. On July 25, she filled  prescriptions for 50 chloral hydrate pills and for 36 sulfathallidine, an antibiotic. On July 31, she was prescribed a refill of another 50 chloral hydrate pills-50 more pills only six days later! An egregious mistake on her doctor’s part that should have been investigated as medical negligence, at the very least. On Friday,
August 3, she was prescribed 25 Nembutal and 32 long-acting barbiturates.

People seem to think that because her official cause of death was barbiturate overdose that Marilyn was a heavy drug user, when in reality she was taking doctor prescribed pills for very real afflictions. Marilyn was not a partier, she was not a recreational drug user. She was a woman who was exceptionally mishandled by doctors she trusted.


While it is true that Marilyn had been dismissed from the set of her last, unfinished film Something’s Got To Give, the intentional smear campaign against her to paint it as her fault is utterly untrue. For years studio executives and documentary film makers led us to believe that Marilyn was sluggish, dazed, missing her lines and unable to perform. Unfortunately for them, recently released unedited footage from the film still exist – and contradicts everything they say. Marilyn appears at her absolute radiant best, clear eyed and bright, hitting her marks and performing perfectly while poised and elegant for endless retakes. Often cited is that she missed 12 out of 33 shooting days, but people rarely examine the reasons why. When shooting was set to begin Marilyn had been afflicted with chronic sinusitis, resulting in fever, headaches, and laryngitis. Studio doctor Lee Siegel told executives that she needed massive doses of antibiotics and should be on rest for a month but the brass at Fox didn’t have an ounce of sympathy. They wanted Monroe to work, and despite the pleadings of her doctor questioned whether she was really ill at all. On the days she reported to work, her director George Cukor would shoot endless and pointless retakes of the simplest of scenes. Twenty-seven takes of her ascending stairs. Four hours of shooting for a sequence that would be fifteen seconds on film. Five hours of her swimming in a pool, which caused her illness to return with a vengeance and with the addition of an ear infection.

Despite having told executives on April 9th that she intended to attend President Kennedy’s Birthday Gala in New York City and getting permission to attend, by the time May 19th arrived the executives were fuming that the film was ten days behind schedule and demanded that she not miss the day and a half of work that would be required for her to attend. Monroe defiantly went anyway.  Many believe that she was fired as a direct result of attending but that was not the case because she returned back to work the following week to film more sequences.

She fell ill again after three days of shooting, and again despite having doctors confirm  and falling well within the guidelines of Excused Absences in her contract, Monroe was humiliated by not only being publicly fired but by being sued by Fox for breach of contract. This was an especially harsh slight considering that during filming Cleopatra in Rome,temperamental  star Elizabeth Taylor had missed the first seven months of shooting due to illness and was coddled and pampered when she returned to work.

What is frequently overlooked in the scapegoating of Monroe and the speculation as to her mental state before her death is that she was rehired to complete the film. On July 12, 1962, Marilyn Monroe arrived at Fox Studios at 3:30 pm to attend a meeting discussing her reinstatement to Something’s Got To Give. She left that meeting with an agreement to a million dollar deal: $500,000 to complete Something’s Got To Give and another $500,000 for an additional movie. All lawsuits from Fox in regards to Monroe’s ‘breach of contract’ would be dropped and she was due to resume filming Something’s Got To Give in the fall, giving her a chance to rest the remainder of the summer. Monroe could not have been anything but happy about this contract, it paid her significantly more than she has been getting ( $100,000 a picture since her new contract of 1956, while her costars were paid many times more) and garnered her some hard won respect and validation. She would hardly have been depressed over her career just a few weeks after this victory.


Several people claim to have been the last ones to speak to Monroe on the night of August 4th. What wouldn’t garner more attention for oneself than to be the very last person to speak to Marilyn Monroe before she died? However, although there was already plenty of evidence that many of these people were not trustworthy or credible, they can be refuted beyond a shadow of a doubt because of the photo released by the Los Angeles Police Department. With time of death established. it shatters the accounts of that night from several people. Those who claim to have been the last to have spoken to her are:

Joe DiMaggio Jr. – In all likelihood, he is the person to have spoken to her last. He says he called her at 7 p.m after trying to reach her earlier in the day. He maintained a close relationship with his former stepmother and had called to tell her that he had broken off his engagement with his girlfriend. Monroe, who thought he was too young to be getting married, was delighted with the news. The phone call and her mood surrounding it were confirmed by not only her housekeeper Eunice Murray but by Joe Jr. himself in later interviews with police. He told them that she was cheerful and upbeat, and the time of his phone call was confirmed by police. Joe Jr. has much credibility- he never spoke of Monroe, never gave interviews about her, and although a lot of that can be attributed to his father, it is still worth noting that unlike many others Joe Jr has maintained respectfully quiet about her.

Peter Lawford – Peter Lawford, Rat Pack member and husband to Patricia Kennedy, stated in the 1970s that he had called Marilyn somewhere between 7:30 and 8 pm to invite her to a dinner party at his beachfront home. He said that when he spoke to her she was thick voiced and slurring, famously saying “Say goodbye to the President…and say goodbye to yourself, because you’re a nice guy…” before becoming incoherent, although his telling of the story and her ‘last words’ changed at times over the years. He then claims to have  had friend Milton Ebbins call Monroe’s lawyer Milton Rudin, who says he called at 8:30 and was answered by Eunice Murray who told him everything was fine.

This story seems more plausible than most, but it is also the one that can not be proven conclusively one way or the other. Lawford descended into alcoholism and drug abuse and that in conjunction with the changes in his telling of events casts some doubt on his truthfulness and credibility. If the account is true, it raises many questions as to why Marilyn was cheerful and optimistic when speaking to Joe Jr. but was slipping away half an hour later.

Sydney Guilaroff – In Donald Wolfe’s book, The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe, famed hairdresser Guilaroff is quoted as saying that he spoke to Marilyn between 8 and 8:30 and Marilyn ended the call by saying “You know, Sydney, I know a lot of secrets about the Kennedys.Dangerous ones.” Much of this story raises questions. If Lawford did speak to her between 7:30 and 8 pm and she sounded sluggish and incoherent before the line went quiet, how could it be that she was lucid and divulging about the Kennedys to Guilaroff less than half an hour later?

Jose Bolanos – A Mexican actor and filmmaker that Marilyn met on her trip to Mexico in February/March 1962 and later escorted her to the Golden Globes, Bolanos told police investigators that he had not seen Marilyn since June and had not spoken to her since early July. However, years later he started claiming that he had been the last to speak to her on the night she died and saying that he had “something shocking, something that will shock the world.” By all reputable accounts, Marilyn had stopped seeing him just after the Golden Globes, with the language barrier creating some problems between them. Not only did Bolanos never reveal his ”shocking’ revelation, he also claimed to have spoken to her at 9:30, which was not at all possible.

Louise DiMaggio – In her 2005 book, Marilyn, Joe & Me, June Alpino DiMaggio claims that Marilyn was on the phone with her mother Louise when suddenly there was a disturbance, Marilyn said the name of her killer, and then the phone went dead. June claims that Louise never divulged the killer’s name out of ”fear for her family’s safety.”

June DiMaggio is yet another person who never met Monroe but is trying to forge a career out of lying about being one of her closest friends. She legally changed her name to DiMaggio as an adult. She is not mentioned by any of Monroe’s friends, colleagues, staff or family. Her name does not appear in any of Marilyn’s address books, and there are no photographs together. Especially damaging to her credibility are her claims that can be so easily disproven. She says she rode in the limo with Joe to Marilyn’s funeral, but she is not on the extremely limited guest list and thousands of photos reveal she was not there. She claims to have made Monroe a pizza the day she died while autopsy results of stomach contents disprove that. She claims to have entered Marilyn’s house to retrieve the pizza pan at a time when the home was locked down during the police investigation. Although her credibility is nonexistant, she is yet another that lays claim to being connected to Marilyn’s last phone call. In her book, she writes; “Marilyn had been talking with her on the phone, Mother told me, when intruders entered Marilyn’s house. In her terror, Marilyn dropped the phone, but the killers never hung it up. Mother told me that she had heard it all–the voices in the room, the struggle, the silence….. ‎”How did the police know to come to me? I can only guess that Mother dialed 0 for the operator, got connected to the San Francisco police, who immediately called the Los Angeles authorities. Had it not been that way, Marilyn’s body wouldn’t have been discovered until 3:30 in the morning when her housekeeper arrived.”

There are so many things wrong with this account. The housekeeper didn’t ‘arrive’ at 3:30 a.m., by all accounts she has spent the night there. It also appears that she is trying to say that Louise was responsible for the police being notified shortly after Marilyn’s death when it is well known that they were not called until after four in the morning. These contradictions along with the other glaring untruths told by June can safely lead us to not believing a word she says.

Jeanne Carmen– Jeanne Carmen was a B movie actress who found a new career in pretending to have been Marilyn’s best friend, making the rounds of interviews and documentaries with ever more salacious stories. All this despite the fact that none of Monroe’s friends knew her, there is not a single photo of them together, there is no correspondence between them and Carmen’s name does not appear in any of Marilyn’s address books where she dutifully wrote down the phone numbers of everyone she knew. It is also highly unlikely that Marilyn would have sought out friendship with a woman like Carmen. Jeanne was boisterous,outgoing and always ready for a party whereas Marilyn preferred quiet evenings with the intellectual types. Marilyn’s insecurities and personality raise doubts to any truth behind a Carmen friendship, as Marilyn avoided women who she thought would divert attention from her-particularly blonde women. For two women who loved being photographed as much as Monroe and Carmen did, not a single photo of them together or at the same place at the same time exists.  Carmen claims to have spoken to Marilyn the night of August 4th, that Marilyn called her ”looking for pills” but Carmen was ”too drunk” to deliver them. Now, we already know that Marilyn had a plentiful supply of her sleeping pills. Interesting to note is that August 4th also happens to be Jeanne Carmen’s birthday. If Marilyn was really her ‘best friend’, wouldn’t she have been invited to her birthday party? Most damning is that Carmen claimed to have spoken to Marilyn at 10 p.m, and as was earlier established we already know that she was gone by then.Jeanne Carmen emerged out of the woodwork in the 1980’s to start divulging stories about Marilyn that grew in ever increasing sleaziness as they went on. None of Marilyn’s friends, staff, colleagues or verified associates give any credence to Carmen knowing Marilyn at all.



There are two prevailing conspiracy theories relating the Mafia to Marilyn’s death. One alleges that the Mafia killed her as retribution for Attorney General Robert Kennedy aggressively trying to take down organize crime. Alternately, it is claimed that the Kennedy’s themselves hired them to kill Marilyn. They not only contradict one another but neither is true, if you go by the account of the mobster who claims to have done it. Sam Giancana was the head of the Chicago mob and moved in show business circles. Although he and Marilyn were both friends with Frank Sinatra  and visited his Cal-Neva Lodge resort at Lake Tahoe, there is no evidence that Giancana and Monroe even met and at best they may have been passing acquaintances. However, if one believes the account of Giancana in his memoir Double Cross, you’d think he was responsible not only for her death but for orchestrating her entire career! In his book he makes this absurd, unsubstantiated, and
outlandish claim:

“Always on the lookout for potential stars, …..Roselli {a Mafia lieutenant} had been impressed by Monroe and told Mooney {Giancana’s nickname} so. From behind the scenes, Chicago quietly promoted her career….”

They go into no other details on how the Mafia supposedly steered her career from the beginning, probably because of the utter ridiculousness of it,but make several claims of Monroe being a drug addicted floozy who slept her way to the top. Claims like these are always distressing to the Monroe fan who knows just how much hard work and ambition she put into her career. He then claims that the CIA hired him to murder her. He states that a doctor gave her a shot in the early evening to ‘calm her down’, yet we know this is not true because of Thomas Noguchi famously saying that he went over her body with a magnifying glass and found no needle marks. They say they taped her mouth shut; evidence of that would have shown up later, both redness and tape residue. There was neither. They then attempt to claim that they killed her by drug-laced suppository. Unfortunately for their fables, they claim that they slipped into her house just ”before midnight”. As if everything else wasn’t patently absurd, we already know that Marilyn had died before midnight. Although accounts from braggadocio mobsters should be taken with skepticism to begin with, this one in particular has seemed to take on a life of its own and hopefully now this rumor can be laid to rest.



One of the most repeated rumors regarding Marilyn’s death was that she kept a ‘red diary’ where she jotted down the things she spoke about with John and Robert Kennedy, and that she was murdered either because of the contents of it or because she was threatening to hold a press conference to divulge everything about the ‘affairs’ after being rejected by both brothers. Both of these stories originate from Robert Slatzer, who met Marilyn once for about ten minutes but stretched that into a decades long career about lying about a relationship with Marilyn, going so far as to claim he secretly married her despite documents proving otherwise. He has been thoroughly and soundly discredited as a conman  by every reputable Monroe scholar, yet the lies that took root in his 1974 book continue to grow.

He claims that Marilyn kept a red diary where she would jot down national secrets supposedly told to her by the Kennedy’s. Although Marilyn was not a diary keeper, she did frequently jot down questions that came to her, lists for herself, and other random thoughts. However, as the recent book Fragments shows us in Marilyn’s own hand, she was not organized in her writings, nor was there any discipline or consistency to them. Her thoughts were written on hotel stationary, scraps of paper, and receipts. Even the closest thing to a diary that she had- a spiral notebook- is filled with thoughts with no cohesion or time consistency.

His claims about a press conference ‘to reveal everything’ is even more outlandish. Marilyn was not a vengeful or spiteful woman, she was discreet and tactful to a fault. She never spoke ill of anyone publicly, no matter how they had wronged her. She never said a cross word about any of her ex-husbands, about costars who had vilified her, she was always proper and discreet. Her character simply does not coincide with a vengeful woman who would spill secrets to the press, but moreover, this rumor was started by the insufferable Robert Slatzer in his nearly completely fictionalized account in his book.

Despite Slatzer having zero credibility and that he could have been very easily exposed as a fraud with a modicum of fact checking, he managed to get himself booked in nearly every Monroe documentary and quoted in most Monroe biographies throughout the 1980s. His lies have unfortunately permeated the public consciousness to the point that they believe them to be true simply because they’ve been repeated so often.

When examining the muddled mystery of the night of August 5th, 1962, one must carefully take into account where the information is stemming from. There are so many people that emerged to associate themselves with Marilyn Monroe one way or another, and if they couldn’t genuinely latch onto her they simply made up lies to get their names tied to hers. Unfortunately for the memory and legacy of a sensitive, intelligent woman who pleaded not to be made a joke, it is the more sensational stories that get repeated no matter how untrue they are.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column]

[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Sources: Marilyn Monroe:The Biography by Donald Spoto, The Marilyn Encyclopedia by Adam Victor, The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Sarah Churchwell, The Final Years of Marilyn Monroe by Keith Badman, Marilyn:The Last Months by Eunice Murray and Rose Shade,The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe by Donald Wolfe, The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe by Frank Capell, The Last Take by Peter Brown and Patte Barham, Double Cross by Sam and Chuck Giancana,Marilyn, Joe, & Me by June  DiMaggio,  “Say Goodbye To The President:Marilyn Monroe and the Lawfords’ by Tara Hanks, “The Slatzer/Carmen Connection” by Rebecca Swift, “The ‘Assassination’ of Marilyn Monroe’ by Mel Ayton[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1”]
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Copyright 2015 Marijane Gray for Immortal Marilyn