Lifetime aired Part Two of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe. Was it an accurate depiction of her life? Not hardly. Keep reading to see where they embellished and outright lied.
Marilyn Meets Joe DiMaggio
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe Part Two opened with Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) first date. Unfortunately, that started things out in a confusing fashion, as part one ended with the Photoplay awards on February 9, 1953, and Joe and Marilyn’s first date was in March 1952, nearly a year before. This disjointed and error filled chronology set the pace for the entirety of the second installment of the movie.
Marilyn and Joe were not alone on their first date…it was a double date with David March, who introduced him, and his date Peggy Rabe. Their evening was interrupted by Mickey Rooney making a pest of himself trying to talk baseball with Joe, not the intimate date portrayed in the film.
Marilyn did drive Joe back to his hotel, but she did not spend the night with him. By her own account, they drove around talking and getting to know one another. In fact, she turned him down repeatedly for subsequent dates before finally agreeing to see him again.
Joe DiMaggio and Gladys
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe has a scene of Marilyn bringing Joe to meet her mother in Rockhaven Sanitarium. There is no record of this ever actually happening and was completely fabricated. Having Gladys tell Joe that Marilyn could not have children was especially jarring, as not even Marilyn knew that as early as 1952. She suffered from endometriosis and underwent surgery to repair it in November 1954, after she’d already separated from Joe.
Marilyn marries Joe DiMaggio, January 14, 1954
Marilyn and Gladys
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe quite embellishes Marilyn’s relationship with her mother, considering she barely had one. The film shows Marilyn visiting Gladys at the sanitarium fairly regularly, chatting with her about the events of her life, and Gladys seeming to still care about her despite her mental illness.
In actuality, while Marilyn provided for Gladys’ care both during her lifetime and after her death, she nearly never saw her as it was too painful. Gladys was cold, unemotional, and withdrawn, and on early visits was described as staring blankly at Marlyn without responding to her. The movie actually tries to insinuate that they bonded over shared delusions, which never occurred.
Marilyn hired Inez Melson to oversee Gladys’ care in 1951. Correspondence between Inez and Marilyn shows that Inez would often update Marilyn on how Gladys was doing, as Marilyn did not see her. Gladys would often send Marilyn very hostile letters, enclosing razor blades in the envelopes, and on Marilyn’s very few early visits with her she was liable to turn violent or berate her. It became too difficult for Marilyn, and while she always provided for Gladys financially she did not visit with her.
Marilyn and Grace Goddard
Grace Goddard (Emily Watson) was a central figure in Marilyn’s early life, but The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe greatly exaggerates her role. Grace did look after Gladys, and at times took in Norma Jeane. She became her legal guardian in 1936. However, she also left her in an orphanage for two years, shuffled her around to different foster homes, and then moved to West Virginia with her husband, leaving Norma Jeane with the choice of a teenage marriage or going back to the orphanage. There are also rumors and allegations that Norma Jeane was molested by Grace’s husband, Doc Goddard.
Many believe that Marilyn was resentful towards Grace for these reasons, and there were very few visits with her between 1949 and 1951. Marilyn did help pay for her medical treatments for cancer by sending checks, but rarely saw her. Marilyn also was not aware that Grace had committed suicide by overdosing on barbiturates, she thought she had died in 1953 from uterine cancer. It was only in 1979, when Marilyn’s sister Berniece requested a copy of Grace’s death certificate that the truth was known. The scene of Marilyn supposedly overdosing accidentally on Grace’s medication was a complete fabrication…it never happened.
Gladys Baker (left) and Grace Goddard (right). Unknown date.
Marilyn and Natasha Lytess
Natasha Lytess (Embeth Davidtz) was Marilyn’s acting coach from 1948-1954, from Ladies of the Chorus until The Seven Year Itch. The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe Part 1 shows Joe Schenck making a phone call and demanding that Marilyn be assigned to the drama coach; however, Natasha didn’t even work for Fox at that time-she was a drama coach at Columbia Studios, to whom Marilyn had been loaned for Ladies of the Chorus. She wasn’t a result of any special favors from studio heads, she was a result of simply making a film at Columbia Pictures.
Natasha was a very controversial figure, often undermining the director as well as Marilyn’s confidence, and was frequently banned from the set which would cause Marilyn to go into a panic.
While the movie is accurate in showing the conflict between Natasha and Joe, it gets both the chronology and the reason for her dismissal wrong. In the movie, Marilyn lets go of Natasha after her marriage to Arthur (post-1956), when she actually had replaced her with acting coach Paula Strasberg in 1955. The movie has Marilyn saying she’d simply ‘outgrown’ her, but in reality Natasha frequently demanded money from Marilyn, including to pay her mortgage, buy a car, and pay for her daughter’s dental work. Finally, when Natasha asked for more money and Marilyn refused, Natasha threatened to go to the tabloids with a tell all. Marilyn, who could not abide betrayal, refused to speak to her again.
Natasha Lytess and Marilyn Monroe, on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Marilyn and Arthur Miller
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe portrayed her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller (Stephen Bogaert) in the same disjointed fashion, adjusting chronology as it suited the filmmakers and not as it actually happened.
Marilyn did not cheat on Arthur with Joe DiMaggio, she resumed contact with Joe after her divorce from Arthur in 1960.
Marilyn did actually find Arthur’s diary left open, where she read hurtful things about his feelings towards her, but this happened in England in 1956 while she was there filming The Prince and the Showgirl.It was not in New York while she was pregnant.
While Marilyn did become pregnant while married to Arthur, the scene of her slipping into fearful delusions with a maid was egregiously false and has no factual basis whatsoever. She also did not frighten a maid into leaving her employment.
This leads us into one of the most disturbing and false depictions in the film. After Marilyn has a miscarriage, the film portrays her as having a psychotic break, believing she’d actually had a baby. This never happened. It then goes on to have Arthur cruelly telling her that she ‘murdered’ his child. Any Marilyn fan who knows how devastated both Marilyn and Arthur were over this loss cringed at this fabricated scene. The film also has Arthur telling her that she will not have an opportunity to do this again, however, in reality Marilyn became pregnant again in 1959 while filming Some Like It Hot. Sadly, that pregnancy also resulted in a miscarriage. Even more hurtful to Marilyn’s memory is the knowledge that her miscarriages and ectopic pregnancy were more a result of her debilitating endometriosis. Putting the blame on her for what was one of the most agonizing events of her life is reprehensible.
Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller at home in Roxbury, Connecticut during her 1957 pregnancy.
Marilyn’s Mentality, Part Two
Part 1 of this miniseries portrayed Marilyn and mental illness in a way that was disrespectful to both it’s subject and those who suffer from mental illness. Part 2 took it completely over the top. Marilyn didn’t break with reality, the screenwriters did.
Once again, Marilyn did not ever show any clinical symptoms of the paranoid schizophrenia that her mother had. She did not hear voices. She did not imagine that anyone was trying to poison her. She did not indulge in paranoid fantasies. This simply did not ever happen.
Marilyn was admitted to Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in 1960, however, the way it was shown in the movie is not factual. Her admittance followed a very difficult time for her, following a second miscarriage, divorce from Arthur, the grueling shooting of The Misfits, and mourning the death of Clark Gable. Marilyn was overwhelmed and exhausted, and her psychiatrist Dr. Kris recommended she admit herself for ‘rest’. Once she realized what kind of facility she was in, Marilyn wrote: “Dr Kris has had me put into the New York Hospital – psychiatric division under the care of two idiot doctors – they both should not be my doctors. I’m locked up with all these poor nutty people. I’m sure to end up a nut if I stay in this nightmare – please help me…. I do not belong here.” Even the doctor that admitted her, Dr. Kris, later spoke of what a mistake she had made in putting her there.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor and National Certified Counselor, as well as the author of Icon: The Life, Times, and Films of Marilyn Monroe, Volumes One and Two, Gary Vitacco Robles has this to say about Marilyn Monroe’s mental state:
” I see no evidence of Marilyn experiencing hallucinations in her documented history. Her paranoia seemed more personality and interpersonally driven. I invite those interested to google the DSM diagnosis for major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. The criteria for each requires a certain number of symptoms and time frames for many of them.”
Marilyn and John F. Kennedy
What’s a Marilyn movie without rehashing the same old myths and lies about Marilyn and the Kennedys? Thankfully The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe excised the falsehoods about an affair with Bobby Kennedy, and correctly indicated that there was only one possible opportunity for an intimate tryst (May 24, 1962 at a party at Bing Crosby’s Palm Springs home) instead of the falsely reported affair, but that’s where the accuracy ended.
The movie paraded the same old tired trope that has been thoroughly debunked and disproven time and again. Marilyn did not have delusions of grandeur of Kennedy leaving his wife to marry her, she only met him four times! The majority of the fabrications about Marilyn and the Kennedys can be traced back to a single discredited source, Robert Slatzer, who also lied about being secretly married to her, of all things. For more on Slatzer and the damage he has caused to Marilyn’s memory, please read this excellent article by Rebecca Swift: http://www.immortalmarilyn.com/TwilightSlatzerCarmen.html.
Marilyn was not obsessed or delusional about John Kennedy. She did not frantically make phone calls to the White House, as her phone records prove, she did not have breakdowns over rejection from him. This portrayal of her is not substantiated by any credible person who actually knew her. Respected biographer Donald Spoto wrote: ” Donald Spoto wrote : “No serious biographer can maintain the existence of an affair between Marilyn and the Kennedys. All we can say for sure is that the actress and the President have met 4 times, between October 1961 and August 1962, and it was during one of those meetings, that they called to a friendly relation of Marilyn from a bedroom. ”
Marilyn did not receive a personal phone call from Kennedy inviting her to participate in the birthday gala, she received a formal invitation to appear, and the correspondence was via the assistant to the president. (http://www.cursumperficio.net/CD/NJ/Pap/Oth/Oth5.jpg)
Marilyn did not give John Kennedy a gift of an engraved gold Rolex watch, either. Although an engraved watch was sold at auction in 2005 for $120,000, this was proven to be a fake. The serial number on the watch proved that it was not manufactured until 1965, after both had died.
For more facts about Marilyn and JFK, please read this article by another member of the Immortal Marilyn staff: http://www.buzzfeed.com/geepig/marilyn-monroe-and-jfk-12bnq
May 19, 1962: Marilyn Monroe performs at Madison Square Garden at John F. Kennedy’s birthday gala. This is one of only four times they were in the same place at the same time.
What Lifetime Left Out…….
Numerous major events and important people in Marilyn’s life were completely ignored in the Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe. While obviously not every detail can be covered even in four hours, here are some of the most glaring absences:
Ana Lower: An elderly aunt of Grace Goddard, Norma Jeane lived with Ana off and on from 1937 to 1942. The most influential woman in Marilyn’s life, Marilyn said about her: “She changed my whole life. She was the first person in the world I ever really loved and she loved me. She was a wonderful human being….She was the only one who loved me and understood me. She showed me the pate to the higher things of life and she gave me more confidence in myself. She never hurt me, not once. She couldn’t. She was all kindness and all love. She was good to me. ”
Korea: In 1954, Marilyn had the greatest highlight of her life when she took time to entertain 100,000 US soldiers in Korea while on her honeymoon with Joe. She said about the experience: ” “I never thought I had an effect on people until I was in Korea. It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
Milton Greene: Photographer Milton Greene was both one of Marilyn’s closest friends as well as her business partner. He took many of the most recognizable and iconic photos of her. He encouraged her to take charge of her career and partnered with her to launch her own company, Marilyn Monroe Productions. Marilyn even lived with him and his wife after walking out on her contract at Fox.
The House Un-American Activities Committee: When Marilyn began her romance with Arthur Miller, he was under investigation by the HUAC for alleged ties to Communism. Marilyn famously risked her entire career to loyally defend Miller.
Lee and Paula Strasberg: When Marilyn left California to come to New York, she began attending the famed Actor’s Studio. She took private lessons with Lee, and Paula replaced Natasha as her personal acting coach. Marilyn worked her to perfect and study acting to be the best she could be, and her time spent under the Strasberg’s influence had major impact on the direction of the rest of her life.
Some Like It Hot: Arguably one of the best films of Marilyn’s career, it is often lauded as a comedic masterpiece and frequently ranks near the top of lists of the best comedies of all time. Marilyn had difficulties on the set, but was cinematic magic onscreen.
By Marijane Gray