Mystery of Marilyn Monroe, The: The Unheard Tapes–Emma Cooper’s Documentary

Emma Cooper’s documentary explores the circumstances surrounding the star’s shocking death in 1962 at age 36.

Ahead of the premiere of Andrew Dominik’s fictionalized take on the life of Hollywood superstar, Blonde, Netflix is presenting the nonfiction feature, The Mystery of Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes.

That title suggests new material from various sources to clarify the controversy and conspiracy theories that have long surrounded Monroe’s death in 1962. But Emma Cooper’s film primarily regurgitates the findings of Goddess, Irish journalist Anthony Summers’ 1985 biography.

Monroe’s life, from glittering highs to crushing lows, would seem to be prime material for psychological re-examination in the post #MeToo age.

Anthony Summers, the author of the book Goddess (1985),[4][5] explains he began researching Marilyn Monroe after he learned that the Los Angeles County District Attorney was reopening the case of her death. Summers subsequently spent three years collecting 650 tape-recorded interviews with people who either knew Monroe in her lifetime or had knowledge concerning her death. The audio of the interviews is original, but actors perform lip-synced reenactments.

As Monroe began acting, she had affairs with powerful men who helped advance her career. Fellow actor Jane Russell notes Monroe had a particularly strong work ethic. However, Monroe suffered from poor mental health stemming from troubled childhood.

The daughter of an unstable mother who was in and out of psychiatric institutions, Norma Jeanne (her birth name) spent her childhood bouncing from orphanages to foster homes and was almost certainly sexually abused.

Monroe’s sad life, from glittering highs to soul-crushing lows, would seem to be prime material for psychological re-examination in the post #MeToo age.

The daughter of an unstable mother who was in and out of psychiatric institutions, Norma Jeanne, her birth name, spent her childhood bouncing from orphanages to foster homes and was sexually abused.

Monroe’s third husband, writer Arthur Miller, was affiliated with communism. Both he and Monroe were observed by the FBI, and the couple was known to socialize with communist American ex-pats while abroad.

As their marriage deteriorated, Monroe abused prescription drugs and became increasingly difficult to work with. In 1961, she and Miller divorced.

In 1954, Arthur James, who knew Monroe from Charles Chaplin Jr. in the late 1940s, saw Kennedy with Monroe, walking on the shore, near the Malibu pier, and drinking at the hangout, Malibu Cottage.

Monroe met the Kennedy family in early 1950s, when Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. was executive at RKO Pictures.

In the early 1960s, actor Peter Lawford and his wife, Patricia Kennedy Lawford, had beach house in Malibu, California, where they hosted social gatherings.

Monroe had affairs with both President John F. Kennedy and US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, often meeting them at the beach house.

Summers pieces together that Monroe was in a risky political position, as the Kennedy brothers would discuss with her current events including nuclear weapons testing. This was in 1962, during the height of the Cold War. Because of Monroe’s leftist politics, the FBI worried she could pass along or make public anything the Kennedys told her. As a result, the Kennedy brothers eventually attempted to cut off all contact with her.

Monroe’s death, on August 5, 1962, was ruled probable suicide.

The official timeline reports Monroe’s housekeeper, Eunice Murray, checked on Monroe around 3am and found the bedroom door locked. Murray called Monroe’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, who arrived around 3:30am, broke in through a window, and discovered Monroe was dead. Paramedics and police arrived at 4:25am. Her death was ruled a probable suicide due to drug overdose.

Summers discounts this timeline, as interview subjects corroborate a rough sequence of events, although there are discrepancies.

In this version, Monroe’s medical emergency began earlier that night. Her public relations manager, Arthur Jacobs, arrived at Monroe’s residence at 11pm. An ambulance was called, and Dr. Greenson rode with comatose Monroe as she was transported to a hospital. She either died at the hospital or on the way. Her body was returned to her house, where she was placed in her bed and “discovered” in the early morning hours.

Private investigator Fred Otash and surveillance expert Reed Wilson claim they were hired by Peter Lawford to clear Monroe’s home of any evidence that connected her to the Kennedy family before police and reporters arrived.

Despite Summers having accumulated information that was previously unknown about Monroe’s death, he doesn’t believe she was murdered. He maintains Monroe died by suicide or an accidental drug overdose. He suspects any type of cover-up was due to her connection with the Kennedy brothers.

In 1982, the Los Angeles district attorney ended its review of the case and upheld the original recorded cause of death.

Interview subjects: In order of appearance

Al Rosen – agent who knew Monroe early in her career

Gloria Romanoff – friend and owner of Romanoff’s restaurant

Jane Russell – actress who costarred with Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

John Huston: filmmaker who directed Monroe in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and The Misfits (1961)

Danny Greenson – son of the late psychiatrist Ralph Greenson

Joan Greenson – daughter of Ralph Greenson

Hildi Greenson – widow of Ralph Greenson

Billy Wilder: filmmaker who directed Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like It Hot (1959)

Gladys Whitten – hairdresser on The Seven Year Itch (1955)

Peggy Feury: actress who knew Monroe from the Actors Studio

Henry Rosenfeld – close friend and dress manufacturer

Arthur James – property developer and longtime friend

Milton H. Greene: photographer and partner in MM Productions

Sydney Guilaroff – hairdresser on The Misfits (1961)

Jeanne Martin – actor and wife of Dean Martin

Fred Otash – private investigator

Robin Thorne – nurse to George Cukor, who directed Monroe in Let’s Make Love and in the unfinished film Something’s Got to Give

John Danoff – private investigator for Fred Otash

Angie Novello – personal secretary to Robert F. Kennedy

Natalie Trundy as Natalie Jacobs – wife of Arthur P. Jacobs, public relations manager for Monroe

Ken Hunter – ambulance attendant for Schaefer Ambulance

Walt Schaefer – owner of Schaefer Ambulance

John Sherlock – writer and journalist

Bill Woodfield – photographer and journalist

Harry Hall – law enforcement informant

Reed Wilson – surveillance expert who worked with Fred Otash

Eunice Murray: Monroe’s housekeeper

Jim Doyle: senior FBI agent

Peter Lawford: actor and husband of Patricia Kennedy Lawford