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How Did Marilyn Monroe Die? New Documentary Looks into Mysterious Death of Hollywood Icon

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When one thinks of old Hollywood, inevitably an image of Marilyn Monroe comes to mind. The ‘blonde bombshell’ lit up the screen and skyrocketed to fame to become one of the most famous and heralded actresses of not only of her time but even ours today.  Books, feature films, and documentaries are still being made about her life, and mysterious death, and the latest documentary, “The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes,” now available on Netflix, explores the behind-the-scenes life of Marilyn Monroe – née Norma Jean Mortenson – through interviews conducted with those who knew her.

Monroe was only 36 years old when she died via a sleeping pill overdose in August 1962 in her Los Angeles home that she had purchased just six months earlier.   At the heart of the debate surrounding her death is whether the overdose was accidental or suicidal.  While ruled an accidental suicide in 1962, the case was reopened 20 years later only to be reaffirmed as a drug overdose.

Fascination with Monroe’s life has much to do with her marriages to former baseball player Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller, but also her reputed romantic relationship with President John Kennedy and his brother, Bobby.  As FoxNews reports:

The last person known to have talked to Monroe before her death was Peter Lawford, an actor who was married to Pat Lawford, one of the Kennedy brothers’ sisters. The couple was friends of Monroe’s. Lawford talked to Monroe over the phone that night, and she told him, “Say goodbye to Pat. Say goodbye to the president. And say goodbye to yourself because you’re a nice guy.”

The new documentary is the result of hours of interviews – 650 to be precise – by writer Anthony Summers, a biographer and author of the book, “Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe.” Summers spoke with and recorded people connected to Monroe, some in a large way, some transitory, and these tape recordings are revealed for the first time publicly via the documentary which Summers also narrates. Summers himself concludes that Monroe died by suicide or an accidental overdose, as the reports show, but admits that evidence suggests there was some sort of cover up due to her connection to the Kennedy brothers.

One of the interviews Summers conducted was with the family of Monroe’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson who became close to the actress during Greenson’s treatment of her. Monroe allegedly told Greenson’s wife and daughter that she was seeing a man she referred to as “the general,” the assumption being she meant Attorney General Robert Kennedy as she spent time with him at Peter and Pat Lawfords’ house in Malibu. While details on the relationship between Monroe and the Kennedy brothers are mostly speculation, several of Summer’s interviewees mentioned that the relationship soured right before she died, perhaps serving as a catalyst for the overdose.

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When Marilyn Monroe died is also a point of contention. The initial reports show that her housekeeper, Eunice Murray, noticed Monroe’s bedroom light still shining at around 3 a.m. Out of concern, she went up to the room and was met with a locked door. She called Dr. Greenson in panic, and he rushed to the house. He broke through a window and reached Monroe in the bed, where he believed her to be dead.

Summers interviewed Murray who said that after finding Monroe in her bed they called the police at around 4:25 a.m. However, he also interviewed the wife of Monroe’s press manager, who said that she and her husband received the news about Monroe around 10:30 p.m. the night before and left the concert that they had been attending. While she went home, she told Summers her husband left for Monroe’s house, “fudged everything off,” but wouldn’t say how or why or what happened.

So, what really happened between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.? Summers dug deeper and spoke to Walt Schaefer, one of the ambulance workers who said he and his team collected Monroe from her home and took her to Santa Monica Emergency while she was still alive. However, she died in the ambulance, after which they returned her to her house.

Sixty years after her death, Monroe continues to fascinate us, and it remains to be seen if we will ever get to really know what happened during the last few days of her short life.