• Ken Silvers

The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes


Marilyn Monroe is one of the most famous, if not the most famous movie star of all time. She is also one of the most tragic, having passed at the young age of 36. Monroe is the subject of the Netflix documentary "The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes". The film covers the life and death of Monroe as told through unseen interviews with friends of the star and archival footage. "Goddess" author Anthony Summers began his research of Monroe after he learned the Los Angeles County District Attorney was reopening the case of her death. Summers spent three years collecting 650 tape recordings of interviews with people who knew Monroe in her lifetime or had knowledge of her death. All the interviews in the film are original, but actors perform lip-synched reenactments. The film begins with Monroe's rise to stardom, and how many powerful men in Hollywood help her eventual rise to mega stardom. One fascinating interview is with Jane Russell who co-starred with Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", and describes Monroe's strong work ethic. However, as most fans of the late star know, Monroe also suffered from poor mental health due to a traumatic childhood. Over the course of her life, Monroe married several famous men, including baseball great Joe Dimaggio and author Arthur Miller, but those marriages ended in divorce, leaving Monroe single at the time of her passing. When she divorced Miller, Monroe became increasingly dependent on prescription drugs and became difficult to work with due to the effects of the drugs. Monroe is also known for becoming involved with the Kennedy family, and had met Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. in the 1950's when he was an executive at RKO Pictures. Monroe also had affairs with both President John F. Kennedy and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, as she often met them at the Malibu home of actor Peter Lawford. During his research, Summers pieces together how, due to her affairs with the Kennedy men, she was in a risky political position, as both Kennedy's would talk with her about current events, including nuclear weapons testing. As a result of Monroe's political views, the FBI became concerned she would pass along or make public anything she was told by the Kennedy's, and as a result the brothers attempted to end all contact with her. Monroe eventually turned on the Kennedy brothers as she felt she was just being used. Monroe tragically died on August 5, 1962 at her home, and her death was ruled as probable suicide. It was reported at the time Monroe's housekeeper found the star's bedroom door locked at 3am, and later Monroe's psychiatrist arrived around 3:30 and broke into her bedroom through a window and found her dead. As a result of his interviews with subjects, Summers discounts the timeline, and discovers Monroe was actually taken to the hospital via ambulance as early as 11:00 the night of her death. According to the interviews, Monroe either died on the way to the hospital or while at the hospital, and was returned home in order to be "discovered". Even with all his research uncovering unknown facts about her death, Summers doesn't believe she was murdered, but died as a result of accidental overdose or suicide. However, he does suspect any cover-up was due to her involvement with the Kennedy brothers. The L.A. district attorney ended its review of the case in 1982 and upheld the recorded cause of death. The documentary is fascinating, and reveals how Hollywood and stardom can leave you loved by the public, but often lonely in your personal life. It's such a shame Monroe never found lasting love, and when you see stories like this about her life, you wish you could have been there to hug her or at least try to help save her. "The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes" features wonderful clips and interviews with the star and is a gripping documentary of a Hollywood icon whose life ended far too soon. Now playing on Netflix. (Rated TV-MA)

5/5