On June 1st, 1962 – Marilyn’s 36th birthday – she had a small party after filming scenes for Something’s Got to Give on the Twentieth Century Fox. That evening, she headed to Dodger Stadium for what would be her final public appearance, at a charity baseball game. Albie Pearson, pictured above with Marilyn, described his encounter with the nervous star as a “haunting experience” (see here.) She left early, feeling chilled by the night air, and called in sick the next morning. She would never return to work at her home studio, and a week later, Fox announced that she had been fired.
Even in the last year of her life, Marilyn was still close to ex-husband, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, who helped to arrange her Dodger.Stadium appearance. Despite taking no interest in the sport prior to their relationship, she was still indelibly linked to baseball in the public eye long after their divorce. Marilyn also gets a mention in David Krell’s new book, 1962: Baseball and America in the Time of JFK.
“Monroe was more than a pretty face and curvy figure offering sex appeal with an undercurrent of innocence,” Krell writes, noting that she “chose to study at the famed Actors Studio in New York to improve her skills after she was a household name … her acting chops in both comedy and drama are underrated.”
Krell then reflects on Marilyn’s tragic death that August…
“For the woman whose body occupied crypt number 33 at the Los Angeles County morgue, recognition was a burden. To the morgue’s workers, she was coroner’s case number 81128. To the world, she was Marilyn Monroe.
There aren’t enough words in Roget’s Thesaurus to describe her. Monroe leapt off film screens with enough sexual energy to power electric grids from Seattle to Sydney … Monroe’s ease at playing a sexual character [was] made all the more attractive by not understanding, or acknowledging, her physical allure …
Her use of sleeping pills and alcohol was not known to the public. But insiders knew. ‘It was one of the best-kept secrets in the Hollywood world of make believe,’ wrote show-business columnist Earl Wilson. Wilson claimed that her former husband Joe DiMaggio told Hollywood friends of his concern ‘as recently as two weeks [before Monroe’s death].’
Monroe represented the ideal for men who wanted a woman to be seen and not heard, unless it was to whisper affection, soothe injury, or adore him with the gentleness of a summer wind that could cut through a blistering heat. Men fantasised about her and wondered why her three husbands – James Dougherty, Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller – could not hold on to her. Women fantasised about being her and wondered how, with all her beauty and talent, she could not find love.
It is a burden of celebrity to have one’s private life dissected, judged, and sometimes mocked with surgical precision by the press and the public. When she is described in books and portrayed on the screen, she is reborn in a sense, thanks to her biographers and the thespians who play her.”
Krell interviewed actress and impersonator Susan Griffiths for his book, as well as pop artist James F. Gill. And finally, for a different perspective on how Marilyn’s death made such a seismic impact, try Stephen Farber and Michael McClellan’s book, Cinema ’62.