‘Marilyn, Her Final Secret’ Reviewed

Marilyn, Her Final Secret – a new documentary from filmmaker François Pomès, using DNA to confirm the identity of Marilyn’s father – has now been broadcast in France, with an English-language version set to follow. (You can read all of my posts on this documentary, including the Paris Match special, here.)

Interviewees include Marilyn’s biographer, Donald Spoto; Edie Shaw Marcus, daughter of photographer Sam Shaw; Marilyn’s Bus Stop co-star, Don Murray; and George Chakiris, who danced with her in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Also featured are Greg Schreiner, president of Marilyn Remembered, and owner of one the world’s largest collections of her personal property; authors Lois Banner and Chris Epting; and Jan-Christopher Horak and Jonathan Kuntz of UCLA.

The hour-long documentary traces the search for Marilyn’s DNA from two samples of hair owned by collector John Reznikoff. The investigation was conducted by Dr Rachel Houston in Huntsville, Texas; and Drs Ludovic Orlando and Andaine Seguin-Orlando in Toulouse, France, attempting to identify Marilyn’s DNA and to compare with new samples from Francine Gifford Deir and her sister Lisa, both grand-daughters of Charles Stanley Gifford, the man rumoured to have been Marilyn’s biological father.

The first, allegedly taken by hairdresser Robert Champion on the night when Marilyn sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden, did not yield any significant results. This is perhaps unsurprising, as Marilyn’s hair was styled by Kenneth Battelle that day in her New York apartment, and there appears to be no documentation of her being attended by Mr. Champion at the gala venue. (A hair sample from Champion has since been gifted to Kim Kardashian by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! after the reality TV star wore Marilyn’s iconic ‘birthday dress’ at this year’s Met Gala – see here.)

However, a second sample – illicitly (and unethically) procured by Marilyn’s embalmer, Allan Abbott – showed a genomic link between Marilyn and Francine Gifford Deir. Therefore, it can now be reasonably determined that Charles Stanley Gifford was indeed Marilyn’s father. It is very sad that she never had this proof in her lifetime, and that her heartfelt attempts to make contact with him were repeatedly rebuffed – but for her surviving family, at least, a great mystery has now been solved.