Scandal or Myth: Marilyn in ‘Yours Retro’ Special

A four-page article on Marilyn is featured in 50 Scandals That Rocked Old Hollywood, a special issue of UK nostalgia mag Yours Retro. The first real scandal of her career was the discovery of a nude calendar in 1952, which she overcame by not denying it (as her studio bosses advised), and refusing to be shamed, explaining that she had needed the money (a mere $50) when the photos were shot in 1949.

The article includes an image said to be Marilyn, posing in nothing more than a fur stole for photographer Tom Kelley. This image was included in a 2001 auction at Butterfields, but it is generally thought to be fake, as Marilyn’s head appears to be superimposed from a photo by Philippe Halsman.

The article then focuses on Marilyn’s association with the Kennedys, claiming that Marilyn met the future president at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles in July 1960. In fact, Marilyn was in New York at the time. It’s then stated that they met again at a party New York in February 1962. This may be a reference to a party held in November 1961. She did, however, meet his brother Bobby at Peter Lawford’s home in Santa Monica on February 2, 1962. The article states that Bobby’s wife, Ethel Kennedy, became jealous of Marilyn. However, the couple would invite her to their Virginia compound in June.

It is also rumoured (though unconfirmed) that Marilyn and the President were among the guests at Bing Crosby’s Palm Springs estate during the Democratic Convention in March. “Is it possible that nothing untoward happened between Marilyn Monroe and President Kennedy that weekend?” the author ponders. “Given the circumstances and the personalities involved, it seems incredibly unlikely.” And then on May 19, Marilyn famously sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ at Madison Square Garden. This was most likely their last meeting before Marilyn’s death in August – and in truth, the only one that is entirely certain.

Today, Marilyn’s association with the Kennedy brothers is the stuff of tabloid infamy. But unlike most of the other scandals detailed in Yours Retro –  involving Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Frank Sinatra, and many others – the rumours would not gain ground until long after all the main players were dead. While some may attribute this to political pressures, the story is so riddled with inaccuracies and fabrications that it now more closely resembles an urban myth.

Thanks to A Passion for Marilyn