Unsolved History: Death of Marilyn 1962

DATELINE: Carted Away

carted away

So long, Norma Jean

The old Discovery series holds up as a marvel of scientific accuracy. Take, for instance, their 2003 look at the strange circumstances surrounding the death of legendary actress Marilyn Monroe.

As the third episode of the second season, it may be worth your streaming download to put to bed all those conspiracy theories that she was murdered for threatening the Kennedy brothers (President and Attorney General) that she would reveal secrets about UFOs.

The episode brings together a witness from the original autopsy, a pharmacologist, and a forensic psychiatrist. It also pulls together a brilliant re-enactment and actual photo evidence.

Since the location of her death, a modest cottage in Los Angeles is now a parking lot, they build the room in which she saw her last minutes of life.

Using old mimeographed photos, as the originals are gone, they decorated the room to a minute detail: it was a stark, non-glamorous location filled with clutter. It had no decorations or artwork to express personality. It was the ultimate banal chamber of a drug addict without concern for the world.

Marilyn eschewed her usual sleeping pills and took just about all of Nembutal that she had purchased the day before.

Her body could have been re-arranged, or moved, but the series proved she locked the door—and went about her grim task.

One researcher insists that she was given drugs through an enema to kill her—but the show proved that the drugs would dissolve in her system within 20 minutes, time enough to put her out before death descended within an hour or so.

Occasionally one must view one of these historically and scientifically accurate episodes to sweep away the hysteria and legend.

In under one hour, History Unsolved resolves plenty.

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Dapper Oldster Charles Coburn’s Great Films

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP!

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Charles Coburn with Monroe and Grant

After success in The Devil and Miss Jones in 1941, two unlikely actors found themselves paired up again.

Charles Coburn came to acting at age 60 and continued to play salacious millionaires and dotty grandfathers for the next twenty years. He chased Marilyn Monroe around in two movies and took all the comedic roles that Charles Laughton couldn’t play.

Jean Arthur was a nasal and twangy leading lady that seemed to go against the grain of glamour queens. In this film she does one scene with a mouthful of toothpaste. Her last major role was as the love interest of Alan Ladd in Shane.

But during World War II, the two actors seemed a most romantic couple, playing off each other as only May and December can. They usually had better chemistry than the leading men Arthur faced (Robert Cummings, Joel MacRae).

In The More the Merrier, a George Stevens film, the set piece is Jean Arthur’s apartment in Washington, D.C., when accommodations were hard to find. She takes in an old millionaire who subleases to a good-looking inventor (MacRae). He wants to play matchmaker, but he may be the best boon companion for Miss Arthur. They are a charming team.

Their shared flat is tiny enough with paper-thin walls to make for a curiously sophisticated arrangement for the pre-war crowd.

Coburn provides enough winks and nods, as well as pratfalls, to win his place as the pinup boy for the senior set. Seventy years later, he still dresses up the image of growing old.

The movie was later remade (Walk, Don’t Run) as Cary Grant’s last film (playing Charles Coburn, no less). Grant studied Coburn and  both costarred with Marilyn in Monkey Business.

You can never get enough of a good thing.

After Niagara, Where Do You Go?

 DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP!

 

Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters had a great hit in 1953 with Niagara, but no one recalls their follow up movie. It was called A Blueprint for Murder—but done without costar Marilyn Monroe.

Whenever you find another lost film noir from the 1950s, you may have either a treasure or something unworthy of rediscovery. The pleasure is in finding the movie the Late Show never played endlessly in the days when movies were fodder and filler on television.

You will always find a prize in the Crackerjack box. This one may surprise you. By the time of this movie American society began to realize that the most innocent of creatures could be a psychopath. Hence, this movie played on the novelty. In this case Hitchcock’s Uncle Charley from Shadow of a Doubt renews his vow, thanks to Cotten’s performance.

This 1953 effort is written and directed by Andrew Stone with “you are there” in upper middle class America style. It catalogues a lifestyle of indolent post-war innocence in American suburbs.

The film features Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters, and Gary Merrill. Jean Peters always played good girls with a gold heart. She was also Mrs. Howard Hughes, and her movie career was now in decline. She probably decided to shake things up by playing a sociopathic serial killer. She made only three or four additional movies before retiring from the big screen. She could have stopped here and knocked’em dead with strychnine.

Yet, this movie mind-twister may actually have another suspect duping the audience along the way. Short and sweet, this little film might have been a television special in the Golden Age. It is amusing and clever with its red herrings. Too bad few people ever saw it in its original release.

There is some satisfaction in being one of a handful that has seen the delightful murder mystery.

Now available because of the voracious appetite for more and more entertainment by DVD watchers, this movie becomes a gemstone for those looking for Hitchcock Zirconia.

What the film proves is that steady and professional actors like Gary Merrill and Joe Cotten deserved far more accolades than they ever received in their lifetimes.

A trifle, the movie is indeed a blueprint for delight for film aficionados. ‘Who done it’ achieves a minor classic status with this one.

Be sure to read William Russo’s movie books: MOVIE MASHUP, GREAT SPORTS STORIES: THE LEGENDARY FILMS, ALFRED HITCHCOCK FRESHLY SHOWERED, and MOVIES TO SEE!

Tom Brady Hits a Milestone—and It Hits Back

DATELINE: HUMOR!

New England Patriot Tom Brady celebrated, if that’s the word, his 36th birthday at practice outside Gillette Stadium.

He had a different hairdo this year, as he does every year. Of course in recent years, he has more hair than a few scant years ago. It must be attributed to good living because it cannot be attributed to the complete change of receiving corps for the upcoming season. Most men in his position would be bald and aging prematurely.

Young teammates all guessed that Tom was somewhere between 40 years old and death. Only a coach older than Tom dared to wear a T-shirt that speculated on a number of years that seemed to be measured in decades.

No one dared to remind him that at 36 Marilyn Monroe bought the farm—or that Lady Di, the ill-fated princess, also went into the good night at that age. So did Bob Marley.

To his credit Tom has outlasted Bruce Lee, John Belushi, Karen Carpenter, and Sam Cooke.

If there is a man more like Tom Brady, it is likely Alexander the Great who, like Tom, conquered the world before he was 30. It was all down hill after that.

Brady recently gave an interview that he planned to play up to the age of the Steppenwolf (50 for those who never read a Herman Hesse novel). We pause before revealing that the old Steppenwolf believed 50 was also a great age to commit suicide.

We hesitate to mention that the icon of youthful energy, Michael Jackson, barely made it to 50. But, who are we to rain on Tom Brady’s parade?

He may soon be playing in the NFL with children half his age. He has already outlasted the generation that came into the game with him.

Tom claims he has never felt better, which is the best way to handle mind of matter issues—and arthritis and gray hair.

Happy birthday, Tom! Again.

 

Be sure to read about Tom’s vintage years in NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS UNDRESSED, now available in softcover on Amazon.com.

http://williamrusso.us

Love, Fame, Adoration, All Fail Marilyn Monroe

DATELINE: LEGEND OF A GODDESS!

Love, Marilyn builds its subject out of her own words, based on recently discovered diaries, jottings, poetry, and other musings written by Marilyn Monroe.

A dozen actors read her words and the words of those who knew her—those friends and associates usually caused her great consternation and pain.

Marilyn Monroe still today plays heroine and victim at once, misunderstood still, and exploited at every turn.

The footage of her acting, both on and off screen, grows more desperate. She herself regarded Marilyn as a separate creature she had to play for the media and public.

In fact, Marilyn created her own Frankenstein’s Monster out of body language and platinum blonde hair that ran amok out of the Hollywood studios and was chased down by the media with cameras instead of pitchforks.

Director Liz Garbus does her best to take the luminous star and catch it falling from the firmament. Only in death has Miss Monroe touched more people than in life as a movie star.

No one who tied his wagon to Marilyn comes out of this documentary unscathed. Her two husbands, Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, knew her better than anyone else in the world—and knew her not at all. In later years they regretted the way they treated her.

No one attempts to explain why Monroe wrote down so many feelings in couplets and free verse on dozens of pieces of paper. Was she planning to write a script? Did she plan an autobiography later in life? Was it merely an attempt to exorcize her demons by putting them on paper?

No one in 20th century America comes close to her iconography and her ability to become a goddess walking in our midst for a few years. (We see James Dean as a male counterpart.) She glowed on screen with some magic that defies explanation.

This little documentary, using her own words, may be the closest attempt to doing her justice and giving her the platform she may have hoped to employ if her life had not been snuffed out so young.

Marilyn herself pegged the trouble to trusting too easily, too many, too often. How sad indeed.

http://williamrusso.us/