From the Archives: Marilyn Monroe Dies; Pills Blamed
Marilyn Monroe, a troubled beauty who failed to find happiness as Hollywood’s brightest star, was discovered dead in her Brentwood home of an apparent overdose of sleeping pills Sunday.
The blond, 36-year-old actress was nude, lying face down on her bed and clutching a telephone receiver in her hand when a psychiatrist broke into her room at 3:30 a.m.
She had been dead an estimated six to eight hours.
About 5:15 p.m. Saturday she had called the psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, and was told to go for a ride when she complained she could not sleep, police reported.
Her body was taken to the County Morgue, where Coroner Theodore J. Curphey said after an autopsy that he could give a “presumptive opinion” that death was due to an overdose of some drug.
He said a special “suicide team” would be asked to investigate Miss Monroe’s last days to determine if she took her own life.
Further medical tests as to the nature of the suspected killer drug will be completed in 48 hours, he said.
An empty bottle found among several medicines beside her bed had contained 50 Nembutal capsules. The prescription was issued only two or three days ago and the capsules were to be taken in doses of one a night, said Dr. Hyman Engelberg.
Believed in Depressed Mood
It was learned that medical authorities believed Miss Monroe had been in a depressed mood recently. She was unkempt and in need of a manicure and pedicure, indicating listlessness and a lack of interest in maintaining her usually glamorous appearance, the authorities added.
The coroner’s office listed the death on its records as possible suicide while the police report said death was possibly accidental.
No suicide note was found.
Dr. Robert Litman, a psychiatrist serving on the suicide team, said notes are left by less than 40% of those who take their own lives. Miss Monroe’s body was discovered after her housekeeper and companion, Mrs. Eunice Murray, awoke about 3 a.m. and saw a light still burning in the actress’ room.
Mrs. Murray found the bedroom door locked. She was unable to arouse Miss Monroe by shouts and rapping on the door, and immediately telephoned Dr. Greenson.
Broke Bedroom Window
Dr. Greenson took a poker from the fireplace, smashed in a window and climbed into the room.
He told Det. Sgt. R. E. Byron that Miss Monroe was under a sheet and champagne-colored blanket which were tucked up around her shoulders.
Dr. Greenson took the telephone receiver from her hand and told Mrs. Murray, “She appears to be dead.”
He called Dr. Engelberg, who had prescribed the sleeping pills for the actress, who pronounced her dead on his arrival at the house a short time later. Dr. Engelberg called police at 4:20 a.m. and two officers arrived in five minutes, followed by Sgt. Byron at 5 a.m.
Bryon said he learned that Miss Monroe had called Dr. Greenson Saturday night and talked with him for about an hour. He quoted the psychiatrist as saying: “I was under the impression she was going to take a ride . . . to the beach or something like that.”
Byron said he went through the rambling Spanish style home at 12305 5th Helena Dr. and found “nothing unusual or amiss.”
He reported there were between 12 to 15 medicine bottles on Miss Monroe’s bedside stand, some with prescription labels.
Miss Monroe only recently bought the $75,000 house and it was only partially furnished.
By dawn reporters and photographers were milling around its lawns and swimming pool, silent in the morning quiet as officials closed out the life of one of filmland’s most glamorous stars.
Home Sealed Up
Miss Monroe’s body was wrapped in a pale blue blanket and strapped to a stretcher as it was removed from the home.
Seals were placed on entrances to the home with the notice:
“Any person breaking into or entering these premises will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
A special guard was hired to watch the home.
Miss Monroe’s body was loaded into the back of a station wagon and transported to the Westwood Village Mortuary, just yard away from the gravesites of her grandmother and one of her guardians in early life.
The body later was transferred to the County Morgue where the nation’s No. 1 glamour girl became Coroner’s Case No. 81128 and the body was placed in Crypt 33.
Rites Tentatively Set
Funeral services are tentatively scheduled Wednesday afternoon at Westwood Village Mortuary chapel.
Her mother, Mrs. Gladys Baker Eley, 59, is a patient in the Rockhaven Sanitarium in Verdugo City.
News of Miss Monroe’s tragic death quickly circulated to much of the world. Even Moscow Radio made mention of it.
Friends of the actress were stunned, unbelieving and saddened.
Joe DiMaggio, baseball hero and the actress’ second husband, flew here from San Francisco as soon as he heard. His face was lined and he appeared deeply saddened when he alighted from a United Air Lines plane.
First Husband Silent
DiMaggio checked into a Santa Monica hotel, where he declined to talk with reporters or pose for pictures.
He and Miss Monroe had been seeing each other recently since her third attempt at marriage, with playwright Arthur Miller, collapsed in 1961.
In Woodbury, Conn., Miller replied “I don’t, really” when asked if he had any comment.
Her first husband was Jim Dougherty, now a Los Angeles policeman. His only comment was, “I’m sorry.” One of the first friends to arrive at the home Sunday morning was Pat Newcomb, a close friend of the actress and her press agent.
Miss Newcomb, nearly hysterical with grief, sobbed:
“When your best friend kills herself, how do you feel? What do you do?”
She said she spent Saturday evening with Miss Monroe, had a quiet dinner and left the home about 7 p.m.
Believes It Accidental
“This must have been an accident,” she said. “Marilyn was in perfect physical condition and was feeling great.
“We had made plans for today. We were going to the movies this afternoon.”
Milton Rudin, Miss Monroe’s attorney, also went to the house and told reporters he had talked with the star Saturday
“She appeared to be happy,” he said. “She wanted to see me in my office Monday.”
Miss Monroe was hopeful she could settle her difficulties with 20th Century-Fox Studios which earlier this summer fired her from the movie, “Something’s Got to Give.”
The studio claimed she refused to report for work costing it $2 million because of delays. It sued her for a half million dollars.
Despite this, Rudin said Miss Monroe hoped to work out a settlement with the studio and get the picture back in production.
Miss Monroe claimed throughout the dispute with 20th Century-Fox that she was ill and unable to report for work.
“She wanted to finish everything she started,” said Rudin.
Some believed Miss Monroe was depressed because her career was supposedly on the skids after two straight movie flops in “Let’s Make Love” and “The Misfits” – her last two movies.
But friends were nearly unanimous in believing her death was accidental.
They said two motion pictures executives were bidding for her services at the time of her death. One of them was reportedly J. Lee Thompson, director of the film “The Guns of Navarone,” who planned to meet with her Tuesday.
Producer Sam Spiegel also wanted her to star in a picture for him, it was reported.
Miss Monroe had received an offer of $55,00 a week to star in a night club appearance in Las Vegas recently, but she turned it down.
Further evidence that her career was on the upswing was indicated by a typewritten message on a table in her home.
It was from a representation of Anita Loos, creator of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” and said:
“Dear Miss Monroe: On behalf of Anita Loos, now in Europe, we would like to know if you would be interested star role new musical based on French play ‘Gogo.’ Book by Anita Loos, lyrics by Gladys Shelley and enchanting music by Claude Leville. Can send you script and music if you express interest. (signed) Natalia Danesi Murray.”
Grossed $200 Million
An associate of Miss Monroe said her 23 pictures since 1950 when she had a bit role in the “Asphalt Jungle” have grossed $200 million.
“Does that sound like she was depressed about her career?” he asked.
By mid-morning Sunday the crowds of reporters, photographers and friends cleared away from the officially sealed home where the tormented actress had spent her last hours.
Miss Newcomb took the housekeeper home and carried with her Miss Monroe’s small white dog “Moff,” All that was left behind for the eye of the curious were the dog’s two stuffed toys, a tiger and lamb, lying in the rear yard.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for the L.A. Times biggest news, features and recommendations in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.