Voluptuous. Beautiful. Iconic. There are few stars in history who have even come close to replicating the kind of influence that Marilyn Monroe had on popular culture. The blonde belle was a bona fide Hollywood superstar in the 1950s and is still a cultural touchstone to this day. Her tragic death has always been surrounded by the murky waters of conspiracy, though. Many people believe the mob and perhaps even members of the highest levels of American politics were involved in her passing. But were they? Let’s find out...
A tumultuous life
Monroe led a tumultuous life in the years leading up to her death in 1962. Three years earlier she had starred in the now-classic comedy Some Like It Hot – giving a hugely celebrated performance. Her final movie ended up being The Misfits, and it was written by her third husband Arthur Miller. Though she divorced him soon after it was released and then spent much of ’61 as a recluse in her Los Angeles home under the watchful eye of a psychiatrist.
Overdosing at 36
August 5, 1962, was the date Monroe reportedly died from an overdose of barbiturates at the age of only 36. The L.A. County coroner’s office labeled the death as a probable suicide, and over the years a number of theories about the “true” cause of death have been proffered by heartbroken fans and historians. Incredibly, one of the main theories involves the Kennedy family.
Linked to the Kennedy family
You see, around the time she died, Monroe was rumored to have been engaged in affairs with John F. and Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy. JFK was President of the United States at the time, and his brother Bobby was the U.S. Attorney General. As a result, Monroe was allegedly linked to two of the country’s most powerful men.
Growing up in foster care
But how did a young woman – born Norma Jeane Mortenson and raised in an orphanage and foster care – become a movie star allegedly romantically linked to the president? Well, after a difficult childhood in which she had no contact with her father and the star’s mother wound up institutionalized, she went to work in a munitions factory. And it was here that a photographer first caught a glimpse of the future star.
By 1946 Monroe was enjoying a thriving modeling career. That year she was signed to her first movie deal, too. It was here that her name and image were forever changed; she dyed her hair platinum blonde and took on the name “Marilyn Monroe.” Her sultry, breathless voice and killer curves made her a Hollywood sex symbol.
Insecure about her acting
Monroe’s movies were generally successful and she, of course, became incredibly famous. But the star was always anxious about her acting ability, according to Biography.com. In fact, this would reportedly make her physically sick, which often caused delays on film sets. It meant that, despite her box-office drawing power, she was signed to deals and then released by several notable movie studios.
Dating powerful men
And did you know that Monroe married three times? Yep, at just 16 she wed a marine four years older than her called James Dougherty. The star later married baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and then the playwright Arthur Miller. Outside of marriage, she was known to have had romantic trysts with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. But Bobby Kennedy was the last man to have been allegedly in a relationship with Monroe when she died.
Some theorists believe Monroe was about to go public about her flings with Bobby and JFK. Though the rumors about the relationships were nothing more than that. People notes that only one photograph exists of Monroe with the brothers, and it was taken during a party held by movie producer Arthur Krim. There are no other pictures of her with either brother on their own.
Infamous birthday song
Publicly, there was only one piece of “evidence” that even pointed to something going on between Monroe and a Kennedy. It was her famous sexy rendition of “Happy Birthday” given at JFK’s 45th birthday party, which was held in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The bash took place in May 1962 – less than three months before Monroe’s death.
Handing her off
But James Spada – who wrote a biography of Monroe – told People magazine in 2012, “It was pretty clear that [she] had... sexual relations with both Bobby and Jack.” He alleged that it was actor Peter Lawford who first brought JFK and Monroe together in 1954. The author claimed JFK then pushed Monroe toward his brother in 1962 when he had grown weary of their relationship.
Keeping the affair private
As we know, conspiracy theories would implicate the Kennedys in Monroe’s death. Yet Spada felt this was wide of the mark. He admitted the men did not want the affairs to become public knowledge but claimed that they’d had nothing to do with her death. Even so, Spada told People, “The Kennedys could not risk this coming out, because it could have brought down the president.”
The mobster connection
“But the cover-up that was designed to prevent anyone from finding out that [Monroe] was involved intimately with the Kennedy family has been misinterpreted as a cover-up of their having murdered her,” Spada continued. Interestingly, though, JFK did reportedly have a friend who was also intimately involved with Monroe. This person was also a known mobster and may have even been with her the day before she died.
Exclusive interview tapes
In 2011 Jeff Platts – the nephew of Monroe’s hair stylist George Masters – released audiotapes of his uncle speaking about the superstar’s final days. They were recorded in 1998 – only a month before Masters died. He claimed that the last time he saw her was the day before she passed away, and Monroe had some interesting company.
“The night before she died – the last time I saw her – was in Lake Tahoe at the Cal-Neva Lodge,” explained the elderly Masters. “She was there with Sam Giancana, who was the head of the mafia.” Giancana was indeed a Chicago mobster, and his name has been linked with JFK over the years. In fact, it has been said they were friends and even dated the same women – including Monroe.
Escorted back to L.A.
Up until this story emerged, the long-held belief had been that Monroe spent the weekend at the Cal-Neva Lodge with Giancana two weeks before her untimely death. But Masters was now indicating a mysterious second trip. The man even alleged that he flew back to L.A. with Monroe and personally dropped her off at home at 9:00 a.m. on the very day she died.
Not an accident
On the tapes, Masters was clear about how he believed Monroe had really died and the reason why. He said, “It was because of the Kennedys. I really think the FBI did it.” On top of that, he also seemed to lend credence to a long-held conspiracy theory about Monroe’s body being moved prior to it being discovered.
Mysterious moving around
“Did you know she was pronounced dead, and then they brought her back to the house, and she was still alive,” Masters alleged. “...And they took her back to the hospital, and brought her back home, and then the coroners came over. And they found her dead in another bed. Somebody moved her.”
Bringing in Frank
Platts was only too happy to theorize about the implications of his late uncle’s claims. According to the Daily Mail, he said, “What if this trip George [Masters] talks about was a last-ditch effort to get her to agree not to talk [about the Kennedys]?” To that end, he brought Frank Sinatra – a friend of both Giancana and Monroe – into his theory.
Monroe's own publicist
Platts posited, “What if Sam Giancana said, ‘Look, [Sinatra], you didn’t get it done. She’ll listen to me. Let’s bring her back again so I can have a shot at it.’ [Masters] specifically told me that Marilyn spent the evening with Sam Giancana.” Within the tapes, the former also pointed a finger at Monroe’s publicist Pat Newcomb.
Masters said, “Talk to [Newcomb] – she knows everything,” and Platts elaborated on this. He said, “...If this trip did happen, it was certainly kept hush-hush. Pat Newcomb said she slept over at [Monroe’s] house that night but doesn’t address whether or not [she] was there – only that [Monroe] woke up about noon.”
Working for the Kennedys
Interestingly, some time following Monroe’s death, Newcomb found herself employed by the Kennedys. In the near-six decades since the tragedy occurred, Newcomb has always been cagey about the event. She has mostly refused to comment, and it has led to many speculating about her involvement.
A plot to kill
Masters’ claims certainly fall in line with the theory that Monroe’s death was tied to her involvement with the Kennedys and the mob. After all, engaging in affairs with the U.S. President, the Attorney General and a known gangster could put you in an unenviable position. These theorists think that Monroe may have found herself the target of some dangerous people on August 5, 1962.
Finding her body
On that fateful night, it was Monroe’s psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson who apparently discovered her body. After midnight, her maid Eunice Murray saw that her employer’s bedroom light was on, according to History.com. She tried the door, but it was locked, and when Monroe didn’t respond at all to her, the worker knew something was wrong.
Empty pill bottles
Murray called Dr. Greenson, who broke a bedroom window to get into the room. He found Monroe’s body lying face down in bed with a telephone still in her hand. Around the room Greenson found a number of empty pill bottles, which had been prescribed for Monroe’s depression.
The LAPD investigated and determined that Monroe’s death was “caused by a self-administered overdose of sedative drugs and that the mode of death is probable suicide.” Was Monroe depressed because her relationships with both Kennedy brothers had ended? Or was there something more sinister going on involving the mafia and the Kennedys?
A new theory
In 2002 the author Wendy Leigh published a book called The Secret Letters. And within it, she posited a fascinating theory about Monroe’s death. She alleged that Sam Giancana collaborated with union leader Jimmy Hoffa to murder Monroe as revenge against Bobby Kennedy. You see, the latter was clamping down on the mafia at that time, and they felt betrayed.
Politics and the mafia
The mafia had allegedly been a key factor in ensuring JFK won his bid for the presidency in 1960. It’s claimed that Giancana and his Chicago outfit were involved in backing the campaign financially and securing votes for the ballot boxes. In legendary journalist Seymour Hersh’s 1997 book The Dark Side of Camelot, he claimed that the alliance was instigated by JFK’s father: Joseph Kennedy.
A bad deal
Hersh argued that the mafia agreed to help put JFK in the White House because they believed they would get something in return. Specifically, they wanted protection from the FBI’s relentless investigations into their activities. When Bobby Kennedy took charge of the Justice Department and began campaigning against organized crime, though, the mob realized they’d made a bad deal.
Turning on their bargain
At that time, the younger Kennedy was also waging war on Hoffa, who ran the Teamsters truckers’ union and was known to have connections to organized crime. The former and Hoffa had even already locked horns in court. This could be when union boss allegedly teamed up with Giancana. They both had a problem with Kennedy, so it only made sense to band together and solve it.
In this scenario, Leigh alleged that Hoffa and Giancana had initially wanted to ruin Bobby’s public image by revealing his affair with Monroe. She believes they installed listening devices in her bedroom and telephone. But, when they saw that neither Bobby nor his brother would ever admit to their affairs with the Hollywood star, they decided to kill her.
No tablets in her system
When Monroe’s body was examined by the L.A. Medical Examiner Dr Thomas Noguchi, he found traces of barbiturate sleeping pills in her blood. According to The Scotsman, she had consumed enough chloral hydrate and Nembutal to kill herself 15 times over. But, bizarrely, no evidence of the tablets was found in Monroe’s system.
How did these chemicals get into Monroe’s body if she didn’t swallow pills, then? And if the star hadn’t taken them, why was there a bottle of chloral hydrate beside her bed that was missing 40 pills? It doesn’t quite add up, and Leigh believes this is because Giancana and Hoffa’s mafia hitmen gave her the drugs via an enema.
Amazingly, this was actually the opinion of John Miner – head of the medical-legal section of the L.A. District Attorney’s office. According to The Scotsman, he said, “If you wanted to kill someone, an enema would leave no residue in the stomach. Noguchi and I were convinced this was absolutely the route of admitting the fatal dose.”
Another author called Darwin Porter was also convinced that the mob murdered Monroe – only his theory involved Bobby Kennedy as well. In his book Marilyn at Rainbow’s End, he alleged that the politician may have paid Giancana to do the deed. Porter told The Mirror in 2012, “Of course [Kennedy] didn’t do it. He was a very smart man.”
A lot to lose
“Sam Giancana had the motive to kill her – she was threatening to blow the lid off his operations,” Porter continued. “But it also begs the question, did someone pay him to murder [Monroe]? And if someone did pay him, the only person I can think of is a Kennedy.” Porter added, “A lot of people had a lot to lose if [Monroe] spoke out.”
Ultimately, the truth behind all of this may never be revealed. After Monroe, all the other major parties involved died prematurely and often in ways that also prompted conspiracy theories. JFK was assassinated in 1963 in Dallas, Texas, and one theory is that the mob was involved in his demise. Bobby was then murdered in 1968 by a Palestinian militant.
Giancana meets his end
In 1975 Hoffa vanished and has never been found. It’s widely believed that he was killed by his mob associates. And finally, Giancana met his end that same year when he was murdered at home. He had been due to testify to the Senate about claims that the CIA had used mob connections in a bid to assassinate the Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
The center of a deadly power struggle
Regarding the entire tangled web, we’ll give the final word to Jackie Miranne – host of the podcast The Killing of Marilyn Monroe? She summed up the sad situation perfectly in 2019 when she spoke to Us Weekly. Miranne said, “By the time of her death, Marilyn Monroe was at the center of a deadly power struggle between President Kennedy, brother Bobby, the mafia, and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.”
Miranne believed Monroe had become hopelessly entangled in a secret world of power, sex, lies, and corruption run by the nation’s most influential men. She said, “The woman who had used her sexuality to hold sway over men her whole life had become a pawn in their schemes against one another.”