"Marilyn's Last Words: Her Secret Tapes and Mysterious Death"
(Reviewed by Jennifer Leblanc JAN 16, 2005)
British author Matthew Smith thought he had exhausted the Marilyn Monroe mystery with his 1996 book The Men Who Murdered Marilyn. After forty years new evidence is rare to find in any case, but Matthew Smith got lucky, as he writes in the preface to his new book: “To obtain the exclusive world rights to a transcript of tapes Marilyn made very shortly before she died constitutes a breakthrough of enormous proportions.” With this new information straight from Marilyn herself, Smith hopes to honor her memory and remove the “stigma of suicide” from Hollywood’s most misunderstood legend.
Smith treats his subject with the utmost respect as he outlines her death, career, and her life from death to birth. He first provides every detail about the crime scene and autopsy, including interviews with the still-living coroner and Los Angeles’s then Deputy District Attorney. This is where Smith gets the very facts and shows undeniable forensic evidence that her death was not a suicide. CSI fans will enjoy the graphic explanations and copy of the original autopsy report. After that Smith profiles everyone involved in Marilyn’s life, eliminating suspects based on what is known, and what he or she did following her death. The most interesting is Eunice Murray, Marilyn’s housekeeper, who never told the same version events twice to anyone.
The tape transcripts turn Marilyn from a studied, questioned corpse or tragic actress into a woman full of hopes for her future and certainty about what she wanted in life. Recorded privately in a stream-of-conscious manner, the tapes was her idea to aide her therapy with Dr. Ralph Greenberg. After her death, Greenberg played the tapes to Deputy District Attorney John Miner to convince him and his superiors into opening a murder investigation. Miner was sworn to secrecy about their actual contents to protect Marilyn’s privacy. But after biographer Donald Spotto accused Greenberg of murder in his 1993 book, the widow Greenberg gave permission to Miner to clear her husband’s name. The tapes show not only Marilyn’s pure trust in her doctor but also why her living was more beneficial to him than the alternative. She begins by telling Dr. Greenberg her plan to study intensely with the Strasbergs to become a great Shakespearean actress, and asking the doctor to keep her afloat emotionally during that time. She even offered to pay him a substantial amount to be his only patient. At one point she says, “So now I have control- control of myself- control of my life.” As her closest friends always attested, this was not a suicidal person. Instead of script lines, press quotes, or hearsay, we are treated to words directly from Marilyn, giving insight that no biographer could ever provide.
Smith’s research into Marilyn sprang from years of writing about the Kennedy’s and their obvious tie to the star in the early 60’s. Both John and Robert Kennedy figure prominently in her death but Smith does not see any direct involvement by either of them. Backed by Marilyn’s words on the tapes, Smith shows that Marilyn was too savvy and independent to be a problem for either brother, and that she considered both relationships over. Instead, Smith believes the most likely responsible party for her death was a group of “CIA renegades” hoping to frame the Kennedy’s and end their political careers in retribution for the Bay of Pigs. But Smith is willing to entertain other scenarios, knowing that without proof he can’t be certain of anything.
This book provides everything a Marilyn or Kennedy fan could want. The summary of their separate lives, careers, and relationships with each other are clear and sufficient. Smith completely disregards all rumors and bases everything solely on fact, the essentials of who, what, when, where and several different whys. The reader may have a little trouble with the jumbled chronology and Smith often repeats certain things more than once to get his point across. But overall, with the help of Marilyn’s own words, Smith helps do justice for the dead.
- Amazon readers rating: from 8 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- JFK: The Second Plot (1992)
- Vendetta: The Kennedys (1993)
- The Men Who Murdered Marilyn (1997)
- Say Goodbye to America: The Sensational and Untold Story Behind the Assassination of John F. Kennedy (2002)
- Marilyn's Last Words: Her Secret Tapes and Mysterious Death (August 2004)
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- Good Morning America review of Marilyn's Last Words
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About the Author:
Mathew Smith is a scriptwriter, television producer and writer.