The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe revisits her life and death 60 years later through unaudible tapes 2022-04-27 08:18:59


The recordings come courtesy of Anthony Summers, author of a 1985 book about Monroe, “Goddess.” Interviews include a wide range of those who crossed her path, delivering the old Hollywood kick of hearing excerpts from his conversations with directors John Huston and Billy Wilder and Monroe “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” star Jane Russell.

The documentary undermines that, unfortunately, with the unnecessary wrinkle of actors “turning on” these people by synchronizing the audio, a futile attempt to create the impression that the viewer sees the other side of those conversations. With plenty of Monroe’s video and film footage to weave in, it’s very nice fun in its own right, adding a sense of showmanship that does nothing to bolster the project’s credibility.

Furthermore, director Emma Cooper dedicated much of the latter half of the film to the “mysterious” part of the title, and decades of speculation about whether her death in 1962 was a suicide, an accidental overdose, or, in Summers’ words, “something more sinister.”

Inevitably, that conversation turns to Monroe’s reported relationships with John and Robert F. Kennedy, the subject of a seemingly endless number of documentaries and (mostly television) films over the years.

Marilyn Monroe with Robert Kennedy (left) and John F. Kennedy on the night of the latter's birthday in 1962.
In addition to all that’s well documented, it’s hard to avoid a certain spoilage factor in telling, and cheese reenactments certainly don’t help. There are also some puzzling options, like famously showing Monroe Sing “Happy Birthday” To the president months before her death, but without including his jovial response.

In fact, focusing on the Kennedys is almost a distraction from hearing more interesting observations, such as Huston’s citation of Monroe’s descending path from The Asphalt Jungle to The Misfits (which he directed 11 years later); Or Wilder says of his difficulties working with the actress he directed in two of her best films, “The Seven Year Itch” and “Some Like It Hot,” “I never had a problem with Monroe. Monroe had issues with Monroe.”

For her part, Monroe has spoken in taped interviews about her twin’s desire to be happy and to be a good actress, saying somewhat wistfully with the benefit of hindsight, “You have to work at both.”

Like other stars who died young, Monroe was frozen in time, with enough intrigue surrounding her and the famous men she dated and married to fuel conspiracy theories and ensure that even six decades later she’s still the media gift that keeps on giving, including: that last Documentary series on CNN. Film critic Christina Neuland booksIt is very difficult to see Marilyn Monroe as a real human being.

In that sense, watching The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe is a reminder, to paraphrase Elton John’s musical tribute, that her candle burned out long before it was tapped.

“The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes” premieres April 27 on Netflix.