Another book about Marilyn Monroe? Oh, no!
If that's your reaction to the news that there's a new book about Monroe, you've got something in common with Barbara Leaming, its author. She is promoting Marilyn Monroe as a brand new tale of sexual, psychological, and political intrigue.
"At first, I was horrified at the idea of [writing the book]," says Leaming, who had just completed a biography of Katharine Hepburn when her editor suggested Monroe as the subject of her next book.
"I said, 'No! There are hundreds of books about her'," recalls the author. "But [my editor] looked at me and said, 'Do you know what happened to her?' And I said, 'No.' And she said, 'Are you curious?' And I said, 'Of course, I am.'
"It was obvious," Leaming continues, "what was needed was somebody serious, objective, and with no ax to grind to answer the questions. We're still interested because there are so many questions."
During three years of research, Leaming tells CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Thalia Assuras that she not only interviewed those who knew Monroe but also sifted through letters, notes, contracts, ledgers, and books written by people with whom Monroe was associated.
For example, Monroe was married to playwright Arthur Miller, and many of his notebooks are at the University of Texas at Austin.
Leaming says she is convinced that Monroe's death was a suicide, although it's possible that she had intended to be saved at the last moment. Leaming bases her conclusion on correspondence by Ralph Greenson (Monroe's last psychiatrist), her studio, and Anna Freud.
"What I saw in Greenson's correspondence," says Leaming, "was a sad and simple story. The last year of Marilyn's life she believed that she had failed, that everything she had hoped for was not going to happen. And she was terrified of being abandoned by this last person who was in her life, her doctor. And he went away. Very simple story."
Of the theory that Monroe was the target of a murder conspiracy, Leaming says, "That is one of the reasons I wrote the book, because there is so much silliness. Everybody has been accused of murdering Marilyn Monroe." She adds that it seems that the only one who has not been accused of killing Monroe is Elvis Presley, "and he'll probably get it next year."
"She never wanted money or fame," Leaming says. "She wanted people to believe she was a decent person, because she had an enormous amount in her life that she was ashamed of. She basicallyÂ…got her start as a party girl, passed around from man to man, as somebody said to me, 'like a box of candy.' And the awful thing was that those men never forgot that [after Monroe became a star]."
Monroe's relationship with the Kennedys was much briefer an less substantial than people think, Leaming reports, saying that Monroe "liked [JFK] more than he liked her" and that she went after Robert Kennedy first, in October 1961.
"And the reason that she went after him: She was looking for a way to degrade herself," Leaming explains. "She associated [the Kennedys] with her shameful past. When she failed with Bobby, she went after Jack."
After four trysts, says Leaming, JFK cut her off.
Two of Monroe's three husbands were successful in their own professions: baseball hero Joe DiMaggio and playwright Miller. But who was the love of Monroe's life? Leaming says Monroe needed DiMaggio but probably loved Miller more.
"Joe DiMaggio loved her 'beyond anybody's comprehension,' as one friend said," Leaming says. "Arthur [Miller] was supposed to be the way of erasing her past. When that failed, she chased death."