Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

Marilyn Monroe: What If ...

A playwright imagines how the actress’s life might have gone

Posted on

Suppose Marilyn Monroe had not died that Sunday morning …

Aug. 5, 1962: Monroe’s housekeeper, Eunice Murray, contacts Dr. Ralph Greenson, Monroe’s psychiatrist, who summons an emergency medical team. Marilyn’s life teeters on the edge of extinction for several days. Little children who know only that ”Marilyn Monroe” is something vaguely naughty hear their parents praying for her before the family meal.

Aug. 17, 1962: A Monroe spokesman tells the press, ”Miss Monroe has been released from Santa Monica Hospital.”

1963: Something’s Got to Give, Monroe’s 30th picture, is completed after a postponement of months due to its star’s overdose. However, the George Cukor-directed film turns out to be a mess, mixing preoverdose scenes of the star with later sequences of her looking clear-eyed but wan. She is freed from her long-term contract with Twentieth Century Fox.

1964: The Stripper. With public sentiment for the recovered actress at its peak, Fox forgives all and signs her for this film translation of William Inge’s A Loss of Roses. It is her first movie since her marriage to Dr. Jack Goldstein, the man who pumped her stomach in August 1962. As with Bus Stop in 1956, Monroe is disappointed to find her name missing from Oscar consideration. (After the film’s completion, Dr. and Mrs. Goldstein adopt twin sons.)

1965: Ship of Fools. Increasingly dedicated to serious acting, Monroe implores producer-director Stanley Kramer to let her screen-test — with her hair dyed brown and no makeup — for the meaty role of down-and-out Southern belle Mary Treadwell. She costars with old rival Simone Signoret, this time vying for Oscar, not Yves. Both are nominated as Best Actress, but a nerve-addled Monroe skips the awards ceremony, claiming last-minute illness. Awakened at home by her husband, she learns that, yes, she has finally won an Academy Award. Speaking to reporters the next day, she jokes, ”If I’d known this, I would have dyed my hair years ago.”

1967: Las Vegas. Having signed a record-breaking deal to appear at the Sands in ”An Evening With Marilyn,” Monroe tries unsuccessfully to break the contract after her Oscar win, believing a serious actress needn’t wear sequined Jean Louis gowns and sing ”My Heart Belongs to Daddy” for conventioneers. Old friend Frank Sinatra promises to appear with Marilyn to assuage her longtime stage fright. Their duet of ”The Look of Love” is so well received that it is recorded and reaches No. 16 on the pop charts.

1968: Three Sisters. The movie that never was. Long planned as a vehicle for Monroe, Ingrid Bergman, and Sophia Loren, this film version of Chekhov’s play is canceled after financing collapses. Monroe’s regret is that ”I’ve never gotten to play anything Russian.”

1972: The autobiography that never was. After a decade of widespread reports that she was romantically involved with both John and Robert Kennedy, she is offered a multimillion-dollar deal to write her life story. She refuses. As she tells 60 Minutes: ”I would never reveal private things, especially about those no longer with us. I hope that when I’m gone no one would write awful things about me. It’s just not nice. But look at me, Mike, I’ve gained so much weight, who cares about my sex life? I’m so heavy now I look like Simone Signoret.”

1973: Here’s Lucy. Chunky but game, Monroe appears as herself in an episode set during the fictional remake of Some Like It Hot, in which Lucille Ball sneaks onto the soundstage disguised as Tony Curtis.

1980: The First Deadly Sin. After this embarrassment, in which she plays Sinatra’s bedridden wife, Monore retires from acting to help her sons recover from drug dependency.

1989: Sweet Bird of Youth. She turns down the role of Alexandra Del Lago, an ex-actress who has the line, ”By the time I was 31, I was a living legend.” In declining it, Monroe tells reporters by telephone: ”I am so happy to be offered something every now and again. That’s so sweet, but I know I’m sort of a fuzzy memory to most people today. People say, ‘Oh, I remember — she used to be Marilyn Monroe.’ But that’s okay. I’m happy now. Gotta run.”