On video, “The mystery of Marilyn Monroe”, the poignant investigation that makes the last witnesses speak

Sixty years after her death, the legendary actress exerts the same charm. The British Anthony Summers, who had dedicated a fluvial biography to her, returned to her abundant archives. Netflix broadcasts a documentary based on this investigation.

This summer will mark the 60th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death. On the night of August 4 to 5, 1962, the world’s most famous movie star died from an overdose of barbiturates. In the solitude of a newly furnished room in her little hacienda in Brentwood, bought a few months before her. “Probable suicide” then ruled the Los Angeles coroner.

If the mystery surrounding the circumstances of this tragic death, at the age of 36, contributed to the persistence of the myth, it does not explain everything. Brilliant actress, model with rare photogenicity, talented entrepreneur, victim, feminist, intellectual, manipulative … Since 1962, Marilyn Monroe has never stopped reinventing herself as the authors face their extraordinary destiny, sometimes facing their own obsessions or those of time.

In the video “The mystery of Marilyn Monroe”, the trailer

The woman behind the star

A special correspondent in Hollywood in 1982 for a two-week report on the reopening of the investigation by the Los Angeles prosecutor into Marilyn’s death, British journalist Anthony Summers remained there for more than three years. Immerse yourself in the maze of the Mecca of cinema, find the traces of thousands of witnesses, unearth numerous documents and make 650 sound recordings in the course of an unprecedented investigation. From this unique material, he released it in 1985 Goddess (published in France by the Presses de la Renaissance, with the title The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroerepublished today in the United States in an enriched version), a 500-page biography that finally gives a glimpse of the complexity of the woman behind the star.

The massacred beauty

Childhood, beginnings, career, love life, ambitions, social and political conscience, rivalry, friendships, betrayals … Summers’ bestseller analyzed every aspect of the icon’s life in a raw and compelling style. The last chapter, one hundred pages devoted to the star’s final days, presented in a convincing, albeit conditional way, the ties between Marilyn and the Kennedy brothers, and earned the book a notable international impact.

She didn’t try to see people who had been close to her again.

Anthony Summers

Two mistakes in taste, however, ended up tarnishing Summers’ aura and the impact of his biography over time. First, the use of numerous quotes from two of the star’s very conspiracy theory “confidants”, Jeanne Carmen and Robert Slatzer, who have since been known as licensed storytellers. And above all, sacrilege, the publication of a dead photograph of Marilyn in one of the photo books in the book. Carrying the references of a police file, the photo taken after the autopsy (scary albeit in black and white) gives readers the face of the massacred beauty of an unrecognizable woman with dirty, flabby hair, marked by discoloration. facial post mortem …

Hundreds of records

Two pitfalls avoided The mystery of Marilyn Monroe, the documentary that Netflix offers from April 27, based on the initial investigation by Anthony Summers. Despite the subtitle, unedited conversations, it’s not about new exchanges with the star, as the first few minutes (or the trailer) suggest. The words of Marilyn that embellish the documentary come from two well-known interviews, conducted respectively in 1960 and 1962 by journalists Georges Belmont for Marie Claire and Richard Merryman for Vita magazine. No, the film’s treasures are drawn from the 650 recordings Summers made during his initial investigation in 1982.

At the time, only twenty years had passed since Marilyn’s death, and most of her colleagues and friends are still active. In Hollywood more than anywhere else, the motto “The show must go onit is equivalent to religion. And from certain silences and the palpable emotion that grips some of these witnesses called by the journalist, we understand that the memories evoked by Marilyn, although still fresh, had never been shared at the time. So let’s forget the close-ups of vintage cassettes inserted in a tape recorder, the same eternal film extracts or newsreel images and the sequences that frame Summers with a serious face, facing the Irish moor, in an office invaded by cardboard boxes. archives.

Hollywood staging

Having overcome these conventions of use, the documentary takes the challenge of staging the original voices of Marilyn’s loved ones in bluffing twilight vignettes, where unknown actors interpret them in reproduction. Despite the artificiality of the process – despite any sense of casting, the physically chosen actors have little to do with who they are supposed to embody – total mastery of the lyp-sync (lip synchronization) and the care of the atmosphere of the reconstructions give these testimonies a rare emotional power. It is therefore as much the stamps of the great names of Hollywood that are incarnated (Billy Wilder or John Huston) as well as those of the shadow army (housekeeper, journalist, photographer, psychoanalyst …) that constituted the entourage and the surrogate family of the actress.

“It pains me too much to talk about it”

Marked by a childhood deprived of the warmth of a home, ambition anchored to the body and yet plagued by doubt, intelligent and passionate, Marilyn Monroe was probably a colleague, a friend, a complex woman to love on a daily basis. As Anthony Summers blandly confides, Jane Russell, his partner Men prefer blondes : “We were connected during the film and after that we still considered ourselves engaged, but Marilyn changed the group of friends. She left one band for another, she took refuge there for a while. She didn’t try to see people who had been close to her again. However, one need only hear the voice of her hairdresser, Sydney Guilaroff, pause when Summers urges him to evoke the star’s unfulfilled desire for motherhood to capture the sincere attachment everyone seemed to have for her in private: “I’m sorry. You seem very kind, Mr. Summers, but it pains me too much to talk about it. Really. “

“How do you write the story of a life? Marilyn asks aloud at the beginning of this documentary. Perhaps simply leaving, beyond the films, the photographs, the controversies, the beautiful words and the secrets, an imprint so strong that, sixty years later, each of us feels our heart sink, as if for a closure, when there is talk of his disappearance.

Sébastien Cauchon is the author of “Marilyn 1962 “Stock Editions (2016), 216 pages, € 21.50.

Leave a Reply