How Did Marilyn Monroe Die?

The most popular blonde in history, Marilyn Monroe, was also known as a woman of mystery. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, Monroe starred in some of the most prominent 20th Century Fox movies but was also very popular due to her private life. Her death remains a big riddle, and the question 'How Did Marilyn Monroe Die?' became even more common after the Netflix movie 'Blonde,' entirely inspired by her life.

Marilyn Monroe in 1961.
Picture from wikipedia

Join us while we take a walk in the past and try to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and understand the cause of Marilyn Monroe's death. We'll take a closer look into how she spent her last days, the circumstances of her mysterious death, and possible theories on what happened that day, August 5, 1962.

Short Summary

Marilyn Monroe Found Dead By Eunice Murray in Her Home in Los Angeles

On August 4 1962 and 5, 1962, all press in the U.S. and across the globe reported that the actress, sex symbol, and model Marilyn Model was found dead in her home in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles police report officially stated that Monroe was found dead on her bed due to an overdose of sedatives. The police also confirmed that when the ambulance arrived, there was no hope for the 36-year-old actress.

She was found lying naked in her bed, face down, with a telephone in her hands. By her bed, there was also an empty bottle of sedatives. In the report, police stated that it was impossible to determine whether the overdose of drugs was accidental or not. What was certain is that she had been dead for six to eight hours. In her home, the police found no note or anything else that could be a goodbye message.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Monroe's housekeeper, Eunice Murray, said she started to worry when Monroe didn't answer when she knocked on her bedroom door. At about 3:25 a.m., Murray also noticed Monroe's bedroom light on and found the door locked. That is when she called Monroe's psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson. As the bedroom door was locked, he broke a window to enter the room at 3:30 a.m. That is the official time when Monroe was found dead, according to Greenson.

Greenson told the Los Angeles police that Monroe had called him around 5:15 p.m. the day before her passing. She told him she couldn't sleep and wanted to go on a ride. He also shared later with the public that Monroe had many mental health issues. That explained the empty bottles of her sleeping pills and anxiousness pills that were found close to Monroe's body. The toxicologist said that Monroe had taken a lot of the sedative chloral hydrate and the anxiousness drug called Nembutal.

Marilyn Monroe smiling among a crowd of soldiers.
Photo by WikiImages on Pixabay

Some people who believe in conspiracy theories think that the investigation was manipulated because of how strangely Monroe died. Monroe was seen having an affair with Robert F. Kennedy, who is the brother of President John F. Kennedy. He was allegedly at her house the night she died. As with any of her other relationships, Monroe's friendship with the Kennedy family came to light years before her death. There were reports that she had been threatening the Kennedy family to tell everyone about their affair at a news conference. Monroe sang "Happy Birthday" to President Kennedy at his 45th birthday party at Madison Square Garden a few months before she died.

The plot idea was fueled by the fact that some people were given high-level new jobs. That was used as proof in one theory that both John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy also known as Bobby had something to do with Marilyn Monroe's death. Then Marilyn's manager, Pat Newcomb, was told to go to Hyannis Port. After six months, she got a job at the U.S. Information Agency in Washington, D.C.

Controversy Around Autopsy Report

There are two parts to the story about Monroe's death. It was decided in 1962 that the star's death was "probable suicide," and that is what the formal investigation says. A second look at Monroe's death in 1982 backed the first finding. It also said that she might have died of an accidental overdose. An autopsy report also showed that Marilyn died from taking too many drugs. Near her bed, police found empty pill bottles and boxes of Nembutal (a sedative and anticonvulsant) and chloral hydrate (a medicine that calms patients down before treatments).

The autopsy showed that Monroe had taken the barbiturates "in one gulp or a few gulps over a minute or so," according to the coroner. Many have come out to challenge this official autopsy report over the years. They draw attention to contradictions in her case and strongly imply that the probable suicide, suggested by the autopsy report, is not a probability at all.

As Marilyn Monroe was one of the biggest stars of Hollywood at that time, many were shocked by her death and the way the police investigated the circumstances of that unfortunate event. Some of them published versions of this story in memories or interviews with the press. However, that started happening only decades after Monroe died.

Two people who helped with Marilyn Monroe's autopsy said years later that they didn't think the star killed herself. Both of them talked about the popular conspiracy theory that Monroe was killed, possibly because she was close with John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby Kennedy. John Miner was one of them. He was the Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner of Los Angeles County's contact and deputy district attorney. He brought up two facts from the autopsy that didn't make sense, which made him doubt Monroe's suicide. Miner said Monroe's stomach had "vanished" with nothing in it. Even though Monroe's stomach contents might have been thrown away by accident, Miner thought it was strange that the autopsy did not show any yellow stains, which is typical for Nembutal. He also didn't find any needle marks that would have shown that she had been given the medicine intravenously. Miner was left with only one possible outcome: a murder.

Decades have passed since the death of one of Hollywood's top actresses, and people are still confused. Many were wondering if the overdose she suffered was a suicide, an accident, or something worse. Miss Monroe passed away in 1962, but the conspiracy theories lived for so long that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office restarted the investigation 20 years later. This investigation confirmed that Monroe may have overdosed or died accidentally from acute barbiturate poisoning. The barbiturates had time to spread into her blood and liver, so the doctor discovered no residue in her stomach.

Others thought she was murdered because of her ties to Robert F. Kennedy and President John F. Kennedy. Fifty years after the actress's passing, Monroe's FBI file revealed that the government was aware of hypotheses suggesting the actress was murdered. Still, it did not demonstrate that the Bureau had investigated these accusations. However, the FBI report showed that the agency was curious about Monroe's political beliefs, characterizing her as "positively and concisely leftist."

Her ex-husband Joe DiMaggio, who never spoke about Monroe after her death, brought flowers to her thumb three times a week for twenty years. Despite their brief marriage, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio inspired the public as one of the most powerful couples of the era. Monroe also married playwright Arthur Miller and Jim Dougherty before her marriage with DiMaggio. June DiMaggio, Monroe's close friend for eleven years and the niece of baseball icon Joe DiMaggio, shared unseen anecdotes about one of the most captivating Hollywood couples in her book 'Marilyn, Joe & Me' in 2006. She shared that the entire DiMaggio family believes Marilyn was murdered.

When Emma Cooper's documentary "The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes" came out on Netflix in 2022, people became interested in Monroe's death again. The video questions Marilyn's death date, place of death, and the people who were there on that unfortunate day. It even questions if she has died in bed or in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Walt Schaefer, the ambulance business owner, says that Monroe wasn't dead at home. Schaefer said Marilyn was conscious when the ambulance came and took her to the emergency room. Writer John Sherlock said that Greenson told him that Monroe was still alive at home and died on the way to the hospital. After that, they took her back to the house. Greenson said that he was in the ambulance. But the whole thing is very confusing because pictures show her body being wheeled out of her Los Angeles home. Playwright Arthur Miller, Anthony Summers, John Huston, and Lee Strasberg were just a few of the other film directors and writers who were interested in these events and wanted to learn more about Marilyn Monroe's life.

Marilyn Monroe's Legacy: Something's Got to Give, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the Seven Year Itch, Etc.

Few Hollywood celebrities have achieved the same degree of popularity as Marilyn Monroe. Monroe remains, without question, one of the most iconic figures of modern culture even after all these years. Born Norma Jean Mortenson on June 1, 1926, the actress established her place in 20th Century Fox history by portraying humorous "blonde bombshell" characters in cinema. Monroe went on to become the most popular sex symbol of the 1950s and the early 1960s as a result of her impressive acting talent. She was a statement emblem for society's reevaluation of sexual expression in film, and remained so until today.

An outdoor piano adorned with Marilyn Monroe art.
Photo by Jarvik Joshi on Unsplash

Marilyn Monroe also became a top-billed 20th Century Fox performer and a serious actress for ten years. She was placed sixth on the American Film Institute's 1999 list of the best female screen legends from Hollywood's Golden Age. Following her death, media outlets and critics have suggested that Monroe was one of the most outstanding performers who had never been nominated for an Academy Award.

This 36 years old actress made 23 films with 20 Fox Century, worth almost $200 million in their first runs. Monroe became an American cultural figure also as a result of her unnecessary death and combination of sensuality and fragility. Still to this day, her acting in movies, such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Some Like It Hot, and The Seven Year Itch, is praised by many film critics. Four months before being found dead near the empty pill bottles, Marilyn Monroe purchased her first house. She lived at her ex-husband's house and rented out apartments for most of her life. Not only did Monroe make such a positive change in her life close to her death, but she also planned to go to the movies with her friend the day after. These are just some of the pieces of this puzzle that don't fit the narrative of the suicide in Marilyn's room, at least not an intentional one.

Before she passed away, Monroe battled mental health problems for many years. According to the Los Angeles Times, Marilyn's physician in New York, Dr. Marianne Kris, reportedly convinced her to check herself into the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in 1961, the year before her death. According to The New York Times, Monroe detested her stay in the facility and departed three days after her ex-husband, John DiMaggio, picked her up. At that time, she wrote to her doctor, "I felt like I was in some kind of prison for a crime I hadn't committed." The Times also reported that DiMaggio then sent her to a different hospital to receive treatment for her drug and alcohol addiction.

Why Is the Death of Marilyn Monroe Still a Big Mystery?

Monroe's career in Twentieth Century Fox movies is still praised today. Not having a clear conclusion on the way she died is what makes her private life a popular topic as well. We know so much about her career, even something so personal as her addiction to sleeping pills. That is why not being able to have an ending to the story of Marilyn Monroe is baffling for many people, not just her fans.

Considering all her relationships and friendships were constantly under the public's eye, the lack of clarity around her death is even more confusing. How is it possible that her maid, psychiatrist, ambulance, and police were in her home the night she died around 3 a.m., but each has a different version? With so many theories, it's not a surprise that people don't know what to believe in.

Even 60 years after her death, we still don't have a clear answer on how Marilyn Monroe, the most popular sex symbol of the 20th century, died. There are different suggestions on what happened that night, and it's up to the person to decide what they want to believe in.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Did Marilyn Monroe Die?

According to the official autopsy report, Marilyn Monroe (36 years old) died of an overdose of sedatives, primarily Nembutal, on August 5, 1962. She died in her home in Los Angeles, and the time of her death was around 3:30 a.m.

What Were Marilyn Monroe's Last Words?

Marilyn Monroe didn't leave any note or anything in writing, according to the police report. Peter Lawford, Monroe's friend, and husband to Kennedy's sister Pat, said he spoke to her over the phone that day and that she spoke to him about her lack of will to attend one of the Kennedy dinners. He later said his gut was telling him that something was wrong, but he hadn't suspected of suicide at the time of the call.

Did Marilyn Monroe Have a Funeral?

Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson, was buried on August 8, 1962, at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Joe Dimaggio, Monroe's ex-husband, organized the funeral and assured only her close friends could attend the event that mourned the death but also celebrated Monroe's life. Thousands of fans gathered outside the cemetery to pay their respect to both Monroe's career and private life.