Until here I write relatively little about my muses, Vivien Leigh, Ava Gardner, and Marilyn Monroe, whose beauties and charisma for me are still above average. I read their biographies, and I devour any documentary, so when I saw that Netflix would come up with a documentary (in addition to the movie Blonde later this year) about his mysterious death, I wondered if there was something different. After all, the book that serves as the basis for the documentary The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes promised a twist. For anyone who, like me, is familiar with the excellent work of reporter Anthony Summers, whose book Goddess was published in 1985 after the reopening of the investigation into the star’s death, it had to be something incredible. So let’s start with the truth and spoiler: the cause of her death, according to the author and the documentary, seems to have been suicide, either accidental or purposed. The facts available don’t prove otherwise and testimonies confirm Marilyn’s stressed and depressed feelings at the time of her death. However, what the witnesses also provide is enough information to sustain the version that there was a cover-up to erase the pieces of evidence of her involvement with the Kennedy brothers.
Directed by Emma Cooper, the documentary traces Marilyn’s life and last days based on recordings Anthony made for his book, but which were still unheard. Emma wasn’t a particular fan of the actress (now she says she’s obsessed), but she kind of bumped into the topic when she was producing the documentary about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann for Netflix (if you haven’t seen it, run to see it because it’s spectacular).
Anthony Summers and his wife, Robbyn Swan wrote the book Looking for Madeleine and were one of the interviewees. During filming, Emma was surprised to discover that, in 1985, Anthony, who is Irish, wrote a best seller about Marilyn’s death. She read the book in which he defends the conspiracy theory and the Kennedys’involvement, amazed at how it all makes sense. And, talking to him, she discovered that the author had all the interviews recorded, with witnesses, friends, and people who are no longer alive. Spectacular material asking to be revisited.
“My motivation is quite pure and it’s about the truth. And it’s not about being really lewd and there’s no cynicism here. The entire film was created without cynicism. I know it sounds a little woo-woo, but I also think it informs the process because you’re constantly trying to find what the truth is about someone who is no longer alive. And as Tony taught me, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle”, explained the director.
The decoupage process only took over a year to complete. One of the “differences” of the narrative is to have actors dubbing the recordings, like a movie. According to the director, due to time and the lack of relevance of people giving opinions now, especially because the documentary has the material from the recordings, there was no other way to retell the story. It makes the narrative become more poignant, although some critics reacted negatively to the novelty.
The story of the difficult life of Marilyn Monroe gains another perspective 60 years after her death, which will be completed in August, 4th 2022. Her emotional instability, and the physical and psychological abuse she went through, all contributed to her premature death at age 36. The documentary is available starting tomorrow, April 27. Who’s going to check it out as soon as the midnight clock turns?