Despite the fact that she died 50 year ago, there seems to be a never-ending supply of photos we’ve never seen, diaries of heretofore unknown thoughts, and, of course, people who pop out of the woodwork to tell us they have inside knowledge on how she died and why. Marilyn Monroe is likely more famous dead than she was alive, or at least as famous, and given the 50 years the fans and fanatics have had to dig up whatever there is to dig up, it’s always surprising when something new is…actually new.
And today it’s been revealed that the latest “something new” are FBI files that had long been missing, have now been found, and appear to make that point that Marilyn Monroe was being closely watched as a potential member of the communist party. From The Huffington Post:
Recently obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, the updated FBI files do show the extent the agency was monitoring Monroe for ties to communism in the years before her death in August 1962.
The records reveal that some in Monroe’s inner circle were concerned about her association with Frederick Vanderbilt Field, who was disinherited from his wealthy family over his leftist views. […]
A trip to Mexico earlier that year to shop for furniture brought Monroe in contact with Field, who was living in the country with his wife in self-imposed exile. Informants reported to the FBI that a “mutual infatuation” had developed between Field and Monroe, which caused concern among some in her inner circle, including her therapist, the files state.
“This situation caused considerable dismay among Miss Monroe’s entourage and also among the (American Communist Group in Mexico),” the file states. It includes references to an interior decorator who worked with Monroe’s analyst reporting her connection to Field to the doctor.
Field later wrote an autobiography which includes a full chapter about Marilyn’s visit. A reader’s comment at Amazon.com about the book refers to both Field’s communist leanings and Marilyn’s connection to them:
Field describes how, while he was raised in a sheltered environment by servants, while at school he started to meet people outside his social circle and to question the social system that created his families wealth. Field worked for many years for the Institute for Pacific Relations, a international NGO that provided a forum for discussing the problems of the Pacific Rim nations. Field visited China during the 1920′s and describes the vast poverty and corruption that existed in prerevolutionary China.
Field spent was blacklisted during the McCarthy period and fled to Mexico where he met his third wife and had several children. Field has an interesting account of meeting Marilyn Monroe when she visited Mexico in 1962 and Field describes Ms Monroe as an intelligent poltiically aware young women. He said that Marilyn supported Civil Rights, detested redbaiting and was curious about what was happening in China.
Given the high profile of Monroe, as well as the tenor of the times, it’s not hard to extrapolate that the FBI would find itself focused on a famous actress who was spending time with a known “leftist radical.” According to the files, it seems J. Edgar Hoover, then head of the agency, instructed his agents to keep close watch on her, as well as many of the most famous actors of the era – Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, even Monroe’s ex-husband, playwright, Arthur Miller. The paranoia, back-stabbing, and sheer anxiety inspired by those investigations are well documented. The examples of destroyed careers, broken friendships and tragic ends brought about the heinous legal actions taken against those suspected of being Communists are rampant and many sting to this day. That the FBI specifically suspected Marilyn Monroe is where the news lies:
Monroe’s file begins in 1955 and mostly focuses on her travels and associations, searching for signs of leftist views and possible ties to communism. One entry, which previously had been almost completely redacted, concerned intelligence that Monroe and other entertainers sought visas to visit Russia that year.
The file continues up until the months before her death, and also includes several news stories and references to Norman Mailer’s biography of the actress, which focused on questions about whether Monroe was killed by the government. [Source]
It has been one of the more enduring conspiracy theories that Marilyn’s death in 1962 was not suicide, accidental or otherwise. Reams have been written to implicate John and Bobby Kennedy, both of whom, purportedly, had affairs with Monroe (Google “Kennedys and Monroe death” and the options are endless). Though her death was ultimately ruled a suicide by the Los Angeles County coroner at the time, the well known Thomas Noguchi, the fact of the missing FBI files, the Kennedy connection, various mob connections, as well as suspicions that the FBI was withholding information, led many to believe – and still believe – that she was murdered.
Noguchi himself conceded, however, that given all the intangibles and mysterious connections, it was likely no one would ever be able to ascertain all the details of Marilyn’s death. He also alluded to the FBI files:
“On the basis of my own involvement in the case, beginning with the autopsy, I would call Monroe’s suicide `very probable,’” Noguchi wrote. “But I also believe that until the complete FBI files are made public and the notes and interviews of the suicide panel released, controversy will continue to swirl around her death.” [Source]
But the new question posed by the newly released FBI files is clearly: was Marilyn a communist? What do the released FBI files definitively say about that?
Despite their years of investigation and monitoring (from 1955 until shortly before her death in 1962); despite references to “trips to Russia” and comments made by others to imply some connections, it seems the agency was never able to find any proof that she was, in fact, a member of the party:
“Subject’s views are very positively and concisely leftist; however, if she is being actively used by the Communist Party, it is not general knowledge among those working with the movement in Los Angeles,” a July 1962 entry in Monroe’s file states. [Source]
In life, as in death, Marilyn confounds.