Marilyn Monroe: What If ... |


Marilyn Monroe: What If ...

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

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.”