The story begins in 1958, a year that would prove pivotal for Marilyn as well as the cast of characters so influential in her final months. It’s summer and Marilyn has just returned to Hollywood after a long absence. The last time she was in LA was two years earlier, when she was finishing up work on Bus Stop. She had made a movie after Bus Stop but it had filmed in England. Now she was arriving in early July to prep for the film Some Like It Hot, which was set to begin production in early August. When the press reception couldn’t get past how chubby she was, she went to repeated efforts to convince them and herself that the curves were still “in the right places.” Of course even her detractors had to agree that she was as beautiful as ever. She met the press, then made her appearance at premieres and other studio required events with a smile and all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood royalty. But it was tough.
Marilyn was coming out of an almost year long funk. In early 1957, after a very rocky start to their marriage, Marilyn and Arthur Miller were starting to jell. Late spring and early summer would be the happiest time of her life. Marilyn was pregnant and the Millers were renting a cottage in Amagansett. On August 1, while working in the garden, Marilyn doubled over in pain. Later she would lose the baby. In a very real way, and in more ways than the obvious, something in Marilyn died that day and she was never the same afterward. But it wasn’t for lack of effort. Arthur Miller would marvel at his wife’s spirit and the nobility of her struggle to overcome the adversities that life dealt her.
Unfortunately, the marriage would never be the same either. In an effort to prove how much she still meant to him, and to support her desire to become a serious actress, Miller would adapt one of his short stories into a screenplay. The movie, The Misfits, would star his wife in a role that was not in the short story. It would require a whole new concept and Miller would squirrel away for hours, days on end, writing. Months passed. Money was not flowing in. Eventually, they shared a living space but not a life. Leaving Marilyn alone was probably the worst thing for her. Plus, when Miller would show her drafts he was working on, she was greatly disappointed. She didn’t like the character he was writing for her. She felt it was based too much on her and she didn’t appreciate the insight it gave her on how Miller perceived her. Miller was a playwright, he was inexperienced writing screenplays and it aggravated Marilyn that he refused to consider her suggestions on ways to liven up the script. There was also a devastating event that occurred about this time that has never been reported. Perhaps it happened at his ex-wife’s house when Arthur was on a visit with his children. The exact who and when may not really matter. The important thing to note is, especially when speaking of Marilyn’s later infidelities, that in their personal correspondence, it’s always Arthur asking forgiveness for a betrayal against Marilyn. Enough said about that. Perhaps the saddest thing for Marilyn was that now Arthur didn’t seem to want to even consider trying to have a baby let alone make a move in that direction. Depressed and lonely, feeling dejected as a women and a nonworking actress, Marilyn would turn to barbiturates to get through those previously mentioned endless days and tormented nights.
She needed to go back to work. So here we are, July 1958, and Marilyn is in Hollywood while Miller remained back east, awaiting word from the government on whether he’d be facing jail time for his refusal to name names in the Commie witch hunts. Marilyn greeted her adoring fans and handled the overbearing press. But being the happy, smiling carefree “girl” that everyone still expected was exhausting and she needed a break. She needed a place to get away, but where she could still be around people she knew and trusted. At that time, and in that place, the person she trusted most was Frank Sinatra. Frank’s place had been a hideaway before. She was romantically involved with Sinatra when she briefly used one of his hidden hideaways as a refuge after her marriage to Joe DiMaggio. Now at this time, and ever since her marriage to Miller, they were just platonic friends. But Marilyn was sure Frank wouldn’t mind her hiding out at his place, and he didn’t.
Marilyn requested that Frank bring around some other old friends to get reacquainted. Marilyn had always like Judy Garland and she knew Frank and her were still close. When Frank mentioned Peter Lawford, Marilyn was pleased to meet up with him again. Marilyn liked Peter. She had always thought he was fun and respectful, and she liked his quirky, irreverent sense of humor. And, she was eager to meet his wife, whom she had heard so much about. Their wedding was covered in the press as if they were royalty. Lawford, of course, was married to JFK’s sister, Patricia Kennedy.
Marilyn begged off a Gary Cooper party that summer but Frank went, and so did the Lawfords. (It’s been erroneously reported that Frank and Peter reunited at this party after a long feud. They had actually buried the hatchet about a month before at the Cal-Neva lodge.) After the party, Peter and Pat stopped by Frank’s place to meet Marilyn. Marilyn and Pat hit it off right from the start. Pat was pregnant at the time and the two women bonded over babies. The baby Pat was having and the baby Marilyn still hoped to have. Pat was also excited about her brother John’s political future, who as Pat clued Marilyn in, “everyone in the family calls Jack.” When she asked if Marilyn had ever meet Jack, Marilyn told her, “Yes, but only briefly.” She explained that she had attended an April In Paris Ball the previous year in New York with her husband Arthur and they had been briefly introduced to Mr. and Mrs. John Kennedy. What she didn’t tell her was that they had probably crossed paths in her early years as a Hollywood starlet. If she had met him at one of those parties in the early 50’s, he didn’t make any more of an impression than all the other wolves she was used to meeting.
In 1958, JFK was a senator running for reelection, but Pat, like all her brothers, sisters and parents, was already in campaign mode for the 1960 election. She tried to talk about her brother but dropped the subject after Marilyn seemed more interested in Jackie then Jack. That first meeting was short. They listened to some music, had a quick toast to new friends, and just as the fun was starting it was over. Frank and Peter seemed eager drop Pat at home and go out for the rest of the night.
So there you have the sum total of Marilyn’s contact with the Kennedy family through the 1950’s. Every other supposed meeting with JFK in the fifties is pure fantasy. The 60’s however is a different story. By the time of her death in 1962, Marilyn had met and befriended so many Kennedys, that for a time she was considered a friend of the family.
Marilyn’s friendship with Pat Kennedy really picked up steam when the two would meet again in April of 1960. Marilyn had finished SLIH near the end of 1958 and shortly thereafter lost another baby. As terrible as losing the first baby was, this time it was even more devastating. Marilyn didn’t work throughout the entire year of 1959. Night terrors and the inability to sleep lead her to use more and more barbiturates. She summoned the courage to finally do another movie at the beginning of 1960, but by April it still wasn’t completed. It looked to everyone involved that it was going to be a dud. In order to drum up interest in what promised to be a bad movie, the Fox publicity department came up with a plan to create some sexual buzz around the movie by having the two stars hit the Hollywood party circuit together, without their spouses. The “affair” was a publicity stunt, which through a strange set of circumstances became real. In a vulnerable moment Marilyn and her co-star did share a brief, tender time together. With her life and her marriage in taters, he lead her to believe that he cared enough about her to want a future together. Apparently though, he didn’t. The movie was called, Lets Make Love, Then Crush My Heart and Publicly Humiliate Me. I believe the title was shortened for theatrical release.
Marilyn met Pat again that spring. Pat Kennedy Lawford, the “Hollywood Kennedy” was in full campaign mode. The Hollywood party circuit was just one part of a campaign circuit where Pat rubbed elbows not only with the rich and famous but with political heavy hitters as well. Marilyn and Pat became fast friends that spring. Truth be told, Pat was a little more than starstruck. When Pat was a kid, actress Gloria Swanson had visited the Kennedy home with her daughter. Being about the same age, Pat took the girl around to meet her friends, truthfully introducing her as the famous actress’s daughter. Nobody believed her. That wasn’t going to happen again and Pat took great pride in introducing Marilyn to her friends. The two began to spend more time together with Marilyn showing Pat how to dress up in disguise to go out in public undetected. Several months later Pat would use this trick to visit Marilyn in the hospital. Enough about Pat for now. I promised you the scoop on JFK, so let’s take a look at some Marilyn and Jack stories.