The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe

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Author Frank A. Capell
Publisher The Herald of Freedom
Cover Type Softcover
Dimensions 6.6 x 9.5 inches
Publish Date 1964
Signed No
Number of Pages 80


Some books about Marilyn leave you with a sense of winsome joy, still wishing for the happy ending to what seemed like such a lovely story. Others give you a slight queasy feeling, a sense of embarrassment that you’d taken the time to read it all the way through. Then there are the ones that make you want to wash your hands, and when that doesn’t do the trick, take a shower and have a strong drink to wash the taste out of your mouth. The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe by Frank Capell falls into the latter category.

 I would assume that anyone who has tracked down this book knows this going in. The “book,” (really nothing more than a 70 some page booklet), though, is much more than its contents. For those who have studied the case, Capell’s booklet is more of an artifact, a time capsule of the far right wing propaganda circa the early 1960s. Liken the book to coming across an old John Birch Society tract or a measure of the depth of animosity against the Kennedy Administration while the “brief shinning moment” was still a commonly held belief. The Kennedy Years are usually thought of as a period of style and grace. It is the underbelly of the nation at that time, the dozens of fringe groups whose existence really came to light only after Dallas, that Strange Death personifies. The book, (although containing many crisp and clear copies of documents, as well as contemporary newspaper clippings), is sought out not so much for what it says but for the fact that it has become a dark talisman of the times, a reminder that not everything of that era was as clean and wholesome as Marilyn’s smile. It was an era of Disneyland, Cinemascope and Life magazine. But it was also an era of radical politics of hate, simmering paranoia, and backroom mechanisms that resulted in violent death. Mr. Capell’s book brings all of that to the forefront.

 If you are looking for new information, you won’t find it here, (unless you are searching for Pat Newcomb or Dr. Greenson’s 1962 street addresses). What scant information the booklet holds has been reprinted in many of the better written and more widely distributed books that have since reached publication. But for a feel of the times, of the staunch anti-Kennedy, anti-Communist, high morals preaching of the far right, the book exceeds anyone’s dreams. I knew all this going in, of course. What I was not prepared for was the intensely vitriolic language. And the condemnation of Marilyn Monroe. In the tradition of blaming the victim that seems to be a part of America that continues to this day, The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe paints its central figure not only as a Commie but as an immoral Commie who got what she had coming.

 Capell, in his introductory “About the Author” is upfront about his Anti-Communist credentials. As editor of the “Herald of Freedom,” (“a national anti-Communist educational bi-weekly”), Mr. Capell had been fighting the reds since long before WWII and, as of 1964, was still fighting. And although the main point of his book becomes clear within a matter of paragraphs, (that the recently assassinated Godless Commie and his pinko brother are no less dangerous than Fidel, Nikita and Stalin combined), it is his vicious attacks on Monroe that truly surprises. The feeling one gets from Capell is that sure Marilyn was a tramp who played with fire and got what she deserved, but tramp or not, the Commies were behind the whole thing and that’s what we need to focus on.

 And EVERYONE is a Communist in Marilyn’s world. That’s the second point. Ralph Greenson, Hildi Greenson, Hyman Engelberg, Pat Newcomb, Lee Strasberg, Paula Strasberg, Eunice Murray, Arthur Miller, Jack Kennedy, Pat Kennedy, are all Communists. Who knew? But Capell focuses in on the biggest commie of them all, Robert Kennedy, as the man behind Marilyn’s sudden death. And if one doesn’t quite believe that the Commies Did It, there’s this: “When a person has become a liability or is getting out of hand, the Communist Party has no compunction in ordering his or her liquidation. Many ‘suicides’ and ‘heart attacks’ and ‘accidental deaths’ are in reality murders ordered by the Communist Party. Marilyn was deeply involved with left-wingers and identified Communists and her death has many suspicious aspects to it which we shall attempt to bring out by presenting documented evidence.”

 Now granted, Marilyn’s death had a great many “suspicious aspects” but Mr. Capell makes the mistake of being wrong on so many other aspects of her life that one has a problem believing his overall theory, (if there actually is one other than RFK was a Communist leader hellbent on overthrowing the United States Government and “liquidating” anyone who got in his way). For example:

 -- Arthur Miller was not a ‘self-admitted Communist”. He attended a few meetings, knew members of the Party but never joined.

 -- Marilyn did not have her Brentwood home custom built.

 -- Dr. Greenson did not come to Marilyn’s home at 5:30 to “put her to sleep”

 -- Pat Newcomb never stated that she did not see Greenson at Marilyn’s home that day

 -- Mrs. Murray did not leave unexpectedly on a European vacation following Marilyn’s death. The trip had been planned while Marilyn was living and Marilyn was aware of it and had already made arrangements

 But the book, (at least in 2006), is not purchased and read for facts. The book is sought out for the same reason I searched for it – because it has, over the years, become linked to the case and one should read everything, if only to learn what others were thinking and what the climate of the times were. And what was that climate? The Red Scare had been going on since the end of WWII and cumulated in the HUAC hearings from the late forties right up through the Sixties, (although its popularity and power faded fast after the fall of McCarthy). And while the Southern states may have hated the Kennedys for their support of Dr. King and the civil rights struggle, and the rich may have hated the Kennedys for their stance against price gouging and the US Steel dustup, and Oil might have hated the Kennedys for the reversal of tax loopholes, the Right hated the Kennedys for their somewhat leftward leaning politics and overwhelming popularity. Capell’s Herald of Freedom was just one bitterly angry Anti-Communist group that hated the Kennedys because as Attorney General, Robert Kennedy thought that the Communist Party of 1962 no longer posed a threat to the nation and shifted the focus of his Justice Department to another enemy, Organized Crime. The head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, disagreed. He went on record as saying there was no such thing as organized crime in the US and placed his antagonism to his boss front and center. Mr. Capell, (as his chapter on RFK’s “ruthless” persecution of corrupt Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa shows), agrees. To Capell, Mr. Hoover and a great many, the Communists were still the major threat to the survival of the American Way.

 The Herald of Freedom, The John Birch Society, The Minutemen and a host of others are all examples of the many small groups operating within the United States at the time of both Marilyn Monroe and John Kennedy’s death. Another fringe group, The American Fact-Finding Committee, earned their fifteen minutes of fame on November 22, 1963 when they placed a full page ad in The Dallas Morning News that opened with a cheery “Welcome Mr. Kennedy” then followed up with bullet point questions asking why the President was soft on Communism. That same day handbills were strewn throughout Dallas depicting the President in a Wanted poster with photos suggesting JFK mug shots. It was the newspaper ad that resulted in John Kennedy’s prophetic remark that morning to his wife that they were “heading into nut country.”

 Although Capell might have been the first to put his ideology into book form, he was not the last. Tony Sciacca picked up the torch in the 70s with his Who Killed Marilyn Monroe and Did the Kennedys Know? and Kennedy’s Women. Ralph de Toledano, long after the publication of his RFK-bashing The Man Who Would Be President, was still going strong in the 1980s when he was interviewed in the MM documentary Say Goodbye to the President. Robert Slatzer doesn’t fit into the mould – he simply took their points to heart and rewrote the story without the commie slant, placing himself in the role of Marilyn’s savior.

When considering all of the above and especially The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe, it is wise to remember that 1964 was an election year. Jack Kennedy might have been out of the picture but brother Bobby was running for the Senate.

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