Skip to main content /transcript


Remembering Marilyn Monroe

Aired June 1, 2001 - 21:00   ET



MARILYN MONROE, ACTRESS (singing): ... square-cut or pear shape, these rocks don't lose their shape. Diamonds are a girl's best friend.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, memories of Marilyn Monroe, on what would have been her 75th birthday. Nearly four decades after her untimely death her legend lives on. Joining us in Las Vegas, Tony Curtis, who starred with Marilyn Monroe in the classic comedy "Some Like It Hot." In Los Angeles, Jane Russell, Marilyn's co-star in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Donald O'Connor -- he was with Marilyn in "There's No Business Like Show Business." Plus, famed photojournalist George Barris, who did Marilyn's final photo shoot. In New York, former "Life" magazine editor Richard Meryman, who interviewed at length just a few weeks before her death; renowned movie producer David Brown, the original producer of Marilyn's last film, "Something's Got to Give"; and James Haspiel, Marilyn's friend and author of a new book, "The Unpublished Marilyn." They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.


CHORUS (singing): But diamonds...

MONROE: ... are a girl's best...


... best friend.


KING: Good evening and welcome to what is a very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. June 1st, the 75th -- would have been the 75th birthday of the late Marilyn Monroe, and we've assembled seven people, all of whom were intertwined in some way or other with her life.

We'll start with Richard Meryman, the former editor of "Life" magazine in our New York bureau, who interviewed Marilyn only a few weeks before her death. Tell us about that interview and how it was set up. What were the circumstances, Richard? RICHARD MERYMAN, FORMER EDITOR, "LIFE": It was to be a piece on fame. I had no real idea how -- what I was going to do. The minute Marilyn started talking I knew instantly that I wanted to reproduce her words like a monologue on the page.

She talked with just this tremendous gusto, images tumbling over each other, sometimes not making a lot of sense. A wonderful laugh that started low and ended in this squeak. Gestures, working with her hands, leaning forward, talking with all this vitality. And yet, underneath that was this woman who was having such a lot of trouble with fame and with life in general. She...

KING: Did you sense then a sense of depression?

MERYMAN: I felt that she was terribly vulnerable, terribly needy, terribly distrustful. She felt betrayed right and left. She felt betrayed by her friends. She talked about how she was beginning to have wonderful friends, and suddenly they would be talking to the press, they would be telling stories to other people. She talked about her co-actors, one he -- or she mentioned who said that -- she didn't name him -- but he had likened kissing her to kissing Hitler. She...

KING: In other words, a very honest, refreshing look at a person.

MERYMAN: Yes, and she talked about how people would invite her to dinner to brighten up the table, and that she was like a pianist who would perform after dinner, an ornament.

KING: Donald -- hold it there, Richard. Donald O'Connor, what was she like to work with?

DONALD O'CONNOR, ACTOR; Always found her to be a lot of fun, a lot of joy. She was a gal who was very much like me, who I think, you know, any good performer you've got to be quiet to memorize your lines. She would go off, be quiet, concentrate on what she was doing. But she got it all together, she came back, and we had a lot of fun together, the days I worked with her in the movie.

KING: Tony Curtis, what was she like to work with?

TONY CURTIS, ACTOR: She was the best. This first guy that spoke doesn't know what he's talking about.

KING: It's Richard Meryman...

CURTIS: Well, I don't care -- I don't care if it's Sylvia. Let me tell you, they've taken this woman and kind of blown into something that never existed. They keep writing books about her. They keep -- there was a movie out about her called "Blondie" or something. And it's got nothing to do with what Marilyn was like, absolutely nothing.

An interview in a restaurant or spending a weekend somewhere does not give you a clue to what was the madness of this woman. She was so sensitive to the world. She was not prepared. She was ill, physically ill and mentally ill when we did "Some Like It Hot." I knew her 10 years earlier. We were good friends, we were lovers. And then here we are making this movie and everybody's screaming at her: Get there on time, you're late, we're going to put you on suspension, you're going to get kicked off the film. There was no one around her to be her friend.

Marilyn was not that complicated, guys. She wasn't that vulnerable, either. She was a tough, beautiful woman.

And I never said kissing her was like kissing Hitler. She and I were...

KING: He didn't say that was you.

CURTIS: Yeah, well, that's what this guy implies.

KING: No, he didn't.

CURTIS: Well, trust me, Larry. That's what they say -- I said it, OK. And that's not true.

KING: Jane, is he right?

JANE RUSSELL, ACTRESS: Well, when I worked with Marilyn, it was really only her second staring role, and she was shy about going out on the set. But her makeup man told my makeup man that she was all ready, she had been in way before I had. And so I said, well, I'll just go by and get her. And I would go by and say, come on, baby, it's time, you know. And she'd go, oh, OK, and she'd just get up and trottle on. She was...

KING: You liked her?

RUSSELL: Yeah, very much.

KING: We've got lots more to hear from and lots more guests to deal with, and we'll go around the table as we continue this saga of Marilyn Monroe. Don't go away.


MONROE (singing): A kiss may be grand but it won't pay the rental on your humble flat or help you at the auto mat. Men grow cold as girls grow old, and we all lose our charms in the end. But square cut or pear-shaped these rocks don't lose their shape, diamonds are a girl's best friend.




MONROE: Have you ever been with a male band?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Who me? MONROE: That's what I'm running away from. I've worked with six different ones in the last two years. Oh, brother!


MONROE: I'll say.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You can't trust those guys.

MONROE: I can't trust myself. I have this thing about saxophone players, especially tenor sax.


MONROE: I don't know what it is, but they just curdle me. All they have to do is play eight bars of "Come to Me, My Melancholy Baby," and my spine turns to custard, I get goosepimply all over, and I come to them.


MONROE: Every time.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You know, I play tenor sax.

MONROE: But you're a girl, thank goodness.



KING: George Barris, the famed photo journalist, you did the final photo shoot with Marilyn. Is that correct?


KING: What was that like?

BARRIS: She was a delight. I don't know what anyone else says about her, but we hit it off great.

I met her first in 1954 when they came to New York to do the location for "Seven Year Itch." We're both Geminis, and we became friends instantly. You either like a person or you don't, and we hit it off. She was just a doll to work with.

KING: And you did the book "Marilyn, Her Life in Her Own Words: Marilyn Monroe's Revealing Last Words and Photographs."

BARRIS: Absolutely. It's a wonderful book, and this was the back we did together. And I want to present it to you, Larry, because this is her last words and these photographs are fantastic. .

KING: Thank you. David Brown, the film producer, you were the original producer of "Something's Got to Give," her last movie. But you weren't the final producer. What happened?

DAVID BROWN, MOVIE PRODUCER: What happened, Larry, is that my partner, Dick Zanuck, said one day: "They're carrying your script in the elevator, a guy named Henry Weinstein. Watch your back."

I was a former top executive at 20th Century Fox who had the effrontery to criticize the new head of production, and as a result I was sent to Siberia as a producer. Nobody thought that my first project, "Something's Got to Give," would attract George Cukor, and in fulfillment of a commitment -- that's the important key -- Marilyn's last picture, because Marilyn really was forced to do the film under a Fox commitment.

KING: Did you get along with her?

BROWN: Fine as long as I was there. You see, I knew Marilyn Monroe from 1952 when I first met her coming up the steps of the administration building, the most beautiful girl in the world, and I bought the stories for her, as Fox's story editor. She came into the story department and wanted to see what was new, what synopses we had, what books.

It was a canard that she was bimbo. Never. She was a brilliant woman. She had a great sense of story. It was no joke that she wanted to do "The Brothers (UNINTELLIGIBLE)." I'll get that right some day.

KING: Karamazov.

BROWN: Thank you, Larry. You can be my coach.

She was -- she aspired to higher things. That's why she was married to Arthur Miller. That's why she was associated with Lee Strasbourg. She wanted to be a fine actress.

KING: James Haspiel, the final of our panelists -- and then we'll go round-robin -- you were a friend of hers. You wrote "Young Marilyn: Becoming a Legend," "Marilyn: The Ultimate Look," and the forthcoming book "The Unpublished Marilyn." Is everyone of our guests right? Is this a complicated person, or as Tony Curtis said not a complicated person?

JAMES HASPIEL, MARILYN'S FRIEND & BIOGRAPHER: I'd answer you this way. Toward the end of her life, Marilyn was asked if she ever learned anything new about somebody writing about her -- excuse me -- about herself in their writings about her, and she said, "No, I usually learn more about the writer than I do about myself."

I think we're all complicated. The Marilyn that I knew doesn't fit the pattern of a lot of other people's Marilyns. I knew a very productive woman, who was very, very busy in her life, taking her acting lessons, and doing the kinds of things that made her invention, meaning Marilyn Monroe, an even better presentation to her prospective audience.

And she worked at that a lot, and there was a period of a year, a year and half when I saw her on a daily basis. And the woman that I was visiting and seeing had nothing to do with the woman that was being written about in the press.

As an example, we spent an evening together once, and the following day I read in the newspaper that Marilyn Monroe had been in Chez Vito the previous night, a restaurant in the east 60s in New York City. She hadn't been at Chez Vito, but a lot of the stuff that accumulates about her comes from written materials that have nothing to do with her at all.

KING: We'll be right back with more. Marilyn Monroe would have been 75 years old. Don't go away.


MONROE: Ooh, do you feel the breeze from the subway? Isn't it delicious?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sort of cools the ankles, doesn't it? Well, what do you think would be fun to do now?

MONROE: I don't know. It's getting pretty late.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not that late.

MONROE: The thing is I have this big day tomorrow. I really have to get to sleep.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's big day tomorrow?

MONROE: Tomorrow I'm on television. You remember I told you about it. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Ooh, here comes another one!




JAMES COBURN, NARRATOR: In the early months of 1962, Marilyn Monroe was set to go before the cameras for her 30th film.

She'd been absent from the screen for over a year, and the light comedy "Something's Got to Give" would offer something of a comeback.


MONROE: Come on. The water's so refreshing.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: By the way, in this connection, the new documentary of "Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days" is debuting on cable TV's American Movie Classics. It also includes the Diamond Collection, a DVD set, including five of Marilyn's best-loved films. There's also a special edition DVD of the 1955 classic "Some Like It Hot," arguably her best movie.

Tony, you said you had an intimate relationship with her.

CURTIS: I did indeed. I did indeed.

KING: All right. What...

CURTIS: Let me explain something about Marilyn, OK.

KING: Please.

CURTIS: Kind of clean up a lot of stuff, because a lot of this is junk. Oh, can I say hello to Donald O'Connor and Jane Russell.

O'CONNOR: How are you doing there, Tony?

CURTIS: Is that you, Jane, or Donald?


O'CONNOR: No, it's Donald.

CURTIS: I love you guys. I love you.

O'CONNOR: I'm the one wearing -- I'm wearing the blue suit.

CURTIS: Donald was such a fine name when I first started in movies, gave of himself. Jane has been a good friend. All these guys -- George.

Anyway, let me get back to Marilyn. Marilyn, you know...

KING: Look at me, Tony. You're looking off to the left. I like the profile, but look at me.

CURTIS: OK. Marilyn -- Marilyn, you know, had to capitulate and give in a lot of areas the beginning of her career. She was a very beautiful woman, and the only way a young woman in those days could make it -- maybe today, too -- was to make themselves accessible to men's passions and lust. OK?

KING: Are you saying she slept around?

CURTIS: I beg your pardon.

KING: She slept around?

CURTIS: Well, that's a nice way to put it, yes.

KING: OK. CURTIS: And so she -- she never forgot that, though. You see, most of us take those slings and arrows as part of the living experience, and as we get a little older, things change for us. It never happened with Marilyn. Marilyn never changed. She never forgot that humiliation of having to drop on her knees.

She lived with Joe (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a handful of guys. So when she finally made it, could make it, she was going to get even with everybody. She was a sweet, vulnerable woman who didn't forget what she had to go through to get started in the movies. Simple as that.

KING: Now, Jane, you told us you refused to go through any of that, right?

RUSSELL: Oh, yeah.

KING: You had -- you could have done that, too, right?

RUSSELL: Well, we were -- we had totally different backgrounds. We were both Gemini, and I think Tony is a Gemini, too. And -- but I had four brothers, younger, and I was raised with 12 boys -- that's cousins. And I told my brothers how high to jump and when, you know. So we just had totally different backgrounds.

KING: You were stronger?

RUSSELL: Yes. I had all the wonderful family and everything, and I could have just gone home to the ranch if somebody bugged me.

KING: Did she get bum-rapped, George?

BARRIS: I think so, because we hit it off in 1954. We became friends. And I suggested let's do a book some day and she said sounds great. She says: "I'd like to set the record straight, all these lies that have been said about me." And she is the sweetest person. She worked so hard. She wanted to do everything right. She never hurt anybody.

When I was with her, she was the kindest, sweetest person to everyone on the set.

KING: But obviously, Donald, there is some sort of -- because we keep hearing how she would be late, she was suspended from movies, fined. All that's true, too, right?

O'CONNOR: That's all true.

KING: So do we talk about two people or one?

O'CONNOR: I don't know if you're going -- you're going into the area of being two personalities you mean.

KING: Yeah. Was there an aspect of that to her?

O'CONNOR: I don't believe so. I think..

KING: Hard worker, shirker.

O'CONNOR: ... Marilyn had pretty much in her head where she knew where the Marilyn character was, not the fantasy character, and I think she knew where Marilyn was, not the fantasy character. I think she was pretty level-headed in that department. She wasn't -- she was wasn't a head job at all. You know...

KING: James, were you shocked that she killed herself?

HASPIEL: Well, first of all, I don't believe that she killed herself. But I want to go back for a moment. It's a matter of public record that Harry Cohn, the monstrous head of Columbia Pictures, tore up Marilyn's contract because she wouldn't get on her knees for him. This makes me very angry. And it's a matter of public record that Groucho Marx in his own autobiography told of having spent $8,000 wining and dining her, and couldn't get her into bed.

And I'm not saying she never went to bed with anybody, but it's a real cheap shot to say happy birthday to Marilyn by saying she dropped on her knees, Mr. Curtis.


CURTIS: Let me tell you something. Can I answer him?

KING: You may.

CURTIS: Huh? OK. You don't know what you're talking about. You talk in payables. You're not talking about the facts of a woman that is dead 40-some-odd years. She was a vulnerable, sweet woman -- period. She was difficult, true.

She -- all the things that they say about her are true. Harry Cohn and the monstrous movie mogul was a very fine and gentle man. She was under contract to that studio. No, she wasn't even under contract,. She wasn't under contract until she went to 20th, and then she moved in with Joe Skank. So, you know, you're painting a picture that doesn't exist. Marilyn was not that person.

She was a human, a vulnerable woman, lusty, enjoying life, and loving her success. She couldn't work in the last few years. She was ill.

KING: James, why -- why do you...

HASPIEL: Mr. Curtis...

KING: James. why...

HASPIEL: Marilyn Monroe -- excuse me. Mr. Curtis, Marilyn Monroe's...

CURTIS: Call me Tony.

HASPIEL: ... contract to Columbia Pictures -- Marilyn Monroe's contract to Columbia Pictures is a matter of public record. CURTIS: Oh, really?

HASPIEL: She made "Ladies of the Chorus" for them.

CURTIS: But what movie did she make?

HASPIEL: Columbia Pictures, "Ladies of the Chorus," 1948.

CURTIS: "Ladies of the Chorus."


CURTIS: What year was that?

HASPIEL: 1948.

CURTIS: She wasn't even in the movies then. She was just starting. What are you talking about? You're talking as if she was a major player then. She didn't start making it until 1952, '53, '54, '55.

HASPIEL: You've just made my point, because as a relative...

CURTIS: Oh, I did?

HASPIEL: ... unknown -- as a relative unknown, she would have been obliged to service Harry Cohn and chose not to.

CURTIS: Listen, she would oblige anybody in those days if she wanted to get into movies, which she did, as everybody did.

KING: Boy...

HASPIEL: Are you confessing?

KING: OK, James -- he did already. James, the question of you is why do you think she didn't commit suicide.

HASPIEL: Well, because I believe that she was murdered.

CURTIS: See, that's nonsense. I mean, I can't believe this man is saying she was murdered. Who murdered her? The Kennedys? Sam Giancana? Who?

Marilyn had tried to commit suicide three or four times before, but she always was able to call somebody that would save her from it. This night she called Peter Lawford, who was out -- out of it himself. So no one knew about it.

KING: We'll be right back with more on what would have been her 75th birthday. Don't go away.


MONROE (singing): I want to be loved by you, just you, nobody else but you I want to be loved by you. Poo-deedly-deedly-deedly- dum. Puh-puh-pee-doo.





KING: George, you were saying?

BARRIS: I don't understand why Tony is so negative about this sweet, lovely lady. Let's forget the fact that she had a hard time becoming a film star. But don't forget she had a terrible life, terrible childhood.

CURTIS: Everybody has a terrible life and a terrible childhood.

BARRIS: But you're knocking her so badly, Tony, I don't understand you.

CURTIS: I don't understand you. Where do you have all these facts from? You did a couple of photographs...

BARRIS: I worked with her for the last...


BARRIS: Not a couple. I worked with her the last six weeks. She was the sweetest, kindest, nicest person.

KING: But Tony said the same thing. Tony liked her.

BARRIS: But he says all these negative things. I never...

CURTIS: What negative? What are you talking about, George?

KING: He said she slept with people to get ahead in movies, but she was a wonderful person. Right? Is that in essence...

CURTIS: Yeah, but what has that got to do with being a wonderful person? That's got nothing to do with it. She was a charming, intelligent, most humorous woman, period.

BARRIS: I agree with you there.

She was a Gemini. You're a Gemini. Jane is...

CURTIS: Gemini's got nothing to do with it.

BARRIS: We said she had thousands of personalities. What is it, a dual personality on a Gemini?

KING: Dual personality. Richard, what do you make of all -- what are we dealing with here, Richard? I mean, you interviewed her. Are there many, many, many facets here? MERYMAN: I think there were two. I think that she couldn't deal with the celebrity, but that was her image. Her whole reason for being was the celebrity by that time. The reason that I think she did our piece was that she wanted the reassurance that she was still famous.

She had been fired by Fox, and by god, if "Life" magazine still wanted to do a big article, she was famous. That was terribly important to her.

KING: Jane, you were going to say something? Jane?

RUSSELL: Well, being late, I don't know why somebody, instead of sitting on the set and getting mad, go by and get her.

KING: That seems simple. We'll take a break and come right back. I'll reintroduce our panel. Marilyn Monroe would have been 75 years old. We're also going to talk about how this legend continues and the amount of money some of the items that were part of an auction at Ripley's, what they sold for. Don't go away.


NARRATOR: Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell are welcomed by George Bowser, manager of the Fox West Coast theaters as they arrive to make their imprints in the famous concrete of Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Filmdom's first blond and first brunette, Marilyn and Jane won their chance to join filmdom's immortals by their work in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," the Technicolor adaptation of the sensationally humorous musical comedy stage hit.




MONROE (singing): Don't love nobody. It's not worthwhile. All alone, running wild.


KING: Let's meet our panel again. They are in Las Vegas Tony Curtis, who starred with Marilyn in "Some Like It Hot," arguably -- maybe not even arguably -- her best film. Here in Los Angeles, Jane Russell, who starred with Marilyn in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." That film is also part of a new DVD set, Marilyn Monroe, the Diamond Collection, and as a special edition DVD of "Some Like It Hot," as well. Donald O'Connor, the brilliant Donald O'Connor, who starred with Marilyn in the terrific movie "There's No Business Like Show Business." That's also in the DVD set. George Barris, the famed photojournalist -- he did Marilyn's final shoot. He wrote "Marilyn, Her Life in Her Own Words: Marilyn Monroe's Revealing Last Words and Photographs."

In New York is Richard Merryman, the former editor of "Life" magazine. He interviewed Marilyn a few weeks before her death. The story was published in the August 3, 1962 edition of "Life." He also recalled what Marilyn was like to talk with in a long last talk with a lonely girl in the August 17th edition.

Also in New York is the famed movie producer, David Brown. He was originally the producer for "Something's Got to Give," the film Marilyn was fired from prior to her death.

And James Haspiel, friend of Marilyn's, author of "Young Marilyn: Becoming a Legend," "Marilyn, the Ultimate Look and the Legend," and the forthcoming "The Unpublished Marilyn."

There was a selling, an auction at Christie's in 1999 of items owned by Marilyn Monroe, and Ripley's Museum, the famed museum here in Los Angeles bought some of those items. They bought a Mexican sweater from her last photo shoot for $167,500, a fur-trimmed glass slippers for 85,000. Get this, for a personal makeup case, they paid $266,500. Other items you can see at Ripleys as well are a sexy baby doll pajamas, a bed high heels with matching purse -- red, rather, high heels with matching purse, and pearl-studded teaspoons.

Why, Donald O'Connor, does this legend live nearly 40 years since her death?

O'CONNOR: Well, she was bigger -- she was such a big personality on the screen. And I think the way she passed away kept it alive. You know, how did she go, was it an accident, was she killed, and all of this business has been brought before the public, you know, almost monthly ever since she passed away. And I don't think there is ever been a girl that's ever been that big -- to as replaced her yet on the screen.

KING: In other words, we have not had a movie star equal to that.

O'CONNOR: That big. That big. Not so much as the talent itself as an actress, but the charisma, the thing that she represented. She was young, she was youthful, she was so happy and gay. And she was so serious, yet, because she wanted to be such a great actress.

KING: Tony, why do you think that legend continues?

CURTIS: How do you think that Sotheby's got all of that goods to put on...

KING: Christie's.

CURTIS: Christie's. When Marilyn died, she left what was left of her estate to Lee Strasbourg's School of Acting. Those people sold it to an attorney. That attorney is making money every day on Marilyn Monroe's memorial.

KING: But the question is, why does this legend, Tony, continue?

CURTIS: Because this -- this gentleman, whoever controls her estate now, has got her up for sale for any kind of story. You're liable to read a story, "Marilyn Monroe Gave Birth to 12 Children." And "National Enquirer" will buy it, and whoever wrote it could get away with it.

KING: Now, the question, though, is why would they buy it? Why do they get away with it? If you did that story about another...

CURTIS: Larry, look at that girl. She was voluptuous and beautiful and blonde -- a very appealing woman. She allowed herself to do that. In "Some Like it Hot," she wore the most revealing dresses, that nobody would even wear, and she did. She became part of all our lives. How many guys fell in love with her, then and now? This was an outstanding film personality.

KING: James -- very well said. James Haspiel, why do you think it continues? Why do books still sell?

HASPIEL: I think one of the reasons is, with absolute respect to all the women in the world, I think of her as the last female. And what I mean by that is, she was so extraordinarily feminine in her posture and her movements and her presentation. And she happened before the guys put on the earrings and carried the handbags. And there is a word in the dictionary, "female," and there's a word "feminine," and she represents that in an extraordinary way. And I think, in the way that we hold on to lots of things in our history. That's one of the clues to why we still hold on to Marilyn.

KING: David, do you think -- do you agree with Donald O'Connor, that she was maybe the last great film star?

BROWN: I think she was -- she was the last hugely great film star, but I want to say that Marilyn Monroe, in death, like Elvis, is more popular than she was on life, because I worked on the Fox lot from 1951 onward during Marilyn's entire career. We put her mainly in ensemble films. She was wonderful. She's beloved. But she didn't -- there was only one film -- I think one of her greatest was "Bus Stop," directed by Joshua Logan, in which she was the star. Mostly she was with others, and she grew in importance...

KING: Since her death.

BROWN: And when Marilyn died, the world wept.

KING: We'll be right back with more on what would have been her 75th birthday. Don't go away.


MONROE: I want a guy I can look up to and admire. But I don't want him to browbeat me. I want a guy who'll be sweet with me, but I don't want him to baby me, either. I just got to feel that whoever I marry has some real regard for me. Aside from all that -- loving stuff. You know what I mean?



MONROE (singing): You're having a heat wave. A tropical, tropical heat wave. The way that I move, that's the law that it proves...

CHORUS: She certainly, certainly, certainly can.

MONROE: I certainly, certainly, certainly can.


KING: George Barris was saying during the break -- here was a giant star, internationally famous, who was terribly unhappy. Right?

BARRIS: Absolutely, Larry.

KING: Why?

BARRIS: She had no...

KING: What did she have to be unhappy about?

BARRIS: She had no family. Her mother was a sick person. She had no identity. Even her husbands never brought her happiness. They all wounded up in divorces.

KING: None of it her fault? None of it her -- she brought something to the meeting, didn't she?

BARRIS: Absolutely. But, I mean, if you have a husband that is caring and understanding and realizes that there's a person who has problems, you bend over backwards, and not destroy her like they were. It's very sad. She had nobody. Who did she go home to? No family, no children, friends, who so-called themselves friends, were there when they needed money, which she gave to them, never asked for it back.

KING: Tony, did you keep in touch with her throughout the last years of her life?

CURTIS: We did. You know, what interrupted us was that quote that I was supposed to have said after that kissing scene with her, which I never did. And someone got back to her with it, and she was offended by it, and I don't blame her. So I called her and we talked for a moment, and she understood that it was never said by me. The studio was so organized and so antagonistic toward her, they would use anything to...

KING: How good a talent was she, Tony?

CURTIS: How good a talent? She was brilliant. I know all these other pictures that she's made, and she was excellent. "Some Like it Hot" was the ultimate comedienne. Nobody's timing was better. But let me say this, Billy Wilder gave her a lot of opportunities to do that. She was late, he would put her dialogue on cue cards. But Marilyn's instinct was so perfect for being in the movies that she was able to give you what I think is one of the funniest performances of all time.

KING: Jane, how good was she as a talent?

RUSSELL: She was very good. And she had -- you know, they said it before, she really wanted to be there. She would work with her coach the night before. She'd come on the set, and her first instinct was to look at her coach. Well, you don't do that to Howard Hawks.


KING: Did she share well with you? I mean, here were two beautiful women in there in that "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Did she share well with you?

RUSSELL: Yes, she was wonderful.

KING: She didn't try to scene-steal...

RUSSELL: No, no, no. We -- she was like a little sister.

KING: Now, you were her boyfriend in "There's No Business Like Show Business."

O'CONNOR: I sure was.

KING: Not bad, Donald.


KING: How do you rate her as a talent?

O'CONNOR: Well, I thought she was wonderful. She was a gal who was late on the set, but at the same time, she was getting ready for Marilyn to be on the screen. She wanted her to be perfect at all times. Once she was there, she was cooperative. She was wonderful. She never gave anybody any trouble. The director came to me one day on the set, and I was doing a scene with her in front of a bandstand, and he called me over and he said, "Donald," he said, "Marilyn looks a little taller than you in this scene. Her hair is in that bouffant hairstyle, and she's wearing high heels. Would you mind taking off your shoes and getting on an apple box?"

And I automatically felt like Alan, Alan Ladd, you know?



O'CONNOR: He fought that all his life. And I said, well, wait a minute here. I said, "Can't you ask her to take off her shoes?"

And he said, "I can't ask her. I'm afraid." Now, this is the biggest director in Hollywood...


O'CONNOR: .. who directed "No Business Like Show Business." So I went to Marilyn and I said, "This guy is scared. I said -- because you look a little taller, would you mind taking off your shoes? I feel silly -- it's emasculating to stand up on an apple box here and start, you know, making love to you."

She says, "Oh, he's an idiot," and she threw off her shoes. She was fine, you know.


O'CONNOR: I mean, that's the way she was.

KING: Do you agree, James, that we maybe took too serious that she didn't take herself that seriously? That you could have handled it just like Donald did?

HASPIEL: She was a very giving performer, and in the footage, the eight or nine hours from "Something's Got to Give," there are sequences where she is working, with a little boy. It's his close-up. She's not on camera, but she's working with him, nonetheless. There are sequences where they're doing a close-up of a dog that's going to wind up a couple frames on film, and she's doing the close-ups with the dog. She's not on camera. She's a very giving performer.

And there's a great clue to her talent and the measure of her talent in "Niagara," the only role in which she ever played an amoral woman. And when you watch "Niagara," you cannot find a frame of the innocence and vulnerability that virtually cloaked her in professional and real life. So it says something about her talent.

KING: Terrific movie with Joseph Cotten. We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.


JOSEPH COTTEN, ACTOR: Well, what are you getting all dressed up for?

MONROE: I'm going to pick up the bus I tickets.

COTTEN: Pick up the bus tickets? We'll buy them when we get to the terminal.

MONROE: I'm not going to stand all the way to Chicago. I want reservations.

COTTEN: There are no reservations. We just go early and get aboard early. You're getting all dressed up to go out and buy tickets. Why? Where you going?

MONROE: Here we go again. All right. I'm not going to bus station. Does that make you feel any better?

COTTEN: You smell like a dime store. I know what that means. MONROE: Sure. I'm meeting somebody. Just anybody handy, as long as he's a man.




MONROE: Did you see this fellow I'm with?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What's he look like?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Very nice for one-eyed man.

MONROE: Is that all he's got?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What do you think he's got that patch on for?

MONROE: I didn't know it was a patch. I thought somebody might have belted him.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Honestly, Paula, why can't you keep those cheaters on long enough to see who you're with, anyway?

MONROE: No, no, I'm not going to take a chance like that. You know what they say about girls who wear glasses.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Maybe somebody shot him in eye.

MONROE: He sounds just wonderful. I was naturally curious to know what he looked like.


MONROE: I don't know that, either, but he hasn't mentioned anything under a million dollars yet.


KING: In Richard Ben Cramer's brilliant book on Joe DiMaggio, he says, Richard Merryman, that they were going to remarry, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. Did you have any hint of that?

MERRYMAN: Well, I can tell you that during our second interview, after she had had quite a lot of champagne, the phone rang and the press agent went and answered it. And Marilyn called out, "If it's an Italian, I'm not here." That's all I can contribute.

KING: James, what do you know about that story?

HASPIEL: I don't believe that they were going to remarry. Unfortunately, I probably know a little bit too much about it, and I really don't want to be indiscreet. Joe DiMaggio had a problem with -- violence, and that had obviously been gone for many years after their divorce, but it reemerged a month before Marilyn's death. And so there couldn't have been a marriage.

KING: He continued, George, to love, though, didn't he?

BARRIS: Oh, yes.

KING: Joe DiMaggio loved her.

BARRIS: I believe he loved her. I believe Arthur Miller loved her. And I believe the world loves her. The reason was she was a friend to everyone. But she lost all her friends. She became famous. A lot of them disappeared.

KING: Do you remember, Donald, your first reaction when you heard she died?

O'CONNOR: Oh, yes. It was -- well, first of all, it's like anybody, you don't believe it, of course. And, secondly, that -- just the whole bottom just dropped out when I started thinking about it. I said, it's not possible. Not Marilyn, no, she's too alive. She's not that kind of person, just all of a sudden to be gone.

KING: Jane, did you think suicide when you heard she died?

RUSSELL: I had no idea. I was at the beach in Malibu at our beach house and I had a lot of my girlfriends there, and each one had had a problem bigger than the last one, and we were all really laughing about it. because it was like, oh, man, nothing could be that bad. And the guys came home from playing from -- hunting, and they had heard it on the air. And I just said, oh, God, if Marilyn had only been here, we could have all -- we would have been laughing about all the problems everybody had.

KING: Tony, how did you hear about it and what was your first reaction?

CURTIS: I was in Europe working on a picture, and that's when I heard. I was really sorry. I didn't feel she would last much longer after "Some Like it Hot."

KING: Really.

CURTIS: Yes, I didn't. I could see by her behavior how -- not uncontrollable, but she had lost all the desire to hang around, you know? And she was being fed -- spoon-fed by these people to make her feel more comfortable. But she was aware of everything. Let's not forget that Marilyn understood everything that went on around her. You know? And her death came as a shock to everybody.

But we who had worked with her saw her vulnerability, and knew that perhaps somehow something bad was going to happen to her, and it did.

KING: George, when you heard?

BARRIS: I was in the country with my brother-in-law, Frank. We stopped at a little grocery shop to get some breakfast. I sat in the car, he went in, and he come running out, saying, "It came over the air."

I said, "What?"

"Marilyn's dead."

I said, "I can't believe it. Stop making jokes. It's a serious thing you're talking about."

He says, "I swear, she's dead." I just turned white. I froze. I was supposed to see her that Monday. Here it was Sunday, I was going to fly out to the coast. She wanted me to come out there. She had something very important to tell me. I wish she had told me on the phone, but she wouldn't. There was something brewing. She was happy about the book we were going to do together. She was happy about the "Cosmopolitan" cover and 12 pages, and she was looking forward to great things. She had great offers coming in. They were going to start the film again with Dean Martin in September, and she had everything to look forward to.

KING: You were shocked that it was suicide.

BARRIS: Completely. I don't believe she ever killed herself.

KING: You don't either?

BARRIS: Absolutely.

KING: All right. We'll take a break and we'll get the thoughts of Richard David and James as they heard about it, and then final comments from everybody. Don't go away.



MONROE (singing): Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, Mr. President, happy birthday to you


KING: By the way, James Haspiel, were you with her when she sang "Happy Birthday Mr. President"?

HASPIEL: I wasn't with her. I was in the audience.

KING: What was that like?

HASPIEL: You know, it's become so legendary. It was exciting, but I was sitting in my seat looking at a friend of mine, so that's a whole different perspective.

KING: True. HASPIEL: And I saw her, for the last time, at about 4:00 that morning, after she sang to Kennedy.

KING: Where were you when you heard of the death, and your first reaction.

HASPIEL: I was here in New York City, and I was absolutely devastated. It was unbelievable. But I want to comment that Marilyn is the only dead movie star, or celebrity, that still turns up on 10 best lists where the other nine people are alive and working and flourishing and belong on the list.

KING: Amazing.

HASPIEL: It's very interesting.

KING: David, where were you?

BROWN: In New York, heard it on the radio. First impression was, what I said before, the whole world wept. People all around the world wept. People who never knew Marilyn loved her. She had a sunny funny persona, as well as being incredibly beautiful. And so I wept myself because I -- although I didn't know her intimately, I did work with her over the many years she was at 20th Century Fox. By the way, Christie's has a script of Marilyn Monroe's notes, I think was a Nunnelly Johnson script, and it shows you savvy she was, not only about acting, but about writing.

KING: Richard, you had just interviewed her. What was your reaction?

MERRYMAN: I was in little New Hampshire town of Dublin, and the phone rang and it was a television newsman who wanted to use some of my tape. He wanted just her words saying, "Fame is fickle," which she said a lot. My reaction was that this -- she had not intended to commit suicide. This was going to be a -- she was going to get rescued at the last minute, and this would be revenge against practically the whole world that she now felt had betrayed her, one way or another. And I'd like to say that I think the reason she has lived on is that her vulnerability and her neediness has touched a lot of people. That -- she represented that quality that people felt in themselves. And my experience with stars is that through all the publicity and the hype and everything, the public senses the essence of the person. And the essence of Marilyn was she communicated a kind of truth, and truth is very powerful.

KING: Tony, how is she going to be remembered?

CURTIS: As a very beautiful American woman who, during that period of time in the '50s, represented the '50s. You know, that's what she was, that's what she is. And, you know -- God bless darling Marilyn.

KING: Very well said.

Donald, how do you think she will be remembered? O'CONNOR: I think she's going to be remembered like we're talking about her.

KING: And it will go on to another 40 years. They'll do the 80- year anniversary.

O'CONNOR: That's right. I think so.

KING: It won't go away.

O'CONNOR: I don't think so. Not about Marilyn, because it's become a role model. I think they'll refer to something else happens to somebody else, and they'll refer back to Marilyn. "Oh, isn't that something similar that happened to Marilyn?"

"Yes, it is," and I think that this will continue. I think she's the epitome, the No. 1.

KING: Jane? How is she going to be remembered?

RUSSELL: A lot like it is today.

KING: It won't be go away.

RUSSELL: I think they'll remember her as also, being vulnerable.

KING: Don't forget Ripley's setup here in Los Angeles has a lot of these things on display, and George Barris is there. And don't forget George's book "Marilyn: Her Life in Her Own Words," with his photography as well.

BARRIS: The last happy day.

KING: The last happy days of Marilyn Monroe. We're out of time. Marilyn Monroe would have been 75 years old. We thank Tony Curtis, Jane Russell, Donald O'Connor, George Barris, David Brown, Richard Merryman and James Haspiel. I'm Larry King. Good night.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top