The one and only Marilyn Monroe was found dead on this day back in 1962. When celebrity photographer George Barris made a trip to L.A. to photograph Marilyn in June, less than two months before her passing, he had no idea it would be the last time he would see his dear friend, collaborator and muse alive. Fast forward to today and the photos he took on those sunny, summer days still radiate her iconic beauty. Her untimely death is shrouded in so much rumor and conjecture it’s hard for fans to agree on the events that led up to it. For decades people have debated the cause and manner of her death as well as numerous potential cover-ups by politicians.
Every detail down to the time of death has been disputed. Even with all of the conflicting information there was a semi-succinct order of events that led up to her death. The timeline comes from testimony of witnesses that were either present or spoke to Marilyn on that, indisputably chaotic, last day. In the end, none of these alleged details change the outcome of this Hollywood tragedy. Marilyn was dead. Her lifeless body, covered in a blanket was pushed on a stretcher from her Brentwood home out a side door into an awaiting hearse. A last photoshoot of sorts. Had the icon been carried out the front door one last time, she’d have passed over the four tiles adorning her doorstep that read “cursum perficio” or “my journey ends here”. How’s that for a Hollywood ending?
6:00am, August 4th, 1962
Marilyn reportedly phones her friend Jeanne Carmen and mentions she had received some disturbing phone calls in the overnight hours from an unidentified person who threatened her. Reportedly saying, “Leave Bobby (Kennedy) alone!” and calling Marilyn a “tramp.” When asked to describe Marilyn’s demeanor on that call Jeanne said she sounded “nervous and exhausted.” During that conversation Marilyn requested that Jeanne come over but it was Jeanne’s birthday that day, so she told Marilyn she’d see her on Sunday instead.
8:00am-8:30am, August 4th, 1962
Housekeeper and confidant Eunice Murray arrives for her workday at Marilyn’s home on 5th Helena Drive. Murray claimed Monroe was already awake. Handyman Norman Jefferies, also arrives around this time and begins working tiling kitchen floor.
9:00am, August 4th, 1962
Marilyn drinks a grapefruit juice and informs housekeeper Mrs. Murray that her agent Pat Newcomb has spent the night. Norman Jeffferies later recounted events of the day saying Marilyn came into the kitchen around 9:00am, wrapped in a bath towel saying “She was pale & looked tired,” and “She looked sick.”
10:00am, August 4th, 1962
Larry Schiller stops by to discuss Marilyn’s upcoming nude photoshoot from the set of “Something’s Got To Give” which is to appear in Playboy magazine. He claimed Marilyn was outside doing some gardening when he came up the walk. After a brief conversation they decide to hold off on the shoot as Marilyn wasn’t sure she wanted to further her reputation as a sex object.
11:00am-12.00pm, August 4th, 1962
Marilyn’s bedside table is delivered and she writes a check for it. Marilyn also had ordered some citrus trees which are also being delivered during this time. Pat Newcomb wakes up around noon and Eunice offered her breakfast. During which Newcomb said Marilyn had woke up feeling cranky and the pair argued about Marilyn not being able to sleep. Newcomb planned to spend the afternoon with Marilyn lounging poolside, then join actor Peter Lawford and his wife Patricia (Kennedy) Lawford for dinner. Both Murray and Jenkins would later reveal the actual cause of the argument was Newcomb’s close friendship with the Kennedy’s, not a lack of sleep.
1:00pm-2:00pm, August 4th, 1962
A barrage of phone calls followed that afternoon as well as mail delivery of a stuffed animal with no note attached which reportedly upset Marilyn. It was also around this time that Mrs. Murray reported that Marilyn asked her if they had any oxygen in the house, which wasn’t a normal request.
2:00pm-3:00pm, August 4th, 1962
Norman Jefferies was loading his work tools into his truck when Eunice Murray came out of the house telling him that she had also been fired by Marilyn. Saying, “Marilyn expected Eunice to be gone by the end of the day.” Norman offered to help Mrs. Murray pack up her belongings and wondered if he too would be fired, but Marilyn had gone back to her room.
3:00pm-4:00pm,August 4th, 1962
Mechanic Henry D’Antonio and his wife arrive with Mrs. Murray’s car that he has recently repaired. Murray brings them in to the kitchen and tells them Marilyn is resting in her room.
4:30pm-5:30pm,August 4th, 1962
Marilyn’s psychiatrist Dr. Greenson conducts a therapy session with Marilyn. It has been reported that during that time Greenson told Marilyn to drink a Coke and take drive to the beach for a walk.
7:00pm, August 4th, 1962
Marilyn’s former husband Joe DiMaggio calls and tells Marilyn he has ended his engagement with his fiancee. Marilyn and Joe remained good friends after their divorce and she was pleased with this news, reportedly sounding upbeat during the call.
8:00pm, August 4th, 1962
Conflicting reports for this time period state Marilyn called Dr. Greenson to inform him about the call from Joe DiMaggio as well as ask him for more Nembutal. It seems Greenson wasn’t aware that Marilyn was still taking Nembutal, as he thought Dr. Engleberg had stopped prescribing her that medication.
8:00pm-9:00pm, August 4th, 1962
Peter Lawford calls Marilyn and asks her if she is still planning on attending his dinner party, to which she had previously agreed, with the caveat that she would leave early as Sunday was supposed to be a busy day for her. Lawford claimed Marilyn, sounded “weird, fuzzy and sleepy” on the call and said she was tired and won’t be going. It wasn’t unusual for Lawford to hear Marilyn’s voice sound like that so he figured she was either drunk or about to fall sleep after taking her pills. But it was what Marilyn said next that raised Lawford’s concern (after the fact sadly), “Say goodbye to Pat, say goodbye to the President, and say goodbye to yourself because you’re a nice guy.” Sydney Guilaroff, Marilyn’s hairdresser later said Monroe called him two times claiming both Peter Lawford and Kennedy had been at her house and had threatened her.
9:30pm-10:00pm, August 4th, 1962
Entertainment lawyer Milton Rudin calls the house around this time to check on Marilyn. It seems he had just received a call from a concerned Peter Lawford. Rudin is told by Mrs. Murray that Marilyn is in bed.
3:00am, August 5th, 1962
It was around this time when Eunice Murray awoke with an uneasy feeling. She saw a sliver of light underneath Marilyn’s bedroom door but when she knocked there was no answer. Upon trying to open the door she discovered it was locked. She then called Dr. Greenson who arrived shortly thereafter and broke into Marilyn’s room finding the actress dead in her bed.
3:50am, August 5th, 1962
Dr. Hyman Engleberg, Marilyn’s personal physician arrives at the home and declares Marilyn Monroe dead.
4:25am, August 5th, 1962
The LAPD arrive at Marilyn’s home after a call from Dr. Engleberg stating “Marilyn Monroe has died. She’s committed suicide. I’m Dr. Hyman Engelberg, Marilyn Monroe’s physician. I’m at her residence. She’s committed suicide.”
The coroner’s official cause of death was “probable suicide” with the autopsy stating acute barbiturate poisoning. Marilyn had ingested an inordinately large amount of barbiturates possibly as many as fifty pills. Even with her high tolerance to Nembutal that was enough to kill the average person several times over. After all, she was fond of saying, “If I’d observed all the rules I’d never have got anywhere.”
Banner, Lois. Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox. 2012. Bloomsbury
Hertel, Howard and Neff, Don. Marilyn Monroe Dies; Pills Blamed. August 6, 1962. Los Angeles Times.
Marilyn’s Last Day: Twenty-four hours in the Death of a Legend. The Independent. October 29, 2006
Oliver, Myrna. Dr. Hyman Engelberg, 92; Marilyn Monroe’s Personal Physician. December 21, 2005. Los Angeles Times.
Spoto, Donald. Marilyn Monroe: The Biography. Cooper Square Press. 2001
Vitacco-Robles, Gary. Cursum Perficio: Marilyn Monroe‘s Brentwood Hacienda. iUniverse. 2000