Now he’s right up there with Rock Hudson and Gregory Peck. Perfection. Gatsby? What Gatsby?
Although I decided not to make another long-term commitment to the stage, I was glad to get back to New York after the filming of Streetcar. I lived in an apartment at Sixth Avenue and Fifty-seventh Street near Carnegie Hall and dropped in from time to time at the Actors Studio to meet girls. One of them was Marilyn Monroe, who was being exploited by Lee Strasberg. I had first met her briefly shortly after the war and bumped into her again-literally-at a party in New York. While the other people at the party drank and danced, she sat by herself almost unnoticed in a corner, playing the piano. I was talking to someone with a drink in my hand, having a good time, when someone tapped me on the shoulder; I spun around quickly and hit her with a sharp elbow to the head. It was a solid knock and I knew it must have hurt.
“Oh, my God,” I said, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. It was an accident.”
Marilyn looked me in the face and said, “There are no accidents.”
She meant it to be funny and I laughed. I sat down beside her and said, “Let me show you how to play a piano. You can’t play worth a damn.”
I did my best for a few bars; then we chatted, and thereafter I called her from time to time. Finally one night I phoned her and said, “I want to come over and see you right now, and if you can’t give me a good reason why I shouldn’t -maybe you just don’t want me to- tell me now.”
She invited me over, and it wasn’t long before every soldier’s dream came true.
Marilyn was a sensitive, misunderstood person, much more perceptive than was generally assumed. She had been beaten down, but had a strong emotional intelligence- a keen intuition for the feelings of others, the most refined type of intelligence. After that first visit, we had an affair and saw each other intermittently until she died in 1962. She often called me and we would talk for hours, sometimes about how she was beginning to realize that Strasberg and other people were trying to use her. She was becoming a much healthier person emotionally. The last time we spoke was two or three days before she died. She called from her home in Los Angeles and invited me to come over for dinner that night. I said I had already made plans for the evening and couldn’t, but I promised to call the following week to set a date for dinner. She said, “Fine,” and that was it. It’s been speculated that she had a secret rendezvous with Robert Kennedy that week and was distraught because he wanted to end an affair between them. But she didn’t seem depressed to me, and I don’t think that if she was sleeping with him at the time she would have invited me over for dinner.
I’m pretty good at reading people’s moods and perceiving their feelings, and with Marilyn I didn’t sense any depression or clue of impending self-destruction during her call. That’s why I’m sure she didn’t commit suicide. If someone is terminally depressed, no matter how clever they may be or how expertly they try to conceal it, they will always give themselves away. I’ve always had an unquenchable curiosity about people, and I believe I would have sensed something was wrong if thoughts of suicide were anywhere near the surface of Marilyn’s mind. I would have known it. Maybe she died because of an accidental drug overdose, but I have always believed that she was murdered.
-Marlon Brando (Songs My Mother Taught Me)
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