“She has a much sharper nose and chin than I did,“ says Lange from a Carlyle Hotel suite, transfixed by the illustrator’s take on her character. ”That’s the only thing I wished when I was doing ‘Cousin Bette.’ That I had a nose job.“
”For me, more of it has to do with her emotional state than her physical appearance,“ Lange insists, launching her defense. ”There is a flood of emotions passing through this woman all the time. All those terrible barbs are flung at her, but she never lets them know they have gotten to her. I also wanted to give the audience the slightest moments, subliminal images of the girl she might have been had circumstances been different, rather than this closed-down, bitter woman.“
”You can feel the pain beneath the surface,“ says "Cousin Bette” director Des McAnuff of Lange’s style. “I was stunned at how reptilian she could look in the role–and that’s from her acting. One of the things I love about Jessica is that she is one of the few actors who can really play a character with a secret. You always feel like there is something else going on.”
So much has been said about relations between Mr. President and Marilyn that the truth is well and truly buried beneath layers of speculation and supposition. The consensus view is that they had a weekend together in March 1962, though some people, such as Marilyn’s friend and movie stand-in Evelyn Moriarty, say they never saw any evidence of a relationship with either of the Kennedy brothers.
According to Fred Lawrence Guiles, Marilyn’s affair with JFK continued through the last year of her life, especially when she went on trips to New York. Then again, there are those who discount anything more than a one night stand. Donald Spoto writes “no serious biographer can identify Monroe and Kennedy as partners in a love affair. All that can be known for certain is that on four occasions between October 1961 and August 1962, the president and the actress met, and that during one of those meetings they telephoned one of Marilyn’s friends from a bedroom soon after, Marilyn confided this one sexual encounter to her closest confidants, making clear that it was the extent of their involvement.”
The first of the four occasions documented by Spoto was in October 1961, when Marilyn and fellow leading ladies were invited to Peter Lawford’s beach house to attend a dinner in honor of Patricia Lawford’s brother, President Kennedy. The second was in early 1962, a dinner party for the president in New York. Encounter number three took place on March 24, 1962. This was at Bing Crosby’s home in Palm Springs. This was where they shared a bedroom and Marilyn made a call to Ralph Roberts, who later said, “Marilyn told me that this night in March was the only time of her ‘affair’ with JFK. Of course she was titillated beyond belief, because for a year he had been trying, through Lawford, to have an evening with her. A great many people thought, after that weekend, that there was more to it. But Marilyn gave me the impression that it was not a major event for either of them: it happened once, that weekend, and that was that.”
Two more of Marilyn’s close friends agree. It is Susan Strasberg’s opinion that, “Not in her worst nightmare would Marilyn have wanted to be with JFK on any permanent basis. It was OK for one night to sleep with a charismatic president - and she loved the secrecy and drama of it. But he certainly wasn’t the kind of man she wanted for life, and she was very clear to us about this.” Sidney Skolsky has said, “For Marilyn, what counted was the idea of ‘the little orphan waif indulging in free love with the leader of the free world.’”
It was during the Palm Springs weekend that Marilyn agreed to attend the Democratic Gala planned for May 1962 at Madison Square Garden, and promised to personally lead the “Happy Birthday” chorus. She did not know that fulfilling this promise would be seized on by Twentieth Century-Fox as an excuse to close down production of Something’s Got To Give, the film she was working on at the time. This was the last documented occasion Marilyn and JFK met. Marilyn gave her inimitable breathy rendition of “Happy Birthday” before 17,000 Democrats and a huge assortment of stars who had gathered to fund JFK’s successful presidential campaign. Marilyn also paid the $1,000 admission price. Hosting the evening’s entertainment - which included Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Henry Fonda, Maria Callas, and Harry Belafonte - was entertainer Jack Benny. Late as usual, and rather drunk, Marilyn was ushered on stage by Peter Lawford, who announced her as “the late Marilyn Monroe.” In a dress that veteran diplomat Adlai Stevenson described as “skin and beads - only I didn’t see the beads,” Marilyn sang the first verse of “Happy Birthday” and then waved her arms to encourage the audience to sing along for a reprise as a six-foot cake with forty-five oversized candles was carried on stage by two chefs. Marilyn then sang (to the tune of “Thanks for the Memory”):
Thanks, Mr. President For everything you’ve done, The battles that you’ve won - The way you deal with U.S. Steel And our problems by the ton, We thank you - so much.
At the end of the event, Kennedy thanked the evening’s performers: “I can now retire from politics after having had ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”
According to biographer Donald Wolfe, a week after the birthday event Marilyn was informed by Lawford that JFK no longer wanted to have anything to do with her. Wolfe is one of many to assert that this was the end of an affair that had been going on for eight years or more. Marilyn and JFK are said to have met as early as 1951, though 1954 is more commonly cited, at a party thrown by Charles Feldman, Marilyn’s agent at the time. Reportedly during a period of hospitalization in October 1954, Kennedy hung a poster of Marilyn wearing blue shorts, upside down opposite his bed - a story very similar to an apocryphal tale about Howard Hughes. Under this scenario Marilyn was sneaking off to motels in Malibu with Kennedy during the last couple of months of her marriage to Joe DiMaggio. Allegedly throughout the course of Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller, she continued to meet the future president for rendezvous at his habitual New York hotel, the Carlyle, or at Lawford’s Santa Monica beach home.
Marilyn was reputedly flown from New York to Los Angeles by Kennedy to provide him with a celebratory romantic interlude after his triumphant 1960 Democratic Convention. After delivering his “New Frontier” acceptance speech, he met up with Marilyn, who had been brought to the celebration party by Sammy Davis Jr. Part of the evening’s entertainment for the future president, reportedly, was when he put his hand up Marilyn’s dress under the table - and found out that she did not wear anything underneath. Later that night they went skinny dipping in the ocean. There have been allegations too that Kennedy asked Lawford to accompany Marilyn to the East Coast on Air Force One, and that once Jackie Kennedy was enraged to find blonde hairs in the presidential bed.
Rumors about a romance between JFK and Marilyn began to surface in the press during 1960. Late that year, influential columnist Art Buchwalf penned a piece entitled “Let’s Be Firm on Monroe Doctrine.” The article read: “Who will be the next ambassador to Monroe? This is one of the many problems which president-elect Kennedy will have to work on in January. Obviously you can’t leave Monroe adrift. There are too many greedy people eyeing her, and now that Ambassador Miller has left she could flounder around without any direction.”
Kennedy aide Pete Summers told biographer Anthony Summers (no relation) that Marilyn was a frequent visitor to the Lawford beach house during the presidential campaign: “They were very close friends. I would say she was a very special guest - the president was really very, very fond of Marilyn….I did feel that she was so impressed by Kennedy’s charm and charisma that she was almost starry-eyed….But she was totally able to hold her own conversationally; she was very bright.”
JFK’s name has been often mentioned in connection with the last weeks of Marilyn’s life too. Although nobody has yet leveled the accusation that they met up at this time, some biographers believe that Marilyn’s trip to the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital on July 20 (or the following weekend in some accounts) was to abort JFK’s love child.
The mot stalwart accusers of JFK claim that he was the man who decided that Marilyn had to be silenced. Stories have circulated that the president’s sexual escapades with Marilyn at Lawford’s home had been bugged - either by the FBI, Mafia boss Sam Giancana, or even Teamsters’ boss Jimmy Hoffa. Conspiracy theories of this type frame Lawford as the hit-man, in league with Dr. Ralph Greenson to prescribe Marilyn an unusually large quantity of Seconal and then force her to take an overdose.