Marilyn Monroe’s New Roll

CANNABIS CULTURE – Nearly 50 years after her death, Marilyn Monroe has made a film appearance: a previously undiscovered home movie purportedly showing her smoking pot at a party in New Jersey, circa 1958.

The silent film was purchased for $275,000 by documentary filmmaker and collector Keya Morgan, who was tipped off to its existence by the FBI.

In the film, Monroe is passed a cigarette in the manner that marijuana is shared (not the singular way that tobacco is smoked). She inhales deeply and giggles a lot, looking luminous and happy. The filmmaker, identified only as “Gretchen,” says she procured the pot for the party.

Monroe lived in New York at the time the film was made with her husband Arthur Miller. In 1957, Miller was brought up on charges for not naming names to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House on Unamerican Activities committee. That year, Monroe suffered a miscarriage and sustained injuries from a fall at her home. In the fall of ’58 she signed for her role in Some Like It Hot and left for Hollywood. It’s not inconceivable that she would have gone to Jersey for a pot party to celebrate, or to find relief from the pressures of her life.

Confirmation that Monroe did indeed smoke pot has come through her late friend Jeanne Carmen’s son and biographer. An actress, pin-up girl, trick-shot golfer and associate of Frank Sinatra, Carmen lived next door to Monroe and palled around with her in the years before she died. Carmen died in 2007. Her son Brandon James writes, “My mom was not a ‘pot smoker’ but she did smoke pot on occasion. Marilyn was the same way.”

As told in James’s book, JEANNE CARMEN: MY WILD WILD LIFE (2006), in 1961 or ’62 Monroe and Carmen were invited to a “boat party” with B-movie actor/ladies’ man Steve Cochran. He pulled out some weed, and Marilyn smoked it, but when he tried to turn the party into an orgy, she and Jeanne jumped ship.

Tony Curtis, Monroe’s co-star in Some Like It Hot, was brilliant as a swarmy PR flack who tries to smear a jazz guitarist as a pot-smoking commie in Sweet Smell of Success (1957). Curtis was caught at Heathrow Airport with marijuana in 1971, when he flew to London for an anti-tobacco appearance. (Michael Caine and Roger Moore credited him with helping them quit tobacco in the early 1970s. Moore later admitted to smoking pot himself in an interview where he expressed surprise at seeing ashtrays at Curtis’s home.)

Actor and Kennedy-in-law Peter Lawford, another associate of Monroe’s, helped a friend get rid of a joint aboard Air Force One in 1961, according to the book Peter Lawford: The Man Who Kept the Secrets, by James Spada. Later, Lawford and his chum Sammy Davis Jr. “embraced the sixties mod style wholesale, complete with swinging parties, flower-child jargon, and experimentation with LSD and marijuana,” Spade writes. “Peter considered marijuana a godsend, a way to get high without drinking and further damaging his liver.”

Lawford may have put something into a joint he smoked with Johnny Carson in 1971, causing Carson to nearly jump off the terrace of Lawford’s 13-floor penthouse. The event reportedly ended Carson’s association with Lawford, and he never guested on The Tonight Show again. (A search of shows Lawford guested three times on The Tonight Show in 1970, but not in 1971 or thereafter.) (Read about Carson on Cannabis Culture)

Whether or not Lawford and the Kennedys had anything to do with Marilyn Monroe’s death may never be known, but John F. Kennedy: A Biography by Michael O’Brien (St. Martin’s Press, NYC 2006) describes briefly an affair JFK had with Mary Pinchot Meyer, the former wife of CIA agent Cord Meyer and sister of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee’s wife Tony. It says Post executive Jim Truitt, Kennedy and Meyer smoked marijuana together.

O’Brien notes that during her affair with Kennedy, Meyer visited Timothy Leary, a fact confirmed in Robert Greenfield’s Timothy Leary: A Biography (2006, Harcourt). Leary wrote in Flashbacks that Meyer told him she wanted to run an LSD session with a famous public figure. After Meyer was found murdered in October 1964, Leary theorized it was JFK and that she’d recorded the event in her diary, which was never found. Bradlee has said two different agents came looking for it immediately after her death. Marilyn also had a diary, and according to Carmen, RFK was furious about it and told her to get rid of it. It was also never found.

“They felt that Marilyn Monroe posed a security threat to the presidency because she was under the influence of marijuana and under the influence of alcohol, and could be a danger not only to herself but also to the presidency,” Morgan told AFP. He will release a film about Monroe’s death later this year.

Ellen Komp is an activist/writer who manages the website