Tag Archives: Marilyn Monroe death

“Marilyn & Joe, et al.”
A 70-Year Saga

March 22, 1999. Newsweek cover story showing 1954 Joe DiMaggio / Marilyn Monroe wedding scene. Published shortly after DiMaggio’s death, it illustrates long-lived media interest & popular appeal of the “Joe & Marilyn” saga. Click for copy.
March 22, 1999. Newsweek cover story showing 1954 Joe DiMaggio / Marilyn Monroe wedding scene. Published shortly after DiMaggio’s death, it illustrates long-lived media interest & popular appeal of the “Joe & Marilyn” saga. Click for copy.
He was the famous baseball player; she, the beautiful movie star. He played for the New York Yankees; she worked mostly in Hollywood. It was the mid-1950s in America, and these two center-stage stars of their day – Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe – had the nation’s full attention.

It was supposed to be the perfect, all-American, life-long love affair between two of America’s favorite people. Practically the entire nation of that day was taken up with this romance, most cheering that all would be well for Joe and Marilyn.

But alas, it was not to be; as theirs became a star-crossed love affair that ended in divorce. Still, over the years, there was a love and fondness between the two that lingered — and for Joe, the love continued even after Marilyn had tragically and prematurely died in her Hollywood home.

The Joe & Marilyn story, however, did not go away with the 1950s. Rather, it stayed alive, with continuing public interest fueled by periodic media coverage, books, and film — even to this day. In fact, the longevity of the Joe and Marilyn story – and the media’s continuing coverage of it (especially her) – is as much a part of the story as the two principals themselves. But first, some background.

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio in happy times, in the early thrall of their 1954 marriage.
Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio in happy times, in the early thrall of their 1954 marriage.
Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe each rose from humble beginnings. DiMaggio was the son of a San Francisco fisherman, the eighth of nine children born to immigrants from Italy, and he became one of baseball’s most famous and productive players.

Marilyn Monroe, who was first named Norma Jean Mortenson/Baker from southern California, would become one of Hollywood’s most iconic film stars and sex symbols. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Monroe spent most of her childhood in foster homes and an orphanage and had an early marriage at the age of 16. While working in a factory as part of the war effort during World War II, she met a photographer from the First Motion Picture Unit and began a successful pin-up modeling career. The work led to short-lived film contracts, and later, a full-fledged and famous Hollywood film career. Yet her work with a series of still photographers throughout her career would result in an equally, if not more important, artistic legacy.

In 1952, when DiMaggio first met Marilyn, he had recently retired from professional baseball, having been one of the nation’s most notable sports heroes through the 1940s. But through the 1950s and beyond, he remained much revered for his phenomenal 13-year career with the New York Yankees. What follows below are profiles of both DiMaggio and Monroe, and in order of career, Joe first followed by Marilyn, then their relationship, marriage, divorce, aftermath, and continuing media interest.


Joltin` Joe

Joe DiMaggio made his major league debut with the New York Yankees on May 3rd, 1936, batting ahead of another baseball titan, Lou Gehrig. But DiMaggio soon left his mark on baseball in a big way. His famous 56-game hitting streak – from May 15th through July 16, 1941, still a record today – put him in a category all his own. Beyond that, he had a stellar career: a three-time winner of the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.(1939, 1941, 1947) and selected to the All-Star team every year he played, for 13 years.

Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees, shown here during his prime playing years, exhibiting one of the most productive and near-perfect batting swings in baseball history.
Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees, shown here during his prime playing years, exhibiting one of the most productive and near-perfect batting swings in baseball history.

 
 

In his defensive play, DiMaggio was also considered a good ballplayer who had deceptive speed, capable of covering lots of ground in centerfield. In 1939, he was dubbed the “Yankee Clipper” by Yankee stadium announcer Arch McDonald, for his speed and range in the outfield, being compared to the then-new and culturally-topical Pan American “Clipper” airliner.

By 1949, DiMaggio would sign a record contract with the Yankees that made him the first baseball player to break $100,000 in earnings, then a huge amount of money for a sports star, equivalent to about $1 million or more in current dollars.

At the time of his retirement in December 1951, DiMaggio had the fifth-most career home runs at 361 and the sixth-highest slugging percentage at .579. During his thirteen year career, the Yankees won ten American League pennants and nine World Series championships. DiMaggio is still among a handful of players who compiled at least four seasons of 30-homers and 100-RBIs in their first five years of play. But it is DiMaggio’s famous 56-game hitting streak is considered one of baseball’s most remarkable records and amazing feats; one that has stood the test of time for more than 80 years, with few players able to reach even 30- or 40-consecutive game hitting streaks. The closest anyone has ever come to equaling DiMaggio since 1941 was Pete Rose, who hit safely in 44 straight games in 1978.

“Joltin’ Joe’s” feat was coined in a 1941 hit song by that name by the Les Brown Orchestra, and celebrated by generations of fans ever since.

DiMaggio, of course, was a sports celebrity of his day, and as such, he was much in the news, appearing on sports and major circulation magazines of the day, including Time, Life, Look and others, and as sampled above, from top to bottom: Life, May 1939; Sport, September 1948; Time, October 1948; Life, August 1949; Sports World, May 1949; Sport, September 1949. But in the early 1950s, Joe DiMaggio was a single man. Earlier in his career, he had married actress Dorothy Arnold in November 1939, and the couple had a son in 1941. However, they divorced in 1944.

 
 


Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe, meanwhile, had been working in modeling while trying to break into acting. Although she had small parts in several films in the late 1940s, including playing a waitress in the 1947’s Dangerous Years, Monroe didn’t begin to be noticed until 1950 with two films in particular: The Asphalt Jungle, a John Houston film in which Monroe played a gangster’s moll (poster at left came some years later, after Monroe was a bigger star), and All About Eve, which starred Bette Davis and Anne Baxter (click images for Amazon.com pages).

By December 1950, Monroe had secured a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox, a basic contract that gave her little control. Still, she was on her way with a major film studio.

In 1951, four low-budget films helped bring her more notice: Home Town Story (May), and three comedies – As Young as You Feel (August ), Love Nest (October), and Let’s Make It Legal (November). Although her roles in these films cast her essentially as “a sexy ornament,” according to one account, she did receive some praise for her acting from critics such as Bosley Crowther of the New York Times and Ezra Goodman of the Los Angeles Daily News, the latter describing her in a review of Love Nest as “one of the brightest up-and-coming [actresses]”.

Monroe’s popularity with audiences was also growing: she received several thousand fan letters a week, and was declared “Miss Cheesecake of 1951” by the army newspaper Stars and Stripes, reflecting the preferences of soldiers in the Korean War. In February 1952, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association named Monroe the “best young box office personality”.

In her private life at this point, Monroe had no steady man in her life, but had been dating a number of men in Hollywood, including actors Yul Brynner and Peter Lawford, director Nicholas Ray, and also had a short relationship with director Elia Kazan. But then came Joe DiMaggio.


“Who’s The Girl?”

Marilyn Monroe in 1951 publicity photo posing in a batting stance with Chicago White Sox players Joe Dobson and Gus Zernial.
Marilyn Monroe in 1951 publicity photo posing in a batting stance with Chicago White Sox players Joe Dobson and Gus Zernial.
In 1951, Joe DiMaggio had seen a publicity photograph of Marilyn Monroe posing in a batting stance with Chicago White Sox players Joe Dobson and Gus Zernial. Sometime later, in early 1952, DiMaggio learned that press agent Dave March had set up the photo shoot. DiMaggio contacted March who then helped arrange a blind date for the two stars. Joe and Marilyn were set to meet on March 8th at an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles then called Villa Nova on Sunset Boulevard (which later became The Rainbow Bar & Grill).

Monroe wasn’t at all sure she would be interested in a baseball player, and didn’t know much about baseball, DiMaggio, or how big of star he had been. Still, she agreed to come, but only if Dave March would also be there with his guest.

Marilyn, meanwhile, would receive some insight on exactly who Joe DiMaggio was from her friend, Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky. Skolsky told her that DiMaggio was hugely popular and hugely admired. He was, as Skolsky put it, a really Big Name – a guy with dignity and class who had the public’s respect. Joe DiMaggio, he informed her, was national hero. And for Marilyn Monroe at that stage of her career, that was not a bad thing.

On their dinner date, Monroe, who typically arrived late for most things, was late this time as well, by two hours. She was then involved in the production of a the film Monkey Business, starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers. Dave March suggested she was probably held up on the set. March called her from the restaurant, and Marilyn tried to beg off, saying she was worn out from work, but relented under March’s pleadings. At dinner, Joe and Marilyn had few exchanges, and Marilyn was a bit mystified by Joe’s reserved manner and relative quiet. They barely spoke to one another. Their dinner was interrupted for a time by actor Mickey Rooney who pulled up a chair and began talking baseball. A couple of other patrons at the restaurant also recognized DiMaggio, and Marilyn was seeing that this guy had something of a following. But she noticed he was silent as the admirers spouted his statistics. She also observed DiMaggio’s impeccable dress and appearance, which was not like she had expected, thinking he might have been a more flamboyant dresser. Instead, she thought he dressed more like a business man. Joe DiMaggio, in fact, although quiet and somewhat awkward in appearance, still had a presence about him and projected power, or as one friend would note, “he still managed to command the whole room”.

In any case, Marilyn tired of the baseball talk and the evening’s direction; she decided to excuse herself and head for home. Joe then rose as well, asking to see her to the door. As he walked her to her car, he asked for a lift to his hotel and she agreed. Her car was a mess, backseat overflowing with books, scripts, some parking tickets and other material. But as they approached DiMaggio’s hotel, he said he wasn’t interested in turning in just then, and they proceeded to drive around a bit in her car. That’s when Joe began opening up, telling her his whole life story, about his immigrant family, their hard times and modest life, his baseball career, and more. They drove around Beverly Hills that night for about three hours. By the time they arrived at the Beverly Carlton where Marilyn was staying, she invited him in. The next day he phoned her and later sent her a bouquet of roses. When Dave March asked him how the evening went, he reported “pretty damn well.”

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio at a later 1954 restaurant outing in New York city at the El Morocco. During their courtship, Joe had also brought Marilyn to Toots Shor’s and other famous Manhattan haunts for celebrities of that era.
Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio at a later 1954 restaurant outing in New York city at the El Morocco. During their courtship, Joe had also brought Marilyn to Toots Shor’s and other famous Manhattan haunts for celebrities of that era.

Around the time she first dated DiMaggio, however, Monroe found herself at the center of a bit of a scandal, as a 1952 calendar was published with some pin-up styled photos of Monroe in the nude (the calendar, reportedly, had sold 6 million copies). The photos were from 1949, and according to one later account in Time magazine, “her bosses at the film studio ‘begged her’ to deny that the woman in the photo was her, but she wouldn’t do so. That turned out to be a move that only increased her star power.” Monroe spoke frankly to a news reporter about what had happened. She explained that she was broke and an aspiring actress at the time in 1949 when she was paid for the photo shoot. Her story received wide notice and it gained her public sympathy. It also didn’t hurt that at the time she was appearing in the news with national hero, Joe DiMaggio. In any case, the revelation of her old calendar photos increased interest in her films, for which by then she was receiving top-billing. It also brought her more media attention.

Marilyn Monroe on the cover of Life magazine, April 7, 1952, with story tagline, “Marilyn Monrore: The Talk of Hollywood,” about her up-and-coming stardom, in photograph taken by Philippe Halsman, remains one of the most famous and collectible covers in the history of the magazine.
Marilyn Monroe on the cover of Life magazine, April 7, 1952, with story tagline, “Marilyn Monrore: The Talk of Hollywood,” about her up-and-coming stardom, in photograph taken by Philippe Halsman, remains one of the most famous and collectible covers in the history of the magazine.
In early April 1952, Monroe was featured on the cover of Life magazine as “The Talk of Hollywood.” Life, the popular weekly magazine, was then read by millions; a key chronicler of the American tableau. Life’s story on Monroe described her as an up-and-coming star:

…Every so often, more in hope than conviction, Hollywood announces the advent of a sensational glamour girl, guaranteed to entice people from all lands to the box office. Usually the sensation fizzles. But today the most respected studio seers, in a crescendo of talk unparalleled since the debut of Rita Hayworth, are saying that the genuine article is here at last: a sturdy blonde named Marilyn Monroe.

In addition, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper declared Monroe as the “cheesecake queen” turned “box office smash.” That summer of 1952, to capitalize on the rising public interest in the new actress, Fox studio released three of Monroe’s films — Clash by Night (June 16), We’re Not Married! (July 11th) and, Don’t Bother to Knock (July 18th). Two other films with Monroe, Monkey Business and O. Henry’s Full House, came out later that year, further boosting her career.

Joe DiMaggio, meanwhile, continued his courtship of Monroe during the summer of 1952, as the two began to date more regularly. They had something of a bicoastal relationship at the time – Marilyn in Hollywood and Joe in New York, then as a baseball sportscaster. But by late May 1952, Marilyn came to New York for the filming of Niagara, and would see Joe during that period.

During that summer, however, some red flags were being raised by a few of Monroe’s concerned friends. Joe didn’t really like her career, and thought women should be firmly in the home. DiMaggio was also jealous of the attention she generated from other men. Still, in July 1952, the baseball star took the Hollywood beauty home to San Francisco to meet his family. Once there, Marilyn clearly saw why Joe wanted his wife to be domestically set. In the DiMaggio family, women raised children, cooked and cleaned, and it had always been that way – and that’s what Joe wanted. He had been raised in a home of Sicilian immigrants, with strict Catholic values and a family credo that stressed a strong work ethic and pride in their Italian heritage.


The V-Cut Dress

In September 1952, Marilyn came east for the premiere of Monkey Business, and also to serve as Grand Marshal for the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. For the latter occasion, she wore a black chiffon dress with a v-shape front, cut to the navel and bare back.

September 1952. Marilyn Monroe in v-cut-to-the navel dress at Miss America Pageant parade in Atlantic City, NJ.
September 1952. Marilyn Monroe in v-cut-to-the navel dress at Miss America Pageant parade in Atlantic City, NJ.
20th Century had promoted Marilyn’s role in the Pageant, so there were ample press there, and a number of photos of her in that dress, some exploiting more revealing perspectives, appeared in newspapers across the country. Joe was not happy about the dress or the publicity and had some pretty harsh words for Marilyn. But she tried to explain that was part of her job; it was publicity and she had to show herself. And the dress had come from the studio.

Still, according to a later book by Ben Cramer, Joe was quite angry, telling her it made her look like a whore. “Show them nothing,” he said to her, and “wear your own goddamn clothes…” She was back in Los Angeles by then, and Joe’s words had come to her over the phone. But once he settled down, he felt bad about his anger and tried recalling her, to no avail. Marilyn wouldn’t answer the phone. So Joe just dropped everything and flew out to Hollywood. He later took her clothes shopping, and they patched things up a bit. But for Marilyn, no doubt, some scars remained. Joe later took her to San Francisco where they would spend time with Joe’s family, which Marilyn enjoyed, as well as when she toured the city with Joe on visits there.

But Joe DiMaggio was a man not at ease with the career of Marilyn Monroe. In fact, at the end of summer of 1952, he had made something of bombshell proposal: that it might be best if Marilyn abandoned her acting career. If it only caused her stress, he is reported to have said, why should she do it?According to Stacy Edwards, a Philadelphia sportswriter who knew DiMaggio quite well, “Joe was sick and tired of Marilyn’s career,” and he wanted to get her out of the movies.

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, co-stars of the film, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” appeared on the cover of Life magazine in May 1953, in advance of the film’s release that July.
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, co-stars of the film, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” appeared on the cover of Life magazine in May 1953, in advance of the film’s release that July.
“We’ll buy a nice home in San Francisco and just live a simpler life,” DiMaggio was reported to have told Edwards, explaining how he and Marilyn would live. Although Marilyn had professed interest in family and children, there was no way she was going to give up her career.

In fact, by 1953, Marilyn’s career only soared higher, scoring some of her biggest films. She had three hit films that year: Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Marry a Millionaire. Niagara, released in January, sent her into the Hollywood firmament, establishing her as one of the movie industry’s biggest draws. Her sultry sexuality was shocking to some, seductive to others.

In advance of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, slated for July 1953, Monroe and Jane Russell, co-stars of the film, appeared on the cover of the May 25th edition of Life magazine.

In Life’s story, titled “Marilyn Takes Over As Lorelei,” Monroe’s performance as the Lorelei Lee character – from the 1925 comic novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos – was briefly profiled. The story ran with several photos, noting, in part: “In the new 20th Century Fox version, Marilyn sings and dances with a surprising technical competence… In her biggest number she spurns a whole panel of penniless and prostrate admirers and gives the fallen forms the benefit of her philosophy of life: ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’.”


Marilyn’s “Me Too”

Marilyn Monroe, however, was a woman who knew what was going on, and how the Hollywood system treated women in the business. In 1952-53 she had written a story titled, “Wolves I Have Known,” (as told to journalist Florabel Muir). Marilyn’s story was published in the January 1953 edition of Motion Picture and Television Magazine, which included Marilyn on the cover. Other versions of the story had been published earlier, appearing for a broader public audience in The Daily News newspaper of New York City (see ad below). The article offered her take – from personal experience – on certain types of men, or “wolves” as she called them, that she met in Hollywood while seeking work as an actress.

Jan 1953. Marilyn Monroe on cover of “Motion Picture” magazine for story, “Wolves I Have Known”.
Jan 1953. Marilyn Monroe on cover of “Motion Picture” magazine for story, “Wolves I Have Known”.
“Daily News” ad for Monroe “Wolves” story, earlier versions of which also ran in September 1952.
“Daily News” ad for Monroe “Wolves” story, earlier versions of which also ran in September 1952.

In the article, she described how things really worked for young girls in Hollywood at that time trying to break into acting. Or as the Daily News put it in one ad: “…A frank, and revealing story of the trials and tribulations of Marilyn Monroe, of what happens to any girl who’s trying to make good ….and be good … in Hollywood. Marilyn tells you the tricks of the trade used by the Hollywood wolf pack, how and why she posed for that famous calendar shot…and much, much more…”

Marilyn didn’t name names in her piece, but the point was made: young girls with their eyes on Hollywood were often sexually harassed, propositioned, or offered unseemly quid pro quos or ultimatums for screen tests, bit parts, or pie-in-the-sky promises that never panned out. Hollywood then, and still today, noted as the land of the casting couch.

“River of No Return,” not a happy film for Monroe, still became a hit in April 1954. Click for film.
“River of No Return,” not a happy film for Monroe, still became a hit in April 1954. Click for film.


Joe to The Rescue

Around the time Gentlemen Prefer Blondes began appearing in theaters in July 1953, Monroe was working on another film, River of No Return, with co-star Robert Mitchum, a western set in the American Northwest in the 1870s. The film was part of her contract with 20th Century Fox, nearing the end of a seven-year run, during which the studio had capitalized on her growing popularity without giving her added benefits or pay. In fact, for River of No Return, she was paid as a contract player.

River of No Return was directed by Otto Preminger and filmed in the Canadian Rockies. By August 1953, Marilyn was on location in Calgary for the filming, and later in Alberta at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff National Park, also in the Rockies.

But during the filming, Marilyn, along with her acting coach, Natasha Lyetess, had driven director Preminger into some despair in getting things done. Marilyn had also sustained an ankle injury during one scene, and had to be pulled out of a river at one point.

Unhappy with the film, she telephoned DiMaggio, who was soon on his way to Canada to be at her side. DiMaggio claimed to be on a fishing trip when queried by the press. Marilyn by then was wearing an ankle cast from her injury and was helped around by Joe.

After the filming was completed, Joe and Marilyn took some R&R at the Banff Springs Hotel, where they met up with John Vachon, the staff photographer for Look magazine, who had been sent to the Canadian Rockies on assignment, as a number of actors and celebrities were in the area on other Hollywood film projects in addition to River of No Return. In any case, a number of photos of Joe and Marilyn were taken at that time, including the one shown here below.

August 1953.  Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe (with ankle cast) photographed in window seat at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada, by Look magazine photographer, John Vachon.
August 1953. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe (with ankle cast) photographed in window seat at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada, by Look magazine photographer, John Vachon.

In Banff, Joe and Marilyn had been talking about their future together and the direction of Marilyn’s career. Joe had a dim view of Hollywood and its culture all along, and believed Marilyn was underpaid and exploited by the studio, as well as some of those around her, including acting coach, Natasha Lyetess. Joe believed Marilyn should play a little more hard ball with the studios, and he would soon play a more prominent role in helping her do that – at least for the next year or so. In August 1953, as their time together in Banff ended, he flew back to L.A. with Marilyn, and then returned to New York, set to play in an Old Timers game at Yankee Stadium.

Poster for 1953's “How to Marry a Millionaire”. Click for film.
Poster for 1953's “How to Marry a Millionaire”. Click for film.
By November 1953, Marilyn’s earlier made film, How to Marry a Millionaire was in theaters and was getting decent reviews.

Toward the end of 1953, according to the trade press of that day, Monroe was making more money for her studio than any other actress in Hollywood.

At 20th Century, Darryl Zanuck wanted to put Marilyn in another film, The Girl in The Pink Tights, along with Frank Sinatra. But Marilyn did not like this film, or her casting as another “dumb blonde,” and Joe agreed.

In fact, she and Joe had been discussing her relationship with the studio, and agreed that she should make no more film deals until she received better treatment – better pay, mostly in Joe’s view. Marilyn was more interested, as always, in having more control over role, script and directors.

So, in the latter part of 1953, with Joe’s insistence and support, she would defy the studio and not appear for Girl in the Pink Tights filming. Zanuck was apoplectic, and tried all sorts of maneuvers and threats to have her comply. But with Joe’s backing, she held her ground, although there were some tenuous moments.

She had to return to Los Angeles for some last-minute shooting for River of No Return, and there she began to worry about maybe being shut out of Hollywood if she did not comply. But in the end she did not give in, and by the end of December 1953, she returned to San Francisco where she would spend the holidays with Joe and his family.


Playboy

Dec 1953. First issue of Playboy magazine featured Marilyn Monroe on its cover and inside centerfold – launching Hugh Hefner’s national magazine for men and subsequent business empire of Playboy clubs & culture.
Dec 1953. First issue of Playboy magazine featured Marilyn Monroe on its cover and inside centerfold – launching Hugh Hefner’s national magazine for men and subsequent business empire of Playboy clubs & culture.
But also that December one of Monroe’s more famous media scores appeared, though not by her design. A smiling and waving Marilyn was featured on the cover of a new magazine titled Playboy, a publication billed as “entertainment for men.” It was the brainchild of a guy named Hugh Hefner.

The Playboy cover image of Monroe was a photograph taken at the Miss America Pageant parade in 1952 in the V-cut dress that DiMaggio had a fit about. But that photo wasn’t the main event. The magazine’s nude centerfold was.

That soon-to-be famous regular feature of the magazine, first called “Sweetheart of The Month,” but soon changed to “Playmate of the Month” – would become the magazine’s main draw for “male entertainment.”

In any case, the featured Monroe nude came from the notorious 1949 photo shoot of Monroe on a background of red velvet by Tom Kelley, mentioned earlier. On the magazine’s cover, Hefner played up the special content with an inset box to the right of Marilyn waving that said: “First Time in Any Magazine the Famous Marilyn Monroe Nude”

Monroe hadn’t consented to Hefner for Playboy’s use of the four-year-old nude photo, nor had Hefner directly paid Monroe any money for the photo’s use. Hefner purchased the rights to Monroe’s nude photos from the Chicago-area company in fall 1953 for a reported $500. But that Playboy edition with centerfold – which quickly sold out – helped launch the new magazine and Hefner’s subsequent business empire of Playboy clubs and culture. True, for Monroe, it also helped advance her image as a leading sex symbol. It is not clear how Joe reacted to Marilyn’s notice with Playboy, though given his earlier concerns, he was likely not happy about it.


Marriage & Honeymoon

Joe and Marilyn had talked about marriage since September 1953. But on New Year’s Eve 1953, Joe made it official and proposed to her and she consented. But Marilyn at the time reportedly made a somewhat macabre request of Joe: if she died before him, would he promise to place flowers at her grave every week? He so promised – and years later would faithfully fulfil the pledge without fail. As a Catholic Joe wanted a church wedding, but with his divorce from his first wife, the Catholic church in San Francisco refused. So they opted instead for what Joe hoped would be a quiet civil ceremony, as wedding plans were kept quiet.

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio emerging from their civil ceremony marriage in San Francisco, January 14, 1954.
Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio emerging from their civil ceremony marriage in San Francisco, January 14, 1954.
Although their wedding was supposed to be a secret, word was released through 20th Century Fox Studios. On January 14, 1954, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were married in short civil ceremony in San Francisco.

When word about the ceremony spread, it created a firestorm of publicity. The couple were mobbed by a crowd of 500 onlookers and reporters. They soon departed the scene in Joe’s dark blue Cadillac to the Clifton Motel in Paso Robles, California. The next two weeks were spent at a mountain hideaway outside of Idyllwild, near Palm Springs, California. But the main part of their honeymoon would be in Japan – the result of some baseball business Joe had previously agreed to.

According to Liesl Bradner, writing a story on the DiMaggio/Monroe trip to Japan for HistoryNet.com, before the marriage, DiMaggio had agreed to accompany an old friend and former minor league coach, Frank “Lefty” O’Doul, to help train Japanese baseball teams in Japan for their up coming season. O’Doul, also a native of San Francisco, had been DiMaggio’s manager with the minor league San Francisco Seals, where DiMaggio had starred before coming to the Yankees. O’Doul, also recently remarried, brought his new wife, Jean, on the trip as well.

On the flight to Tokyo, they traveled in style, on Pan Am’s luxurious Stratocruiser airliner, dubbed “the Flying Hotel,” which featured a spiral staircase, single beds, and dressing rooms. Nine hours into the flight, during a short stopover in Honolulu, an enormous crowd turned out at the airport there on word that DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were aboard. In Tokyo, as well, there were large admiring crowds, turned out more for Monroe than DiMaggio.

But earlier, on their flight into to Tokyo, just as they were making the decent to land, a U.S. Army officer, in the upper echelons of the Far East Command, approached DiMaggio and Monroe at their seats in the cabin to ask a question. “How would you like to visit Korea for a few days and entertain the American troops currently stationed in Seoul as part of the UN occupation force?” DiMaggio at first thought the questioned was directed at him, and he declined. But the Major General was really asking Monroe. And she first asked Joe what he thought and he replied, that it was her choice, but it was also her honeymoon. Nevertheless, Monroe accepted the offer.

Marilyn, accompanied by Jean O’Doul, left for Korea in February of 1954 to entertain the troops. She would do a four-day USO tour performing ten shows for more than 100,000 servicemen. On the tour, Marilyn was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the soldiers and buoyed by their reception. But she reminded everyone she was married, telling a crowd at one point she was sorry Joe couldn’t’ be with her in Korea. Still, she would always mark the trip to Japan and Korea as the moment when she realized that she was truly an international star.

February 1954.  Marilyn Monroe, center stage, entertaining U.S. troops in Korea, at one of the ten USO shows she did there during a four-day tour of U.S. troop bases.
February 1954. Marilyn Monroe, center stage, entertaining U.S. troops in Korea, at one of the ten USO shows she did there during a four-day tour of U.S. troop bases.

Returning to Japan after the four-day Korean tour, she remarked to her new husband: “It was so wonderful Joe, you’ve never heard such cheering!” But to that, Joe is said to have replied, “Oh yes I have.” Joe was realizing what being married to Marilyn Monroe would really be like. The honeymoon was over.

After returning to the U.S., Monroe’s career continued its upward trajectory. She received the “Most Popular Female Star” award from Photoplay magazine. By March 1954, she had the promise of a new contract with Fox Studios, a bonus of $100,000, and a starring role in the proposed film adaptation to come for a Broadway stage play titled, “The Seven Year Itch.” In April 1954, River of No Return in the new CinemaScope format, began appearing in theaters and became popular with audiences. She was also working on other films, including a musical, There’s No Business Like Show Business. But in September 1954, she began filming The Seven Year Itch, playing a woman who becomes the sexual fantasy of her married neighbor, played by Tom Ewell.


Seven Year Itch

“The Seven Year Itch” was shot mostly in Hollywood, but the studio wanted to generate advance publicity for the film by staging one scene with Monroe and Ewell on the streets of New York – a scene with Monroe standing over a subway grate with subway air from below blowing her white dress high up in the air. This scene would become controversial, and a “last straw” of sorts for the controlling and jealous DiMaggio.

The scene was shot on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The film’s publicity department revealed the time and location of the shooting and throngs of onlookers and photographers showed up. Director Billy Wilder shot over a dozen takes of the scene as the crowd became more boisterous and unruly. The shoot lasted for several hours and attracted nearly 2,000 spectators, by one count.

Marilyn Monroe during filming of the “subway grate scene” for “The Seven Year Itch” film, Sept 1954, New York.
Marilyn Monroe during filming of the “subway grate scene” for “The Seven Year Itch” film, Sept 1954, New York.
Another in the sequence of photos taken during the filming of the “subway grate scene”.
Another in the sequence of photos taken during the filming of the “subway grate scene”.

Among the onlookers, however, was Joe DiMaggio and gossip columnist Walter Winchell, who had encouraged him to come to the scene. As they watched the shootings, DiMaggio grew progressively irate at the sight of his wife being ogled and cheered on by the crowd. Reportedly, after the shoot, there was angry shouting match (and rumored physical abuse) between the couple at the St. Regis Hotel, where they were staying. They later returned to their rented home in Los Angeles, where arguments between the two continued.

The “subway grate scene,” meanwhile, became one of Monroe’s most famous, plastered across newspapers and magazines, and used extensively in advertising to promote the film, including a giant billboard-size likeness of Monroe in the famous pose used above a Lowes theater in Manhattan (photo below). The film would become one of Monroe’s biggest commercial successes at its release (the film’s premiere, however, did not come until June 1st, 1955, Monroe’s 29th birthday).

Huge cut-out figure of Marilyn Monroe in her famous "subway grate" pose is set into position above a Lowes Theater in New York City to promote the 1955 film, The Seven Year Itch, as two workmen observe the scene..
Huge cut-out figure of Marilyn Monroe in her famous "subway grate" pose is set into position above a Lowes Theater in New York City to promote the 1955 film, The Seven Year Itch, as two workmen observe the scene..

Back in Hollywood, at the home she and Joe shared, there were more arguments between the couple. However, on October 6th, 1954, Monroe — with her attorney standing beside her outside the home — announced to reporters that she intended to file for a divorce from Joe DiMaggio on the grounds of “mental cruelty.” Joe had packed up and departed earlier from their home, heading to San Francisco. A divorce hearing was held some weeks later, on October 27th, 1954 and the final divorce decree would be granted the following year.

October 1954. A tearful Marilyn Monroe in car with her attorney after announcing to the Hollywood press her intention of seeking a divorce from Joe DiMaggio.
October 1954. A tearful Marilyn Monroe in car with her attorney after announcing to the Hollywood press her intention of seeking a divorce from Joe DiMaggio.

Before the divorce was final, however, DiMaggio had hired a private investigator to follow Monroe, as he suspected she was seeing another man. According to one New York Times account, on November 5, 1954, DiMaggio was having dinner in Los Angeles with Frank Sinatra and others when they heard from the investigator that Monroe was with another man at an L.A. apartment complex. DiMaggio, Sinatra, and a couple other men then departed the restaurant and drove to the apartment house where they believed the tryst was in progress. There, reportedly, a door was kicked in, with flash cameras at the ready, only to find an outraged woman resident in her nightgown – a woman who later sued the invaders, gaining an out-of-court settlement.

Oct 5, 1954. Some of the press coverage that followed the “subway grate” photo shoot and resulting separa-tion and later divorce between Joe and Marilyn.
Oct 5, 1954. Some of the press coverage that followed the “subway grate” photo shoot and resulting separa-tion and later divorce between Joe and Marilyn.
Monroe, meanwhile, won an uncontested divorce from DiMaggio, formally approved on October 31st, 1955. The marriage had lasted only nine months, and its dissolution was no surprise to many who knew the couple.

“I never for a minute believed that she and Joe DiMaggio would last,” Jane Russell is reported to have said. Marilyn and Jane were co-stars in the film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Joe and Marilyn were friends with Jane and her husband, Bob Waterfield, an all-pro quarterback with the Los Angeles Rams. “They were in love, very much so,” said Russell of DiMaggio and Monroe, “but they didn’t understand each other. They came from different universes. That was the tragedy of their relationship. They couldn’t stay together. It was ill fated, written in the stars.”

Not long into the marriage, in fact, Monroe had called an old friend and actor, Brad Dexter, telling him she was extremely unhappy. “I married Joe with love,” she said. “I thought I was going to have a good life… And all the things that are entailed in a good marriage.” But instead, she explained, “I’ve discovered that the man is absolutely obsessed with jealousy and possessiveness… He doesn’t want to know about my business. He doesn’t want to know about my work as an actress. He doesn’t want me to associate with any of my friends. He wants to cut me off completely from my whole world of motion pictures, friends, and creative people that I know.”

She would later tell a judge in a Santa Monica courtroom why her marriage to Joe wasn’t working out. His “cruel indifference,” she said, had driven her to divorce. “Your honor, my husband would get in moods where he wouldn’t speak to me for five to seven days at a time — sometimes longer, ten days. I would ask him what was wrong. He wouldn’t answer, or he would say, ‘Stop nagging me!’ I was permitted to have visitors no more than three times in the nine months we were married. . . ”.


Marilyn’s Redesign

November 1953. Look cover of MM; early example of the 5,000+ photos Milton Greene would shoot of her.
November 1953. Look cover of MM; early example of the 5,000+ photos Milton Greene would shoot of her.
After her split from DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe became focused on improving her film career. And among those who would end up helping her set a new course was a photographer named Milton Greene. Greene’s photographic work of film stars – Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Jean Simmons, and others – had appeared on the covers of major magazines.

In the fall of 1953, Greene had a photo shoot with Marilyn, and the two became fast friends. One of Greene’s shots of Marilyn appeared on Look magazine’s cover of November 1953 (over the years in shoots with MM, Greene would amass some 5,000 photos of her, some quite famous).

Following her separation from DiMaggio, Marilyn was grappling with what to do next, still battling with her studio, and Greene suggested she come East to New York city to pursue her craft. In fact, off and on, for the next two years or so, she would live with Greene, his wife, and their young son in Connecticut. But she and Greene would also create Marilyn Monroe Productions (MMP), her own production company, designed to give her more contract leverage with the film studios and better role choices.

By early 1955 MMP had been created, and on April 8,1955, Monroe appeared on the famous Edward R. Murrow TV show, Person to Person – a show filmed at Greene’s home, along with Greene and his wife, Amy, who joined Monroe during the interview. Murrow asked Milton about the new production company he and Marilyn had formed and if they had received any offers. Greene responded that yes, there had been “quite a few” – some from TV, the theater, movies, books, and others. Murrow also asked Marilyn about the company, and she answered she was only interested in making good films, and wanted to try something different. “It’s not that I object to doing musicals and comedies,” she replied, “in fact, I rather enjoy them – but I’d like to do dramatic parts, too.”

Edward R. Murrow in a familiar pose with cigarette as he interviews guests on “Person-to-Person”.
Edward R. Murrow in a familiar pose with cigarette as he interviews guests on “Person-to-Person”.
Milton & Amy Greene, along with Marilyn Monroe, during “Person-to-Person” show of April 1955.
Milton & Amy Greene, along with Marilyn Monroe, during “Person-to-Person” show of April 1955.

The Murrow show was very popular at the time, and Marilyn’s appearance and mention of her production company was a direct shot across the bow of the studio moguls in Hollywood. But initially the press had regarded MMP as something of a joke, believing Monroe could not stand up to the all-powerful Hollywood studio system. But later, her company would produce two films and be credited with helping bring down the studio system. By the end of 1955, Monroe and Fox signed a new seven-year contract. Fox would pay her $400,000 to make four films, and granted her the right to choose her own projects, directors and cinematographers. She would also be free to make one film with MMP for each completed Fox film.

Marilyn Monroe in a 1961 photo at the Actors Studio in New York.
Marilyn Monroe in a 1961 photo at the Actors Studio in New York.
June 1955. Though in divorce proceeding, DiMaggio escorts Monroe to premiere of “Seven Year Itch”.
June 1955. Though in divorce proceeding, DiMaggio escorts Monroe to premiere of “Seven Year Itch”.

On the acting front, meanwhile, she had also come to New York to study method acting at the highly regarded Actors Studio, run by Lee Strasberg, whose wife, Paula, became Monroe’s acting coach. Monroe wanted to become a better actor with the goal of getting more meaningful film roles. While Hollywood actors were not always well received at the Actors Studio, Monroe was earnest in wanting to improve her craft, and received praise from her peers.

During her time in New York area, Monroe also became acquainted with its jazz scene. Milton Greene was a good friend of Dizzy Gillespie, and he introduced Monroe to the city’s jazz clubs. In the process, Marilyn would also befriend Ella Fitzgerald. In fact, at one New York club that was refusing to engage Ella as a performer, Monroe called the manager to say if he had Ella perform there, Monroe would come to all her shows, meaning plainly that her star attendance would help fill his club.

In her love life, Monroe had kept a low profile at first following her separation from DiMaggio. However, she dated actor Marlon Brando for a time. But later, it was playwright Arthur Miller who had her full attention. Miller was a noted for popular plays such as All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953), and A View from the Bridge (1955). Monroe and Miller had met in 1951, had a brief affair, but remained in contact.

However, one vignette of things to come in the relationship between Marilyn and then former husband, Joe DiMaggio, came when he escorted her to the June 1st, 1955 premiere of The Seven Year Itch, the film with the famous skirt-blowing scene that contributed to the demise of their marriage.

Indeed, at the time of the film’s premiere at the Lowe’s State Theater in Times Square, New York, the divorce proceeding between Joe and Marilyn had not yet been finalized. But according to some accounts, in the years after their separation, she and Joe actually got along better than when they were married. And so, there would be more to come in their evolving friendship over the next several years.

After October 1955, Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe began a more serious relationship, as her divorce from DiMaggio was finalized and Miller had then separated from his wife.

Monroe’s film studio, however, urged her to end the affair with Miller since he was then being investigated by the FBI for allegations of communism and was also subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Monroe refused to end her involvement with Miller. The FBI, meanwhile, opened a file on Monroe.

In early March 1956, now back in Hollywood, Monroe began work on Bus Stop, her first film after studying at the Actors Studio. Her partner in MMP, Milton Greene, had purchased the film rights. Bus Stop is neither a full-fledged comedy nor a musical, but a dramatic story, although Monroe does sing one song.

May 14, 1956. Time magazine's cover story noted that Marilyn Monroe had become “a big business.”
May 14, 1956. Time magazine's cover story noted that Marilyn Monroe had become “a big business.”
In the Bus Stop story, a naïve rodeo cowboy falls in love with café singer Cherie (Monroe), who tries to run away to Los Angeles. The cowboy tracks her down and forces her to board a bus against her will to his home in Montana to get married. The plot thickens when the bus stops at a diner, is delayed, and everyone there learns of Cherie’s predicament. The film would be released later that year.

In mid-May 1956, Monroe appeared on the cover of Time magazine. In the feature story, Time’s editors covered her biography and rise to fame, writing in part:

…the little girl grew up to be a movie star named Marilyn Monroe, and the dream came true on such a preposterous scale that her new wide world has fallen at her feet. In Hollywood’s pagan pantheon, Marilyn Monroe is the Goddess of Love. Furthermore, she has shown signs of becoming a good actress, and many a once-skeptical professional now thinks she may become an outstanding one.

…[A]nd the poor little waif has become a big business; her last five pictures have grossed more than $50 million. Moreover, there is solid evidence that she knows how to run her business…

Time had also noted that Marilyn was receiving as many as 5,000 letters a week from her fans, some including proposals of marriage.

On June 21, 1956, Arthur Miller was called to testify in Washington D.C. by the House Un-American Activities Committee. At a press conference following that hearing, Miller also made reference to marriage plans with Marilyn Monroe, although he had yet to formally proposed to her, causing a swarm of press to seek her out in New York for comment. Miller had received a citation of contempt from the HUAC committee, but the typical public backlash other HUAC witnesses had experienced, didn’t follow for Miller, which some believe was deflected by way of his involvement with Marilyn Monroe and its positive press. In any event, on June 29, 1956, Monroe and Miller were married in a small ceremony at the home of Miller’s agent in Westchester, New York. At the time, Monroe had just turned 30.

June 29, 1956. Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe at cake cutting on wedding day.
June 29, 1956. Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe at cake cutting on wedding day.
Playwright Arthur Miller and film star Marilyn Monroe in later days of their marriage.
Playwright Arthur Miller and film star Marilyn Monroe in later days of their marriage.

By August 1956, the film Bus Stop was released to theaters and became a critical and commercial success. Monroe’s performance was cheered by The Saturday Review of Literature: “effectively dispels once and for all the notion that she is merely a glamour personality.” And Bosley Crowther of the New York Times proclaimed: “…Marilyn Monroe has finally proved herself an actress.” She also won a Golden Globe nomination for the performance.

“Bus Stop,” in theaters by August 1956, brought Monroe positive “real actress” plaudits. Click for film on Amazon.
“Bus Stop,” in theaters by August 1956, brought Monroe positive “real actress” plaudits. Click for film on Amazon.
“The Prince & The Showgirl” of 1957 had produced on-set conflicts between Monroe & Olivier. Click for film.
“The Prince & The Showgirl” of 1957 had produced on-set conflicts between Monroe & Olivier. Click for film.

As Bus Stop was running in theaters, Monroe had begun another MMP film project, The Prince and the Showgirl in England. Monroe’s new husband, Arthur Miller, went with her, and the couple enjoyed some time together there in a somewhat extended honeymoon.

The film, however, was to be directed, co-produced, and co-star, English actor, Laurence Olivier. During production, Monroe and Olivier had their differences. Offended by some of his remarks – e.g., “All you have to do is just be sexy” – Monroe became uncooperative for a time during filming. There were also other difficulties. She and Milton Greene argued over how MMP should be run, but the film was completed on schedule by the end of 1956. The Prince and the Showgirl was released to theaters in the summer of 1957. Though unpopular in America, it did better in Europe, where she was awarded the Italian David di Donatello and the French Crystal Star awards and was nominated for a BAFTA.

After returning from England in late fall 1956, Monroe took an 18-month hiatus to concentrate on family life. For a time, her marriage to Miller seemed a positive development for Monroe. She and Miller split their time between New York city, Connecticut and Long Island. Away from Hollywood, Monroe’s life became more normal; she began cooking, keeping house and giving Miller more attention. By April 1957, however, Marilyn and Milton Greene could not settle their disagreements over MMP, and Monroe bought out his share of the company. Later that year, in August 1957, she had an ectopic/tubal pregnancy that was terminated.

By 1958, Monroe was the main breadwinner in her marriage with Arthur Miller. Not only did she pay alimony to Miller’s first wife, but he reportedly charged her production company for buying and shipping a Jaguar to the United States.

By August 1958, Marilyn Monroe was back at work in Hollywood, as filming began on Some Like it Hot, a comedy with Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis, who play two musicians who disguise themselves by dressing as women and joining an all-female band in order to escape gangsters they witnessed committing murder.

Monroe in scene with cross-dressed Curtis & Lemon in all-girl band from 1959s’ “Some Like it Hot.” Click for film.
Monroe in scene with cross-dressed Curtis & Lemon in all-girl band from 1959s’ “Some Like it Hot.” Click for film.
During production of this film, however, Monroe tried the patience of director and fellow actors calling for numerous retakes, her bid for acting perfection, borne in part by her insecurities. Director Billy Wilder, to his credit, would later say he tolerated the difficulty of working with Monroe, calling her a first-rate comedienne.

Monroe’s performance as Sugar Kane in the film garnered her a Golden Globe for best actress in musical or comedy. Some Like It Hot is now rated as one of the best comedy films ever made. But during its production, Monroe had her personal trials, hospitalized at one point in mid-September 1958 for “nervous exhaustion” (actually a barbiturate overdose). She had also become pregnant in October 1958, though later had a miscarriage. Still, by November 1958, she finished her work on Some Like it Hot, which reached theaters by April 1959 and became a major box office hit.

By February 1960, Monroe was at work on Let’s Make Love, co-staring French actor, Yves Montand, with whom she would later begin an affair, her marriage to Miller by this time on rocky ground. By June of that year, she would also begin daily sessions with psychoanalyst Ralph Creenson. Let’s Make Love, a musical, was finished by August 1960. Shortly before its release to theaters, Monroe and Montand were featured on the cover of Life magazine in a sensual pose taken from the film. Their affair ended when filming ended, with Montand returning to France.

Then came The Misfits, a film based on Arthur Miller’s screenplay, which was adapted by Miller from his own short story of that name published in the October 1957 edition of Esquire magazine. The adaptation was meant to be a Valentine gift from Miller to Marilyn, but it became more like the death knell for their marriage. The film was directed by John Huston, starring Clark Gable, Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach, and others. It told a story about four “misfits” – four people who didn’t fit into society: a divorcée (Monroe), an aging cowboy trying to reclaim his mojo (Gable), a former rodeo star (Clift), and an unemployed mechanic (Wallach) all drifting along in Nevada.

Monroe being toweled off by Arthur Miller on “Let’s Make Love” film set after 6-hr dance rehearsal. Life.
Monroe being toweled off by Arthur Miller on “Let’s Make Love” film set after 6-hr dance rehearsal. Life.
Poster for “The Misfits,” a 1960 John Houston film with Monroe, Clark Gable & others. Click for film.
Poster for “The Misfits,” a 1960 John Houston film with Monroe, Clark Gable & others. Click for film.

During filming of The Misfits, Monroe became a problem, as she was taking drugs to help her sleep and more drugs to help her wake up, which caused her to arrive on the set late and then have trouble remembering her lines. Director John Houston would explain some years later: “There was evidence right before me almost every day. She was incapable of rescuing herself or of being rescued by anyone else. And it sometimes affected her work. We had to stop the picture while she went to a hospital for two weeks” (August 1960). Houston would also say he felt “absolutely certain that she was doomed.” Miller was on the movie set with Marilyn in Nevada, and was regularly reworking the screenplay as they went. It wasn’t a happy scene, as their marriage by that point was broken beyond repair. On January 24, 1961, a Mexican divorce was granted Monroe. About a year later, in February 1962, Miller would marry Inge Morath, an Austrian-born photographer who had worked on the set of The Misfits making a record of its filming,


New York Mirror story on a later June 29, 1961 Marilyn Monroe visit to New York hospital –  with “Joe at side”.
New York Mirror story on a later June 29, 1961 Marilyn Monroe visit to New York hospital – with “Joe at side”.
Joe & Marilyn Redux

Not long after her divorce from Arthur Miller and the release of The Misfits to theaters in early 1961, Marilyn Monroe was admitted to the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in New York.

On February 5th, 1961 she was involuntarily committed to Payne Whitney by her psychoanalyst, Marianne Kris. At the time, Kris told her she was going there for some “rest and relaxation.”

But Monroe was terrified of sanitariums because her mother lived in one for most of her life and her grandmother had died in one. Monroe was placed in a single room with padded walls and bars on the window. And in a later letter to her Los Angeles psychiatrist, Ralph Greenson (made public in 2015), she described verbal and mental abuse there by one doctor.

Permitted to make a telephone call at one point, she called ex-husband Joe DiMaggio, then in Florida, who by varying accounts, secured her release from Payne Whitney on February 10, 1961, while also helping arrange her admission to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center where she would have a normal private room where she might have some real rest.

April 1961. Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio in attendance at Yankee Stadium for opening-day game.
April 1961. Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio in attendance at Yankee Stadium for opening-day game.
Marilyn was treated at Columbia-Presbyterian for three weeks, with DiMaggio visiting her regularly. She was released in early March.

In late March 1961 she joined DiMaggio in Florida where he was a batting coach for the New York Yankees during spring training. News photos of the pair relaxing in the Florida sun also circulated in some newspapers around this time, as the couple had taken a brief vacation.

On April 11, 1961, Marilyn and Joe attended the opening day baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium, where they were photographed in attendance for stories that appeared in the next day’s newspapers

In New York, reporters had staked out her apartment building, as remarriage rumors between she and Joe had circulated, which Marilyn tamped down saying they were “just friends.”

Still, at the 33rd Academy Awards held in Santa Monica, CA on April 17, 1961, MC Bob Hope “dedicated” Best Song nominee – “The Second Time Around” – to Joe and Marilyn.


Back in Hollywood

In 1962, Monroe resumed her career in Hollywood and purchased a home in Brentwood section of Los Angeles. Joe DiMaggio, meanwhile, remained involved with and connected to Monroe during 1962. Even when he wasn’t physically with her, the two remained in contact over the phone. When Marilyn was buying her home in Brentwood in February 1962, DiMaggio loaned her $5,000 to make the down-payment. But she also continued her Hollywood life.

Among Monroe’s assortment of Hollywood friends in the early 1960s were members of the “Rat Pack,” such as Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford. Lawford was then married to Patricia Kennedy, sister of U.S. president, John F. Kennedy (JFK).

Marilyn Monroe, center, at Peter & Pat Lawford’s home in 1960, with Peter Lawford, left, and Frank Sinatra next to Monroe looking at a photographs. May Britt is standing in back shadow, at right. Shirley MacLaine is seated.
Marilyn Monroe, center, at Peter & Pat Lawford’s home in 1960, with Peter Lawford, left, and Frank Sinatra next to Monroe looking at a photographs. May Britt is standing in back shadow, at right. Shirley MacLaine is seated.

At various meetings and social gatherings at the Lawford’s house in Santa Monica – and elsewhere – Monroe had met JFK and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy. Over the years, there have been reports, through various biographies and other accounts, of Monroe having brief affairs with both JFK and RFK in the early 1960s, as well as with Sinatra, earlier, possibly in 1959.

Photo of the same group as above, now showing Patricia Kennedy Lawford standing at left with Sinatra pointing, Peter Lawford at left now seated, and Shirley MacLaine at right, turning toward camera.
Photo of the same group as above, now showing Patricia Kennedy Lawford standing at left with Sinatra pointing, Peter Lawford at left now seated, and Shirley MacLaine at right, turning toward camera.

One Monroe biographer, Donald Spoto, has written that Monroe and JFK met four times between October 1961 and August 1962, with one intimate encounter at Bing Crosby’s house on March 24, 1962, according to Monroe’s masseur, Ralph Roberts. Another biographer, James Spada, has it that Monroe had “sexual relations with both Bobby and Jack.” Volumes have been written about these encounters, some with questionable credibility and accuracy.


June 22, 1962. Life magazine boasts on cover: “Marilyn Monroe: A Skinny-Dip You’ll Never See on the Screen”.
June 22, 1962. Life magazine boasts on cover: “Marilyn Monroe: A Skinny-Dip You’ll Never See on the Screen”.
Last Filming

In the spring and summer of 1962, Monroe was also working on the film, Something’s Got to Give, a remake of an earlier comedy (My Favorite Wife, from 1940). In addition to Monroe, the film was also scheduled to star Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse, and was to be directed by George Cukor for 20th Century Fox.

The film, however, was never finally produced, disrupted in part by shooting delays due largely to Monroe’s personal troubles and absence from the set (missing 12 of 32 filming days). Still, some of the scenes Monroe had shot for the film – including a famous nude swimming pool scene – as well as a number of photographs from the set, were published, some at the time, and others years later, including film footage used in later documentaries.

Life magazine, for one, later ran the cover story shown at left with related photos inside and background on the filming (photos by Lawrence Schiller & William Woodfield).

But part of Monroe’s absence from the filming of Something’s Got To Give (and the studio’s later displeasure with her absence) was due to her attending a birthday gala for then President John F. Kennedy at New York’s Madison Square Garden on May 29, 1962. Monroe had been asked by the White House to attend the JFK gala, and before shooting had begun for Something’s Got to Give, she had notified her producer of the invitation and was cleared to attend.


JFK Gala

Meanwhile, in New York on May 29, 1962, the birthday gala for President John F. Kennedy was a huge affair – also a Democratic fundraising event. More than 15,000 people attended, including all the requisite Washington political VIPs and Hollywood royalty. Monroe would famously sing “Happy Birthday, Mr, President” for JFK on his 45th birthday, and also a few bars of “Thanks for the Memories.” Arriving late at the gala, she was introduced by Peter Lawford, and her singing performance came toward the middle-end of the program, which had included a long list of well-known entertainers.

May 19, 1962. Peter Lawford introducing Marilyn Monroe at JFK’s birthday gala in New York city .
May 19, 1962. Peter Lawford introducing Marilyn Monroe at JFK’s birthday gala in New York city .
May 19, 1962. Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” at JFK gala at Madison Square Garden.
May 19, 1962. Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” at JFK gala at Madison Square Garden.

Monroe sang her tribute to President Kennedy in her most breathy, sexiest voice, while wearing a sleek, form-fitting, specially-designed dress for the occasion, made for her by designer Jean Louis. There are a number of photos of Monroe at that event, and also a few of her attending an after-party at the Manhattan residence of Arthur and Mathilde Krim. One of those photos – reportedly the only one with JFK and Monroe in the same frame, taken by Cecil Stoughton – is shown below. It also includes Robert Kennedy and JFK presidential aide and historian, Arthur Schlesinger.

May 19, 1962.  Robert F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and John F. Kennedy in rare photo taken at private “after party.” Advisor and historian Arthur Schlesinger, with glasses, is shown at far right holding drink.  Photo, Cecil Stoughton.
May 19, 1962. Robert F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and John F. Kennedy in rare photo taken at private “after party.” Advisor and historian Arthur Schlesinger, with glasses, is shown at far right holding drink. Photo, Cecil Stoughton.

Schlesinger would later commit one impression of Monroe to his journal, recalling meeting her with the Kennedys at the gala after-party:

“…The image of this exquisite, beguiling and desperate girl will always stay with me. I do not think I have seen anyone so beautiful; I was enchanted by her manner and her wit, at once so masked, so ingenuous and so penetrating. But one felt a terrible unreality about her — as if talking to someone under water. Bobby and I engaged in mock competition for her; she was most agreeable to him and pleasant to me, but one never felt her to be wholly engaged. … She receded into her own glittering mist.”


Marilyn Fired

2001 documentary about Monroe’s last months of her life and her final, aborted feature film, “Something's Got To Give,” which was shut down after she was fired. With interviews, film footage & stills. Click for film.
2001 documentary about Monroe’s last months of her life and her final, aborted feature film, “Something's Got To Give,” which was shut down after she was fired. With interviews, film footage & stills. Click for film.
Back in Hollywood, Monroe’s studio was not happy about her taking leave from the filming of Something’s Got to Give. In fact, on June 8th, 20th Century-Fox fired her for “unjustifiable absences”. The studio then started to line up a new cast. However, the film’s main actor, Dean Martin, had refusal rights on his leading lady, and for him it was Monroe or nobody.

Monroe, meanwhile, had lined up some magazine interviews and photo shoots – with Life, Cosmopolitan, and Vogue magazines. She also had meetings with 20th Century-Fox executives to discuss her contract and Something’s Got To Give. In the end, Fox relented and re-hired her, agreeing to pay her more than her previous salary of $100,000, with the stipulation that she make the current film and another at $500,000 per film, plus a bonus if completed on time. But filming never resumed.

In late July 1962, reportedly – July 28th – there was an incident with an over-medicated Monroe at the Cal-Neva resort at Lake Tahoe (then part-owned by Frank Sinatra), where she had come with the Lawfords to join Sinatra and others for the weekend. But after self-medicating she collapsed and was taken home to L.A. by the Lawfords. Reportedly, Joe DiMaggio was seen at the same resort at the time, though not part of the Sinatra gathering.

On August 4th, 1962, it was reported that Peter Lawford called Monroe, concerned about her health on the heels of the Cal-Neva incident. He found she was still not well and sounded quite depressed. Lawford earlier had been the bearer of unpleasant news for Monroe, telling her that all communication with JFK and Bobby Kennedy was to be cut off. She was also reportedly upset over some things JFK had said to her in private. By all accounts Monroe was in a pretty bad way at the time. In fact, on August 4th she had a spent some hours in sessions with her psychologist.

On August 5th, 1962, just before 4:00 a.m., Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her bed at her Brentwood, Los Angeles home. She was 36 years old. Empty medicine bottles were found next to her bed. A toxicology report later indicated that chloral hydrate and pentobarbital were found in her body. Her death was ruled to be “acute barbiturate poisoning” by Dr. Thomas Noguchi of the Los Angeles County Coroners Office and listed as a “probable suicide”. The news rocked the nation, and would be a major story for weeks, with newspaper features, magazine specials, and TV reporting.

NY Daily News of August 6, 1962 announcing death of Marilyn Monroe with 7 pages of stories & pictures.
NY Daily News of August 6, 1962 announcing death of Marilyn Monroe with 7 pages of stories & pictures.
NY Daily News of August 7, 1962 announcing Joe DiMaggio role in claiming her body & funeral rites.
NY Daily News of August 7, 1962 announcing Joe DiMaggio role in claiming her body & funeral rites.

But it was Joe DiMaggio who claimed her body and helped manage her funeral, barring most of Hollywood from attending. In fact, DiMaggio, according to later biographers, believed that it was the Kennedys and the Hollywood crowd who drove Monroe to her desperate lengths. He still loved her and was devastated. Honoring a request she had made of him back in 1954, DiMaggio faithfully had fresh roses delivered to Monroe’s crypt twice a week until his own death in 1999.

March 8, 1999. NY Daily News back page tribute at Joe DiMaggio's passing.
March 8, 1999. NY Daily News back page tribute at Joe DiMaggio's passing.
DiMaggio, for his part, had changed his behavior around Marilyn in their later “just friends” years, trying to win her back, being less possessive and more attentive. And there was speculation they had become a better pair. In fact, shortly before her death there was one report that Joe had proposed re-marriage (on August 1, 1962), and that she had accepted, with a small private ceremony planned at her Brentwood residence for August 8th, 1962 – which turned out to be the day of her funeral. DiMaggio, however, never got over her. He dated other women occasionally, but never remarried. He lived the remainder of his years in the glow of his baseball celebrity and its related business opportunities. He became a TV pitchman for Mr. Coffee coffee-makers, and in 1968 was burnished into popular music with the famous line “where have you gone Joe DiMaggio” from the No. 1 Simon & Garfunkel hit song, “Mrs. Robinson.” Joe DiMaggio died of lung cancer on March 8, 1999. He was 84 years old.


Media, Books, Film

The Joe DiMaggio / Marilyn Monroe story, however, did not end with either Marilyn’s death in 1962 or DiMaggio’s passing in 1999. The publishing world and the media kept their story alive, in one form or another, for decades. Of course, it has been “the Marilyn Monroe story” that is the primary driver of the media’s continued fascination — with DiMaggio as one part of her story. Still, it is the Monroe travail that has been center stage; told and re-told and spun with all manner of twists and turns, and fueled in later years with conspiracy theories about her death. In any case, the parade of magazine stories, books, films, and on-line lore about Marilyn Monroe is seemingly never ending – some by friends who knew her, business associates, fellow actors and directors, celebrity writers, photographers, documentary film producers and more. All have kept her story going in one form or another for more than 70 years and counting.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A sampling of some of these various works, mostly books, is offered here with cover art in the columns at right (click on images for Amazon.com pages). Others appear in the “Sources” section at the end of this story. This sampling, however, is just that, as hundreds of books alone, have been written about Monroe.

Among early reporting, for example, was an August 7, 1964 Life magazine feature story by Claire Boothe Luce (wife of publisher Henry Luce), “Marilyn Monroe: What Really Killed Her,” with Marilyn on the cover.

In 1966, a documentary film titled, The Legend of Marilyn Monroe, appeared, chronicling her life and career, narrated by John Huston, also reissued in later years. By the late 1960s, other books followed: in 1967, Marilyn: An Untold Story by Norman Rosten came out and in 1969, Norma Jean: The life of Marilyn Monroe by Fred Lawrence Guiles was published.

In August 1972, Ms. Magazine story ran with the title, “Ten Years Later: The Real Marilyn Monroe: The Woman Who Died Too Soon.” In 1973, Norman Mailer’s Marilyn: A Biography (paperback edition shown), sparked controversy with its final chapter that claimed Monroe was murdered by agents of the FBI and CIA who resented her affair with Robert F. Kennedy. Mailer’s wasn’t the first conspiracy offering about her death, as a number of others would follow.

In 1977, one of the first books focused on the “Joe & Marilyn” story appeared with Robin Moore and Gene Shoor’s book, Marilyn & Joe DiMaggio. Sportswriter Roger Kahn’s book, Joe & Marilyn: A Memory of Love, published by William Morrow (269 pp.) appeared later in 1986 (paperback edition shown at right).

A decade after her death, in mid October 1972, Newsweek ran a cover with a Marilyn Monroe photo, casting her as a nostalgia figure with a banner that read: “Yearning for The Fifties: The Good Old Days.” Ten years later, in July 1982, at the 20th anniversary of her death, McCall’s magazine put her on the cover along with story taglines: “What She Feared The Most,” and “What She’d Look Like Today.” Life magazine, also commemorating her 20-year passing, put Monroe on its August 1982 cover with story tagline: “The Unseen Marilyn: Never Published Photographs – 20 Years After Her Death.”

In 1985, Anthony Summers’ book, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, was published. Based on over 600 interviews it became a New York Times bestseller. Its later paperback version is shown at right.

In May 1993, Donald Spoto’s Marilyn Monroe: The Biography, was published by Harper Collins, coming in just under 700 pages and is among the most read Monroe biographies.

Meanwhile, in fiction, Joyce Carol Oates published Blonde, her best-selling 2000 historical novel about Monroe that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In May 2001, the popular novel was adapted into a CBS TV mini-series of the same name with Australian actress Poppy Montgomery cast as Monroe in the lead role. Another film version of Blonde, also based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel, is scheduled for release by Netflix in 2022. Oates’ novel, meanwhile, was reissued in April 2020 in a 20th anniversary edition.

After the death of Joe DiMaggio in 1999, there was Richard Ben Cramer’s best-selling, Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life, published in 2000 by Simon & Schuster. It included quite a bit of Marilyn Monroe narrative.

In September 2006, a Marilyn Monroe autobiography appeared with the tile, My Story, written with Bent Hecht and illustrated with Milton Greene photographs.

In the Sunday supplement world, meanwhile, the July 28th, 2008 edition of Parade magazine ran a cover story entitled, “The Marilyn You Don’t Know” by Liz Smith.

In August 2009, J. Randy Tarabor-relli’s The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (576 pp.) was published, becoming a New York Times bestseller.

A year later, in October 2010, Monroe’s Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters (from her estate) was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, edited by Bernard Comment. This book had a popular following and was positively received by many readers.

In March 2011, Jerome Charyn’s book, Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil, was published by Yale University Press (192 pp).

My Week with Marilyn is a 2011 film drama starring Michelle Williams as Monroe, along with Kenneth Branagh, Dominic Cooper, Julia Ormond, Emma Watson, Judi Dench and others, based on two books by Colin Clark depicting the making of the 1957 film, The Prince and the Showgirl. Released in November 2011 in the U.S. and UK, the film received generally positive reviews, while Williams and Branagh were nominated for Academy Awards.

In July 2012, Lois Banner’s Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox was published by Bloomsbury USA (528 pp). Banner is one of the founders of the field of women’s history.

In November 2012, HBO aired the documentary film, “Love, Marilyn,” which is performed through the readings of Monroe’s personal diaries and letters by more than 20 actors and others – Elizabeth Banks, Ellen Burstyn, Glenn Close, Viola Davis, etc – exploring her life and personal thoughts. “…[T]his slick documentary,” said one New York Times review, “is also a respectful love letter to Monroe…”

In May 2015, “The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe” aired as a made-for-TV drama miniseries on the Lifetime channel. Based on J. Randy Taraborrelli’s 2009 bestseller of the same name (listed earlier above), the film starred Kelli Garner, Susan Sarandon, Emily Watson, and others.

Among books by various photographers featuring still photos of Monroe is David Wills’ 2015 book, Marilyn In the Flash: Her Love Affair With The Press, 1945-1962, published by Dey Street Books (256 pp). There are at least 80 other photographers who did work with Monroe, some with their own books.

A 2005 PBS American Masters documentary, “Marilyn Monroe: Still Life,” claims she was the most photographed person in history.

Over the years since her death, a number of popular magazines – Time, Life, Newsweek, Playboy and others – have run various special collections or anniversary editions on Monroe. In April 2016, Vanity Fair turned out one of these special editions for her 90th birthday, “Marilyn Monroe: The Movies, The Myths, The Men.”

In May 2018, Michelle Morgan’s book, The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist was published by Running Press (320 pp). And in August of that year, Charles Casillo’s book, Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon (368 pp), was published by St. Martin’s Press.

Again, the above listing of books, films, and documentaries on Marilyn Monroe — and others appearing below in “Sources” — is only offered as an historic sampling, and does not comprise a complete list. As this is written in early 2022, a four-part CNN documentary, Reframed: Marilyn Monroe, has appeared, and with the 60th anniversary of her death in August 2022, there will likely be more Monroe offerings to come.

“Candle in the Wind” - Fabled legacy, troubled soul. MM in pensive moment captured by Richard Avedon, NY, May 1957.
“Candle in the Wind” - Fabled legacy, troubled soul. MM in pensive moment captured by Richard Avedon, NY, May 1957.
In any case, Marilyn Monroe has left a legacy in popular culture that few can top. The American Film Institute named her the sixth greatest female screen legend in American film history, and the Smithsonian included her on its list of “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.”

Variety and VH1 list her in the top ten of 20th century pop culture icons. She has also influenced a range of artists and entertainers, from Andy Warhol to Madonna.

A valuable business asset in life and in death, she has appeared in ads for Chanel, Mercedes-Benz, and Absolut Vodka, among others.

In 2011, Forbes magazine listed her as the third highest-earning dead celebrity, with an income at that time of $27 million. She also appeared on the same Forbes list, 2018-thru-2020.

Wikipedia’s page, “Marilyn Monroe in Pop-ular Culture,” offers an extensive listing of her influence across film, photography, art, music, theater, and more. There are also a number of fan clubs and websites about her.

Yet, despite her cultural renown, Marilyn Monroe was a tortured soul for much of her short life, dealing with a series of troubled relationships and sizeable insecurities while trying to make her way in the often exploitive world of Hollywood entertainment.

Of related possible interest at this website are the following stories: “The Jack Pack, Pt. 2,” mostly about JFK and Rat Pack celebrities, but also includes a section on Marilyn Monroe; “Candle in Wind,” a 1973 hit song by Elton John about Monroe; and the “Rosie The Riveter” story, with sidebar, “Marilyn ‘Rosie’ Monroe,” exploring her time in WWII factory where she was discovered by photographer David Conover.

Thanks for visiting, and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research writing and continued publication of this website. Thank you.- Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 19 February 2022
Last Update: 18 February 2022
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Marilyn & Joe, et al., A 70 Year Saga,”
PopHistoryDig.com, February 18, 2022.

____________________________________




Sources, Links & Additional Information

Marilyn Monroe cover, “Cosmopolitan,” May 1953, from 1952 photo session with Ernest Bachrach. Cover tagline notes, “Marilyn Monroe--Hollywood's Most Valuable Property,” though then paid as a contract player. Featured article by Robert Heilbroner, titled, "The Fabulous Story Of Hollywood's Biggest Build-Up---Marilyn Monroe,” 8 pp w/photos.
Marilyn Monroe cover, “Cosmopolitan,” May 1953, from 1952 photo session with Ernest Bachrach. Cover tagline notes, “Marilyn Monroe--Hollywood's Most Valuable Property,” though then paid as a contract player. Featured article by Robert Heilbroner, titled, "The Fabulous Story Of Hollywood's Biggest Build-Up---Marilyn Monroe,” 8 pp w/photos.
Monroe selected as one of Time magazine’s “100 Women of the Year” project, listing the most influential women of the 20th century – chosen for 1954, with Time noting: “...Monroe was a stunner, but she was also a brilliant actor and comedian who strove to be taken seriously in a world of men who wanted to see her only as an object of desire...” Click for Time’s listing.
Monroe selected as one of Time magazine’s “100 Women of the Year” project, listing the most influential women of the 20th century – chosen for 1954, with Time noting: “...Monroe was a stunner, but she was also a brilliant actor and comedian who strove to be taken seriously in a world of men who wanted to see her only as an object of desire...” Click for Time’s listing.
Sarah Churchwell’s 2005 book, “The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe,” Metropolitan Books, 384 pp. “Refreshing,” says NY Times, “...Her book has torn away layers of false readings and conspiracy theories.” Richard Schickel, L A Times, adds: “Humane and skeptical . . . Churchwell has written an extremely useful deconstruction of the piffle that has accreted around her subject over the years . . .” Click for copy.
Sarah Churchwell’s 2005 book, “The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe,” Metropolitan Books, 384 pp. “Refreshing,” says NY Times, “...Her book has torn away layers of false readings and conspiracy theories.” Richard Schickel, L A Times, adds: “Humane and skeptical . . . Churchwell has written an extremely useful deconstruction of the piffle that has accreted around her subject over the years . . .” Click for copy.
C. David Heymann’s 2014 book, “Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love,” Atria, 448 pp. Click for copy.
C. David Heymann’s 2014 book, “Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love,” Atria, 448 pp. Click for copy.
Jeffrey Meyers’ 2010 book, “The Genius and the Goddess: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe,” University of Illinois Press, 368 pp. Click for copy.
Jeffrey Meyers’ 2010 book, “The Genius and the Goddess: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe,” University of Illinois Press, 368 pp. Click for copy.
Ralph Roberts (masseur, assistant & friend to Monroe, 1959-1962) recounts behind-the-scenes time with Monroe & her friends in his 2021 book, “Mimosa: Memories of Marilyn & The Making of ‘The Misfits’.” Roadhouse Books, 176 pp. Click for copy.
Ralph Roberts (masseur, assistant & friend to Monroe, 1959-1962) recounts behind-the-scenes time with Monroe & her friends in his 2021 book, “Mimosa: Memories of Marilyn & The Making of ‘The Misfits’.” Roadhouse Books, 176 pp. Click for copy.
Donald H. Wolfe’s book, “The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe,” William Morrow, 560 pp. Click for copy.
Donald H. Wolfe’s book, “The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe,” William Morrow, 560 pp. Click for copy.
1988 book by Patricia Lawford w/Ted Schwarz, “The Peter Lawford Story: Life With the Kennedys, Monroe and the Rat Pack,” 288 pp.  Click for copy.
1988 book by Patricia Lawford w/Ted Schwarz, “The Peter Lawford Story: Life With the Kennedys, Monroe and the Rat Pack,” 288 pp. Click for copy.
Dr. Rock Positano & John Positano’s 2017 book, “Dinner with DiMaggio: Memories of An American Hero,” Simon & Schuster, 368 pp. Click for copy.
Dr. Rock Positano & John Positano’s 2017 book, “Dinner with DiMaggio: Memories of An American Hero,” Simon & Schuster, 368 pp. Click for copy.

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“The Jack Pack”
Pt.2: 1961-1990s

The Rat Pack on stage together in a 1960s' performance.
The Rat Pack on stage together in a 1960s' performance.
     This is the second part of a two-part story on the history of Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack and their dealings with the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, his inauguration in January 1961, and his early Administration. 

The “Rat Pack” was a nickname for a coterie of Hollywood stars and Las Vegas club entertainers that included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.  For a time in 1960, this group and some of their friends were dubbed “The Jack Pack” when they helped the Kennedy-for-President campaign. 

     Through the early 1960s, Sinatra and his Rat Pack reigned supreme in contemporary culture; they became the “cool guys” of their generation. They brought record-breaking crowds to the Las Vegas nightclub scene and made millions for Hollywood’s box office  through the movies they made. 

The Rat Pack’s network of contacts, friends, and business partners ranged across Hollywood, Las Vegas, and beyond, including movie stars such as Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Janet Leigh, Angie Dickinson, and Shirley MacLaine, and also some underworld figures such as Sam Giancana of Chicago.

“Rat Pack” members early 1960s, from left: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
“Rat Pack” members early 1960s, from left: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
     Sinatra and the Rat Pack became intertwined with the Kennedy family in part through Peter Lawford’s marriage to Jack Kennedy’s sister, Patricia, and later through Sinatra’s friendship with U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy.  But the Rat Pack’s Hollywood and business network in the entertainment world also made it a potent force for fundraising and voter turnout, which soon become apparent in the 1960 presidential election and beyond.

     Part 1 of the story covers Rat Pack history and the group’s involvement with the 1960 Kennedy campaign, up to and including John F. Kennedy’s election in November 1960.  Part 2 of the story picks up here as plans for the 1961 Kennedy inauguration festivities are being made.  This part of the story will also cover Frank Sinatra’s falling out with JFK and the Kennedy family during the early 1960s, as well as what became of various Rat Pack members and friends and Kennedy family members in the years following the Kennedy election.


Washington Gala

Jan 1961: Frank Sinatra escorting Jackie Kennedy to her box at the National Guard Armory for a pre-inaugural gala staged by Sinatra to help pay off JFK & Democratic Party campaign debt.
Jan 1961: Frank Sinatra escorting Jackie Kennedy to her box at the National Guard Armory for a pre-inaugural gala staged by Sinatra to help pay off JFK & Democratic Party campaign debt.
     In December 1960, Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford began planning a big, star-studded gala and party fundraiser to be staged at the National Armory in Washington, D.C. on January 19th, 1961, the night before JFK’s formal inauguration. 

Among the performers and notables Sinatra and Lawford would gather for this event were: Harry Belafonte, Milton Berle, Nat King Cole, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Frederic March, Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante, Mahalia Jackson, Bette Davis, Laurence Olivier, Leonard Bernstein, Fredric March, Sidney Poitier, Bill Dana, Kay Thompson, Roger Edens and others. 

     Sinatra was responsible for personally recruiting many of the stars, some flying in from filming and performing locations abroad.  He and Lawford also convinced several Broadway producers to shut down for one night so actors such as Anthony Quinn, Ethel Merman and Laurence Olivier could attend. 

One account had it that Sinatra personally bought out the theater tickets for the performances of the Broadway plays in conflict so the those actors could partake in the Kennedy gala.

National Armory in D.C. hosted two inaugural events: the Pre-Inaugural Gala (Jan19th) & Post-Inaugural Ball (Jan 20th).
National Armory in D.C. hosted two inaugural events: the Pre-Inaugural Gala (Jan19th) & Post-Inaugural Ball (Jan 20th).
     Several thousand seats at the National Armory would be sold for $100 each and 72 ringside boxes for small groups were sold at $10,000 apiece.  “We’ve already sold out the 72 boxes,” Peter Lawford told Time magazine in early December.  Sinatra added, “This will be the biggest take in show-business history for a one-nighter.  We expect to raise $1,700,000 for the one night…”  In January, Sinatra and Lawford flew to Washington on Kennedy’s private Convair plane to begin work on the gala.  The Hollywood stars, producers, directors, conductors, and musicians involved were housed at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in Washington, reportedly taking over the top floor or so.  Sinatra also hired a Hollywood photographer named Phil Stern to document the entire enterprise, later giving each of the participants their own photo albums.

Sammy Davis, Jr., 1960s.
Sammy Davis, Jr., 1960s.
     But in arranging the gala there was also some nastiness for Frank’s friend, Sammy Davis, slated to be one of the gala performers.  Davis had planned to take leave from his engagement at the Latin Casino near Philadelphia in order to perform at the gala. But given his recent mid-November 1960 mix-race marriage to Swedish actress May Britt, Sammy was still too hot politically for the Kennedys.  Reportedly, there had been discussions with Bobby, Jack and Peter Lawford on Sammy’s participation in the gala, concern being that Southern Democrats would object to Sammy and his new wife attending.  Three days before the gala, after Sammy had bought a new tux and his wife a new gown, he received a call from the White House.  It was Evelyn Lincoln, JFK’s personal secretary.  She told Sammy the president didn’t want him at the inauguration, a decision by the president described as being forced upon him by the politics of the moment, and counterproductive to fight.  Sammy said he understood.  Peter Lawford called Davis to try to smooth things over, but Sammy was crushed.

Gene Kelly performing at JFK gala, January 19, 1961.
Gene Kelly performing at JFK gala, January 19, 1961.
     On gala day, there was a snow storm in Washington, dumping eight inches on the city through the evening.  But the show went on.  There was singing, dancing, poetry, stage skits, dramatic readings, and tributes to the presidential and vice-president.

Gene Kelly danced; Sydney Poteir read poetry, and Pat Suzuki sang. Kelly sang “The Hat Me Dear Old Father Wore” and did an amazing dance routine. Fredric March did a recitation invoking God’s help to “give us zest for new frontiers, and the faith to say unto mountains, whether made of granite or red tape: Remove.” 

Bill Dana, famous in that era for portraying a fictional Chicano character known as José Jiménez, did a well-received comic routine with Milton Berle.  Nat King Cole sang and so did a young, 34 year-old Harry Belafonte, whose 1956 Calypso album had become the first long-playing album in history to sell over one million copies.

Frank Sinatra & Peter Lawford enjoy a lighter moment at the 1961 gala for President-elect John F. Kennedy.
Frank Sinatra & Peter Lawford enjoy a lighter moment at the 1961 gala for President-elect John F. Kennedy.
     Jimmy Durante sang a version of the “September Song,” a JFK favorite. Sinatra sang twice that evening, once with “You Make Me Feel So Young,” and also “That Old Black Magic,” putting a few new twists on the old standard with lines like: “That old Jack magic had them in its spell / That old Jack magic that he weaves so well…”  There was also a long biographical tribute sung to Kennedy describing his rise to power, using a parody of popular songs composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.  This skit began with Sinatra and Berle doing a send up of that era’s famous news team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.“…[I]t may have marked the moment when popular entertainment became an indispensable part of modern politics.”
                                       – Todd Purdum
  “High Hopes,” was also used in this segment, now reworked by Sinatra with new lines that included: “Jack and Lyndon B /… Let’s follow their lead / They’re the men that our America needs!”

     Todd Purdum, writing a Vanity Fair retrospective on the famous JFK gala 50 years later, summed it up this way: “It was an only-in-America blend of high culture and low comedy, of schmaltz and camp, and it may have marked the moment when popular entertainment became an indispensable part of modern politics.”  In fact, Bette Davis said as much during the show in part of skit she did, reading from a script by radio dramatist Norman Corwin: “The world of entertainment—show-biz, if you please—has become the Sixth Estate…”

JFK with Frank Sinatra at the pre-inaugural gala, Jan 19, 1961, the night before JFK’s formal inauguration.
JFK with Frank Sinatra at the pre-inaugural gala, Jan 19, 1961, the night before JFK’s formal inauguration.
     At one point near the show’s end, with an introduction from Sinatra, JFK rose to speak as a single spotlight shone on him.  “We saw excellence tonight,” Kennedy said, while  commending Sinatra and Peter Lawford for their work on the gala.  “The happy relationship between the arts and politics which has characterized our long history I think reached culmination tonight,” he said. 

     Of Sinatra’s role in the gala Kennedy said, “You can not imagine the work he has done to make this show a success.”  Kennedy called Sinatra “a great friend,” and added: “Long before he could sing, he used to poll a Democratic precinct back in New Jersey.  That precinct has grown to cover a country, but long after he has ceased to sing, he’s going to be standing up and speaking for the Democratic Party, and I thank him on behalf of all of you tonight.”

1961: Inaugural dancing at the Armory.
1961: Inaugural dancing at the Armory.
     The gala would raise millions to help reduce the Democratic campaign debt, and despite the snow and difficult logistics, Sinatra had pulled off one of the greatest Hollywood-on-the-Potomac fetes the city had ever witnessed.


JFK’s Late Night

     Even though it was nearly 1:30 a.m. when the gala ended, and Jackie Kennedy had long since gone home as she was still recovering from the Cesarean birth of John Jr., JFK went to another party that night given by his father, Joseph Kennedy, at Paul Young’s restaurant in downtown D.C.  JFK didn’t get home until 3:30 a.m. 

     However the next morning, Inauguration Day, Kennedy was up at eight, reviewing his speech and preparing for a full slate of official and ceremonial meetings with outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and then on to Capitol Hill for his swearing in and one of the more memorable inaugural speeches in U.S. history.

President John F. Kennedy delivering his inaugural address at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 20, 1961.
President John F. Kennedy delivering his inaugural address at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 20, 1961.
     On the evening of the inauguration, as the President and first lady were making the rounds to the various inaugural balls being held in Washington, Sinatra threw a party at the Statler-Hilton Hotel for all the cast and crew who had been involved in the preceding night’s gala.  The President, on a visit to the Statler-Hilton for one of the balls that evening, managed to slip away to join Sinatra’s party and mingle with the guests there.  Frank Sinatra was very pleased, and went home to California feeling pretty good about himself and his friend in the White House.


The Sinatra File

     Following the inauguration, the ties between Frank Sinatra and the Kennedy’s – especially those involving JFK and the White House – would gradually become strained and eventually would be severed.  But this would not occur for another year or so. 

FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, center, meeting with JFK and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, January 1961.
FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, center, meeting with JFK and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, January 1961.
     Sinatra had been monitored by the FBI stretching back to 1946 when he attended social gatherings in Cuba as a guest of some organized crime figures.  The FBI had an active file on Sinatra which continued for years (Sinatra’s full FBI file would not be released publicly until December 1998, ultimately revealing nothing criminal, subversive, or unpatriotic; a file filled with mostly unsubstantiated complaints and anonymous sources). 

     But in February 1961, within weeks of JFK’s inauguration, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent a pointed memo to the new U.S. Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy.  The memo detailed Sinatra’s extensive connections to organized crime figures.  Robert Kennedy would later impress upon his brother, the President, that he needed to distance himself from Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford & Robert Kennedy wait for helicopter en route to a Cedars-Sinai Hospital charity event in Hollywood, July 1961.
Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford & Robert Kennedy wait for helicopter en route to a Cedars-Sinai Hospital charity event in Hollywood, July 1961.
     Still, exchanges between the Kennedy family, Sinatra, and members of his Rat Pack continued through 1961 and beyond.  In early July, Sinatra and Peter Lawford joined U.S. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy to attend benefit dinner for the Cedars-Sinai Hospital at the Beverly Hilton in Hollywood.  Another report had Sinatra, the Dean Martin family, Peter Lawford and family, Sammy Davis and May Britt, and Janet Leigh using the French Riviera home of Joseph P. Kennedy during a ten-day vacation in August 1961. 

     Then, in late September 1961, ten months after the election, Joe Kennedy threw a thank-you party for Frank Sinatra at the family’s Hyannis Port, MA compound.  At that point, JFK as president was still talking with Sinatra, as Sinatra would approach the president during the Hyannis Port visit to ask for a small favor.

Screenwriters in Hollywood had come to Sinatra about starring in a film, The Manchurian Candidate, based on a 1959 novel by Richard Condon.

Frank Sinatra sought JFK’s help to lobby Arthur Krim to make this film.
Frank Sinatra sought JFK’s help to lobby Arthur Krim to make this film.
     The Manchurian Candidate is a story about a Korean War hero, brainwashed by the Chinese Communists, who then returns home programmed to assassinate the president as part of a larger conspiracy to take over the White House.  In addition to starring the film, Sinatra also had business interests in its distribution.  However, the head of Universal Studios at the time, Arthur Krim, was queasy about the film project and its Cold War politics.  Krim was also then national finance chairman of the Democratic Party.  So, when Sinatra was visiting the Kennedys in Hyannis Port in September 1961, he told Jack Kennedy of the plan for the film and Arthur Krim’s reluctance to make it.  President Kennedy called Krim and the movie project went forward, with Krim later saying that Kennedy’s call had made the difference.

     Despite Kennedy’s help on the Manchurian Candidate, Sinatra’s access to the President and the White House would soon be ending.  Later in the fall of 1961, Sinatra visited the White House as part of a larger group that included Peter Lawford and others.  And during that year, press Secretary Pierre Salinger had been questioned by members of the press about Sinatra’s relationship with the president.  The inner circle around Kennedy – including Robert Kennedy and the President himself – became less comfortable having Sinatra around the White House.  But soon, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI would provide some additional information on Sinatra.


Rat Pack Popularity

Richard Gehman’s 1961 book helped to popularize the term “Rat Pack.”
Richard Gehman’s 1961 book helped to popularize the term “Rat Pack.”
     Meanwhile, the Rat Pack in 1961 seemed to gain in popularity and public notice. The first book arrived that year using the term “Rat Pack” in its title.  

A writer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania named Richard Gehman published a paperback volume with Belmont Books in New York titled, Sinatra and His Rat Pack. The book sold reasonably well and went into at least three printings according to one source.

In the fall that year, a late night talk show hosted by David Suskind featured a Rat Pack roundtable on one of its shows with a mix of journalists and Hollywood celebrities who debated the Rat Pack’s merits and maladies. Even a New Yorker cartoon appeared with a psychiatrist addressing the concerns of a middle-aged man lying on the treatment couch, with the psychiatrist saying: “What makes you think Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and all that bunch are so happy?” 

     There were also continued stage and club performances of the Rat Pack as a group, or in various combinations.  Work on films with one or more members of the group continued as well, and Sinatra had a film or two of his own.  The Devil at Four O’Clock, a volcano disaster film with Sinatra and Spencer Tracey came out in October 1961.  Sinatra’s music continued to be popular.  Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford would have their notices as well.

President Kennedy points to map of Laos at press conference in March 1961.
President Kennedy points to map of Laos at press conference in March 1961.
     The Kennedy Administration, meanwhile, had a full plate of activities in 1961.  In March, Kennedy announced the establishment of the Peace Corps.  The president also held a press conference that month to discuss communist involvement in Laos.  In April, in his first international and military crisis, U.S.-backed invasion of Cuba ended in disaster at the Bay of Pigs.  Kennedy appeared on TV taking full responsibility for the fiasco, an operation inherited from the Eisenhower Administration.  The Soviet Union that month put the first human in space, as cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth in a Soviet spacecraft.  In May, speaking before the U.S. Congress, Kennedy committed the U.S. to landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  In June, Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev held a summit in Vienna.  Cold war tensions escalated in August, as construction on what came to be known as “the Berlin Wall” began; an actual brick-and-block wall that would divide East and West Berlin with the purpose of preventing people from fleeing communist-held areas of the country for sanctuary in the west.  Elsewhere in the world, Kennedy Administration officials were working on foreign policy initiatives such as the “Alliance for Progress,” a joint U.S./Latin American economic development program.  In December  the President traveled to Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.


Stay At Frank’s?

     As JFK’s presidential schedule for early 1962 was being plotted out, it was revealed he would be making a trip west to California in March of 1962.  Early on, it was decided Kennedy would have an overnight visit at Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs estate on March 24th, 1962.  This planned JFK visit became a big event for Sinatra; a very prideful moment – much more than the pre-election partying the two had shared.Sinatra went all-out for the anticipated JFK visit – remodeling the house, adding new cottages, extra rooms, communications gear, and more. . . He even had a helicopter landing pad installed.  This was now the President of the United States who was coming to stay overnight.  Sinatra had initially built this Palm Springs residence in 1954.  It included a main house, a movie theater, guest houses, a barbershop/sauna, two swimming pools, tennis courts, and a personal art studio.  But now, he would make improvements.

     Sinatra went all-out for the anticipated JFK visit – remodeling the house, adding new cottages, extra rooms, communications gear, and more to accommodate a president and his staff.  He even had a concrete heliport landing pad installed.  But within days of the planned visit – on March 22nd, two days ahead of the planned arrival at Sinatra’s – Peter Lawford was told by JFK and Bobby Kennedy to inform Sinatra that the President would not be staying at Sinatra’s place.  Lawford tried to convince the President and Bobby not to cancel the visit, to no avail.  It was then arranged that the President would stay at singer Bing Crosby’s place.  Lawford then called Sinatra, fabricating a story about how Sinatra’s place was more open and more vulnerable and that the Secret Service had instead approved Bing Crosby’s “more secure” place, backing up against a mountain.  Sinatra was stunned by the news, and tried appealing to Bobby Kennedy with no success.  At one point, Sinatra reportedly took a sledge hammer to the heliport he had built to vent his frustration, and he was quite unforgiving of Lawford and others even remotely connected to the cancellation.  From that point on, Sinatra and JFK pretty much parted ways.

JFK, J. Edgar Hoover & Robert Kennedy.
JFK, J. Edgar Hoover & Robert Kennedy.
     Bobby Kennedy and the President had both heard from J. Edgar Hoover about Sinatra and the fact that Sam Giancana – who Bobby’s Justice Department was then investigating – had stayed at Sinatra’s place.  Hoover had lunch with the President only a few days before his scheduled March 1962 trip West, and it is believed he discussed Sinatra and Judith Campbell with the President, among other things.  JFK knew Hoover played hardball and he wasn’t about to give him any more ammunition by staying with Sinatra.  But Sinatra was wounded badly by the cancellation.  Years later, Sinatra would say he would have understood if JFK had personally spoken with him about why, politically, he could not be seen with him, given his ties, etc.  Sinatra said he would have accepted that.  But Kennedy never did that, and Sinatra remained forever hurt by the slight.  JFK, meanwhile, had a pleasant visit at Bing Crosby’s place on March 24th, 1962, where guests at that time reportedly included Marilyn Monroe.


“Happy Birthday”

Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” May 19, 1962. Photo, UPI.
Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” May 19, 1962. Photo, UPI.
     Less than two months later, on May 19, 1962, Monroe made a famous public appearance singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to JFK at a Madison Square Garden event for the President’s 45th birthday.  It was a huge gala affair, with a number of Hollywood entertainers.  Monroe, who arrived late to sing the birthday greeting, was introduced by Peter Lawford.  Her appearance came toward the middle-end of the program, and she performed the song in her very best, most sexiest voice.  More than 15,000 people attended the JFK gathering, also a Democratic fundraising event, with many VIPs and politicians in the audience.  It was hosted by New York Mayor Robert Wagner with Jack Benny as emcee.  Among those performing were: Robert Merrill, Ella Fitzgerald, Danny Kaye, Henry Fonda, Maria Callas, Peggy Lee, Jimmy Durante & Eddie Jackson, Mike Nichols & Elaine May, Diahann Carroll, and Bobby Darin. Richard Adler, a composer and lyricist, famous for Broadway musicals such as The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees, produced the show.  Jerome Robbins, of The King and I and West Side Story fame, choreographed a big dance number.  Monroe, in addition to “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” also continued her musical tribute to the president, adding a few lines of thanks — “for all you have done, the battles you have won” — to the tune of “Thanks for the Memories.”  Monroe wore a sleek, form-fitting, specially-designed dress for the occasion, made for her by designer Jean Louis.  Kennedy remarked at the podium later that evening that he could “now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”  Kennedy would later be photographed briefly talking to Monroe with brother Bobby and others at an after party.

Robert F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and John F. Kennedy in rare photo taken at private “after party,” May 19, 1962. Advisor Arthur Schlesinger, with glasses, shown at right. 
 Photo, Cecil Stoughton
Robert F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and John F. Kennedy in rare photo taken at private “after party,” May 19, 1962. Advisor Arthur Schlesinger, with glasses, shown at right. Photo, Cecil Stoughton
     According to some reports, Kennedy had first met Monroe at his sister’s house – Peter and Patricia Lawford’s Santa Monica beach house – sometime in 1959-1960 (although some reports say Kennedy knew Monroe as early as 1954-55). Reportedly, other JFK and Monroe get-togethers occurred around the time of Kennedy’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles on July 12th and July 13th, 1960, including a dinner at Puccini’s restaurant in Beverly Hills, owned by Sinatra and Lawford, and also at a private party at the Lawford’s Santa Monica home the night of Kennedy’s nomination at the Los Angeles 1960 Democratic National Convention. But Monroe’s appearance at the President’s birthday party in New York on May 19th, 1962 would be her last public appearance.

     Frank Sinatra, not long after the President’s cancelled overnight visit, began a world concert tour in a dozen or more cities to raise money for various children’s charities.  On that trip, Sinatra did concerts in China, Israel, Greece, Italy, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Tel Aviv and Japan and raised more than one million dollars for various benefits.  He returned to the U.S. in late June 1962.


Marilyn’s Fall

Marilyn Monroe in happier times with Frank Sinatra & club manager Bert Grober, Cal-Neva Resort, 1959. Photo: D. Dondero, Reno Gazette.
Marilyn Monroe in happier times with Frank Sinatra & club manager Bert Grober, Cal-Neva Resort, 1959. Photo: D. Dondero, Reno Gazette.
     In late July 1962, according to author J. Randy Taraborrelli, Frank Sinatra invited Peter and Patricia Lawford for a weekend visit to his Nevada resort, the Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe.  Marilyn Monroe, a friend of the Lawfords and also of Frank Sinatra, joined them.  The Lawfords and Monroe traveled together and arrived by private plane.  Monroe, however, was not well by then, suffering from depression and taking medication.  Sinatra, in fact, upon seeing her, was shocked and angry about her condition and called her doctor on the spot to relay his concern.  But at one point during the visit, Monroe did some self-medication and Pat Lawford later found her in her room collapsed.  Sinatra, meanwhile, became worried over the incident, concerned she might die at his resort.  He told his valet, George Jacobs, to get Monroe out of the resort.  One guest who happened to be in the Cal-Neva lobby at the time reported seeing Peter and Pat Lawford on either side of Monroe helping to carry her out of the resort to a private plane that took her back to Los Angeles.

Marilyn Monroe, center, at Peter & Pat Lawford’s home in 1960-61, with Peter Lawford left and Frank Sinatra next to Monroe looking at a photograph. May Britt is standing at right.
Marilyn Monroe, center, at Peter & Pat Lawford’s home in 1960-61, with Peter Lawford left and Frank Sinatra next to Monroe looking at a photograph. May Britt is standing at right.
Patricia Kennedy Lawford, now visible in another photo from that same time, is seen standing at left. Seated woman may have been Shirley MacLaine.
Patricia Kennedy Lawford, now visible in another photo from that same time, is seen standing at left. Seated woman may have been Shirley MacLaine.

     Other accounts of that weekend at the Cal-Neva report that Dean Martin and Monroe’s former husband, baseball great Joe DiMaggio, were also at the resort.  DiMaggio had never been happy about some of Marilyn’s Hollywood friends.  Still other accounts have Peter Lawford telling Monroe at that point that all communication with JFK and Bobby Kennedy was to be cut off.  Monroe reportedly had been upset over some things JFK had said to her in private, and she had also seen Robert Kennedy.  Monroe that summer was also working on the film Something’s Got to Give, which was never finished.


August 1962

     After the Lawford’s returned home from their weekend visit with Sinatra, Peter Lawford called Monroe on August 4, 1962, concerned about her health.  He found that she was still not well, sounding quite depressed.  He later tried calling her again but couldn’t get through.  He then thought about going directly to her home.  However, he was advised, that as the President’s brother-in-law, he should  not go there. 

On August 5, 1962, Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood home.  She was 36 years old.  Her death was ruled to be “acute barbiturate poisoning” by Los Angeles coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi  and listed as a “probable suicide”.

Late 1962

Scene from “The Manchurian Candidate,” in which Frank Sinatra, as Korean War veteran Bennett Marco, attempts to help a fellow veteran who's been brainwashed.
Scene from “The Manchurian Candidate,” in which Frank Sinatra, as Korean War veteran Bennett Marco, attempts to help a fellow veteran who's been brainwashed.
     Through the remainder of 1962, Frank Sinatra continued his work.  In August and September he was busy making a filmed adaptation of the Neil Simon play, Come Blow Your Horn, which would not be in theaters until the following year.  In October 1962, Capitol Records released a new three-record set of his recordings – Sinatra, the Great Years.  A few weeks later, near the end of October, The Manchurian Candidate, the film Sinatra starred in and had gone to JFK for help with producer Krim, began playing in theaters.  JFK, in fact, had viewed the film at a special White House screening on August 29, 1962, the day a U-2 spy plane over Cuba would discover eight missile installations under construction– information that would lead, two months later, to the “Cuban missile crisis” and a showdown with the Soviet Union.

     By October 16th, a day the New York Yankees would beat the San Francisco Giants in game seven of the 1962 World Series, Kennedy was shown new U-2 photos revealing fully-equipped missile bases capable of attacking the U.S. with nuclear warheads.  Plans were drawn up for a possible U.S. invasion of Cuba.  A massive mobilization of military hardware began, and more than 150,000 active duty troops from the Marines, Army and Air Force were either positioned in Florida or put on high alert, while additional reservists were ordered to report for duty.

Cuban “missile crisis” headlines, Oct 1962.
Cuban “missile crisis” headlines, Oct 1962.
     On Monday, October 22, 1962, President Kennedy appeared on television to inform Americans of the Soviet missiles in Cuba.  He explained that a Naval blockade had been placed around Cuba to prevent any further Soviet deliveries. 

The President also stated that any nuclear missile launched from Cuba would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviets and he demanded the missiles be removed from Cuba. 

     The “missile crisis,” as it came to be called, was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war in the 1960s.  In the end, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev turned his ships around.  The Soviets agreed to dismantle the weapon sites and, in exchange, the U.S. agreed not to invade Cuba and remove its missiles from Turkey.


1963

April 1963: Frank Sinatra hosts the Academy Awards ceremony, shown here escorting actress Donna Reed.
April 1963: Frank Sinatra hosts the Academy Awards ceremony, shown here escorting actress Donna Reed.
     Frank Sinatra hosted the Academy Awards ceremony in 1963.  Earlier that year, Playboy magazine ran an interview with Sinatra that revealed him to be quite well-informed on a range of domestic and international issues, and in which he mentioned the Kennedy Administration a few times in the context of policy issues. 

     Sinatra also recorded a new LP in April 1963, titled Sinatra’s Sinatra.  This was an album of Sinatra songs from the 1940s and 1950s, updated with new versions for Sinatra’s own label, Reprise.  The album did quite well, reaching No. 9 on the Billboard and U.K. album charts.  The film Come Blow Your Horn, in which Sinatra starred, was also a major box office success that summer, garnering him a Golden Globe acting nomination.

     President Kennedy that spring, among other things, visited Hollywood briefly for a Democratic Party fundraiser.  This affair, however, was a limited VIP gathering of about one hundred of Hollywood’s biggest stars, among them: Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Burt Lancaster, Charlton Heston, Gene Kelly, Dean Martin, Rock Hudson, Jack Webb and others.  “Instead of offering a formal speech the president table-hopped, impressing his guests with a wide-ranging knowledge of movies in general and their careers in specific,” explains Alan Schroeder of Northeastern University who has written on the presidency and Hollywood.  Kennedy was a life-long fan of Hollywood, and remained intrigued about its inner working and even its gossip.

June 1963: JFK delivering his famous speech in West Berlin.
June 1963: JFK delivering his famous speech in West Berlin.
     Back in Washington, meanwhile, JFK had a full agenda of pressing issues, domestic and international, with both difficult and hopeful signs for the future.  In June 1963, Alabama Gov. George Wallace refused to allow two black students to enter the University of Alabama forcing Kennedy to use the National Guard to ensure the students’ safety.  On June 11, Kennedy gave a nationally-televised evening speech announcing a civil rights proposal, a speech that helped calm tensions while also putting front and center the “moral issue” then confronting the nation.  “It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution,” he said.  “The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities …[T]his Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free …”  Also in June, some eight months after the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke at the American University commencement in Washington, D.C. urging a reexamination of Cold War stereotypes and calling for a strategy of peace.  In the final months of his presidency, the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was negotiated and signed.  June 1963 was also the month that President Kennedy arrived in the partitioned city of Berlin, Germany, delivering his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in West Berlin.

August 1963: Martin Luther King on the Mall in Washington, DC, “I have a dream.”
August 1963: Martin Luther King on the Mall in Washington, DC, “I have a dream.”
     In popular culture that July, the Beatles’ had become a sensation in Britain, but not yet in the U.S.  On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  A few weeks later, on September 12, 1963 in New York’s Carnegie Hall, Frank Sinatra sang “Ol’ Man River” at a benefit gathering for Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Frank Sinatra’s son, Frank, Jr., who was sitting in the balcony for that performance, later observed: “Here was the greatest black leader in history watching this white man sing a song about slavery, and there were tears on his cheeks.”

     Elsewhere, however, Frank Sinatra had his problems.  In Las Vegas, Nevada, the state’s Gaming Control Board recommended in September 1963, that Sinatra’s casino gambling license be revoked for allowing Chicago crime boss Sam Giancana to visit Sinatra’s part-owned Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe.  The Gaming Control Board had a published “List of Excluded Persons” who were not allowed in casinos even as customers, and Giancana was on that list.  Sinatra never understood the stigma of his friendship with Giancana and others like him, as he had been friends of theirs since the 1940s.  Still, Sinatra had to give up his casino license and sell his interests in the Cal-Neva and the Sands. ( Later, however, Sinatra would have his Las Vegas bona fides restored in 1981 when he applied for license as an entertainment consultant at Caesars Palace, listing President Ronald Reagan as a character reference and having Gregory Peck testify on his behalf.  The Gaming Commission voted their approval, 4-1 ).

Nov 22, 1963: JFK, Jackie, and Texas Governor John Connolly in Dallas moments before shots were fired.
Nov 22, 1963: JFK, Jackie, and Texas Governor John Connolly in Dallas moments before shots were fired.
      Jack Kennedy, in November 1963, was scheduled to visit Texas to make a series of political speeches across the state.  On November 21, 1963, Kennedy flew to Texas making three visits that day in San Antonio, Houston, and Forth Worth.  The next day, as his car drove slowly past cheering crowds in Dallas, shots rang out.  Kennedy was mortally wounded and died a short time later.
 
Within hours of the shooting, police arrested 24 year-old Lee Harvey Oswald as the prime suspect.  Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson – with a shaken Jackie Kennedy beside him aboard Air Force One – was sworn in as President.  The nation went into deep shock and weeks of mourning.

An Era’s End

New York Times front page, November 23, 1963.
New York Times front page, November 23, 1963.
     In late November 1963, Frank Sinatra was filming a scene for Robin and the 7 Hoods in a Burbank, California cemetery when he learned that Kennedy had been assassinated.  Stunned by the news, Sinatra reportedly became very quiet and took a series of long walks away from the set, thinking about the tragedy.  He also called the White House from the set, and spoke briefly to a staffer there.  He then returned to the waiting film crew and said, “Let’s shoot this thing, ’cause I don’t want to come back here anymore.”  After the scene was finished Sinatra went to his home in Palm Springs and, according to his daughter, Nancy Sinatra, “virtually disappeared” for three days while the Kennedy family and nation mourned.  Sinatra would later say of Kennedy: “For a brief moment, he was the brightest star in our lives. I loved him.”

Washington Post front page, Nov 23, 1963.
Washington Post front page, Nov 23, 1963.
     Kennedy’s assassination marked seminal changes for the nation’s character and its culture. America became a less innocent, more somber place. Numerous turning points, public and personal, followed. 

For the Rat Pack, Kennedy’s death also marked the end of an era. Rat Pack hijinks-type entertainment would gradually fade from the scene. By 1964, with the arrival of the Beatles, the music had changed as well.  Yet Frank Sinatra, for one, would hold his own. 

In 1965, Sinatra turned 50, but he still had years of hit music ahead of him.  In that year alone, he recorded the retrospective album, September of My Years and starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music.  In early 1966 he scored a recording hit with the blockbuster single, “Strangers in the Night,” a song that would later win three Grammy awards.

Frank Sinatra shown in a room at his home that includes framed photos and other memorabilia from his Kennedy-era years.  Date unknown.
Frank Sinatra shown in a room at his home that includes framed photos and other memorabilia from his Kennedy-era years. Date unknown.
     In July 1966 Sinatra married Mia Farrow, a short-lived relationship that ended in divorce less than two years later.  Back in Las Vegas, meanwhile, things were also changing.  In 1967, Howard Hughes became the owner of the Sands.  Frank Sinatra’s politics would change, too, but not right away.


Sinatra Politics II

     In the 1968 national elections, during the Democratic presidential primaries, a number of Hollywood celebrities became engaged in those contests, generally hoping to change national policy as the Vietnam War divided the country.  Paul Newman and others were backing Democratic candidates such as Senator Eugene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy, or Hubert Humphrey, then Vice President to incumbent Lyndon Johnson who had decided not to run for re-election in a shocking announcement.  McCarthy appeared to have the early momentum, then Bobby Kennedy jumped in and was headed for victory before his tragic assassination in June 1968.  However, Kennedy had done quite well with Hollywood supporters.  But one entertainer noticeably absent from the Kennedy bandwagon was Frank Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra backed Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election.
Frank Sinatra backed Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election.
     Sinatra’s go-round with the Kennedys in 1960 had left its mark, plus the fact that as Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy had initiated actions against the Las Vegas gambling scene where Sinatra had friends and interests.  In 1968, Sinatra supported Vice President Hubert Humphrey for the Democratic nomination.  The old Rat Pack was split among the Democratic candidates: Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Shirley MacLaine had endorsed Robert Kennedy during the primaries; Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Joey Bishop backed Humphrey.  Sinatra had met with Humphrey in Washington in early May 1968, pledging to make campaign appearances for him.  In Oakland, California, on May 22nd, 1968, Sinatra headlined a gala supporting Humphrey and a delegate slate that opposed RFK in the California primary.  At the Oakland fundraiser, Sinatra gave an extensive live performance.  He also performed for Humphrey at an August 1968 gala at Cobo Hall in Detroit; appeared for Humphrey at the Houston, Texas Astrodome with President Lyndon Johnson; made a TV ad for Humphrey that fall; and re-stated his support for Humphrey on a live election-eve national telethon.  However, the Humphrey-Muskie ticket that emerged in that politically volatile season of 1968 was not enough to beat Richard Nixon.


Shift to Republicans

Jan. 1971: Frank Sinatra with California Governor Ronald Reagan, Vikki Carr, Nancy Reagan, Dean Martin, Jack Benny (obscured), John Wayne & Jimmy Stewart.
Jan. 1971: Frank Sinatra with California Governor Ronald Reagan, Vikki Carr, Nancy Reagan, Dean Martin, Jack Benny (obscured), John Wayne & Jimmy Stewart.
     By 1970, however, Frank Sinatra began shifting his politics to the Republicans.  The first signs came when he spoke out in support of former actor Ronald Reagan, then running for re-election as California’s governor.  In fact, Sinatra urged his old Hollywood friend Reagan to move more to the center.  Sinatra, however, remained a registered Democrat who broke with Reagan on issues like abortion.  But in 1971, the Republicans nationally were being drawn to Sinatra’s potential star appeal.  A memo then circulating among  some of Richard Nixon’s presidential aides on Sinatra noted: “He has the muscle to bring along a lot of the younger lights.”  Nixon aide Charles W. Colson wrote of Sinatra: “If we are going to cultivate him, as I believe we should (I also recognize the negatives) then he should very shortly be invited to the White House to entertain.”

Frank Sinatra’s April 1973 performance at the Nixon White House on Red Cab Records, 2010.
Frank Sinatra’s April 1973 performance at the Nixon White House on Red Cab Records, 2010.
     In July 1972, prior to that year’s presidential election, Frank Sinatra announced his support for Richard Nixon. 

“The older you get the more conservative you get,” he explained to his daughter Tina, who at the time was working for the Democratic candidate George McGovern. Sinatra’s old Rat Pack pal, Sammy Davis, Jr., also supported Nixon in 1972. 

     In April 1973, a time when Sinatra’s “comeback album” Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back had appeared, he was invited by President Richard Nixon to perform at the White House, the first president to do so.  Following a state dinner for Italian Prime Minister Guiulio Andreotti, Sinatra performed a number of his songs for more than 200 guests in the East Room of the White House. 

During Nixon’s presidency, Sinatra visited the White House several times.  He also supported Nixon’s moves to recognize the People’s Republic of China.

Frank Sinatra, left, campaignng with Ronald & Nancy Reagan, 1984.
Frank Sinatra, left, campaignng with Ronald & Nancy Reagan, 1984.


For Ronald Reagan

     By 1979, when Ronald Regan ran for president, Sinatra campaigned for him, saying at one point he worked harder for Regan than he had since 1960 when he backed Jack Kennedy.  And as Sinatra had done for Kennedy 20 years earlier, in January 1981, he now also produced Reagan’s Inaugural Gala, lining up a slate of performers that included Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Dean Martin and Charlton Heston.  “I don’t view the inaugural as political,” he said when asked about producing Reagan’s show.  “If Walter Mondale had won, and if he had asked me to do [his gala], I’d have been there.”  Sinatra also campaigned for Regan in 1984.  In fact, during October and early November of that election season, Sinatra went to Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Hartford, Westchester, New York, Washington, D.C., Sacramento, and San Diego doing Republican receptions and/or fundraisers on behalf of Reagan.

May 23, 1985, Sinatra received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. Cabinet member Jeane Kirkpatrick is seen in the background.
May 23, 1985, Sinatra received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. Cabinet member Jeane Kirkpatrick is seen in the background.
Throughout Reagan’s presidency, Sinatra made frequent trips to the White House, as well as serving on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.  In 1985, Reagan presented him with the Congressional Medal of Freedom at a White house ceremony.  It was, according to friends and family, one of the proudest days of his life.  Sinatra remained friends with both Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and later sang at the inaugural gala for George H.W. Bush as well.  And although he identified more with Republican presidents in his later years, Sinatra met Bill Clinton at a small dinner party in Los Angeles after Clinton became president.  At that meeting, Clinton later recalled, Sinatra spoke about his admiration for the Kennedys and his pride in having been a part of the Kennedy campaign and JFK’s White House years.

Flashback: Frank Sinatra, January 1961, at Carnegie Hall benefit concert for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with Sy Oliver (left) conducting. Dean Martin and Sammy Davis also participated.
Flashback: Frank Sinatra, January 1961, at Carnegie Hall benefit concert for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with Sy Oliver (left) conducting. Dean Martin and Sammy Davis also participated.

On Race…

     On July 4, 1991, Sinatra, at the age of 75, wrote an opinion piece that ran in the Los Angeles Times and summed up one of his life’s major social concerns – race relations:

“[W]hy do I still hear race- and color-haters spewing their poisons?… Why do I still flinch at innuendos of venom and inequality? Why do innocent children still grow up to be despised? Why do haters’ jokes still get big laughs when passed in whispers from scum to scum? …Why do so many among us continue in words and deeds to ignore, insult and challenge the unforgettable words of Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence’s promise to every man, woman and child — the self-evident truth that all men are created equal?”

     Sinatra passed away in 1998, ten years before the election of Barack Obama.  Yet, had he been around at the time, he might well have returned to the Democrats and supported Obama.

_________________________________________


Rat Pack Postscript
1960s-2008


1965: Rat Packers D. Martin, S. Davis & F. Sinatra with Johnny Carson subbing for J. Bishop in St. Louis.
1965: Rat Packers D. Martin, S. Davis & F. Sinatra with Johnny Carson subbing for J. Bishop in St. Louis.
     The glory days for the Rat Pack had been mostly in the early-and-mid-1960s. Thereafter, there were occasional reunions, benefit shows, some continued film making, and revival tours involving one or more of the group. Some of these gigs involved guest participants, as with Johnny Carson in 1965, shown at left. A few of their later reunion attempts even  extended into the 1980s.  

As individual performers, however, the Rat Packers of the 1960s pretty much went their separate ways in later years. And for the most part, each fared moderately well, at least initially.

Feb 7, 1960: Peter Lawford & Sammy Davis, Jr. on stage at Four Chaplin’s Benefit, Las Vegas Convention Center.  Photo, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Feb 7, 1960: Peter Lawford & Sammy Davis, Jr. on stage at Four Chaplin’s Benefit, Las Vegas Convention Center. Photo, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
     Peter Lawford had appeared in the film the Longest Day in 1962 and two Rat Pack- related films with Sammy Davis –Salt and Pepper (1968) and One More Time (1970). He also had some continuing success on his own in film and on a television series in the 1970s. 

But things began unraveling for him after his divorce from Patricia Kennedy in February 1966.  They had four children together.

     Lawford, who liked the ladies and partying, married three more times after Pat Kennedy, each time to a woman half his age.

Lawford died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve 1984 of cardiac arrest complicated by kidney and liver failure after years of drug and alcohol abuse.

Best of Sammy Davis collection on 20th Century Masters CD, 2002.
Best of Sammy Davis collection on 20th Century Masters CD, 2002.

     Sammy Davis had continued success in Las Vegas through the 1960s, as well as in film and on stage.  During his career, Davis appeared in 39 movies, four Broadway plays, and released some 47 albums and 38 singles.  His 1962 song, “What Kind of Fool Am I,” was Grammy-nominated for both song of the year and best male solo performance.  In the Broadway musical Golden Boy of 1964 he received a Tony nomination for best actor.  He would also host his own TV show on NBC in 1966 and had top music hits, such as “I’ve Gotta Be Me” in 1968-69 and “Candy Man” in 1972.  Davis also had film and TV roles through the 1970s and 1980s.  After reuniting with Sinatra and Dean Martin in 1987, Davis toured with them and Liza Minnelli internationally.  Davis, who suffered from throat cancer, succumbed to the disease in May 1990.  He was 64 years old.  At his death, Davis was in debt to the IRS and his estate was the subject of legal battles.  On May 18, 1990, two days after Davis’ death, the neon lights of the Las Vegas strip were darkened in tribute to him.

DVD cover for collection of Dean Martin’s TV shows, 1965-1974.
DVD cover for collection of Dean Martin’s TV shows, 1965-1974.
     Apart from the performing and films he did with Sinatra and other Rat Packers, Dean Martin had his own successful film, singing, and TV career.  His 1964 song “Everybody Loves Somebody” was a million-selling top hit.  In fact, between 1964 and 1969 Martin released 11 albums that were certified “gold,” which at the time meant sales of more than 500,000 each.  All eleven of Martin’s albums were recorded for Reprise, a label founded by Sinatra in which Martin was an investor.  Martin also had a sizable holding of RCA stock.  He released his final Reprise album, Once In A While, in 1978.  Thereafter recording became less prominent in his career.  In television, The Dean Martin Show, a variety-comedy series in which he starred, ran from 1965 to 1974 for 264 episodes, often in the top ten.  Following that series, The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, which he hosted for NBC, and during which Martin and friends would “roast” a celebrity, ran from 1974 to 1984.  A late 1980s tour with Sinatra and Sammy Davis was attempted, but did not go well.  Martin gave some of his last solo performances in Las Vegas at Bally’s Hotel in 1990.  A life-long smoker, he was diagnosed with lung cancer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in September 1993.  Dean Martin died at home on December 25, 1995.  He was 78 year old.

Joey Bishop, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin during a Rat Pack stage act in the 1960s.
Joey Bishop, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin during a Rat Pack stage act in the 1960s.
     In the 1950s, Frank Sinatra asked comic Joey Bishop to become his opening act.  Soon thereafter, he was opening regularly for Sinatra and also began finding work in first-rate clubs even when Sinatra was not on the bill.  After becoming a member of the Rat Pack, he also became a Sinatra loyalist.  In mid-1960, Bishop received an invitation from then vice president Richard Nixon to perform at the Republican Convention, which he turned down.  Bishop would later acknowledge  Sinatra’s help in his his career, including roles in Rat Pack movies.  Bishop appeared in 14 films, including Ocean’s Eleven and Sergeants 3, and served as master of ceremonies at JFK’s inaugural gala.  However, Bishop felt he was more mascot than full-fledged Rat Pack member, revealed in a 2002 biography by Michael Seth Starr titled, Mouse in the Rat Pack.  Still, Sinatra regarded Bishop as central to the Rat Pack’s success, crediting him with writing most Rat Pack jokes and quips, material assumed to be ad-libbed, but much of which was actually scripted.  Bishop also went on to star in two of his own TV shows, a sit com on NBC (1961-65) and a late night talk show ABC (1967-1969), both called The Joey Bishop Show.  Regis Philbin got his start as Bishop’s sidekick on the later talk show.  Joey Bishop died of heart failure in October 2007.  He was 89 and at the time, the last surviving member of the 1960s Rat Pack.

Frank Sinatra on the cover of Newsweek, September 6, 1965.
Frank Sinatra on the cover of Newsweek, September 6, 1965.
     For nearly three decades beyond his Rat Pack years, Frank Sinatra had a full recording, acting, and performing career.  His recordings alone — with some 296 singles and 69 albums – span almost 60 years.  He began his professional singing career in the 1940s with the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey orchestras.  Singers in the 1940s began to manipulate the microphone for detail and nuance, and Sinatra learned to do it better than most.  And throughout his career, Sinatra would become a master of rhythm, timing, and phrasing and also re-interpreting older standards.  By the mid-1940’s he had become a successful solo artist and had made his film acting debut.  He would win a Golden Globe and Academy Award for his 1953 performance in From Here to Eternity, and would later win other Academy and Grammy Awards for his music. 

Frank Sinatra on 2008 U.S. postage stamp.
Frank Sinatra on 2008 U.S. postage stamp.
     In television, from the 1950s through the 1970s, he hosted both his own variety shows and various TV specials, winning an Emmy for the November 1965 special, Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music. In addition to other songs, Sinatra’s “My Way” of 1969 – a song written by Paul Anka with Sinatra in mind – became a blockbuster hit on the U.S. and U.K. music charts, especially in the U.K, where it stayed inside the Top 40 for 75 weeks, from April 1969 to September 1971.

     Sinatra flirted with retirement briefly in the early 1970s, but by 1973 had a gold-selling album and a television special.  He also returned to live performing Las Vegas and elsewhere.  Still recording in his later years, he recorded Duets in 1993, an album of old standards he made with other prominent artists which became a best seller.  Sinatra died May 14,1998, he was 82 years old.  Included among the many honors he received over the years were: Kennedy Center Honors in 1983, the earlier-mentioned Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985, and a Congressional Gold Medal in 1997.  Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards during his career, including the Grammy Trustees Award, the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  The U.S. Postal Service issued a 42-cent stamp in his honor in May 2008.

     Other stories at this website that deal with and/or touch upon the life of Frank Sinatra include: “The Sinatra Riots, 1942-1944,” “Ava Gardner, 1940s-1950s,” and “Mia’s Metamorphases, 1966-2010.”  Other Kennedy family stories include: “Kennedy History–12 Stories: 1954-2013,” “JFK’s 1960 Campaign,” and “JFK, Pitchman?, 2009.”  Beyond these, see also the various category pages, archive, or the Home Page for additional story choices. 

Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. —Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  21 August 2011
Last Update:  29 May 2017
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “The Jack Pack, Pt. 2: 1961-2008,”
PopHistoryDig.com, August 21, 2011.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Jan 1961: Peter Lawford & Frank Sinatra at airport en route to work on JFK inaugural show. Photo, Phil Stern.
Jan 1961: Peter Lawford & Frank Sinatra at airport en route to work on JFK inaugural show. Photo, Phil Stern.
Nat King Cole and Tony Curtis preparing for show at JFK inauguration.  Photo, Phil Stern.
Nat King Cole and Tony Curtis preparing for show at JFK inauguration. Photo, Phil Stern.
January 1961: Frank Sinatra rehearsing for JFK Inaugural Gala.  Photo, Phil Stern.
January 1961: Frank Sinatra rehearsing for JFK Inaugural Gala. Photo, Phil Stern.
Jan. 19, 1961: Jackie Kennedy stepping out into the snowfall en route to Inaugural Gala with JFK behind her.
Jan. 19, 1961: Jackie Kennedy stepping out into the snowfall en route to Inaugural Gala with JFK behind her.
Jan 20, 1961: Ted Kennedy & family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, on JFK Inauguration Day. (Paul Schutzer).
Jan 20, 1961: Ted Kennedy & family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, on JFK Inauguration Day. (Paul Schutzer).
Jan 20, 1961: Frank Sinatra, JFK & Peter Lawford at one of the inaugural balls. Photo, Phil Stern.
Jan 20, 1961: Frank Sinatra, JFK & Peter Lawford at one of the inaugural balls. Photo, Phil Stern.
1961: President Kennedy walking with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara at Hyannis Port, MA.
1961: President Kennedy walking with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara at Hyannis Port, MA.
July 8, 1961: Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and U.S. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy attending benefit dinner for Cedars-Sinai Hospital at Beverly Hilton, L.A.
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JFK birthday cake being carried into hall as Monroe & Lawford leave stage.  Photo, Life/Bill Ray.
JFK birthday cake being carried into hall as Monroe & Lawford leave stage. Photo, Life/Bill Ray.
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