An Analysis of Marilyn’s Letters to Dr Ralph Greenson

Of course the analysis is my own amateur perspective on Marilyn’s writings, especially since some of her comments were a response to Greenson’s therapy sessions. These two letters were written after Marilyn’s hospitalization in the Payne-Whitney Clinic where she was involuntarily held for three days until Joe DiMaggio secured her release.

March 1, 1961
Just now when I looked out the hospital window where the snow had covered everything suddenly everything is kind of muted a green. The grass, shabby evergreen bushes — though the trees give me a little hope — the desolate bare branches promising maybe there will be spring and maybe they promise hope.

Joe DiMaggio Waiting for ElevatorDid you see “The Misfits” yet? In one sequence you can perhaps see how bare and strange a tree can be for me.(It’s possible Miller wrote this scene into the script based on a sad incident at the Connecticut house. A gardener had cut down flowers and left them lying on the grass. When Marilyn saw this she ran around with the flowers, sticking them into the earth and crying, trying to make them re-grow). I don’t know if it comes across that way for sure on the screen — I don’t like some of the selections in the takes they used. As I started to write this letter about four quiet tears had fallen. I don’t know quite why.

Last night I was awake all night again. Sometimes I wonder what the night time is for. It almost doesn’t exist for me — it all seems like one long, long horrible day. Anyway, I thought I’d try to be
constructive about it and started to read the letters of Sigmund Freud. When I first opened the book I saw the picture of Freud inside opposite the title page and I burst into tears — he looked very depressed (which must have been taken near the end of his life) that he died a disappointed man — but Dr Kris said he had much physical pain which I had known from the Jones book — but I know this too to be so but still I trust my instincts because I see a sad disappointment in his gentle face. (Naturally Marilyn would see depression in Freud’s face, as this reflected her mind-set at the time and for many years prior). The book reveals (though I am not sure anyone’s love-letters should be published) that he wasn’t a stiff! I mean his gentle, sad humor and even a striving was eternal in him. I haven’t gotten very far yet because at the same time I’m reading Sean O’Casey’s first autobiography — (did I ever tell you how once he wrote a poem marilynto me?) (Her readings of Freud and O’Casey reflect Marilyn’s career stage where she wanted to play dramatic, heavier roles and try to break out of the image of a “dumb blonde.”) 

There was no empathy at Payne-Whitney — it had a very bad effect — they asked me after putting me in a “cell” (I mean cement blocks and all) for very disturbed depressed patients (except I felt I was in some kind of prison for a crime I hadn’t committed. The inhumanity there I found archaic.
They asked me why I wasn’t happy there (everything was under lock and key; things like electric lights, dresser drawers, bathrooms, closets, bars concealed on the windows, the doors have windows so patients can be visible all the time, also, the violence and markings still remain on the walls from former patients). I answered: “Well, I’d have to be nuts if I like it here” then there screaming women in their cells — I mean they screamed out when life was unbearable I guess — at times like this I felt an available psychiatrist should have talked to them. Perhaps to alleviate even temporarily their misery and pain. I think they might learn something even — but all are only interested in something from the books they studied — I was surprised because they already know that. Maybe from some live suffering human being they could discover more — I had the feeling they looked more for discipline and that they let their patients go after the patients have “given up”. They asked me to mingle with the patients, to go out to O.T. ( occupational therapy) – (I love the way Marilyn explains OT to Greenson as if he wouldn’t know what she meant) I said: “And do what?” They said: “You could sew or play checkers, even cards and maybe knit”. I tried to explain the day I did that they would have a nut on their hands. These things were furthest from my mind. They asked me why I felt I was “different” (from the other patients I guess) so I decided if they were really that stupid I must give them a very simple answer so I said: “I just am”. (A simply answer yet probably the most explanatory).

The first day I did “mingle” Portrait of Marilyn Monroewith a patient. She asked me why I looked so sad and suggested I could call a friend and perhaps not be so lonely. I told her that they had told me that there wasn’t a phone
on that floor. Speaking of floors, they are all locked — no one could go in and no one could go out. She looked shocked and shaken and said “I’ll take you to the phone.” while I waited in line for my turn for the use of the phone I observed a guard (since he had on a grey knit uniform) as I approached the phone he straight-armed the phone and said very sternly: “You can’t use the phone”. By the way, they pride the
mselves in having a home-like atmosphere there. I asked them (
the doctors) how they figured that. They answered: “Well, on the sixth floor we have wall-to-wall carpeting and modern furniture to which I replied: “Well, that any good interior decorator could provide — providing there are the funds for it” but since they are dealing with human beings why couldn’t they perceive even an interior of a human being”. (Another brilliant statement. I would love to have heard the reaction).

The girl that told me about the phone seemed such a pathetic and vague creature. She told me after the straight-arming “I didn’t know they would do that”. Then she said “I’m here because of my mental condition — I have cut my throat several times and slashed my wrists” –she said either three or four times.( Certainly telling Marilyn to mingle with such people was not a wise approach).

I just thought of a jingle: “
Mingle — but not if you were just born single” Oh, well, men are climbing to the moon but they don’t seem interested in the beating human heart. Still one can change but
wont — by the way, that was the original theme of THE MISFTIS — no one even caught that part of it. Partly because, I guess, the changes in the script and some of the distortions in the direction and (Marilyn’s writing was interrupted and her train of thought was ended) ….I know I will never be happy but I know I can be gay! Remember I told you Kazan said I was the gayest girl he ever knew and believe me he has known many. But he loved me for one year and once rocked me to sleep one night when I was in great anguis
h. He also suggested that I go into analysis and later wanted me with his teacher, Lee Strasberg. Was it Milton who wrote “The happy ones were never born”. I know at least two psychiatrists who are looking for a more positive approach.

I didn’t sleep again last night. I forgot to tell you something yesterday. When they put me into the first room on the sixth floor I was not told it was a Psychiatric floor. Dr. Kris said she was coming the next day. The nurse came in (after the doctor, a psychiatrist) had givCed25en me a physical examination including examining the breast for lumps. I took exception to this but not violently only explaining that the medical doctor who had put me there, a stupid man named Dr. Lipkin had already done a physical less than thirty days before. But when the nurse came in I noticed there was no way of buzzing or reaching for a light to call the nurse. I asked why this was and some other things and she said this is a psychiatric floor.(Not a pleasant or fair way to discover which floor a person has been placed on) After she went out I got dressed and then was when the girl in the hall told me about the phone. I was waiting at the elevator door which looks like all other doors with a door-knob except it doesn’t have any numbers (you see they left them out). After the girl spoke with me and told me about what she had done to herself I went back into my room knowing they had lied to me about the telephone and I sat
on the bed trying to figure if I was given this situation in an acting improvisation what would I do. So I figured, it’s a squeaky wheel that gets the grease. I admit it was a loud squeak but I got the id
ea from a movie I made once called “Don’t Bother to Knock”. I picked u
p a light-weight chair and slammed it, and it was hard to do because I had never broken anything in my life — against the glass intentionally. It took a lot of banging to get even a small piece of glass – so I went over with the glass concealed in my hand and sat quietly on the bed waiting for them to come in. They did, and I said to them “If you are going to treat me like a nut I’ll act like a nut”. I admit the next thing is corny but I really did it in the movie except it was with a razor blade. I indicated if they didn’t let me out I would harmCed1 myself — the furthest thing from my mind at that moment since you know Dr. Greenson I’m an actress and would never intentionally mark or mar
myself. (I love the face that Marilyn wouldn
‘t cut herself because she needed to maintain her physical beauty. It would appear Marilyn was as caught up in her own beauty myth as the public)
.I’m just that vain. Remember when I tried to do away with myself I did it very carefully with ten seconal and ten tuonal and swallowed them with relief (that’s how I felt at the time.) I didn’t cooperate with them in any way because I couldn’t believe in what they were doing. They asked me to go quietly but I refused to move staying on the bed so they picked me up by all fours, two hefty men and two hefty women and carried me up to the seventh floor in the elevator. I must say at least they had the decency to carry me face down. You know at least it wasn’t face up.(I hardly see any decency in what the staff did). I just wept quietly all the way there and then was put in the cell I told you about and that ox of a woman one of those hefty ones, said:“Take a bath”. I told her I had just taken one on the sixth floor. She said very sternly: “As soon as you change floors you have to take another bath”. The man who runs that place, a high-school principal
type, although Dr. Kris refers to him as an “administrator” he was actually permitted to talk to me, questioning me somewhat like an analyst. He told me I was a very, very sick girl and had been a very, very sick girl for many years. He looks down on his patients because I’ll tell you why in a moment. He asked me how I could possibly work when I was depressed. He wondered if that interfered with my work. He was being very firm and definite in the way he said it. He actually
stated it more than he questioned me so I replied: “Didn’t he think that perhaps Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin perhaps and perhaps Ingrid Bergman they had been depressed when they worked sometimes but I said it’s like saying
a ball player like DiMaggio if he could hit ball when he was depressed. Pretty silly.  (A very intelligent analogy to her acting and her depression).

By the way, I have some good news, sort of, since I guess I helped, he claims I did. Joe said I saved his life by sending him to a psycho-therapist; Dr. Kris says he is a very brilliant man, the doctor. Joe said he pulled himself up by his own bootstraps after the divorce bCed26ut he told me also that if he had
been me he would have divorced him too.(An incredible revelation). Christmas night he sent a forest-full of poinsettias. I asked who they were from since it was such a surprise, (my friend Pat Newcomb was there)– they had just arrived then. She said: “I don’t know t
he card just says “best, Joe”. Then I replied: “Well, there’s just one Joe”. Because it was Christmas night I called him up and asked him why he had sent me the flowers. He said first of all because I thought you would call me to thank me and then he said, besides who in the hell else do you have i
n the world. He said I know I was married to you and was never bothered or saw any in-law. Anyway, he asked me to have a drink some time with him. I said I knew he didn’t drink — he said he now occasionally takes a drink — to which I replied then it would have to be a very, very dark place. He asked me what I was doing Christmas night. I said nothing, I’m here with a friend. Then he asked me to come over and I was
glad he was coming though I must say I was bleary and depressed 
somehow still glad he was coming over. 

I think I had better stop because youmarilyn-monroe-writing have other things to do but thanks for listening for a while.

Marilyn M. (she signed her name with her last initial although I doubt Greenson had any question about her identity).

PS: Someone when I mentioned his name you used to frown with your moustache and look up at the ceiling. Guess who? He has been (secretly) a very tender friend. I know you won’t believe this but you must trust me with my instincts. It was sort of a fling on the wing. I had never done that before but now I have – but he is very unselfish in bed. (Is this DiMaggio? Not likely since she has already mentioned him. I suspect it was a Kennedy).

From Yves I have heard nothing – but I don’t mind since I have such a strong, tender, wonderful memory.
I am almost weeping…..(did it not occur to Greenson that Marilyn required a different anti-depressant or a stronger dose of the one she was using?…or perhaps a different mood stabilizer but a person with manic-depression who is being treated with meds shouldn’t be experiencing so much depression)

Above all else, Marilyn’s writings reveal a brilliant, analytical mind and even in the depth of her own depression, an ability to assess her environment and her own feelings and actions. Most definitely there was so much more to Marilyn Monroe than most people ever knew. Along with her beauty it’s no wonder so many men loved her.


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