Explore Marilyn Monroe’s emotional journey through Emma Cooper’s documentary: ‘The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes’

Emilie Erickson

The heartbreaking documentary “The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes” delves into the darkest depths of Marilyn Monroe’s life while uncovering her own tragic truth of being the sex symbol of the 1950s. As the film begins, former British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reporter Anthony Summers peeks into what Hollywood has planned for Monroe’s “glamorous” career. The use of clips and audio recordings will leave you with a chill rushing down your spine, as you can hear the pain in Monroe’s voice as she tells the story of her past and present, while Summers tells the story of her future. 

The “Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes” also features true crime elements due to the different theories surrounding Monroe’s death. Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood home on Aug. 4, 1962. Her death was initially ruled an overdose, but many believe that there is more to the story. There are speculations that Monroe committed suicide or was murdered by a friend. The director of the film, Emma Cooper, uses these speculations to accurately depict Monroe’s treacherous emotional journey. Despite how glamorous and alluring her life appeared to be, the documentary reveals Monroe’s very troubled childhood. Monroe suffered from severe anxiety and depression and spent about two years jumping from foster home to foster home while her mother was sent to a mental asylum. “Yeah, I was never used to being happy,” Monroe said in an old clip the film released. 

Monroe sadly did not live a long life, however it is apparent that the director’s intention was to restore Monroe’s voice in order to bring her story back to life. According to Netflix Tudum, the official companion site to Netflix, shining a light on dark and delicate subjects is what Cooper does best. 

Facing the camera, these obscured actresses role as Marilyn’s friends, revealing the unheard tapes. (Courtesy of Stylist)

Monroe’s story is full of unexpected twists and turns, whether it’s about her multiple marriages or her tumultuous relationship with John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. Her numerous political and social connections have prompted the world to raise questions regarding her unexpected death. Summer discovered substantial evidence that Monroe died hours before the official “time of death report,” giving Robert F. Kennedy and his team enough time to delete proof of the then Attorney General’s relationship with the pop legend. While the storytelling of the Kennedy’s story was stomach churning, the inclusion of never-before-heard tapes from the 1980s was what ultimately made the film remarkable, and it will expose you to a side of Monroe that you may have not known. This film was especially unique because it incorporated actors to lip-sync in unison with the real-life audio recordings. The actors’ faces were frequently blurred, which may be symbolic of the mysterious circumstances behind Monroe’s devastating passing. These clips made watching the documentary a more engrossing experience and presented the actors as the true friends and colleagues of Marilyn Monroe. I was left yearning to know more about them due to the obscurity of their faces. 

While Monroe had many different aspects of her life, Summers’ research seemed very touch and go. The documentary was left inconclusive, despite its suspense. It may even direct you down the path of doing your own research. Summers was very persistent on digging up more dirt on the Kennedys’, however the frequent inconsistent theories lead me to believe that Summers seemed more paranoid. As a result of this, we may never really know the truth behind Marilyn Monroe’s mysterious and untimely death. If you appreciate films with a sense of mystery, especially unsolved ones, I recommend adding “The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes” to your Netflix queue.