Both Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando were Hollywood icons in their own right. Each was an acclaimed performer and bonafide sex symbol with a mysterious, magnetic pull – especially when it came to love affairs. So it’s not a complete surprise that Brando and Monroe had one of their own, according to Brando in his 1994 autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me.
In his autobiography, Brando also speculated about Monroe’s drug-related death – which some suspect was a suicide – on Aug. 4, 1962, when she was just 36 years old. Monroe called her friend and on-and-off lover not long before she died.
Brando and Monroe had an ongoing affair and friendship
In Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando revealed that his affair with Monroe began after they bumped into each other – “literally,” he quipped – at a party in New York after he finished filming A Streetcar Named Desire. Monroe was taking classes with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, where Brando often headed to “meet girls.”
While the other partygoers drank and laughed, Monroe quietly played the piano by herself in a corner. When she tapped Brando on the shoulder, he turned sharply and accidentally caught her in the face with his elbow. When he apologized profusely, saying it was an accident, she gave him a deadpan retort: “There are no accidents.”
Stunned for a second, Brando then dissolved into laughter – and told her she “couldn’t play the piano worth a damn.”
The two stars struck up a friendship. One night, the assertive Brando finally called her up and told her he wanted to come over, right there and then.
“She invited me over,” he wrote, “and it wasn’t long before every soldier’s dream came true.”
He called the Hollywood star ‘sensitive,’ ‘misunderstood,’ and ‘perceptive’
While Brando and Monroe did have an ongoing sexual relationship and plenty of chemistry, they also had an emotional bond that deepened over the years. Brando thought the screen icon was a “sensitive, misunderstood person” who was “much more perceptive than was generally assumed.”
“She had been beaten down,” Brando wrote of the demons that sometimes plagued Monroe, “but had a strong emotional intelligence – a keen intuition for the feelings of others, the most refined type of intelligence.”
After their first fateful night together, Monroe and Brando often spoke on the phone for hours at a time and continued to see each other off and on until Monroe’s death. In particular, Monroe confided in Brando about how she felt exploited and mistreated by others.
She called Brando two or three days before her death
Brando last spoke to Monroe just “two or three days before she died,” he revealed. She called him up and invited him on a dinner date, which he had to postpone due to other plans.
The two-time Oscar winner had heard rumors after Monroe’s untimely death about a possible breakup with Robert Kennedy (whom she was believed to have had an affair with, in addition to John F. Kennedy) as potentially related to her death.
For his part, Brando placed no stock in those theories. For one thing, he noted, he didn’t think that Monroe would have invited him on a date if she’d been involved with Kennedy.
Brando believed Monroe did not end her own life
Based on his last conversation with Monroe, Brando didn’t believe she took her own life.
“I’m pretty good at reading people’s moods and perceiving their feelings,” he wrote, “and with Marilyn I didn’t sense any depression or clue of impending self-destruction during her call. That’s why I’m sure she didn’t commit suicide.”
Instead, Monroe seemed breezy and comfortable with herself during their conversation. He took this as a signal that she was not in a dark place at the moment at all. The Godfather star insisted that he “would have sensed something was wrong if thoughts of suicide were anywhere near the surface of Marilyn’s mind,” arguing confidently that he “would have known it” intuitively – especially given the bond they’d formed over the years.
In fact, Brando suspected foul play was involved in Monroe’s death.
“Maybe she died because of an accidental drug overdose,” he admitted, “but I have always believed that she was murdered.”
While Monroe’s death was ruled a possible suicide (History.com), some theories have been floated over the years to suggest that she might have been murdered. However, no investigation has supported these rumors about the actor’s untimely death as of yet.