The Reason Marilyn Monroe Was Monitored By The FBI For Years

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Marilyn Monroe is one of America's greatest darlings. She's a cultural icon, an example of traditional "feminine sexiness," and/or a subject of conspiracy theory, depending on who you ask. Her acting career boomed through the '50s. Her music career didn't do too badly, either, nor did her modeling career. These days, even people who don't know anything about the actress-singer-model know Monroe from her image printed on just about everything. Want a Marilyn Monroe shower curtain? Got it. Poster? Easy. Phone covers, coffee mugs, paintings — you name it. There's even a piercing named after the actress's famous beauty mark.

With Monroe being so popular in American culture, it might be difficult for some to imagine that she was once monitored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For those who may not find this a surprise, we can tell you right now that the investigation didn't have anything to do with the Kennedy conspiracy and her death at age 36. So what was it actually about?

It's just a jump to the left

Monroe's political views weren't exactly the most common in her time. Born in 1926, Monroe reached adulthood right after the Second World War, during a time when the United States was becoming increasingly concerned that its capitalistic way of life was under the threat of those darn Commies. And Monroe had some pretty left-leaning political views.

In direct contrast to the seemingly clueless and innocent characters the actress portrayed on screen, the real Marilyn was quite politically aware and vocal about her opinions. She's described in From Right to Left, the autobiography of self-exiled American leftist activist Frederick Vanderbilt Field, as being a firm believer in equality for people of color and a proponent of the Civil Rights Movement, which was in full swing toward the end of her life. Unfortunately, Monroe wouldn't get to see the beautiful end results of the movement, but her support made her questionable in the eyes some right-wing officials.

To add to suspicion, From Right to Left talks about Monroe's "admiration for what was being done in China, her anger at red-baiting and McCarthyism and her hatred of (FBI director) J. Edgar Hoover." And, if you know anything about the former FBI director, you probably know that open dislike of the guy might not have been in Monroe's best interest.

Her husband didn't help matters

In 1956, men around the country were slapped right in their delusions as Marilyn Monroe was taken off the market. By whom? The American playwright Arthur Miller. Though the marriage would only last five years, depending on which end of the political spectrum you're viewing from, it wouldn't help her image any. That's because Arthur Miller was constantly accused of being a Communist sympathizer.

Miller most surely aligned himself with progressive politics and the left-wing way of things, such as his stance against Senator Joseph McCarthy, for whom McCarthyism is named. With the Red Scare in motion, all left-wing politics were being labeled as "Communist" by one person or another. When Monroe and Miller wed, she caught the same anti-communist flack her husband was already experiencing. Not just from any Joe Schmo, either. She was attacked by "red-baiters," people in the news media who harassed anyone with suspected Communist sympathies. According to History Today, the radio news commentator Walter Winchell even aired a piece calling the actress "the darling of the left-wing intelligentsia, several of whom are listed as Red fronters."

Monroe and her husband both found themselves under the watchful eye of J. Edgar Hoover and his agents, which, honestly, wasn't a difficult thing to accomplish. The FBI director monitored anyone he suspected of having ties with Communists and Communist sympathizers. It was legally questionable at best.

Was Marilyn Monroe a communist?

Since there's an entire FBI file on the subject, you'd think the bureau would've found some conclusive evidence that showed Marilyn Monroe was or wasn't some sort of Commie, but they didn't. These days, Communism doesn't have the same broad negative connotations as it did then, so an accusation of believing in such can often be brushed aside. In the '50s and early '60s, being called a Communist could end your career.

The FBI's Monroe file was released some time ago, but it wasn't until 2012 that we could actually read them. Before that, they were so heavily redacted that forming a complete sentence was like assembling an intricate photograph from a handful of puzzle pieces. The reports in the file, according to The Atlantic, showed that Monroe had once hung out leftist Frederick Vanderbilt Field while shopping for furniture in Mexico, furniture that must've been made of hammers and sickles, since it was important enough to make the file.

The file is basically a bunch of hearsay. It's full of anonymous tips, called in here and there, accusing Monroe's production company of being "filled with Communists" and accusing Arthur Miller of being a Communist "cultural front man." Which no doubt was totally worth the tax dollars J. Edgar Hoover spent on Monroe's surveillance.