Fifty-five years after Marilyn Monroe died of a drug overdose, the rumours that emerged about her are still swirling.

"The film actress Marilyn Monroe died early today," the Herald said on the front page in its blunt, three-paragraph Reuters story on the death of the 36-year-old Hollywood star who was an icon of popular culture.

"The Los Angeles coroner's office reported that she apparently took an overdose of barbiturates."

"Miss Monroe was married and divorced three times - first at the age of 16, second to the baseball star Joe DiMaggio and third to the playwright Arthur Miller. All three marriages ended in divorce."

Advertisement

A later report of Monroe's death on this day in 1962 said she was found in bed, lying face down, with a telephone receiver clutched in her hand.

"An empty bottle that had contained between 40 and 50 sleeping pills was on the bedside table."

Herald report of August 7, 1962 on the initial inquiry into Marilyn Monroe's death. Source: Herald archives
Herald report of August 7, 1962 on the initial inquiry into Marilyn Monroe's death. Source: Herald archives

Later in the month, the coroner said her death was "probably suicide".

Yet the idea took hold in some circles that she had been murdered.

In 1982, the Los Angeles prosecutor re-opened the case, but after a three-and-a-half month investigation concluded there was no evidence to support the claim she was murdered.

When the rumours persisted, the Los Angeles police chief in 1985 made public files on Monroe's death, saying he hoped they would make clear that "this was a suicide, clearly".

Marilyn Monroe in 1952. Photo / AFP
Marilyn Monroe in 1952. Photo / AFP

Yet in May this year, Britain's Sun newspaper reported that many still believed she was "murdered in an elaborate cover-up".

"A new UFO documentary, Unacknowledged, is the latest to put forward such a conspiracy theory - suggesting the star was killed by the US government after threatening to reveal top-secret information on extraterrestrials."

The paper also revives the rumour about Monroe's links to the Kennedy family, although new evidence seems to offer some support for that.

The Telegraph said last year the most convincing evidence yet had emerged of a romantic involvement with Bobby Kennedy, younger brother of US President John Kennedy. The letter was written by their younger sister Jean Kennedy Smith.

"Understand that you and Bobby are the new item!" she wrote.

The Herald's 1962 coverage of Monroe's death included a New York Times editorial writer's bleak opinion of her:

"The death of Miss Monroe must be viewed as the dismal culmination of an American tragedy.

"Miss Monroe was conspicuously the victim of her sad inability to adjust her sensitive nature and tangled ambitions to the peculiarly demanding and synthetic environment in which she lived and worked."

Monroe, who was in films including Some Like It Hot and The Seven-Year Itch became established, the Times said, as a "symbol of voluptuousness and 'sexiness'", but her "limited abilities as an actress were generally overlooked or underplayed".