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Ownership of letter written by Marilyn Monroe remains murky

 

An undated Monroe letter was penned to Lee Strasberg, her husband, mentor, and acting coach. (Courtesy Photo: Twitter)
An undated Monroe letter was penned to Lee Strasberg, her husband, mentor, and acting coach. (Twitter/@MarilynMonroe)

An attorney for an auction house told a Los Angeles judge Thursday that if the court finds that the administrator of Marilyn Monroe’s estate is the rightful owner of a letter written by the actress, he will reveal the name of the person who obtained the correspondence through bidding last year.

Robert Enders, an attorney for Calabasas-based auctioneer Profiles in History, said during a hearing before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin that the letter’s purchaser does not want to be known publicly, so he will only provide the person’s identification to lawyers for Anna Strasberg, who holds a large collection of Monroe memorabilia.

The buyer is not identified by name or gender in Enders’ court papers. Enders said the person’s high bid was about $130,000 to $140,000.

Strasberg sued Profiles in History in May 2013, saying she learned the month before that the writing, dubbed a “letter of despair” in a New York Post article, was missing from her collection. She inherited the letter from her late husband, Lee Strasberg, Monroe’s longtime mentor and acting coach.

The letter is currently in a safe at a Los Angeles law firm selected by the buyer pending the outcome of the trial, which is scheduled for Nov. 17, Enders said.

“It’s (not) going anywhere, your honor,” he said.

The undated Monroe letter was penned to Lee Strasberg on Hotel Bel-Air stationery.

“My will is weak but I can’t stand anything. I sound crazy but I think I’m going crazy … It’s just that I get before a camera and my concentration and everything I’m trying to learn leaves me,” Monroe wrote. “Then I feel like I’m not existing in the human race at all.”

According to court papers, Strasberg thought the letter was with other Monroe memorabilia, locked in a filing cabinet at her home.

The letter was bought via the Internet and sold by Profiles in History.

The buyer is not a party to the case. Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, said that if his client wins at trial, there may be a second legal step needed to get possession of the letter if the buyer does not relinquish it.

The purchaser lives in another state, but Fruin said he believes he has jurisdiction over the letter because it was auctioned in California.

Enders told Fruin the consigner who provided the letter to the auction house said he got it from a member of the housekeeping staff at the Hotel Bel-Air in the 1970s and that it was a draft of a letter never sent to Lee Strasberg.

However, Mancuso said Anna Strasberg’s son saw the letter in his mother’s possession and that his client believes it was stolen. He said that if the auction house managers stay with their version of how they obtained the letter, he is entitled to know all people who they believe owned it before they obtained it.

Strasberg, who wants unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, became heir to her husband’s estate, including the Monroe letters, when he died in February 1982 at age 80.

Strasberg is 75 years old and lives on the East Coast, Mancuso said.

Monroe died in Brentwood in August 1962 at age 36 of acute barbiturate poisoning. The coroner’s office listed the death as a probable suicide.

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