In a final hearing prior to a trial to determine who owns a letter handwritten by Marilyn Monroe on hotel stationery to her former mentor, an attorney for an auction house told a judge today that a version of the letter typed by the late actress exists.
Robert Enders, an attorney for Calabasas-based auctioneer Profiles in History, told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin that both the written and typed letters to Lee Strasberg have numerous misspellings and corrections.
The Beverly Hilton Hotel is crossed out on the typewritten stationery and the name of the Hotel Bel-Air is inserted, Enders said.
The handwritten letter is on Hotel Bel-Air stationery, Enders said. It is signed by Monroe, but the typed account is not, Enders said.
“Did Marilyn Monroe type?” Fruin asked.
Enders said the actress may have typed many letters.
Plaintiff Anna Strasberg, who is administrator of the Monroe estate and has a collection of the actress’ memorabilia, sued Profiles in History in May 2013, saying she learned the month before that the written version, dubbed a “letter of despair” in a New York Post article, was missing from her collection.
She inherited the writing from her late husband, Lee Strasberg, who also was Monroe’s acting coach.
“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.”
Both letters are in a safe at a Los Angeles law firm selected by the buyer pending the outcome of the trial, Enders said. The nonjury trial is scheduled Nov. 17.
According to her court papers, Strasberg thought the handwritten letter was with other Monroe memorabilia, locked in a filing cabinet at 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 handwritten 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 Lee Strasberg.
Fruin said the fact that the written and typed versions have so many corrections makes him wonder if Monroe sent either letter to Lee Strasberg because people do not usually forward correspondence in that fashion.
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.