How did Marilyn Monroe die? Cause of death explained - and when is The Unheard Tapes documentary on Netflix

Kim Kardashian wore Marilyn Monroe’s ‘happy birthday’ dress to the 2022 Met Gala

Marilyn Monroe was one of Hollywood’s hottest properties in the 1950s, but her life ended tragically after a long battle with depression and substance abuse.

A new Netflix documentary, The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes, examines the final months of the screen icon’s life through interviews and archive footage.

The feature length documentary paints a clearer picture of the life of the troubled American icon and rebuffs the many conspiracy theories that spread in the wake of her death.

Who was Marilyn Monroe?

Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson in LA in 1926 and became one of America’s most iconic actresses and sex symbols.

Growing up, Monroe was looked after by a series of foster parents as her mother was frequently confined to an asylum.

She began modelling in the 1940s and started to take on film roles, taking the screen name Marilyn Monroe after signing a contract with 20th Century Fox.

She married her first husband, a police officer named James Dougherty in 1942 - the pair divorced after four years of marriage.

Monroe featured on the first edition of Playboy in December 1953
Monroe featured on the first edition of Playboy in December 1953
Monroe featured on the first edition of Playboy in December 1953

Monroe’s breakout role was as Angela Phinlay in the noir heist film The Asphalt Jungle in 1950.

She featured on the front cover of the first ever edition of lads mag Playboy in December 1953 - although magazine owner Hugh Hefner had not asked permission to use her image.

Monroe married the baseball star and fellow American pop culture icon Joe DiMaggio in 1954.

Their marriage was rocky - DiMaggio was reportedly controlling and abusive - and ended in divorce after less than a year.

Throughout the 1950s, Monroe became a huge Hollywood name, starring in a string of iconic films including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch, and Some Like it Hot.

Monroe married her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, in 1956 - this drew negative press attention as Miller was being investigated by the FBI for communism.

Miller and Monroe divorced in 1961, a year before Marilyn’s death.

Monroe was also rumoured to have been involved in a love affair with President Kennedy, and infamously serendaded the leader of the free world with the song “Happy Birthday Mr. President” in 1962.

At the Met Gala 2022, Kim Kardashian wore the dress which Monroe had on when she sang to Kennedy half a century ago - a testament to the star’s enduring legacy.

Marilyn Monroe and her husband Joe DiMaggio in 1954
Marilyn Monroe and her husband Joe DiMaggio in 1954
Marilyn Monroe and her husband Joe DiMaggio in 1954

How did Marilyn Monroe die?

Monroe struggled with drug addiction throughout her career, and it became so severe towards the end of her life that shooting for her final film, The Misfits, had to be halted so that she could spend a week in a hospital detox.

In the early hours of 5 August 1962 Monroe’s housekeeper woke to find the star’s bedroom light on and her door locked.

Monroe’s psychiatrist was called and broke down the door to find Monroe dead in her bed.

Empty medicine bottles were found by her bed and a toxicology report revealed that she had taken several times the lethal dosage, suggesting that she had overdosed intentionally.

In the years since her death conspiracies have circulated, arguing that she overdosed unintentionally or even that she was murdered.

A threshold investigation was launched in 1982 to decide whether there was sufficient evidence to open a criminal investigation - no evidence of foul play came to light.

When is the Marilyn Monroe documentary release date?

The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes was released on Netflix on 27 April.