BBC claims coup with tape of Monroe's final interview

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The Independent Online

Tapes obtained by the BBC of Marilyn Monroe speaking weeks before her death reveal her to be eager to talk about her future work plans.

The recordings of Monroe in what was to be her final interview were made by a journalist from Life magazine. The resulting feature was published on 3 August, 1962, three days before she was found dead.

Though Monroe is said to have committed suicide, many alternative theories on her death have been advanced in the intervening decades. In the Life interview, conducted over four days in July 1962, she sounds "very together", according to BBC producers who have heard the tapes, and talks about future projects she wants to work on. But she does become easily tired and asks to lie down in the middle of one interview session.

Parts of the audio tape of Monroe will be broadcast on BBC2 at Christmas.

The result is a coup for the channel. Paul Kerr, the producer and director of the programme, Marilyn on Marilyn, traced the interviewer, who is now living in New York, and listened to four hours of tapes that he still has.

In addition, Mr Kerr traced a French journalist who had recordings of Monroe talking to him for a Marie Claire interview. Together, the interviews with the two journalists will give an insight into how Monroe viewed herself, her childhood and her uneasy relationship with celebrity.

Much of the material in the BBC programme was not published in either of the interviews. And some of Monroe's unpublished views will not even be in the programme, 40 years after her death, because the Life journalist was unwilling for them to be broadcast.

At one point Monroe, who had been married to the Jewish playwright Arthur Miller, is understood to have said that she wished Jews and Arabs could find a way to learn to love each other. Mr Kerr said yesterday: "You can imagine how much I would have liked to broadcast that section of the interview now, but I was not allowed to." The programme does, though, feature Monroe discussing her image as a sex symbol. She calls it a "burden", and says: "A sex symbol becomes a thing, and you just hate to be a thing."

In the programme, to be broadcast on Friday, 28 December, she speaks at some length of her childhood and recalls how she called her foster mother "mummy" and was reprimanded for doing so. At one point she says she never expected to be happy in her life.

Mr Kerr said: "It is so rare to hear Marilyn Monroe's views on Marilyn Monroe. In all the documentaries over the years it's been Tony Curtis or Jack Lemmon or someone else talking about her; but you hardly ever hear her voice."