Lights, Camera, Murder! Part 1

Marilyn Monroe
Did this film legend die of an accidental overdose of sedatives? Did she commit suicide? Or did she become such a liability to her lovers John and Robert Kennedy that she had to be murdered?

Sometime after 10 p.m. on August 4, 1962, Marilyn Monroe slipped into a coma caused by an overdose of sleeping pills. She would never regain consciousness. Shortly after she was discovered, a bizarre set of activities took place in her Brentwood home. Some items were allegedly removed, including a diary and an incriminating note which could have far-reaching implications, if discovered.

Exactly how and when Marilyn Monroe died sparked a debate that would last more than 40 years and generate many theories, including that of murder. Some of these theories even implicated John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert in the mysterious death. While suicide is the official cause of death and probably the most widely believed, too many forensic facts are at odds with it. Although she experienced mood swings from time to time, she was in good spirits at the time of her death, planning to remarry Joe DiMaggio and making plans for future events and movies.

The Glamourous Movie Queen and the Gangster
Lana Turner was a true movie queen beautiful, glamorous, classy, and a damned good serious actress to boot. What she lacked was good judgment when it came to men. After her fourth unsuccessful marriage with only her daughter, Cheryl, to show for it, Lana was ready for something different.

His real name was Johnny Stompanato, but he called himself John Steele. He had the wavy hair and olive-skinned good looks of a movie star with a physique to match. When she found out that he was a gangster, bankrolled by the famous Mickey Cohen, she made the mistake of not ending the relationship right away. He was at once appealing and very dangerous forbidden fruit, but poison fruit from the standpoint of publicity.

Embarrassing publicity caused Lana to be seen in public less and less with him, particularly at the Oscar Awards ceremony when she had been nominated. Angry that he couldnt escort her on her night in the spotlight, Johnny left her bleeding and bruised in her bed.

Unable to get out of this messy and dangerous relationship without career-damaging publicity, Lana didnt take any legal action. But Cheryl, 14, emotionally torn apart by Johnnys brutality to her mother, took a knife and stabbed him to death.

The coroner's inquest into Johnnys death was the most anticipated television event ever. Depending on how Lana played this role of a lifetime, her daughter was either going to walk away a free woman or be charged with the death of her mother's boyfriend and spend the rest of her life in jail.

The Brando Affair
The success of a star parent may play some role in how his or her children turn out, but probably the most important factor is the care and nurturing the children receive from their parents as they grow. An unbalanced or eccentric star likely breeds unbalanced and eccentric children. One of the most capricious stars ever is Marlon Brando, and few families have experienced more pain and suffering than Brandos. Suicide, homicide, addiction and violence have all touched the Brandos, and the actor himself took some of the blame for how his children turned out.

Christian Brando, one of Brandos ten children, was born shortly before his parents divorced, and grew up shunting back and forth between his two parents, whose relationship was openly hostile and bilaterally abusive. Christian struggled with alcohol and drugs and had a nasty temper when under the influence.

Christian was often expected to be the parent for some of Brandos other children and he developed a special relationship with his half-sister Cheyenne, who was intelligent and beautiful. But no amount of Hollywood power or wealth could protect Cheyenne from her family history of alcoholism and mental illness. She became even more dependent on drugs after a serious automobile accident scarred her face and ended a promising modeling career.

She became pregnant by her longtime boyfriend, Dag Drollet, the son of a prominent Tahitian family. Drollet stood by her during her fights with depression, schizophrenia and chemical abuse, but eventually he separated from her. Angry with the man who dared break up with her, Cheyenne weaved a tale of domestic assault and mental cruelty and brother Christian believed her.

In the next bizarre turn of events, Christian fatally shoots Dag and provides Marlon Brando with a very big problem and an opportunity to try to save his children from themselves.

The French Songbird and the Playboy Skier
Claudine Longet, the pretty French songbird, and handsome, virile ski star Spider Sabich were a beautiful couple. That is, until he was at hot end of a smoking gun and she was at the other. During the funeral, she dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief, and now and then her shoulders convulsed.

On one hand, she had a right to be there. No one doubted that Spider had once been in love with Longet. On the other hand, she was utterly out of place. She was, after all, the woman who killed him.

She said it was an accident. His friends and family were not so sure.

A search for the truth would play out over the ensuing year. Before the last breathless gossip was whispered and the final expose written, the Sabich-Longet affair would develop into one of the decade's most riveting celebrity spectacles.

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