Marilyn in the news

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bonhams auction features early Norma Jeane letter

Autograph Letter Signed ("Norma") in pencil, 8 pp, 4to, [Van Nuys, CA, September 14, 1942], to Grace Goddard, regarding her wedding and married life, with original autograph transmittal envelope signed ("Mrs. James E. Dougherty"), light soiling at creases to letter, envelope toned, corners bumped, right margin rough.

Charles Williamson often described this lot as "the greatest Marilyn Monroe letter in the world"—and he may well have been right. 16-year old newlywed Norma Jeane Dougherty writes her foster mother Grace Goddard mentioning the man she believed was her biological father and describing her wedding and married life in vivid detail.
Though Monroe's birth certificate lists a Martin Mortensen as her father, she always believed that her true biological father was a man named Charles Stanley Gifford, a co-worker of her mother Gladys at Consolidated Films during the 1920s. Monroe is known to have reached out to Giffords once she was an established celebrity, but he rebuffed her attempts. This letter reveals that by as young as 16—at the moment she begins her adult life as a married woman—she was interested in establishing a relationship with the man she thought of as her father. 
The first line of this letter to Grace reads: "I want to thank you so much for writing Mom and explaining things about Stanley G. I'm sure she understands now." Norma goes on to describe life as a married woman: "He really keeps me busy cleaning the house and fixing meals, everybody told me that it is quite a responsibility being a house wife, and boy, I'm finding it out. But it really is a lot of fun. / Jimmy is so swell to me, in fact I know that if I had waited 5 or 10 years I couldn't have found anyone who would have treated me better. I just think the world of him and we get along so nicely. He is just so sweet about every little thing."
Norma Jeane goes on to describe her new home, even drawing a floor plan diagram of the rooms and furniture. The next 5 pages list in exacting detail each guest invited to the wedding and the gift sent: "Mr. and Mrs John Ingram (He is the school teacher that was such a good friend of Jimmy's). He is also Doris Drenen's brother-in-law. And Doris Drenen is Jim's ex—remember? I remember only too well."
She describes a gift from the Gaddis family: "The most beautiful cocktail set I have ever seen in my life. It is out of solid copper. The set consists of a huge round copper tray with a mat or cork on one side and asbestos on the other for hot drinks. Then there are eight copper glasses then there are eight little copper tray things for the glasses. Also there is a little copper bucket for grated ice. It is really beautiful."
Norma Jeane adds a poignant post script, again mentioning the man she thought of as her biological father: "How can I get in touch with Stanley Gifford? Through Consoladated [sic] films? Or something like that. Which dept?"

Estimate $25,000 - 35,000

UPDATE:  This letter went for $52,460 well above the estimate

Visit the auction here

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