Marilyn Monroe and Milton Greene

What Caused Marilyn Monroe’s Split With Milton Greene?

The year 1955 may be the most pivotal year in the life of Marilyn Monroe and it was a year she didn’t make a single movie. At the end of 1954, at the pinnacle of her career, Marilyn left Hollywood for the east coast. In New York she began studying under Lee Strasberg, she formed a production company with Milton Greene and began seeing the man who would become her third husband, Arthur Miller. The problem for Marilyn was that there was a lot of tension between these men as to which one would play the dominate role in her life. Unfortunately for Greene, he was the bottom man on that totem pole. Unfortunately for her and her fans, had she stuck with Greene and never married Miller, Marilyn Monroe Productions would probably still be around and could have played a major role in the entertainment industry. Of course that’s just my opinion. What’s undeniable is that the collaboration between Monroe and Greene produced some of the greatest (and most reproduced) photographs the world has ever known and two of Marilyn’s finest theatrical performances.

So what was it that caused their split? Like all relationships between two people that fall apart there was undoubtedly more than one reason. But was there one issue that was a turning point for Monroe where she felt betrayed and doubted she could ever trust Greene again? The answer this revelation offers is yes.

Greene’s tenure as president of Marilyn Monroe Productions would only last a couple of years. Even though he was responsible for putting together the movies Bus Stop and The Prince and the Showgirl, movies in which Marilyn made two of her best performances, he was out of MMP by the beginning of 1957. What caused the split? The easy answer to that question is Arthur Miller. Certainly that’s what Milton’s wife Amy Greene thought. Here’s a quote she made that appeared in the Hollywood Reporter to the question “Why did Marilyn Monroe Productions ultimately break up?” Amy Greene answered, “Because of Arthur. Not only was he jealous of Milton, but he was jealous of the time that they spent together… Arthur said, ‘It’s either him or me.'”

There is probably a lot of truth in her response. There is a letter that Arthur wrote to Marilyn before they were married that sold at an auction site. In that letter it’s clear that even though Miller didn’t know Greene very well he didn’t think highly of him. He seemed to be planting the seeds of distrust. But did he ever say “It’s him or me?” Would Arthur Miller give Marilyn that kind of ultimatum? And would Marilyn split with Greene just because Miller said so? Marilyn was a strong willed, independent woman. It seems like there had to be something more going on. Marilyn Monroe biographers try to fill in the blanks and often speculate as to the reason for the Monroe/Greene split. Most agree their relationship deteriorated while in England during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl. Some of the reasons given are because Greene was too close to, and sided with the films director, producer and Marilyn’s co-star Lawrence Olivier. Other speculation has Greene entering into secret negotiations behind Marilyn’s back or shipping items back home and billing the production company. Some theorize that it had something to do with them sharing the same psychiatrist.

Anyone that knows anything about Marilyn knows she demanded loyalty from the people around her. If Marilyn felt betrayed by a person she could easily use that as justification to remove that person from her life. We get confirmation of this from Ralph Roberts unpublished manuscript. Ralph Roberts was Monroe’s masseur and friend. Most commentators on Marilyn’s life agree the two were as close as brother and sister, so what he has to say should be given a lot of weight. On his website he quotes Marilyn as saying, “I think I am loyal to my friends – to an extreme. I expect my friends to be loyal to me – to an extreme.” Roberts also gives us a clue as to what it was that made Marilyn mistrust Natasha Lytess. Here’s another excerpt from his book that comes right after the above quote with Marilyn speaking about betrayal.

“When Max Reinhart’s estate was being auctioned, it was through her (Lytess) and her friendship and adoration of him that I went. He and Michael Checkhov were the first true masters I encountered. I got a few pieces of furniture and his collection of books. I had to pay on the installment plan – I sure wasn’t making money at Fox. A University wanted the collection for a Reinhart room. Natasha felt that his son should have them. I later found that she was playing politics, and I felt betrayed by her, and that was that.” (Source: Ralph Roberts website)

So was there an act of betrayal that was the turning point in the relationship between Marilyn Monroe and Milton Greene? This revelation gives an affirmative answer to that question. To examine the details of that betrayal we have to go back early 1956 when Marilyn and the Greenes returned to Hollywood to film the movie Bus Stop. While filming that film Marilyn shared a house with the Greenes that they rented on Beverly Glen. There are many photos of a press conference that was held at the home.

While she was filming Bus Stop Marilyn was also involved in a secret relationship with Arthur Miller. Miller was in the process of getting a divorce and had established residency in Nevada for that purpose. On weekends Miller would sneak off to LA to be with Marilyn. Marilyn rented an apartment at the Chateau Marmont so the two could meet privately. Marilyn valued her privacy and by the end of filming Bus Stop she was spending the majority of her time at the Marmont.

It seems the Greenes liked to socialize and have a good time, they would often throw parties at the rented home on Beverly Glen. Marilyn never felt comfortable at parties so she did not attend. After filming was completed Marilyn went back to New York and the Greenes closed down the house. The owners did not appreciate the damage that had been done to the house and it’s furniture. They threatened to file a lawsuit over the damage. A letter from Al Delgado from MCA, the agency that represented Marilyn, to Jay Kanter, Marilyn’s agent explains the details.

“It’s as very serious case, because we’re talking about a luxurious house with expensive furniture, and the inventory is probably 40 pages long. When the owners will be back, I think that Milton will have some problems and he might be sued… I’ll do my best to refurbish a part of the furniture. I must admit that I don’t really like this story, because the house was in perfect condition when they moved in.”

Jay Kanter and Marilyn Monroe
Jay Kanter and Marilyn Monroe

What’s notable about this letter is that MCA is involved in trying to resolve this problem. From Marilyn’s perspective this is Greene’s responsibility because she was not involved in causing the damage. She did not feel as if she or her production company should cover the costs involved in this case. It’s this feeling that sets the scene for Greene’s betrayal.

The missing piece of this story is that MCA, Jay Kanter and Milton Greene came up with a plan so this lawsuit could be settled and they did it behind Marilyn’s back. (In Greene’s defense he may have been pressured into accepting this deal.) You see the head of MCA was a man named Jules Stein. He was a very wealthy and powerful man in Hollywood and could easily make a problem like this go away, but he would also expect something in return. He was a collector of fine English antiques who decked out both his lavish home and his offices with antique furniture. He was actually more than a collector. He was part owner of a well known and prestigious antique shop in New York.

Stein and his wife were such well known collectors that when Jackie Kennedy was remodeling the White House she contacted the Stein’s for a possible donation of furniture. This caused a sticky situation for the president and attorney general who were at the time conducting an antitrust investigation of Stein’s company, MCA. The fact that no Marilyn biographer has ever commented on the connections between the Kennedy’s, Monroe, Stein and MCA is inexplicable.

It’s unknown who came up with the idea of repaying Stein by shipping antiques from England back to the U.S. Jay Kanter is still alive and could not only tell us but he could also verify this revelation. Amy Greene is also still alive. She would be in the best position to know the truth. Her son, Joshua Greene, may also have heard the story.

The issue from Marilyn’s perspective was they had the bills paid for by Marilyn Monroe Productions. This was the betrayal that sealed Milton Greene’s fate with Marilyn Monroe. Within a few short months Greene would be replaced. This betrayal also soured her relationship with MCA. It took several years for Monroe to finally sever her relationship with two of Hollywood’s most powerful men, MCA’s Jules Stein and Lew Wasserman, two men with close ties to the upper echelons of the Mafia. It was a decision that may have cost her her life.

Marilyn Monroe outside the home on Beverly Glen taken by Milton Greene