Famous Eulogies: Lee Strasberg on Marilyn Monroe

Some eulogies provide a profoundly meaningful, lasting tribute to the deceased

American actress Marilyn Monroe (1926-62) reclines on patio furniture on a lawn, early 1950s. Photo © Camerique Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Ideally, a well-crafted and -delivered eulogy illuminates and elucidates special qualities about the deceased that enhance the existing emotional and spiritual connections between the person who died and the living, thereby focusing and increasing a listener's appreciation of the life lost. In some cases, the eulogy itself proves a memorable and meaningful embodiment of both the unique nature of the departed and the depth of feeling that endures in the hearts and minds of those who remain.

This article presents the text of just such an enduring remembrance speech: the eulogy of actress Marilyn Monroe by Lee Strasberg. Monroe died at age 36 after a barbiturate overdose at her home in Los Angeles, California, on August 5, 1962. Strasberg served as Monroe's acting teacher at his famous Actors Studio in New York in the mid-1950s.

Marilyn Monroe's Eulogy by Lee Strasberg, August 8, 1962
Marilyn Monroe was a legend. In her own lifetime, she created a myth of what a poor girl from a deprived background could attain. For the entire world, she became a symbol of the eternal feminine.

But I have no words to describe the myth and the legend, nor would she want us to do so. I did not know this Marilyn Monroe, nor did she. We gathered here today knew only Marilyn -- a warm human being, impulsive and shy and lonely, sensitive and in fear of rejection, yet ever avid for life and reaching out for fulfillment.

I will not insult the privacy of your memory of her -- a privacy she sought and treasured -- by trying to describe her whom you know to you who knew her. In our memories of her, she remains alive; not only a shadow on the screen or a glamorous personality. For us, Marilyn was a devoted and loyal friend, a colleague constantly reaching for perfection.

We shared her pain and difficulties and some of her joys. She was a member of our family.

It is difficult to accept the fact that her zest for life has been ended by this dreadful accident. Despite the heights and brilliance she had attained on the screen, she was planning for the future. She was looking forward to participating in the many exciting things which she planned. In her eyes, and in mine, her career was just beginning. The dream of her talent, which she had nurtured as a child, was not a mirage. When she first came to me, I was amazed at the startling sensitivity which she possessed and which had remained fresh and undimmed, struggling to express itself despite the life to which she had been subjected. Others were as physically beautiful as she was, but there was obviously something more in her; something that people saw and recognized in her performances and with which they identified.

She had a luminous quality -- a combination of wistfulness, radiance, yearning -- that set her apart and yet made everyone wish to be part of it; to share in the childish naivete which was at once so shy and yet so vibrant. This quality was even more evident when she was on the stage. I am truly sorry that you and the public who loved her did not have the opportunity to see her as we did, in many of the roles that foreshadowed what she would have become.

Without a doubt, she would have been one of the really great actresses of the stage.

Now it is all at an end. I hope that her death will stir sympathy and understanding for a sensitive artist and woman who brought joy and pleasure to the world.

I cannot say goodbye. Marilyn never liked goodbyes, but in the peculiar way she had of turning things around so that they faced reality, I will say au revoir. For the country to which she has gone, we must all someday visit.

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Marilyn Monroe's Last Words
• Marilyn Monroe's Biography
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