Commies Prefer Blondes

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Moynihan

Decoding the FBI's paranoia about Marilyn Monroe's politics.

National Notebook: Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian President Boris Yeltsin allowed a small number of academics to poke around in the previously secret Communist Party and KGB archives. The resulting flood of revelations--the American Communist Party was funded by Moscow; Julius Rosenberg was guilty of espionage--precipitated a mock headline from Weekly World News, the satirical supermarket tabloid: "Marilyn Monroe Was a Russian Spy!" Accompanying this latest "revelation" from the Kremlin vaults was a "never before seen" photograph of the dumpy Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev leering at Monroe and the additional claim that the two were lovers.

The story was meant to be a joke, of course. But once upon a time, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had indeed considered that Monroe might be an agent of the communist conspiracy. Indeed, the trickle of material from American intelligence archives again demonstrates Hoover's twin passions: anticommunism and the private lives of "politically unreliable" celebrities. Marilyn Monroe, a megastar whose unsophisticated politics were left-leaning, was a natural target for Washington's Red-hunting G-men.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the FBI released portions of its Monroe file in 2006, but with a significant number of redactions. When the Associated Press petitioned the agency to rerelease the files with fewer blackouts, the FBI claimed to have lost the Monroe material--only to "rediscover" it and provide copies with fewer expurgations to the news agency.

The more complete files reveal that according to the bureau's "sources," members of Monroe's inner circle were increasingly worried about the actress's drift toward radicalism, citing her friendship with American expatriate Frederick Vanderbilt Field, a scion of the Vanderbilt fortune who was ostracized by his famous family for his communist sympathies.

hoover's interest in Monroe was piqued by her relationship with--and subsequent marriage to--nebbish playwright Arthur Miller, the author of the classic anti-McCarthy play The Crucible. Miller, who had loitered around various Soviet front organizations in the 1940s, earned himself a subpoena from the House Committee on Un-American Activities and, after failing to provide satisfactory answers to the committee, also earned a contempt-of-Congress charge for refusing to reveal the names of fellow writers with whom he attended political meetings. …