Marilyn Monroe and Rudolf Steiner

Hard on the heels of the Daily Mail’s re-hashing of a salacious story about Marilyn Monroe from sixty years ago as if it were the latest sensation, the anthropopper will not be outdone in recycling old news and is proud to reveal that … Marilyn Monroe was an anthroposophist!


Photo courtesy of Harpers Bazaar

Intriguingly, this does appear to be a true story. The following quotation is taken from a biography of Marilyn Monroe called “Norma Jean: the Life of Marilyn Monroe” by Fred Lawrence Guiles, published by McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York in 1969. It appears on pages 331-332 of the 333-page book.

 “Some years before her death (in Dec. ’64), Dame Edith (Sitwell) had spent a winter in Hollywood. A meeting between the poet and Marilyn was arranged by a monthly magazine. It was thought their ‘opposite’ personalities would throw off some journalistic sparks. No one could have foreseen that they would become immediate friends, nor could anyone have known that their deaths would be marked in an almost identical way — while their legends were growing in their lifetimes, they had been taken seriously by too few, too late.

“By the time she met Dame Edith, Marilyn had come a long way. If she had not been moving in an atmosphere — much of it self-created — so removed from her beginning, they might have had nothing in common. But when the introductions were over, these new and unlikely friends were left alone and began talking of Rudolf Steiner, whose personal history, “The Course of My Life”, Marilyn was reading at the time. Dame Edith was to remark later on Marilyn’s ‘extreme intelligence'”

In Dame Edith Sitwell’s autobiography Taken Care Of, she tells of her meeting with ‘Miss Marilyn Monroe’, who she describes as quiet, with great natural dignity and extremely intelligent. She was also, she said, extremely sensitive. Dame Edith tells of a magazine article that she was commissioned to write about her visit to Hollywood and this included a face-to-face encounter with Miss Monroe, who she suspected the magazine moguls thought would hate one another on sight. They were mistaken.

‘On the occasion of our meeting she wore a green dress and, with her yellow hair, looked like a daffodil. We talked mainly, as far as I remember, about Rudolf Steiner, whose works she had just been reading. In repose her face was at moments strangely, prophetically tragic, like the face of a beautiful ghost – a little spring-ghost, an innocent fertility daemon, the vegetation spirit that was Ophelia.’


Monroe and Sitwell

Edith Sitwell and Marilyn Monroe, 1953 Photograph by George Silk/LIFE © Time Inc.

Tom Mellett, a former Steiner teacher in the USA, has added the following comments:

“While living in Spring Valley in 1980, I had the good fortune of meeting the person who had sent Marilyn that copy of Steiner’s autobiography as well as a number of other Steiner books and lecture cycles that Marilyn requested over a ten year period from the Anthroposophical Library, then located at 211 Madison Avenue in New York City. I speak of the late Agnes Macbeth, wife of the late Norman Macbeth (author of “Darwin Retried”). Agnes worked for the library during the 1950’s, handling book requests and she vividly remembers the letters Marilyn posted asking for various lecture cycles. And although Marilyn had a reputation for tardiness and irresponsibility on her movie sets, Agnes assured me that Marilyn was very conscientious and punctual with her returns of the books.

Marilyn Monroe was introduced to Steiner’s writings and lectures by her favou rite drama teacher, Michael Chekhov (1890-1955), nephew of the playwright Anton, and fellow director with Stanislavsky in the Moscow Art Theatre early in the 20th century. Marilyn was introduced to Chekhov in 1951 by one of his devoted students, the American character actor Jack Palance. Marilyn opened herself like a sponge to water to Chekhov’s approach to theatre, which was so deeply influenced by Steiner that Chekhov left Stanislavsky’s method behind. And Marilyn opened herself very deeply to anthroposophy, not because she felt it would please her teacher, but Chekhov felt that it was one of the only times in her life that Marilyn did something out of her own free inner being.

The tragedy of Marilyn Monroe is that she opened herself up too much and became a slave, not only of the studio bosses, but also the expectations of a world that focused on her as such a fantasy object. Yet deep inside her inner being, which no one in the media and our popular culture even believed she possessed, she spent the last 10 or 11 years of her tortured life cultivating the delicate plant of anthroposophy.”


Filed under Marilyn Monroe, Rudolf Steiner

29 responses to “Marilyn Monroe and Rudolf Steiner

  1. dominique raeuber

    This is fascinating. I truly wonder then, if Marilyn shared anything about Anthroposophy with FFK?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. William Morris

    This is most interesting and sheds a whole new light on the famous star.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cuteroot

    My first cousin is (was) Norman Macbeth and I grew up hearing snatches here and there about this, that Agnes, his wife, would send anthro books to Marilyn Monroe. What a mystery!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Cuteroot! How wonderful to read about your connection to Norman and Agnes. My God, has it really been 34 years since I spoke with Agnes about MM? Yes it has!

      But an even greater and more vivid memory (yes, I’m phlegmatic) of Agnes from that time of 1980 in Spring Valley, NY, was the exquisite pastries Agnes would serve us after the study group meeting on the World Economy lecture cycle tat Norman hosted at their house.

      Of course the person who could tell us a lot more about this MM connection to RS is their daughter Christa Macbeth, who I understand is directing and acting in theater performances in Chicago.


  4. Hello Jeremy! I am delighted to see that you have rummaged through the Cyber-Attic of Internet Steineriana and discovered my antique article about MM and RS.

    To return the favor, I am sending you by email my parody of a Gilbert and Sullivan song called “The Very Model of a Modern Anthroposophist.” It was quite a Steiner-Facebook Group hit in early 2013 when I posted it there.

    If you like it, please feel free to post it on your blog here.

    Thanks again for providing this little retrospect for me. Why, it actually struck me as a wee bit of Kama-Loka nudging me from the future.

    Best regards,

    Tom Mellett
    Los Angeles, CA


  5. Pingback: Marilyn Monroe war Anthroposophin | Kult.Radio - Das Märchen.Radio

  6. I dont appreciate when anyone speculates about the throat of JFK but rather find it disgusting!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This article inspires me to mention that one of my teachers, Michael Chekhov’s Colleague George Shdanoff told me MM invited George to her home one week before she died. She expressed great distress over the approach to acting that she had taken up under Strasberg since 1956 after Mr. Chekhov died(Sept. 30th, 1955). She made arrangements to return to his Steiner inspired Chekhov Technique with George as her teacher. George was still coaching Jack Palance, Patricia Neal, and many other noted actors. Another interesting bit of info that arises for me is that Mr. Chekhov always wanted to play King Lear but was too self conscious about his accent. However, he did apparently play Lear to MM’s Cordelia in class and to those who witnessed it, it was quite a special event. So Dame Stilwell was in good company in sensing a Shakespearean Heroine in MM.
    PS HI Tom Millett

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hollywood Tomfortas

      Hello Lisa! How wonderful to hear from you! Once again I am treated to a retrospect of my life here on Jeremy’s blog, and with you, it’s a real joy to reminisce. I hope actual Kama Loka will be this nice!

      Now I can’t recall if we met in person, but if we did, it had to be ten years ago in Old Pasadena at a Michael Chekhov workshop with Mala Powers at the Los Angeles Branch of the Anthro Society, now called the SoCal Branch. At any rate, I heard a lot about you from Mala and I believe at that time you were living in Los Angeles and holding your own Chekhov Acting classes.

      I had arrived in Los Angeles in 2003 to teach physics and math at the Highland Hall Waldorf High School, but I had heard a lot about Mala from Merlyn Querido, wife of Rene, with whom I did a lot of theater at Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento in the early 1980’s (and even in 1987 at the Samuel Beckett Festival at the RS Summer Institute in Maine.)

      And I’m so glad you told the Lear-Cordelia story about MM and MC. It jogged my memory to realize that I had heard that same story from Ted Pugh, whom I had gotten to know during a year I had taught at Garden City Waldorf, NY, 1981-82. At that time, he was working with Fern Sloan.

      Thanks so much for commenting here, Lisa.


      Liked by 1 person

  8. Andrea

    Reading books does not make one an anthroposophist!!!! It’s interesting that she read those books, but assuming that she was an anthroposophist because of it s another matter.


    • Kirsten

      Headlines don’t always (or often) accurately represent a story. But it’s an interesting story nonetheless.


    • Allen Barenholtz

      Hi Andrea — yes, the reading of the books does not do that . . . but after 47 years of being a student of anthroposophy, I’ve learned to not rely upon the expression, “anthroposophist” — it’s a pesky reminder that labels are a pesky currency in our culture . . .

      In your heart-of-hearts, you might ‘name’ yourself what you wish — but when conferring that label upon others, pay close attention! as in: WHO is saying WHAT about WHOM?

      “Anthroposophism” is widely practiced in our time, wrapping oneself in the garb of anthroposophical materials, be they lectures or books.

      Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge.

      “Anthroposophist” — that’s a label that has less and less meaning, the more one tries to use it.

      And Marilyn? I hope it was helpful for her — the same wish I have for anyone who spends time with Dr. Steiner’s splendid gift to humankind.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chris Belski today is Christopherr Sblendorio

        Well said ( written ) Allen Barenholtz ! It has been a long time since our Emerson College days, and again it is nice to hear ( read ) your name and remember your voice.


        • Allen Barenholtz

          it has been a while since the mid-1970’s indeed! what days those were! Thank you for your kind words — I hope all is well with you . . .


          • Christopher Sblendorio ( Chris Belski formerly )

            Those were great days, Allen. As of last summer I am happily retired after class teaching for 42 years, four classes 1 – 8 and the last 1 – 5. I live with my beloved friend and wife, Barbara, in the Berkshires, MA. All’s well.


  9. betty l Khoo-kinngsley

    I am a fan of Marilyn Monroe and a member of the Anthroposophical Society (Australia)..absolutely fascinated by MM’s study of Steiner’s teachings. betty l khoo-kingsley, author: Cancer Cured & Prevented Naturally


  10. Michael Caris

    I also read somewhere that Marilyn was exceptionally intelligent. I have always been fascinated by her and have wondered who she really was. I feel she was ill-served by many around her. I am glad she connected with RS and feel that this will mean a lot for her future development.
    Mike Caris


  11. Say, you got a nice blog.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on…


  12. Julia O’Keeffe

    I don’t know if this is still active, but I have really enjoyed reading all the comments. I’m particularly intrigued by the fact I have lots of connections to different bits of it.
    The biggest of which is that my Godfather, Ken Peabody lived in Spring Valley in the 1980’s. He passed away a few years ago, but I would love to contact anyone who knew him.
    I myself am a teacher of drama and a theatre practitioner with the RSC. I have used much of what Michael Chekhov taught.


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