Marilyn Monroe’s Personal Travel Trunk
A Marshall Field & Company wooden trunk, measuring 18″ x 12.5″ by 30″, with original leather handles, metal locks and brackets, owned by Marilyn Monroe.
During the summer months of 1961, Ralph Roberts drove Marilyn and her half-sister Berniece Miracle to Roxbury, CT to retrieve the last of Marilyn’s personal possessions from the home she had shared with husband Arthur Miller. In this trunk, according to Roberts, Marilyn packed “her past.”
From the memoirs of Ralph Roberts:
July 12, 1961
MM wanted one last trip to Roxbury to pick up various items, mainly kitchen stuff. Things she gave me included an aluminum orange squeezer, percolator, etc.
Also a footlocker of odds and ends from as she said “her past.” This footlocker contained various things – a Brownie from her Aunt Ana “only it’s black.” She had discussed with Richard Avedon his taking a picture of her taking a picture of him with it. He thought it an idea, but they never got around to it.
Marilyn packed the following items into this trunk during her final visit to the home she shared with Miller:
-1923 Edition of Willa Cather’s “Lost Lady”
– 1901 Edition of “Abraham Lincoln” by Joseph H. Choate
– 1940 Soft Cover Edition of “Rilke Selected Poems”
– 1943 Edition of “A Pictorial History of The Movies”
A 1916 Deck of Celebrity Playing Cards
A Pair of Frameless “Nose Pinch” Sunglasses in a metal glass
A Fancy Vintage Evening Bag used by Marilyn during early rehearsals of “Anna Christie” with Maureen Stapleton
A Brownie Box Style Target Six-20, Marilyn’s very first camera, gifted to her by her Aunt Ana
A Pasted “Album of Film Stars” Player cigarette card collection
A Manila Envelope Addressed to Marilyn Monroe, containing newspaper and “Hollywood Reporter” clippings related to her
A collection of 15 magazines (1947-1961) including the 1949 first issue of “Foto Parade” featuring Marilyn on the cover
Marilyn’s trunk and her personal belongings are prominently featured on page 188 of The Marilyn Encyclopedia.
Items from the trunk that are current part of The Marilyn Monroe Collection include:
Ralph Roberts: Marilyn’s personal masseur, Ralph Roberts, has been described as a gentle giant and a Southern gentleman. They first met in 1955 at Lee Strasberg’s home. Like Marilyn, Roberts was a student of The Method who had become a friend of the family, and masseur to Susan Strasberg. He took up massage to make ends meet between acting jobs, and quickly built up an appreciative clientele including Milton Berle, Ellen Burstyn, Judy Holliday, and Walter Matthau. Roberts also provided the inspiration (and behind the scenes training) for the masseur character in the Broadway hit Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
Biographer Donald Spoto says that after Marilyn hired him to help her through filming of Let’s Make Love (1960), “he quickly became her closest friend and most intimate confidant for the rest of her life.”
Roberts played a minor part as an ambulance driver in The Misfits (1961), as well as massaging the tired and aching limbs of actors in the production. He was in the thick of the battles between Marilyn and Arthur Miller in the final months of their married life and he helped Marilyn through the loneliness she felt after the split. Roberts drove her home after her horrific experience in the psychiatric ward of the Payne Whitney Hospital; later in 1961 he took Marilyn and her half sister Berniece Miracle to what had been Miller’s and Marilyn’s country home in Roxbury to pick up some of Marilyn’s things.
When Marilyn moved back to Los Angeles in August 1961, Roberts flew West with her. Marilyn rented a room for him at the Chateau Marmont hotel, ten minutes from her Doheny Drive apartment. Marilyn felt so close to him she nicknamed him “the Brother.” However, some time in late November, Marilyn told Roberts that her psychoanalyst Dr. Ralph Greenson thought it would be better if Ralph went back to New York. He obeyed her wishes, but they stayed in touch, and Ralph was back in Los Angeles in March 1962 to help Marilyn with the many errands she had after moving into her new home in Brentwood. He stayed on, continuing to spend time with her and relieve her tensions with his massage skills.
On the day Marilyn died, Roberts called her home before 6 P.M. to double check what food to buy for the barbecue they had planned for the following evening. Dr. Greenson picked up the phone and told Roberts that Marilyn was not home. It has been said that later that evening a very groggy Marilyn left an incomprehensible message on Roberts’ answering machine.
Provenance: Christie’s East: Film and Television Memorabilia Auction, December 18, 1995