If Marilyn is the bright, white goddess of beauty then Elizabeth Short is the dark goddess of tragedy. A rumour has long floated around the country that the two women, both aspiring actresses, may have met or at least frequented the same nightclubs around the same time. It isn’t likely that this happened but it isn’t altogether impossible. Being a Monroe fan I couldn’t help but make comparisons between the two women. In a nutshell both were aspiring movie stars; both women were the same age; both were beauties without families; neither was successful in love, neither had a home and both died under mysterious, heart-rending circumstances.
Short had a good family in Medford, Massachusetts. Her parents and Cleo Short raised her with three sisters. Her father owned a miniature golf company and managed to make money on that somehow. When the Great Depression hit after Black Tuesday Cleo didn’t stick around long. He parked his car on a bridge near the house and that was the last anyone saw of him in Medford. It was thought that Cleo died a suicide. Monroe liked bridges, ironically. She wrote about committing suicide by jumping off a bridge:
Oh damn I wish that I were
dead — absolutely nonexistent –
gone away from here — from
everywhere but how would I
There is always bridges — the Brooklyn
– no not the Brooklyn Bridge But I love that bridge (everything is beautiful from there and the air is so clean) walking it seems
there even with all those
cars going crazy underneath. So
it would have to be some other bridge
an ugly one and with no view — except
particularly like in particular all bridges — there’s some-
thing about them and besides
never seen an ugly bridge
Short suffered from asthma and had to spend winters in Florida. It was a well-known fact that Monroe had a plethora of illness, not least of which was sinusitis, an infection in the sinuses. It caused her to miss a great deal of work, or so she said. She insisted that she was fired from Something’s Got to Give because of the number of days she’d been sick, not absent from the set.
Elizabeth lived with the impression that her father had killed himself and was shocked when, in her teens, he contacted the family, asking if he could reconcile with her mother. Short’s mother often took her to movies and it was at that time that Short began to dream of becoming a movie star. For her part, Monroe grew up inside of a movie theatre. Her foster families gave her money to go to a theatre for the day to get her out of the house. Monroe never knew her father and always felt incomplete for it. She also had a fractured family when her mentally ill mother was admitted to a mental hospital. Some time after Short was thrown out of Cleo’s San Vallejo home in California, she was taken in by a family who took pity on her when they found her sleeping in a movie theatre. It wasn’t long after that they too were disillusioned and asked Short to leave.
Short and Monroe were both Los Angeles models for a time. They both posed for cheesecake magazines although Monroe was far more successful than Short, gracing the covers of every cheesecake magazine on the market. In 1947 both women were around the same age (Monroe was 21; Short was 22); both were in Hollywood and were aspiring actresses with a major exception: Monroe had already acted in small parts in various low-budget movies, but in 1947 she met Johnny Hyde, an agent from the William Morris Agency, and within one year he signed her to a 6-month contract with Columbia Pictures. This was a slow start to an incredible career.
Both women appeared to have difficulty with their reproductive organs. Short was rumoured to have a short vagina and was therefore incapable of having sex with a man. The autopsy later proved this wasn’t true. Monroe on the other hand suffered from endometriosis, when the lining of the womb grows outside of it. She miscarried several pregnancies and aborted several more.
There were many differences between the two women of course. Short had a home in Medford she could return to if the going got rough in Hollywood. Monroe had no such safety net with the exception of Hyde, who wished to marry her. Ultimately both women died alone but in extremely different circumstances. Poor Short was brutally tortured for two days before she finally succumbed to her injuries. Her nude, severed body was displayed in a sexually obscene pose on a lot near a busy intersection. Monroe died in her own home, possibly by her own hand and possibly as the result of a murder. If both women were murdered then this certainly cements another similarity in their lives. Personally I doubt Monroe was murdered. No one had a real motive, or opportunity, to kill her. I believe that much of what was said by witnesses just before Monroe’s death was incorrect simply by error. I believe after this many years, befuddled memories complicate the claims of witnesses.
The same is true of Short. A reporter requested of the LAPD that they re-open the Short case and this was refused. 50 years have passed. Many possible witnesses are dead or old enough that it is almost a certainty their recollections would by now be so inaccurate as to be useless.
Monroe because the biggest celebrity in Hollywood, more famous in death than she was in life. The same can be said of Short. She wasn’t ever famous in life but it was the sensational news story of her death that made her into a type of Hollywood star….a very tragic one.