This article contains Blonde spoilers.
Throughout Blonde, writer-director Andrew Dominik’s surreal, dreamlike, and often downbeat film based on Joyce Carol Oates’ fictionalized novel of the same name, the woman named Norma Jeane Mortensen—known to the world as Marilyn Monroe—is haunted by the almost spectral presence of her unseen father.
Played by Ana de Armas, Norma Jeane never gets to meet her father, who her mother (Julianne Nicholson) hints is a reputable figure in Hollywood whose life and career cannot be tarnished by the existence of an illegitimate daughter. But as Norma Jeane gets older and becomes famous as Marilyn Monroe, she does get phone calls and letters, some loving, others scolding, from the man. He’s a mysterious voice in an unsigned letter who nevertheless insists that they will meet up one day soon.
The absence of her father is an overwhelming weight in Marilyn’s life. She seeks out men as a sort of replacement for him, even calling her lovers and husbands “daddy” in one of the film’s queasier recurring motifs, and a final revelation about him is, at least according to the film, what topples her into the final downward spiral that ends in her death.
Who Was Marilyn Monroe’s Father?
The identity of the real Marilyn Monroe’s father was an enigma for decades. Although her mother Gladys was married twice, neither man fathered the future film sex symbol. Monroe later searched for her father and allegedly found him, then as a dairy farmer named Charles Stanely Gifford, although he reportedly did not wish to see her.
In any case, DNA matching proved in early 2022 that her father really was Gifford, a co-worker of Gladys with whom she had a brief affair while working as a film cutter at Consolidated Film Industries.
What Sends Marilyn Over the Edge at the End of Blonde?
As Blonde heads toward its final scenes, a heartbreaking miscarriage, a humiliating rendezvous with President John F. Kennedy, and a growing addiction to pills and alcohol wreak havoc on Marilyn physically and mentally, helping to destroy her marriage to The Playwright (based on Arthur Miller and played by Adrien Brody) and her crumbling film career.
Alone in her home, she gets a phone call from Eddy Robinson Jr. (Evan Williams), son of famous actor Edward G. Robinson and one-third of a three-way relationship that Marilyn had with him and Charles “Cass” Chaplin Jr. (Xavier Samuel), son of the legendary Charles Chaplin. Eddy calls to inform Marilyn that Cass has died, but that before his death, he prepared a package for her that Marilyn needs to see. Eddy mails Marilyn the package, and what’s inside precipitates her final plunge toward death: It’s evidence that Cass has been impersonating her father all this time.
How True is the Whole Cass and Eddy Thing?
While it’s true that Edward G. Robinson and Charles Chaplin both had sons who were actors and who died at the ages of 40 and 42, respectively, the rest of their relationship in Blonde, in which Marilyn is seen happily frolicking with both men, socially and sexually, at the same time, is an invention of Joyce Carol Oates.
It is said to be true that Eddy Robinson was a friend and occasional lover of Marilyn’s, and (according to The Hollywood Reporter) she was also rumored to have had an affair with Chaplin Jr.—a tryst that ended when the latter allegedly caught Monroe in bed with his brother. Chaplin Jr. reportedly addressed his relationship with Monroe in his book, My Father, Charlie Chaplin.
While Eddy Robinson reportedly met Marilyn through Chaplin Jr. and began dating her shortly thereafter, there’s no evidence at all to suggest that they were a “throuple,” as portrayed in the film (via Women’s Health).
Why Does Cass’ Package Drive Marilyn to Suicide?
When Marilyn opens the package from Cass, inside she finds the teddy bear that belonged to her as a child. Cass saw her spot it on the street in a highly fictionalized sequence earlier in the movie. But even worse, there’s also a letter from Cass in which he confesses that it was him all along pretending to be her father via the letters and phone calls—the father had never actually reached out to Marilyn at all.
This sends Marilyn into a tailspin: she takes an overdose of barbiturates and spends her last days and hours in bed, her dog by her side, as she gradually drifts into unconsciousness and death. As she dies, her legs dangling off the edge of the mattress, she apparently has a vision of her father greeting her and guiding her into whatever lies beyond this plane of existence.
The revelation of Cass’ deception is the final act in a long history of men gaslighting, abusing, and exploiting Norma Jeane/Marilyn. While in the movie and in reality, she often fought to take control of her life and career, the constant torment and the unceasing, ravenous intrusion of the public and the press into every corner of her life prove too much. But given the real Marilyn knew who her father was (and that he didn’t want to see her), and that the real Charlie Chaplin Jr. outlived her by six years, this whole sequence is a complete lie.
Still, after nearly three hours of misery, Blonde ends on the saddest note of all, and poor, doomed Marilyn Monroe becomes as spectral as the father she so desperately wanted in her life.
Blonde is streaming now on Netflix.