A nomad from birth who bounced from coast to coast and from foster home to apartment to hotel, Marilyn Monroe at age 35 finally found in Brentwood a place where she could cozily nest after three failed marriages.
The red-tile-topped, stuccoed "hacienda" stood behind tall gates at the end of a shady cul-de-sac on more than half an acre of wooded grounds. The Latin inscription on tiles embedded in the front stoop served notice that Monroe felt she had succeeded in her quest for a safe haven: "Cursum Perficio," or "I have completed my journey."
But, after the talented and troubled actress died in the house on 5th Helena Drive of a sleeping pill overdose in August 1962, the words seemed instead a cruel foreshadowing.
Last week, news spread quickly through the "Marilyn community" of fans and admirers that the rambling, four-bedroom, three-bathroom house was on the market for $3.6 million.
After Prudential California Realty's David Offer posted the listing on his website, a Tuesday showing drew not only real estate agents but also TV news trucks.
Offer's website describes it as "the crown jewel and largest property of all the Helenas (one of Brentwood's most romantic and coveted locations) affording lovely vistas and great privacy & seclusion."
Monroe, baptized Norma Jean Baker, would scarcely recognize the house, which has been altered and updated by subsequent owners. It has changed hands several times since she died.
It was the first home she had ever owned independent of a husband, and at the time of her death she was putting her rustic mark on it with items she had selected in Mexico, including hand-hewn tables and hand-painted tiles.
"This home was to be a dream come true where she could furnish it as she wanted and make it into a sanctuary," said Greg Schreiner, president of the Marilyn Remembered fan club and a collector of Monroe memorabilia. "It is ironic she would die in the only home she ever owned."
Schreiner's website, themarilynmonroesite.com, features photos of the interior.
As Monroe lore has it, she chose the house, north of San Vicente Boulevard, because it reminded her of the nearby Spanish colonial residence of her psychiatrist and friend, Ralph Greenson.
Monroe biographer Fred Lawrence Guiles said the purchase might have been motivated by the end of her five-year marriage to playwright Arthur Miller.
Built in 1929, the property, for which Monroe paid $75,000, featured lush gardens, a kidney-shaped pool, a small, detached guest house and a garage. Arched doorways, cathedral beamed ceilings and deep-sill Spanish windows with iron gratings completed the effect.
Monroe was taken with the house from her first visit, according to an account in "Cursum Perficio: Marilyn Monroe's Brentwood Hacienda," by Gary Vitacco-Robles.
Eunice Murray, who became the housekeeper, recalled that Monroe studied and memorized every detail, brick by brick. She liked the house's simplicity, privacy and sturdy construction, and its lived-in aura.
Monroe would renovate the outmoded kitchen, installing a Hotpoint refrigerator (which Schreiner now owns) and yellow-and-blue tiles that framed the stove's sides and continued along the wall to create a large splash board.
Monroe began making $320-a-month mortgage payments in March 1962. Five months later, the Los Angeles Times blared the headline: "Marilyn Monroe Found Dead. Sleeping Pill Overdose Blamed."
"It was learned that medical authorities believed Miss Monroe had been in a depressed mood recently," the Times reported. "She was unkempt and in need of a manicure and pedicure, indicating listlessness and a lack of interest in maintaining her usually glamorous appearance, the authorities added."
Wrapped in a pale blue blanket, her body was strapped to a stretcher and carried to a station wagon that took her to the Westwood Village Mortuary. She was buried that Aug. 8.
The death certificate listed her death as a "probable suicide," but many admirers maintain that the overdose was accidental — the result perhaps of the calamitous interaction of drugs prescribed by different doctors. Conspiracy theorists continue to assert that she was murdered.
To this day, her delight in the house and garden — for which she had purchased lemon trees and flowering plants just days before she died — leaves many fans saddened that her tumultuous life would end when she had at last landed in a place where she could feel at peace.