Auction of a Lifetime: Marilyn Monroe’s life and personal items documented in Channel 4 film

Ben Travis
Icon: Marilyn Monroe's life story is re-told in Channel 4 documentary about memorabilia auction: Baron/Getty

Hollywood stars don’t get much more iconic than Marilyn Monroe – the blonde bombshell who became synonymous with glamour and luxury.

Over 50 years after her death, many of Monroe’s personal items were auctioned off in Los Angeles, from classic garments to personal memorabilia.

The auction took place in November 2016, where over 1000 lots of Monroe artefacts were sold to the highest bidders.

Channel 4’s documentary Auction of a Lifetime takes us inside the sale, offering a look at the historical relevance and context of some of the items.

Some need no introduction – one gown on sale was the ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress, in which Monroe serenaded JFK in 1962.

The opening bid came in at $2 million, and quickly rose to a final price of $4.81 million – the most expensive dress ever sold.

Then there’s the red sparkly number from 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, when her career skyrocketed.

“I remember just being astonished that a girl could be so sexy on purpose,” recalls fellow actress Ellen Burstyn, explaining the significance of the garment.


“Nobody had ever done that before – she revolutionised the female image.”

There are some less well-known items too, from early nude photos to notepads with handwritten acting advice and emotional outpourings, and an original poem to her third husband Arthur Miller.

Rather distressingly, Monroe’s pill boxes are on sale – perhaps contentious, considering her death from an overdose.

Auction of a Lifetime is an interesting look at the items which have come to represent Marilyn Monroe – but it’s also an interesting re-telling of her tragically short life story.

Channel 4, 9pm