In 1952, retired baseball superstar Joe DiMaggio asked a friend to set him up with Marilyn Monroe. Being the most famous athlete in the country, DiMaggio got his dinner.
Monroe had low expectations, but she was pleasantly surprised to find that DiMaggio was reserved and respectful.
After a long-distance romance, on January 14, 1954, Monroe and DiMaggio married at San Francisco City Hall. Monroe later said they were drawn together by a need for stability: but in her mind, that didn’t mean she was going to stop working just as she’d become a star.
DiMaggio, however, wanted a housewife and disliked his wife’s sex symbol status.
These contrasting desires and DiMaggio’s possessiveness created tension. Elia Kazan, with whom Monroe had an affair, wrote that she told him DiMaggio, “struck her often, and beat her up several times.”
In September 1954, after DiMaggio watched Monroe shoot the famous subway grate scene for The Seven Year Itch, the couple had a fight that turned violent, according to The Guardian.
Monroe filed for divorce, citing “mental cruelty.” DiMaggio begged for forgiveness but she refused.
The couple reconnected as friends Christmas of 1961. DiMaggio tried to help with her addictions and mental health issues and blamed himself for her death.
After arranging Monroe’s funeral, he had roses delivered to her crypt three times a week for the next 20 years.
Despite her hard work and determination to make it in Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe suffered from terrible stage fright.
Don Murray, who starred opposite her in 1956’s Bus Stop, told Closer Weekly that Monroe got so nervous before every scene that she’d break out in a rash.
She struggled to learn lines and forgot technical requirements like hitting her mark, walking out of the light, or out of focus.
These problems meant that editors often had to patchwork together many takes to form a usable scene. She was frequently also late to set. “I think it was a lack of confidence.
For somebody who the camera loved, she was still terrified,” Murray told the LA Times.
Other collaborators had the same problem. Jack Lemmon, who co-starred alongside Monroe in 1959’s Some Like It Hot, recalled that it took her over 28 takes to finish one simple scene.
But he also told an interviewer in 1998 that he never held this against her, and he knew that she could do scenes in one take because he’d seen her do it.
“It was not that she was not capable … she would cut because she didn’t feel right … an alarm clock went off in her brain and just said, ‘No,’ and she would stop,” he said.
Despite her own dysfunctional upbringing, Marilyn Monroe longed to have a child once she married Miller in 1956. Unfortunately, she was never able to carry a pregnancy to term.
During their marriage, she had two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy between September 1956 and December 1958.
Monroe worried that her alcohol and drug abuse could have caused the problems she experienced with pregnancy.
However, according to CNBC, she also had endometriosis, an extremely painful condition in which the lining of the uterus spreads into other parts of the reproductive system.
The BBC reports that some studies have found that endometriosis increases the risk of miscarriage.
That’s not to say Monroe had always been willing to put having a family before work. It’s rumored that Monroe chose to have several abortions throughout her life.
This would have been illegal — and therefore unregulated and potentially unsafe — but it wasn’t unusual. Hollywood studios had strict clauses about pregnancy and children (for their female stars.)
As Vanity Fair reports, famous actresses including Jean Harlow, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Ava Gardner chose to have abortions rather than lose their careers and income.
It’s thought Marilyn Monroe was initially prescribed strong painkillers for her endometriosis and barbiturates and other sedatives for her insomnia.
According to PBS, when she died, her bedside table was covered in bottles of medicines. She also drank heavily, especially champagne.
Some of the medication was for depression. Many have also tried to diagnose Monroe with a personality disorder, but if she was ever diagnosed with one to her face, she never made it public.
It seems fair to say that Monroe’s mental health had consistently been up and down, and she’d attempted suicide at least once in her life.
About a month after filing for divorce from Miller on January 21, 1961, Monroe signed herself into the Payne Whitney psychiatric ward in New York, suffering from insomnia and needing to rest.
But according to Vanity Fair, she was locked in a padded room and prevented from leaving. Joe DiMaggio, with whom she’d recently reunited, eventually managed to force his way into the hospital and get her out.
The widely accepted version of Marilyn Monroe’s rags-to-riches story is that she took a few pretty photos and immediately became a movie star.
But Monroe worked hard to go from parachute factory to Hollywood icon.
As a model, Monroe studied her photos and asked photographers for feedback. For five years, she took every job she was offered without complaint, starting as an extra and climbing to bit parts.
At Fox, she deliberately befriended studio reporters, who were happy to give her a publicity boost. She also made an effort to improve her limited formal education, reading challenging classic literature in her car and on set.
Monroe resented being typecast as the dumb blonde or seductress and wanted to prove that she could bring more to a movie than sex appeal.
She took many acting classes, first at the Actors Lab in LA and later, as Vanity Fair reports, with famous acting coach Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York, where classmates praised her performances.
In 1954, Monroe protested against the demeaning roles Fox kept sending her and its refusal to increase her salary even though she was the studio’s biggest star.
After walking out on her contract, Monroe became the second woman ever to found her own production studio, named after herself.
The rebellion worked: Fox raised her salary and gave her creative control.
Marilyn Monroe told reporters that she met her third husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller, on a movie set in 1951
. Although both felt an attraction, they didn’t act on it until 1955. Monroe had divorced DiMaggio, but Miller was still married. In 1956, during his divorce, Miller was subpoenaed as part of the crazy true story of the Hollywood Blacklist.
Monroe was advised to leave him for the sake of her career, but she refused. On June 29, 1956 — eight days after his testimony — they married.
There were happy times, but Monroe ultimately needed more emotional support than Miller could give, and the glamour faded for him.
At one point, Monroe found a diary entry Miller had written saying he was “disappointed” and “embarrassed” by her.
Miller made his feelings on their relationship public in the screenplay of 1961’s The Misfits, which he wrote to give Monroe the chance to show her dramatic skills, while also clearly basing her sweet but neurotic character,
Roslyn, on her personality. The shoot was a disaster, and they divorced shortly after.
Miller didn’t attend Monroe’s funeral. In an unpublished essay started that day and reported in the Independent in 2018, he wrote that he didn’t want to be around the “false” people he knew would be there.
He told 60 Minutes in 1987, “She was a super-sensitive instrument, and that’s exciting to be around until it starts to self-destruct.”
It would be physically impossible for Marilyn Monroe to have slept with everyone who’s claimed an affair with her.
However, she did have several famous and doomed affairs.
Arthur Miller was married when he and Monroe started seeing each other in 1955. While married to Miller, Monroe had a highly publicized affair with her co-star of the presciently titled
Let’s Make Love, Yves Montand. Miller knew and apparently didn’t care, and Montand’s wife, actress Simone Signoret
— with whom Monroe had become friends — didn’t seem surprised. Monroe reportedly also had an affair with Some Like It Hot co-star Tony Curtis
— according to Curtis. However, Vanity Fair reports that she probably didn’t spend a week with The Prince and the Showgirl crew member Colin Clark, as the film and his book My Week with Marilyn claims.
Monroe’s most famous affair may be one of the false facts about JFK you always thought were true. It’s believed that she and President John F. Kennedy did have an intimate encounter
— but only once, in March 1962, according to TIME. Monroe may also have had an affair with Kennedy’s brother and Attorney General, Robert “Bobby” Kennedy.
At some point, the brothers’ younger sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, wrote to Monroe: “Understand that you and Bobby are the new item!” Bobby had married Jean’s former college roommate, Ethel Skakel, in 1950, who apparently knew about his many affairs.
Marilyn Monroe was found dead by her housekeeper Eunice Murray early in the morning of August 5, 1962.
The coroner’s report concluded that she had died of an overdose of barbiturates in a probable suicide.
However, many have refused to accept this as the truth about Monroe’s death.
As the Independent reports, there have been rumors that Monroe was murdered by the Kennedys, the Mafia, the Cuban government, the FBI, Murray and psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson.
Witness testimonies contradict each other. Some say Monroe was in good spirits leading up to her death: she’d been working hard to revamp her image after being fired from a movie and rehired to it.
But other people, including Greenson (who some saw as controlling), said that she was agitated that day.
At one point, Murray — whom Monroe had fired days earlier — claimed that Bobby Kennedy had visited Monroe the day she died, which the FBI investigated and dismissed.
Monroe was barely 36 when she died. The true tragedy of her life is that she was a complicated, fragile, determined person who found fame but never true love and stability.