Many Marilyn fans are happy to defend her legacy but will at the same time, with no consideration, criticise her husbands based on rumour and speculation.
As fans, we have absolutely no right to comment on Marilyn’s (or anyone else’s) relationships. It is completely impossible to tell how happy couples are on the basis of photography and news reports… even by what is said by the individuals involved. Hindsight and bias come into play with a lot of these conversations. And that is what I want to try and demonstrate with this article which will discuss both the truth, the lies, and the “we don’t know”.
It’s important to also consider these men as individuals who had lives of their own, their own struggles and issues to overcome, and that doesn’t even include the fact they were married to a complicated, difficult and complex woman and worldwide celebrity.
BEFORE WE BEGIN
This is a long post and has a trigger warning as I discuss abuse and miscarriages
The information I am sharing here considers both reliable and unreliable sources, documents, quotes etc. I will be talking about many speculations whether they are accurate or not. Not all of the below are myths, some are true.
As always, I shall look at that information and whether there’s any factual evidence that supports the claims made. Sometimes I will mention my personal opinions, but it doesn’t mean I am correct. You can have your own opinions but my job here is to break down where these myths have come from and state factual information to support or dismiss them.
I am saying all of this because many members of the Marilyn Monroe community have their favourite husband and they feel it is perfectly okay to be hypocritical in their thinking, defending one husband for their behaviour whilst condoning another for doing the same.
Finally, I absolutely do not condone or make excuses for some of the claims within this post. As mentioned earlier, these men met Marilyn at different periods of her life and their own lives. I have respect for each man for different reasons but we aren’t here for my opinion. What I want to do is remind people that things aren’t always black and white, especially with Marilyn Monroe.
Marilyn Monroe was married on three occasions. And all of those marriages were very different.
The first was to James (Jimmy) Dougherty in 1942. In order to remain out of an orphanage, she was advised to marry Jimmy. They met on a few occasions and decided it was the best choice and that they could happily get by being husband and wife. Norma Jeane attempted to throw herself into married life, but she was still a young girl and had a lot to learn. However, as time went on Norma Jeane became unhappy. Jimmy was suspected of seeing an ex-girlfriend and he wasn’t supportive of her new career as a model. She divorced him in 1946.
The second was to baseball legend, Joe DiMaggio. The two met on a blind date in 1952, marrying two years later only to divorce nine months after saying “I do.” The two continued seeing one another until the summer of 1955 when Marilyn began seeing her (still married) future husband, playwright, Arthur Miller.
Marilyn and Arthur met in 1951 at a party but did not meet again until 1955. The earliest published letters are dated at the start of 1956 but it is safe to assume Marilyn and Arthur started seeing one another in the summer or end of 1955. They were married in 1956, separated in 1960 and divorced in 1961.
After her break up with Arthur, Marilyn and Joe became reacquainted, in somewhat of an “open relationship.” They remained close friends until her death in 1962.
“Norma Jeane was happiest with Jimmy”
Despite Norma Jeane’s best efforts as a teenager to be a “good wife”, she stated later on in 1962 that her “last two” marriages were her happiest (aka Joe and Arthur). Marilyn also stated she didn’t enjoy sex when she was married to him and this possibly was due to the set-up of the marriage.
“Norma Jeane wanted a baby”
According to some biographers and Jimmy, Norma Jeane wanted to get pregnant to keep him home from the merchant marines. However, being as young as she was, it is unlikely she would’ve committed herself to such a burden. Whether she did for certain is a mystery.
“Jimmy was the only one to treat her right”
Many like to state that Norma Jeane would’ve been better off with Jimmy than with her later husbands. But as stated previously, she confessed that she was unhappy with him.
She stated to friends, “All I wanted was to find out what I was. Jim thought he knew, and that I should’ve been satisfied. But I wasn’t. That marriage was over long before the war ended.”
From her own notes, she even discusses his unfaithfulness and Maurice Zolotow’s biography even discusses physical fights between the couple.
“Jimmy wanted her to quit modelling”
This is true.
Jimmy was unhappy about her career writing to her, “All this business of modeling is fine, but when I get out of the service we’re going to have a family and you’re going to settle down. You can only have one career, and a woman can’t be two places at once.”
Of course, this opinion wasn’t unheard of in the 1940s. But it’s this mentality which had Norma Jeane file for divorce.
“Their sex life was satisfying”
Jimmy claimed that he and Norma Jeane had a fruitful sex life. “I was a lucky man!”
But not according to Marilyn… “I wasn’t very well informed about sex. Let’s just say that some things seemed more natural to me than others. I just wanted to please him, and at first, I found it all a little strange. I didn’t know if I was doing it right.”
“Norma Jeane was faithful to Jimmy”
It was believed for years that Andre De Dienes lied about his affair with Norma Jeane… She had stated that she was faithful to Jim. But this wasn’t the case. De Dienes actually had evidence to back up his claim which came to light in 2019 at auction:
“My Dearest W.W. I’m so much in love with / you, Andre my darling…Don’t worry W.W. I’m being / a good girl. I wouldn’t for / the world be insincere toward / you… / all I / think about is Andre, Andre, / Andre. When will he ever get / here”
There are also telegrams and letters that imply the relationship was beyond professional.
“Marilyn was seeing other men whilst with Joe”
Photographer Sam Shaw once stated, “If Marilyn slept with every guy that claims he was with her, she would have never had time to make any movies.”
According to book critic Robert Slatzer, he and Marilyn were dating and even eloped and got married in 1952 – whilst she was dating Joe DiMaggio. Allan “Whitey” Snyder backed up this relationship to Anthony Summers stating, “In my opinion, she always loved him very much.
Unfortunately, this connection has ultimately made Whitey an unreliable source as Robert Slatzer had absolutely no proof of this marriage, relationship or friendship with Marilyn. There is only proof he met her twice in 1952 whilst she was filming Niagara using his press pass despite knowing her since she was Norma Jeane.
But Slatzer became an obsessive pest, writing articles to gossip magazines such as Confidential about their “relationship”, later going on to claim he knew what happened the night Marilyn died and so on. The claims made in 1957 had supposedly upset Marilyn so much she had considered suing the magazine. Essentially, all claims of this bond have been debunked. There are absolutely no other connections between Marilyn and Slatzer (no letters, telephone records, phone numbers in her address book, or other photos). Whitey, although a loving friend and colleague to Marilyn, seems to have been swept up in the lies. Whether he was paid to make certain claims is unknown. Unless items suddenly turn up at auction, Slatzer is deemed unreliable.
Milton Greene, a friend and business partner who had last seen Marilyn in 1957 had also made claims of a relationship. In a book written by another unreliable biographer, Norman Mailer, Milton claims he had a brief relationship with Marilyn in 1953 stating, “Amy (his wife) never knew about the sex”. Amy, outliving her husband, has never stated this affair was true. Marilyn and Joe were also rather serious in their relationship at this point, but again there’s no valid proof other than the testimony decades after Marilyn’s death.
William Travilla, a costume designer considered to be a good friend to Marilyn, also claimed to have had an affair when he was married and Marilyn was with Joe. Again, there is no proof and until there is, we can dismiss this claim as unlikely.
“Joe wouldn’t let Marilyn out of his sight”
Being Marilyn’s partner and husband, it shouldn’t be surprising that Joe spent a lot of time with his wife.
Marilyn was often taken to dinners and parties by Joe, with him leaving her at the door so he could do his own thing and she does hers.
The fact of the matter is Marilyn did a lot without Joe. Not just because he didn’t want to be in the limelight, or because he was an introvert or because he was “cold” and a “loner” but because their schedules didn’t allow it.
When Marilyn was asked why Joe wasn’t with her for the filming of The Seven Year Itch, she said, “We just can’t seem to fit the schedules together.” Of course, Joe did arrive in New York for some of the shoot (which will be discussed shortly).
Photographer Jock Carroll said Marilyn vainly tried to explain to Joe that she wouldn’t be able to visit him due to a schedule change which also likely caused tensions in the marriage.
“Joe didn’t support her achievements”
Joe was a huge celebrity throughout his career and retirement. One who wasn’t a fan of the spotlight. Therefore, if he attended events that were to celebrate Marilyn, it may have taken the spotlight off her. It was not a shock for Marilyn when Joe didn’t attend events such as award ceremonies or Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (he met her after instead).
“He hates premieres and parties. So do I. But it’s my business to go. It makes no difference that we’re married. Joe has always been like this. I knew what he was like before we were married,” said Marilyn to Modern Screen in 1954. “He wouldn’t come then, and I don’t think it’s fair to him to try and change him now. I married him from what he was when I fell in love with him.”
She had even stated that when she met Joe she had, “expected a flashy New York sports type and instead I met this reserved guy who didn’t make a pass at me right away.”
“Their marriage was a publicity stunt”
“Joe and I had been talking about getting married for some months,” Monroe told Ben Hecht. “We knew it wouldn’t be an easy marriage. On the other hand, we couldn’t keep on going forever as a pair of cross-country lovers. It might begin to hurt both our careers.”
Joe had apparently suggested doing it during her suspension from the studio and then having their honeymoon in Japan and Korea where he was travelling to on baseball business.
They had been together for two years and likely felt it was the “proper” thing to do in order to be together without scandal.
“Joe was jealous of Marilyn’s fame”
Joe DiMaggio was, and possibly still is, one of the biggest names in baseball history.
He was incredibly famous in his own right. And he hated it. According to Jimmy Cannon, “Fame irritated DiMaggio. He is one of the loneliest men I’ve ever met and usually he moved through crowds. The flattery most men enjoy embarrasses him. I’ve spent most of my adult life in the newspaper business. Joe DiMaggio is the shyest public man I met.”
Joe was quoted in True Magazine in 1954:
“I suppose I’ve tried to avoid the spotlight off the ball field. Like any other guy with a job, I liked a private life when the day’s work was done. This was seldom possible. Since I’ve been married to Marilyn I’ve led a normal, quiet life. Of course, I’m out of baseball now, and that makes a difference.”
Joe wanted a private life, out of the spotlight and Marilyn’s increasing fame harmed that privacy. This explains his irritation on their (technically second) honeymoon when Marilyn was happy to pose for the cameras and answer questions. It was perfectly understandable for him to be irritated at the nature of some of the questions such as whether she slept in the nude and photographers taking images from underneath, attempting to upskirt her.
In an interview, he smiles whilst stating he hadn’t seen Marilyn much on the trip due to her meeting troops in Korea and his busy schedule. However, this Korea tour was not the spontaneous event biographers make it out to be. Marilyn had planned to visit Korea for some time, and Cary Grant had even given advice to her in a letter. Joe and Lefty O’Doul were also busy with their own trip.
Joe had met Marilyn just as her career was starting to take off and therefore there was no way to tell how it may have affected their relationship at that point as she wasn’t as busy as she had been. Considering she had stated at the start of marriage she wanted to settle down and start a family, it’s not unreasonable for Joe to feel frustrated and confused by her actions which went against everything she had stated to both him and the press..
Marilyn told Ben Hecht:
“My publicity, like Joe’s greatness, is something on the outside. It has nothing to do with what we actually are.”
“Joe was physically abusive to Marilyn”
This is one of the most common items that crop up whenever one speaks about Joe DiMaggio. It’s also an incredibly sensitive subject.
Did Joe DiMaggio hit Marilyn? Well, possibly. It can never be fully confirmed. Neither Joe nor Marilyn ever discussed this in public or in notes or letters. Marilyn was previously open about her abuse from her childhood but never mentioned any sort of abuse from Joe later. Arthur Miller, Marilyn’s third husband, had never mentioned it either. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible but the proof is limited to a few claims from others.
In the 1950s, when the couple were married, it was accepted and even expected that a husband could strike his wife if he felt she was out of line in any way. Jimmy, Marilyn’s first husband, during an argument, shoved her head under a cold shower to “cool her off”.
Obviously, this is by no means justification and there were plenty of men who did not hit their partners in this era.
It is considered today as being repugnant behaviour, which it absolutely is, but in “those times” it wasn’t, it was very normal. Many males, including celebrities, during that time period, would’ve been physically abusive to their partners.
Allan “Whitey” Snyder stated to Anthony Summers, “he beat her up a bit” but whether this was witnessed or spoken about between Marilyn and Whitey cannot be certain. As mentioned in an earlier point, some of his claims have been highly debatable.
An unnamed publicist claims, “Joe wasn’t any great hero in Marilyn’s life. He was vicious. He couldn’t have treated her worse. He beat the hell out of her and she was terrified. He continued bothering her months after their divorce. It seems nice and considerate not to talk to anybody because of his precious memories, but he was rotten to her. I’m not sure how they got back as friends near the end… I know their friendship was blown out of all proportion by the newspapers.”
Another unnamed friend of Joe’s had supposedly said, “He was smacking her around, yes.”
Other rumours have circulated such as a broken thumb Marilyn had in 1954 before their honeymoon. Marilyn claimed, “I just bumped it.” There have been many origins to the broken thumb and none can be verified.
She was also seen with a large bruise on her right arm whilst visiting Marlon Brando on the set of Desiree whilst she was filming There’s No Business Like Show Business.
According to Bunny Gardel (Fox make-up artist), Marilyn would bruise easily during this time. But Bunny had not worked with Marilyn during her relationship with Joe DiMaggio, so it is unlikely how she would have known this for certain. Marilyn had said to reporters that she bit herself in her sleep. Marilyn also had an iron deficiency which can lead to bruising. She confirmed her anaemia in January 1955 stating, “I had anaemia pretty badly.”
It should be pointed out that a bruise doesn’t equal abuse. At the same time just because someone has said how they achieved bruises or injuries, doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth. However, Joe shouldn’t be blamed for every bruise seen on Marilyn. For example…
The image above shows bruising again but was taken in 1960, whilst Marilyn was married to Arthur, interestingly in the same position as the 1954 arm bruise.
Did Marilyn leave Joe because of the abuse? When asked by Maurice Zolotow the real reason why she divorced Joe, she said:
“For the reasons I gave in court. I know a lot of women, when they’re getting a divorce they put out reasons which are not the true reasons. But I said the truth. He didn’t talk to me. He was cold. He was indifferent to me as a human being and an artist. He didn’t want me to have friends of my own. He didn’t want me to do my work. He really watched television instead of talking to me. So what I said in my testimony was really so.”
Joe never denied or admitted to these rumours.
“He physically abused her after she filmed The Seven Year Itch subway grate scene”
In the early hours of 15 September 1954 hundreds of journalists and photographers swarmed Lexington Avenue to watch Marilyn Monroe perform one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history. Joe was convinced by gossip columnist Walter Winchell to go too. This didn’t bode well with Joe, seeing his wife’s crotch be exposed to thousands of prying eyes for the sake of publicity. The rumour is when Marilyn returned to the St Regis Hotel, she and Joe argued and he was physically abusive. The levels of abuse vary from whoever tells the story.
One of the earliest mentions of a fight that night comes via Norman Mailer in 1973, stating that hotel guests in nearby rooms heard “shouting, scuffling, and weeping before the dawn”. From that point on it is hard to tell whether people witnessed much of this abuse, or they were getting their information from Mailer’s book (which he admitted he mostly got from speculation). People in the hotel did witness shouting coming from Marilyn and Joe’s room. But was it a physically violent argument?
Amy Greene reportedly said to Anthony Summers in 1983, “her back was black and blue – I couldn’t believe it.” However, in the documentary Love, Marilyn, Amy questions where these claims came from. She doesn’t deny his anger on set but goes on to state that Joe is “one of my Gods” and that she would never “say anything bad about Joe DiMaggio.” Safe to say IF Amy really did make this statement, she retracted this claim.
Later that day before her flight to LA, on 15 September, Marilyn was photographed by Philippe Halsman (I personally confirmed this with the official Halsman Instagram account).
No comments were made about her demeanour and Marilyn seemed in good spirits before she and Joe left New York the following day. That’s not to say the marriage wasn’t in trouble… it definitely was. Joe by no means was a good husband to Marilyn.
Gladys Rasmussen, Marilyn’s hairstylist for the film also claimed to Summers in 1983, “they had a suite in a real old, beautiful hotel. And he beat her up a little bit. Marilyn said that she screamed and yelled for us. But we couldn’t hear her through those thick walls … It was more on her shoulders. But with a little makeup, she went ahead and worked.”
However, others have said that they could hear them shouting through the walls contradicting this tale. Not to mention Marilyn and Joe flew home on 16 September so Gladys wouldn’t have seen any bruising the next day as she wasn’t working.
A similar quote from Gladys and Whitey is combined in Spoto’s biography with Gladys claiming, “he beat her up a bit. There were bruises on her shoulders, but we covered them with make-up.”
Natasha Lytess who despised Joe and had an odd obsession with Marilyn later made claims of abuse too but Natasha also implied Marilyn was a lesbian and they had a relationship.
Another source often used to back up this story is hairstylist Sydney Guilaroff. Apparently, Marilyn had said, “Joe beat me up twice… he slapped me around the hotel room.” Sydney Guilaroff is not considered by Marilyn researchers as a reliable source so his testimony on this could be questionable. One of his many claims was that said Marilyn had contacted him on the day she died, 4 August 1962, and that “Robert Kennedy was here, threatening me, yelling at me… you know, I know a lot of secrets about what has gone on in Washington, dangerous secrets.” However, RFK had absolutely no involvement in Marilyn’s death as he was with his family at John Bates’s ranch from 3-6 August 1962.
It should be noted Joe went to therapy after the divorce (and after the Wrong Door Raid then he definitely needed it but that’s a story for another day) and credited Marilyn for him taking this step at a time when therapy was considered not a very masculine task to undertake. He wrote a list of things he wanted to do in order to improve his relationship with Marilyn in 1955. None of these items mentions violence.
He also attended the premiere of The Seven Year Itch with Marilyn in June 1955 something he had not done before. If this scene had enraged him to the point of abusive behaviour, it’s doubtful he would’ve attended a screening with his ex-wife. Needless to say, Marilyn clearly made amends with Joe and forgave him for wrongdoing – whatever that may have been. That’s not to say his behaviour, violence or no violence, was acceptable.
Safe to say that many of the claims of abuse on that night come from questionable sources, were retracted OR were discussed two decades after the event supposedly happened. However, this does not mean it didn’t happen, it just means we have no reliable proof.
“Joe tried to make Marilyn quit her career as an actress”
Although it is true Joe disliked how Marilyn was treated by the studio, that’s not to say he insisted she quit her job as an actress. Quite the opposite.
Joe quit his job in New York to be able to move to Los Angeles in order for Marilyn to work. Even after the divorce, and her subsequent marriage (and divorce) in 1961, he stated she should consider buying a home in California for work and not New York. Joe even loaned her money to help buy the property in Brentwood. He also helped her negotiate the terms of her contracts with the studio whilst they were married and had her hire a business manager to ensure her life and career were organised.
Many husbands, as proven by Jimmy (and later by Arthur), expected their wives to settle down and start a family. Joe was no exception. Marilyn had repeated to the press when they got married that being a wife was her priority before her career and that she wanted to have several children with her husband. But Marilyn was becoming more and more famous, making it very difficult for the couple to have their own lives out of the view of the media.
Marilyn’s press agent Lois Weber Smith recalled:
“For a while, when they were married, Marilyn had the idea she could have both lives, the private and the public. She deceived herself in that. She couldn’t keep them separate. The press wouldn’t allow it. They were both too big, too famous, too much a part of America to just disappear when they weren’t working.”
“Joe saved her from Payne Whitney”
The day before Marilyn was mistakenly institutionalised against her knowledge, she attempted to contact Joe. Whilst confined to the hospital she managed to get in touch with him but Joe would not have had the legal authority to have Marilyn released, only Dr Marianne Kris.
A letter to Lee Strasberg written by Marilyn during her stay at Payne Whitney implies Marilyn had asked the hospital to contact both Dr Kris and Joe.
It’s more likely Joe put pressure on Dr Kris to have Marilyn released, as opposed to doing it himself. He then helped Marilyn check into Columbia Presbyterian hospital where she could rest and recover from her ordeal.
“Marilyn and Joe were going to get remarried in 1962”
After Marilyn and Arthur were divorced, Joe asked a friend if he would ask Marilyn if it were okay to get in touch. Marilyn agreed.
Joe and Marilyn spent plenty of time together during the last years of her life. Marilyn insisted to the press they were “just good friends” but because she had said this before, the media speculated they were back together.
When Marilyn was flying to New York, her plane had experienced from engine trouble so had to turn back to the airport. She sent a telegram to Joe under a pseudonym:
“Dear Dad Darling [longtime nickname for Joe] airplane developed engine trouble plus all oil ran out of same plane so we had to turn back and land back in LA. Leaving again on another plane at 5pm arrive New York 1pm. When plane was in trouble I thought about two things, you and changing my will. Love you I think, more then ever. -Mrs. Norman.“
It has been rumoured Marilyn had been fitted for a wedding dress in the weeks leading up to her death, however, she was being fitted for a premiere.
A letter written by Marilyn around the time of her death implied her feelings for Joe were more than just friendship, but this does not insinuate marriage was on the cards, especially when the pressures of marriage caused their relationship to break down in the first place.
Pink note: Dear Joe, If I can only succeed in making you happy – I will have succeeded in the bigest (sic) and most difficult thing there is – that is to make one person completely happy. Your happiness means my happiness.
White note: Dear Joe, If I can only succeed in making you happy – I will have succeeded in the bigest (sic) and most difficult thing there is – that is to make one person completely happy. Joe
“Joe planned her funeral and banned many people from attending”
Inez Melson, Marilyn’s business manager confirmed in a BBC interview that she was in charge of the guest list for Marilyn’s funeral and Joe simply helped her and Berniece make arrangements.
“Joe sent flowers to Marilyn’s grave until his death”
Joe sent flowers to Marilyn’s crypt thrice a week from 1962 to 1982. Joe died in 1999 and never commented on the roses, or why he stopped sending them.
“Joe hated the Kennedys”
It is believed by fans that Joe hated the Kennedys because of the “affairs” or because he felt they had some involvement with her death. Joe supported them and was even invited to the inauguration. He even stated that JFK was a “hero” in 1979.
“Joe’s dying words were ‘I finally get to see Marilyn.'”
Joe DiMaggio died in 1999 from lung cancer and was in the hospital at the time of his death. With him were his lawyer, Morris Engelberg, his brother, Dom DiMaggio and his granddaughters. According to Engelberg Joe had said “I finally get to see Marilyn” before passing away. Dom has said this was not true. Not only is Engelberg a shady character but due to the pain medication, Joe would not have been able to speak. A hospice worker also stated Joe had no last words and therefore, it’s highly unlikely Joe mentioned Marilyn before passing.
Thoughts on Joe and Marilyn
Ignoring the rumours of abuse, which have never been confirmed by any reliable sources, Joe wasn’t a good husband to Marilyn in the nine months they were married. They seemed happy in their two years of dating and had a good friendship in the last two years of her life. Maybe if Joe had done therapy whilst they were married things would’ve worked out differently. And perhaps if Marilyn wasn’t so overworked between 1953 and 1955 he would’ve felt better about her career but the reality was Joe barely saw Marilyn and when he did she was exhausted. Things didn’t work out in their marriage but it is a positive that he was able to be there for her when she needed him most.
“Arthur used her for fame”
Arthur Miller was a prolific Pulitzer Prize winner and playwright years before he met Marilyn Monroe. In fact, Marilyn was a fan of his work before she became his mistress.
He had written over a dozen plays before marrying her and was incredibly well-known in the literary world. In fact, many people wondered if Marilyn was using Arthur in order to be taken more seriously.
It was only when he had become reacquainted with Marilyn did his work decrease. It could be said being Marilyn’s husband was a job in itself, especially when her addiction to prescription pills and constant need for validation via her acting coaches had become an issue.
It’s also unlikely that Arthur expected Marilyn to keep working at the rate she had in previous years. In September 1956, whilst in England he told journalists Marilyn will make one movie every eighteen months for a maximum of twelve weeks and for the other fifteen months will “be my wife, that’s a full-time job.”
“Arthur was the reason why she stopped talking to Milton Greene”
Amy Greene believes Arthur’s jealousy of Milton is what caused their partnership in Marilyn Monroe Productions to cease and for Marilyn to fall out with Milton in 1957. However, letters from Arthur in 1956 discuss how Marilyn and Milton had a tense relationship in June 1956. “ALL of these Milton troubles and Josh troubles and all that crap is nonsense that will fade off as soon as I can take charge. You will simply have a business relationship with these people.” In the same letter, Miller says, “I don’t worry about him stealing you from me because you are my soul and nobody can steal my soul.”
The icing on the cake came with The Sleeping Prince (aka The Prince and the Showgirl). Apparently, she had felt Milton had become friendly with Laurence Olivier and this was a betrayal of their friendship. She had also become paranoid that he was spending too much through MMP despite the fact she was also putting a lot of personal expenditure through the company. These issues were beyond Arthur and any jealousy he may or may not have had.
“Marilyn was the insecure one in the relationship”
Although it is true Marilyn was an insecure individual, letters demonstrate how Arthur himself was jealous and insecure.
In June 1956 he begs her in a letter to “Love me. Love me. You will never regret it for as long as you live.”
He also discusses his fear of not being able to satisfy her, “The main thing I saw was that it had all worked to make me unconsciously jealous of you and fearful that in fact I was not ‘big enough’ for you and could not satisfy you either sexually or as a friend and a man. To say that I do not satisfy you implies that someone else could. In turn, I am therefore in danger of being ‘replaced.’ The final development, therefore, is withdrawal to one degree or another, and the deadening by degrees of my confidence in myself in relation to you.”
On September 21, 1956, he wrote:
“I am going to do a risky thing. I am going to try to tell you as precisely as I know how what has been going on in me—but beyond the point where my defenses stand…. One of the feelings in me is jealousy…. I only realize now that certain things began to press in on me, some of them very subtle, until the point has come where I must face them for both our sakes so that they may be understood and be deprived of their effect on me.”
“Arthur ran away to NYC after ‘the diary incident'”
The “diary incident” occurred six weeks into Marilyn and Arthur’s England trip in 1956. This coincides with Marilyn’s first absence from filming The Sleeping Prince on 22-24 August.
She had read his diary whilst looking for her script and the diary was supposedly left open at a pivotal point. Marilyn noticing her name read the contents with the passages being of a negative and insulting nature.
On 24 August, on one of the days Marilyn was absent from filming she was photographed dining out in London not wearing her wedding ring.
According to Berniece Miracle, Marilyn’s half-sister, Marilyn told her, “He said he agreed with Larry that I could be a bitch.”
Ralph Roberts had spoken to Marilyn about it briefly during a massage, with Paula Strasberg telling him that he had written, “I’ve really done it. I thought I was marrying an angel, and find I’ve married a whore.” Paula told Roberts that she managed to convince Marilyn that his artistic ego had been “battered to such an extent he had to flail out at her.”
The Sleeping Prince publicist Jerry Juroe said, “It was the ultimate betrayal.”
This slip-up left a dark mark on the marriage, with Marilyn mentioning it throughout the marriage to friends and family. Staff at their rented home, Parkside Manor, noticed a shift in the atmosphere. Alan, who played the piano at the house heard arguments and felt Marilyn’s health suffered after the event.
It was something that she never got over. Arthur didn’t discuss it in his autobiography but does allude to it in his play After the Fall. He also told biographer Fred Lawerence Guiles that he did not recall the exact words used but admitted it did have something to do with Marilyn’s working relationship with Laurence Olivier. It is unknown if he left the diary out for Marilyn to see or whether this was never meant to have been read by her.
Understandably Marilyn was deeply hurt and upset, especially as someone with little self-esteem. But in defence of Arthur, personal notes about a relationship can be written out of anger or frustration. He probably didn’t expect Marilyn to read his personal journal and probably had not realised her insecurities. Arthur and Marilyn truly had a whirlwind romance, built on lust and passion. He was married and they only began to get to know one another after his divorce.
People think he was deterred by this incident and flew back to New York in order to avoid confrontation. But this wasn’t the case. On 26 August Arthur left England to return to the USA but this trip had been planned since the beginning of the trip. A month before, columnist David Lewin wrote about Arthur’s plans which included a trip back to the US at the end of August in order to deal with his legal issues with the House Un-American Activities Committee.
“Marilyn was pregnant with Arthur’s baby during the filming of The Sleeping Prince“
There was speculation in 1956 that Marilyn’s absences were a result of pregnancy-induced illness. This was not the case.
Marilyn is confirmed to have been pregnant in 1957 resulting in an ectopic pregnancy and in 1958 ending in miscarriage. Arthur discusses the first pregnancy as being in 1957 so any earlier than that can be dismissed.
“Arthur made money from being married to Marilyn”
This is partly true. Marilyn had made Arthur Vice President of Marilyn Monroe Productions after she and Milton parted ways meaning he had a share in the company.
Marilyn also wrote several checks to Arthur totalling $47,300.00
Arthur also went against a writer’s strike in order to help with the scriptwriting of Let’s Make Love just like he had offered to do with The Sleeping Prince (“I can go through the script and make the changes”).
He also stated how being married to Marilyn has helped his career:
“Marry Marilyn was the greatest thing I ever did. It’s done my work a lot of good.
“Arthur didn’t help Marilyn with her addiction”
As of 1956, Marilyn began regularly taking medication to assist with her anxiety and sleep. These barbiturates were highly addictive and one of the hardest drugs to stop taking.
Some consider it irresponsible of Arthur to have let it get as out of hand as it did. But Marilyn was not an easy person to convince and she was an addict.
Even after getting pregnant and losing her babies and being weaned off the pills in 1961, Marilyn never gave up the pills for longer than a few weeks.
It doesn’t matter who attempted to reason with her about the medication, it’s incredibly hard to come off certain prescriptions. Arthur stated, “She was a flower of iron to survive this onslaught.” He was very aware the only person that could get Marilyn off the pills, was Marilyn.
“Arthur used The Misfits to punish Marilyn”
What started as a romantic gesture in 1957 turned into the breaking point of Marilyn and Arthur’s marriage. She had felt that her life was being exposed and mocked via Roslyn, by the man she had once loved.
Marilyn was incredibly sensitive and perhaps Arthur made a mistake by making such a personal script. By this point, the relationship was definitely on its way out and the constant rewrites made life a lot harder for the couple. By the end of the film, they were no longer together.
“Arthur left Marilyn in 1960”
According to Ralph Roberts’s diary, on 31 October 1960 (at the end of filming The Misfits) at 5:30 am he heard Marilyn scream, “Get out of here and don’t you dare ever return. I’ve finally had enough of you for years but this is it! I don’t give a damn where you go! To Hell, for all I care.”
Despite Marilyn having an affair with Yves Montand during the filming of Let’s Make Love, it was Marilyn who broke off the marriage. Despite this dramatic ending Marilyn and Arthur made amends and spoke respectfully of their marriage in the press.
“Arthur cheated on Marilyn with Inge Morath”
Magnum photographer Inge Morath was one of many who took photos on the set of The Misfits. It was here she would meet Arthur Miller, who would later become her husband and father to her children. However, their relationship did not start until after Marilyn and Arthur broke up.
“Arthur didn’t love Marilyn”
Marilyn and Arthur were very much in love at the start of their relationship. You can see from their letters how much he appreciated Marilyn.
However, career pressures, issues with Arthur and the HUAC, the miscarriages, Marilyn’s dependence on medication and constant need for reassurance caused a lot of issues in the marriage.
Arthur later said, “I too was struggling because I could not smash her enemies with one magic stroke, our own relationship was wounded because she was beyond my reassurance, she had no means of preventing the complete unravelling of her belief in a person once a single thread was broken.”
“Arthur didn’t care about his son Daniel”
Although Marilyn doesn’t have anything to do with this point, it’s one people love to bring up.
When Arthur and Inge were married they had two children – Rebecca and Daniel. Daniel was born with Down Syndrome in 1966 and was institutionalised shortly after.
Broadway producer and friend Robert Whitehead said “Arthur was terribly shaken—he used the term ‘mongoloid’. He said ‘I’m going to have to put the baby away.’”
A friend of Inge’s visited Roxbury, about a week later. “I was sitting at the bottom of the bed, and Inge was propped up, and my memory is that she was holding the baby and she was very, very unhappy. Inge wanted to keep the baby, but Arthur wasn’t going to let her keep him.” Apparently, Arthur felt it would be very hard for Rebecca, and for the household to raise Daniel at home. Another friend remembers that “it was a decision that had Rebecca at the center.”
This may seem cold and cruel, however, despite the lack of conversation surrounding Daniel, it appears this choice was not an easy one for Arthur or Inge. This was the 1960s and there was very little knowledge, tolerance or support for those with Down Syndrome.
Rebecca Miller later made a documentary about her father entitled, Arthur Miller: Writer. “I found myself not doubting the doctor’s conclusions, but feeling a welling up of love for him. I dared not touch him, lest I end by taking him home, and I wept.”
Due to the heartbreak of having his son in his care, Arthur never visited or publicly acknowledged Daniel (other than in the Arthur Miller: Writer). Inge visited Daniel often and supposedly his son-in-law Daniel Day-Lewis managed to convince him to see Daniel.
“Arthur wasn’t invited to the funeral”
There is no initial invite list for the funeral and therefore it is uncertain whether he was asked personally by Inez or Berniece and ultimately declined.
In an unpublished 1962 essay, Arthur wrote, “Instead of jetting to the funeral to get my picture taken I decided to stay home and let the public mourners finish the mockery. Not that everyone there will be false, but enough. Most of them there destroyed her, ladies and gentlemen.”
“She was destroyed by many things, and some of those things are you,” he said, referring to the entitled big shots in Hollywood. “Now as you stand there weeping and gawking, glad that it is not you going into the earth, glad that it is this lovely girl who you at last killed.”
Thoughts on Marilyn & Arthur
Being married to Marilyn at that time in her life would not have been an easy experience. She was struggling with her self-esteem and mental health. But Arthur endured and continued to try and make it work. Outsiders looking in would later comment on how cruel Marilyn would be to Arthur at times. Perhaps Marilyn was attempting to get a reaction out of him. Again, we cannot judge, we can only surmise.
Arthur encountered a lot with Marilyn. They lost two children together and everything they did was in the public eye. Other than his passionate love letters to Marilyn, his telegram to Billy Wilder demonstrated how much he cared for his wife.
It’s a shame it did not work but they were not meant to be.
What is unfortunate is how Arthur felt it was appropriate to release a play, two years after Marilyn’s death, based on their marriage. The parallels are hauntingly similar and in poor taste.
Arthur had begun to write After The Fall when still married to Marilyn and eventually completed it and had it produced in 1964. This would’ve broken Marilyn if she had still been alive. His own friends such as Norman Rosten felt this was distasteful and disrespectful. Which it was.
WJ Weatherby stated, “Miller was obviously writing out of deep personal experience and, although Maggie was only a shadow of Marilyn – the other side of Roslyn in The Misfits, the missing side that made her unsatisfying in the movie and hard for Monroe to make convincing – it was easy to see how Miller thought Marilyn had died, and why. But many admirers of hers were indignant at the portrait and the interpretation. James Baldwin, for example, was seen stalking up the aisle and out of the theatre before the end of the play.”
From Rebecca Miller’s documentary about her father, “The play addressed his own failure to ‘save’ Marilyn, and the realisation that ‘people were far more difficult to change than I had allowed myself to believe.’ It was a success, but due to its shocking portrayal of Monroe’s downfall, was subject to ‘ugly, strident criticism’ and ‘vicious attacks’ in the press. ‘I managed to have an illusion that this wasn’t really Marilyn,’ Miller says, ‘… but it was close enough …’”
Arthur was married to Inge until her death. Arthur quickly (too quickly in my opinion) got into a relationship, with Agnes Barley who was almost 50 years younger than him