The late Marilyn Monroe may have been famous for her fantastic, enduring style and memorable movie roles, but the famous actress also had several marriages. Beyond her life on the silver screen starring in movies including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot, Marilyn had some epic romances that live on in Hollywood lore. Here’s everything to know about Marilyn Monroe’s three husbands, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, playwright Arthur Miller, and police officer James Dougherty.
Marilyn was all of 16 years old when she married James, a 21-year-old police officer and childhood friend, and she wasn’t even known as Marilyn Monroe yet — the pretty teenager still went by the name of Norma Jean Baker. It was a marriage of convenience and purpose, as she was set to return to an orphanage after her foster parents moved. Her 1942 marriage to James kept her from that fate, though she did drop out of school to become a housewife. The marriage only really lasted until the gorgeous teen was noticed by a photographer in 1944, and Marilyn subsequently divorced James in 1946.
James later stated that he was in love with Norma Jean, but not Marilyn, whose career he followed throughout the rest of her short life. “People find it hard to understand,” said Dougherty in a 1976 interview published in The Salt Lake Tribue. “I was in love with Norma Jean. Marilyn Monroe is a person I didn’t know.” The young beauty, of course, was destined to become a legendary sex symbol, but James believed that fame destroyed her. “Fame was injurious to her,” he told the Associated Press in 2002. She was too gentle to be an actress. She wasn’t tough enough for Hollywood.” James wrote a book about his marriage to Norma Jean in 2000 entitled To Norma Jean, With Love, Jimmie and he passed away in 2005 after being married twice more and having three children.
“Yankee Clipper” Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn began dating in 1952, and the relationship was intense from the beginning. Although the press attempted to cover the couple’s romance from every angle, they kept a fairly low profile, finally marrying on January 14, 1954 at San Francisco City Hall, Marilyn famously wearing a smart black suit dress for the happy occasion. But the marriage would only last five months — Marilyn’s now world-famous subway grate scene from The Seven Year Itch touched a nerve with Joe, and after a massive fight, the two decided to part ways in October of 1954.
Although the marriage was short, Marilyn and Joe seemed to love each other deeply. “The truth is that we were very much alike,” Monroe said to author and ghostwriter Ben Hecht in her memoir My Story. Marilyn publicly announced the split while openly crying, citing “mental cruelty,” and Joe responded in a personal letter. “I love you and want to be with you. … There is nothing I would like better than to restore your confidence in me. … My heart split even wider seeing you cry in front of all those people,” he wrote, according to Biography.
When Marilyn succumbed to a barbiturate overdose on August 4, 1962, it was Joe that claimed her body, and the heartbroken baseball great would go on to have roses delivered to her crypt at Westwood Village Memorial Cemetery in Los Angeles for two decades following her death.
Marilyn next married Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and screenwriter Arthur Miller, with whom she’d had a brief fling in 1951, prior to meeting Joe. Miller divorced his first wife to marry Marilyn on June 29, 1956, but again, the problems started almost immediately. It didn’t help that during the Cold War paranoia of the era, he was under suspicion of being a communist sympathizer, but their completely different lifestyles and backgrounds ultimately proved too much.
The odd couple announced their plans to split on November 11, 1960, and the divorce was finalized January 20, 1961. Her death in August of 1962 followed rumors of an affair with then-president John F. Kennedy and substance abuse problems, but her legend only grew in the aftermath of her death. Arthur famously didn’t attend her funeral, but his biographer Professor Christopher Bigsby insisted that he loved her deeply. “He was completely bowled over by her,” he said of Arthur, according to The Independent. “It was certainly a love affair. One of his love letters to her was an almost adolescent outpouring of love.”