What it’s like to be married to Marilyn Monroe



April 1958 Inside Story

“What would marriage to Marilyn Monroe be like?

Does she dawdle over her dressing and makeup? Does she hand her washed stockings over the shaving mirror? Would she rather watch the ‘Late Late Show’ or come to bed?

Does she encourage other men to make passes? Can she cook a decent meal – or isn’t that really important?

I interviewed dozens of people who have known the blonde charmer more or less intimately through her three marriages. I talked with men who knew Marilyn very well before she wed Joe DiMaggio and others who filled her time between the ballplayer and her current playwright husband, Arthur Miller.

And this story is the answer – so far as I know, the first definitive answer to appear in print. It is the frank, intimate INSIDE STORY of what private life is like with one of the world’s most desirable women, Marilyn Monroe.

California cop Jim Dougherty, who married Marilyn in 1942 when she was 16, is a shy, taciturn man, still bewildered by the fact that the shy blonde girl he abandoned in 1943 is today’s queen of the movies.

‘When I married Norma Jean (Marilyn’s real name),’ he said, ‘ she was sweet and innocent. She had a typical adolescent crush on me, things like liking me in white shirts and being fascinated by my mustache.’

A girlfriend who knew Marilyn in those days, however, tells a different story. ;The kid was scared to death of Jim – of any man,’ she told me.

She and Marilyn, the friend recalls, once got hold of a book on sex and marriage and read it in secret. Marilyn was horrified.

‘I don’t think I could ever do anything like that,’ she confided.

On her wedding night, Marilyn sat demurely in a chair with her hands in her lap, while Jim Dougherty prepared for bed.

‘Jim, honey,’ she said, ‘I want to ask you something. Do you mind if we stay just friends?’

Patiently, Dougherty outlined in some detail the extent of what he expected from his bride. To his surprise, Marilyn then told him how, as a very young girl, she had been physically assaulted by a man who boarded with her foster parents.

That wedding night set the mood for their marriage, which lasted hardly a year. Instead of regarding Dougherty as a husband, Marilyn called him ‘Daddy,’ and would spend hours talking about her tragic childhood.

Not even her gradual thawing-out in their marital relationship could compensate Marilyn’s husband for her other childish traits.

She was an incessant talker, although she had little of interest to discuss. In the midst of world war, her conversation was limited to movies, the cost of food and what to make for supper. And the charm of her endless monologue wasn’t heightened by the fact she had a pronounced stutter.

It was hard for Him even to get a word in edgewise. He couldn’t talk about his job and Marilyn froze whenever he told an off-color joke. He soon found himself spending more and more nights out with ‘the boys,’ even though he’d been married to Marilyn only a few months.

To her credit, the young bride was a good housekeeper. Years of semi-slavery in the kitchens of a dozen foster homes had drilled into her the necessity, if not the value, of cleanliness.

‘All his friends – even those who tried to flirt with his wife – felt sorry for Jim. Marilyn was pretty scatterbrained,’ said one of La Monroe’s old-time friends.

Dougherty escaped to the merchant marine, leaving a bewildered bride behind him. For Marilyn, it was a stroke of disguised luck. Low in funds, and with her husband at sea, she turned to modeling jobs, posed for the now-famous nude calendar and finally landed in the movies. She was on her way to stardom.

As a rising queen of the screen, she also become more conscious of her appearance. It was at this time that the famous Monroe habit of being late became evident.

‘She couldn’t be on time for anything even if she tried,’ says Flack Jones, who was her press agent at 20th Century-Fox. ‘When she was making a movie, shooting had to be scheduled a half-hour earlier than usual just to get Marilyn there on time.’

Even recently, when she was invited to the Warner Brothers’ premiere of A Face in the Crowd, the invitation sent to Marilyn was a special one. It read: ‘Performance starts at 8.’ All the other invitations sent out were for 8:30!

‘I knew she was always holding up work at the studio, missing trains and planes, things like that,’ recalled one of Marilyn’s favorite boyfriends after she divorced Dougherty. ‘But I did expect her to be ready for a date when I called.’

The Long Wait

Instead, he said, he would often arrive to find Marilyn running from bedroom to bathroom in nothing but a sheer negligee calling out, ‘I’ll be right with you, honey.’

‘I once got to read five whole chapters of The Brothers Karamazov, just waiting for Marilyn to get her lipstick on,’ says an ex-beau.

Two hours is still about par for Marilyn to make up her face. And during this period between her first and second marriages, she developed a disorderliness that drove her friends and admirers to distraction.

‘Visiting Marilyn,’ recalls one friend, ‘ was like walking into the china shop after the bull got through. Books and records all over the joint, dishes in the sink or on the table, discarded dresses here and there. When you entered the john – if you could get to it – there would be scraps of lipstick-covered tissues, powder all over the mirror. Marilyn’s stockings were usually hanging over the towel rack.’

It Was An ‘Ideal’ Marriage

This boyfriend, who had endeavored in vain to discover the secret at first hand, counted no less than three garter belts, with discarded stockings still attached, on the tile floor.

When Marilyn married Joe DiMaggio, friends said it was an ideal match. The actress, for all her sexiness, was actually a shy, retiring girl. And Joltin’ Joe also was not known for his sociability.

For a brief time they moved in Hollywood party circles, going out as often as possible. But around this time, through the film capital’s intellectuals, Marilyn discovered culture.

From drama coach Benno Schneidershe learned about the Stanislavsky acting method. With her husband’s friend, Frank Sinatra, she talked music. Writers introduced her to the world of books, artists to painting and sculpture. Marilyn was growing in awareness of a strange and wonderful new world.

No Talking In Bed

She wanted to discuss all the things she was learning. But DiMag was happy only when they retired to their Beverly Hills mansion. His idea of a pleasant evening was to spend hours in front of the TV set – and she discouraged conversation even during the commercials.

‘For months,’ recalls a friend, ‘they were holed up in that house. Nobody knew if they were happy or fighting. Marilyn only came out to fo to work, and then she wouldn’t talk about her home life.’

In the beginning, Marilyn apparently enjoyed the seclusion. For the first time, she discovered the real joys of married life.

‘I don’t approve of separate bedrooms,’ she told Joe. ‘Like sometimes when I’m in bed I think of something I want to say and I don’t want to go chasing down the hall to another room.’

Marilyn had indeed changed. Only a few months earlier, she had told an interviewer who asked if she thought she had a bedroom voice: ‘I don’t talk in the bedroom. That’s no place for talking.’

Now that was a sentiment DiMaggio agreed with. But he had something else in mind. He installed a giant television set in the bedroom. And though he readily agreed with Marilyn’s suggestions that they go to bed early, he would promptly switch on the set, ignoring his ravishing wife who lay between the sheets, ‘feeling blonde all over.’

Marilyn didn’t appreciate TV in the bedroom.

‘I think people need to feel warmth next to them when they are asleep, not somebody watching Steve Allen.’

Joe, on the other hand, objected to the way other men ogled his wife and the way she shrugged it off.

‘This would be a very uninteresting world if there weren’t any wolves,’ Marilyn told him. ‘Some are sinister. Others are just trying to get something for nothing. Others make a game of it. The last type is the most interesting.’

DiMaggio didn’t think any type of wolf was interesting, not with Marilyn playing Little Red Riding Hood. He also didn’t like the way her more intimate charms were displayed on the screen.

Their first big blow-up came after Joe watched Marilyn play the famous subway-grill scene in The Seven Year Itch, where a draught from below sent her skirt billowing up to her shoulders.

Shortly after their return to the Coast, Marilyn showed that she could be difficult to live with when crossed. After one argument, she banished her husband to the second floor of the house, while she remained below.

All the talk about double beds and ‘feeling warmth’ was forgotten in the icy chill that settled between them. They were divorced soon afterwards.

A year and a half ago, Marilyn married playwright Arthur Miller, a Brooklyn-born intellectual with horn-rimmed glasses. He was a far cry from Joe DiMaggio, and further still from Jim Dougherty.

Miller is 11 years older than his wife and wise in the ways of the world. Why did he marry Marilyn? How could a studious, orderly intellectual take as a bride a ‘dizzy blonde’ whose ex-husbands found her over-talkative, whose friends called her sloppy, whose co-workers called her silly and scatterbrained?

The secret is simple. Marilyn Monroe, whatever she may have been like to live with before, is not the same girl today. She has changed tremendously.

Even her stuttering has disappeared. She speaks well in public and is no longer afraid of people. Much of this she owed to Lee Strasberg, directer of the Actors Studio, who says:

‘Marilyn came to me a frightened, bewildered, shy girl. Now she is poised, at ease even among the most scholarly intellects who are Arthur Miller’s friends.’

The ‘New’ Marilyn

Although she has learned to talk well, she no longer monopolizes the conversation. She can sit for hours, listening to Arthur and his friends.

‘This doesn’t mean she doesn’t understand what’s being said,’ Oscar-winning director Elia Kazan stated.

Marilyn’s dressing room today contains a picture of Abraham Lincoln, books by Spinoza, Edgar Allan Poe, Dostoevsky, and Einstein, and modern statuary and paintings.

She has worked hard and knows what she’s reading and hearing. When she does make a comment on a conversation, it is an intelligent one, to the point.

The Millers still use a double bed. Marilyn says that if she were suddenly to become poor, a bed is what she would miss most of all.

‘I’d hate ever to be so poor again that I didn’t have a bed of my own.’

The Millers, however, are not poor. They live in a swank 13th-floor apartment on East 57th Street in New York, overlooking the East River.

Although Marilyn entertains a great deal, she and her husband seldom go out, except to walk their enormous basset hound, Lady [note: their basset hound was actually named Hugo].

Marilyn is proud of her famous husband. He is a writer of serious plays and novels, whereas DiMaggio’s main reading was said to be comic books.

Her present philosophy is that a wife ‘should soothe a man, calm him, try to be everything to him – partly mother, partly sister, partly mistress.’

She has improved her cooking, learning her husband’s favorite Jewish recipes from his mother.

Although her clothes bill is not high – her favorite dress cost $5.98 – she insists on helping Miller pick out his clothes, except where they disagree. Then he wins.

While out driving, Marilyn tends to be a side-seat driver, and Miller tolerantly calls her ‘Direction-Finder.’ She also makes him jeep a rigid schedule at the typewriter, whether he likes it or not.

Miller thrives on it. He has gained 25 pounds since they were married. Marilyn, on the other hand, carefully keeps her famous figure in check by dieting and exercising with bar bells.

When she suffered a miscarriage last year, she was heartbroken. But instead of breaking up and going into tantrums – as she might have done when she was younger – she calmly began planning for a new baby as soon as possible.

In only one major respect is she still the old Marilyn. Getting places on time is still a problem.

Miller is patient about it. He will usually first sit down and read a book until Marilyn has finished making up her fabulous face, paying particular attention to disguising a small bump on the end of her nose. When he remonstrates with her, it is only in the gentlest terms.

‘Penny Dreadful,’ he will say, using one of his pet names for her, ‘even if you didn’t wear makeup, you still look good to me.’

Marilyn has taken the hint and now often goes without makeup. And, of course, she still does look good.

Meanwhile, she is trying to discipline herself about keeping her appointments on time. She is usually only an hour late these days. And there has been a marked improvement in her personal neatness. Garter belts no longer hang over the Miller towel racks.

And there are, of course, other compensations in being married to Marilyn, besides the obvious ones.

‘As a wife,’ Arthur Muller says, ‘she has an enormous sense of play and inventiveness. She is never dull.’

And 100 million American males will probably wonder how anyone could have thought for a moment that life with Marilyn could be dull.

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