Marilyn Monroe is one of the most famous actresses of all time. She was the face of Hollywood throughout the 1950s, and she remains a source of fascination for those who are intrigued by modern American culture. But despite her glamorous exterior, Marilyn had many inner demons. The loneliness she experienced as a child continued to plague her throughout adulthood. And though she had many lovers, all of her marriages tragically fell apart.
In June 1942, Marilyn married her first husband at the tender age of sixteen. The marriage was arranged by Grace Goddard, a close friend of Marilyn’s mother, and Ethel Dougherty, the groom’s mother.
James Dougherty worked in a factory and was five years older than his teenage wife. Together, they rented a small house in California. Marilyn worked as a dedicated housewife for her new husband, but the relationship started to fall apart when James joined the US Navy.
Marilyn, now forced to live with her husband’s parents, wasn’t pleased with James’s decision. His departure was another blow to her self-worth after her lonely childhood in foster care.
However, she acquired a renewed sense of purpose after finding work as a paint sprayer and parachute packer for a company called Radioplane. During her time at the factory, she was noticed by David Conover, a photographer who was taking pictures of women supporting the war effort.
Marilyn was a natural in front of the camera, and with David’s encouragement, she started to work as a model. James, who was receiving fewer and fewer letters from his wife, disapproved of her decision to pursue a modeling career.
Six months after the first photoshoot, Marilyn and James divorced.A photograph of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio by an unknown photographer, 1954 (Wikimedia Commons)
Marilyn supported herself during the next few years by working as a model. She also took courses in dancing, singing, and acting before taking on several acting roles.
In 1952, Marilyn met Joe DiMaggio, the famous baseball player, via a mutual friend. Before long, the two of them were very much in love. What’s more, Marilyn’s acting career was gaining momentum due to the success of films like Don’t Bother to Knock and Monkey Business. But Joe wasn’t fond of Hollywood glamour, and Marilyn wasn’t particularly interested in Joe’s sporting achievements, either.
Despite their differences, the couple married in January 1954 and went on a honeymoon to Japan. Marilyn took the time to visit US troops fighting in Korea, providing them with moral and recreational support. Joe disapproved of his wife’s decision to travel to Korea, and the marriage continued to falter as the months went by.
Marilyn was rapidly becoming one of the most famous actresses in the world. She received plenty of press attention due to the success of films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire. Then, during the filming of The Seven Year Itch, Joe was angered by Marilyn’s sensual skirt-blowing scene.
This led to a furious row between the couple, and though it’s impossible to know for sure, many suspected Joe of beating Marilyn, as there were lots of bruises on her skin.
Just nine months after the wedding, Marilyn and Joe divorced.
Marilyn met playwright Arthur Miller back in 1951 when he traveled to Hollywood with Elia Kazan, a well-known film director. Over the next few years, Marilyn and Arthur developed a close bond while their respective marriages fell apart.
In June 1956, they had a quiet wedding ceremony in New York before hosting a more formal and publicized ceremony the following month. But once again, the marriage was troubled.
During the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl, Marilyn clashed with her director and costar Laurence Olivier. This, alongside Marilyn’s overuse of alcohol and prescription drugs, had a severe impact on her mental health. And she became even more distressed when she suffered a miscarriage.
Marilyn’s addictions continued to plague her in the months that followed. After suffering another miscarriage, she frequently relied on food, drink, and pills for comfort. Angry outbursts were commonplace, and she was often seen drinking alcohol on movie sets.
Though it seemed inevitable that the marriage would fall apart, Arthur wrote a screenplay called The Misfits, and Marilyn was given a leading role. However, the couple’s troubled relationship continued to falter during the production of the film.
In January 1961, Marilyn and Arthur divorced.
This was the beginning of the end for Marilyn. All three of her marriages had broken down, and she was unable to give birth to the child she so desperately craved.
On the 4th of August 1962, Marilyn died of a barbiturate overdose at her home in Los Angeles. Though the death was deemed to be a probable suicide, the truth about this tragic event is still contested by writers and historians.