Sunday, July 27, 2014

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio: Their marriage in 1954

Over sixty years ago, on January 14, 1954, two legends wed in San Francisco - one a baseball hero named Joe DiMaggio, the other, a Hollywood starlet known as Marilyn Monroe.  They were famous, wealthy and good-looking, but that was about all they had in common.  The two were drawn to each other, however, despite their differences. Here's how Marilyn explained her attraction to Joltin' Joe.

I was surprised to be so crazy about Joe.  I expected a flashy New York sports type, and instead I met this reserved guy who didn't make a pass at me right away!  He treated me like something special. Joe is a very decent man, and he makes other people feel decent, too.

Joseph Paul DiMaggio (Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio) was born in Martinez, California on November 25, 1914, the eighth of nine children of Italian immigrants.  When Joe was a year old, the family moved to San Francisco.  His father, Giuseppe, a fisherman from Sicily, and his mother, Rosalia, were traditional, hardworking, pious Catholics and Giuseppe hoped that his five sons would follow in his footsteps. Much to his disappointment, however, young Joe and two of his siblings, Vince and Dom, became more interested in baseball than fishing.

Joe DiMaggio played his first major league game on May 3, 1936 for the New York Yankees and spent his entire 13-year career with the team.  The centre fielder slugged 361 major league home runs and was a three-time MVP winner.  He was an All-star in every one of his 13 seasons and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.  Joe's brothers, Vince and Dom, also become major league centre fielders.

In January of 1937, Joe DiMaggio met singer/actress Dorothy Arnold on the set of the film Manhattan Merry-Go-Round. Joe had a minor role as himself in the movie, and Dorothy had a bit part as a dancer. Dorothy's career soon began to flourish and she was cast as Nora, a bar girl, in The Storm (1938).  This was her first credited role.  The up-and-coming actress performed in other 1938 films such as Secrets of a Nurse, in which she played a secretary. and Gambling Ship, in which she played a hostess.  She also appeared in several 1939 films including You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, Code of the Streets, The House of Fear and The Phantom Creeps. She gave up her promising movie career when she married the Yankee slugger.

Joe DiMaggio and Dorothy Arnold wedding photo

On  October 23, 1941, Dorothy gave birth to a son, Joseph Paul DiMaggio Jr., at Doctor's Hospital of Staten Island, New York.  Those were heady days for Joe DiMaggio, and he was ecstatic at the birth of his little boy.  Although not the demonstrative type, he gushed over the child.  "You ought to see the little fellow. He has the most perfect nose," said the proud father."  "And I never saw such a pair of hands on a baby." However, after Joe Jr.'s birth, DiMaggio continued to live the celebrity life.  He was the toast of New York City and would frequently hang out with the rich and famous at Toot's Shor, a popular restaurant and bar in Manhattan.  Dorothy was unhappy and the marriage ended in divorce in 1944.

Joe with young Joe Jr.

Marilyn Monroe's family background could not have been more different than Joe DiMaggio's. Although they both grew up without wealth, Joe had a stable environment with two parents and many siblings. Marilyn, on the other hand, was raised alone, without a father figure in her life.  Not surprisingly, she became attracted to older men.  Born June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, Marilyn was the daughter of Gladys Pearl Baker (née Monroe), a film cutter for RKO Studios.  Marilyn's birth name, Norma Jeane Mortenson, was quickly changed to Norma Jeane Baker (Gladys' first husband was John "Jasper" Newton Baker by whom she had a son, Robert Kermit "Jackie" Baker (1918-1933) and a daughter, Berniece Baker (1919- ). Jackie died of kidney failure and tuberculosis at age 14 and was never a part of Marilyn's life.  Marilyn did not meet Berniece until 1944).

Marilyn's birth certificate named Gladys' second husband, Martin Edaward Mortensen. as as her father. However, there was much uncertainty over the issue as Gladys had separated from Mortensen, a Norwegian immigrant, before her pregnancy. Added to the confusion, the name "Mortensen" was spelled incorrectly as "Mortenson" on Marilyn's birth certificate.  Many of Marilyn's biographers contend that Gladys used Mortensen's name to avoid the social stigma of illegitimacy.

Donald H. Wolfe, author of of The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe, alleges that Marilyn's father was Charles Stanley Gifford, a man who had worked with Gladys as a film cutter at Consolidation Film Industries. Marilyn herself always believed Gifford was her biological father.  She claimed that her mother had shown her a photograph of Gifford when she was a child and that Gifford somewhat resembled Clark Gable.

The future Marilyn Monroe had an extremely difficult childhood.  Her mother, Gladys, was mentally unbalanced, and her erratic behaviour prevented her from taking care of her daughter properly. Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, she was often institutionalized.  Due to her mother's condition, Norma Jeane was moved around quite frequently and lacked stability in her life.  During her formative years, she was sent to a series of foster homes and eventually became a ward of the state.  Gladys' best friend, Grace McKee, was designated as her guardian. Both Grace and her aunt, Ana Lowen, cared for the child.

Marilyn's mother Gladys in 1924

In 1935, Grace married Ervin Silliman "Doc" Goddard.  Nine-year-old Norma Jeane was subsequently placed in the Los Angeles Orphans Home.  In 1938, Grace sent Norma Jeane to live with Ana Lowen in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles County.  The young girl experienced a sense of stability with Lower, whom she fondly referred to as  "Aunt Ana."  Lowen, however, had health problems and Norma Jeane returned to Grace's home in 1942.

While attending Van Nuys High School, Norma Jeane became acquainted with a neighbour's son, James "Jim" Dougherty.  Jim, five years her senior, eventually found a a good job at a Lockheed aircraft plant.  In in order to prevent Norma Jeane from having to return to an orphanage or foster care, he agreed to marry her. The wedding took place on June 19, 1942, less than three weeks after Norma Jeane's 16th birthday (The groom was 21 years old).  Marilyn later stated that, "Grace McKee arranged the marriage for me.  They couldn't support me, and they had to work out something.  And so I got married."

In 1943, Dougherty enlisted in the Merchant Marines and was shipped out to the Pacific.  His young wife moved in with his mother and worked in a munitions factory where she inspected parachutes.  In 1944, she was photographed for a promotion showing women contributing to the war effort.  One of the photographers, David Conover of the U.S. Army Air Forces' Ist Montion Picture Unit, requested more photographs of Norma Jeane and urged her to sign with the Blue Book Modeling Agency.  She signed with Blue Book and dyed her brunette hair blonde.

Norma Jeane Baker became a highly successful model for the agency. By the spring of 1945, she had appeared on a number of magazine covers.  This brought her to the attention of Ben Lyon, an executive at Twentieth Century-Fox Studios, who arranged a screen test for her.   In July of 1946, Norma Jeane signed a contract with Twentieth Century-Fox and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, after her mother's family name.  Although Norma Jeane preferred the moniker "Jean Monroe," she was overruled by Lyon, who thought that "Jean" was too common.  "Marilyn" was selected because of  the double "M" and its alliteration with "Monroe."

In the fall of 1946, Marilyn divorced Jim Dougherty.  Of the divorce, she remarked, "My marriage didn't make me sad, but it didn't make me happy either.  My husband and I hardly spoke to each other.  This wasn't because we were angry.  We had nothing to say.  I was dying of boredom."  By 1950, she had a small but important role in a crime film called The Asphalt Jungle and received favourable notices for her work.  Her performance in the drama Clash By Night (1952), alongside Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Douglas and Robert Ryan, also earned her rave reviews.

In March of 1952, Joe DiMaggio saw some publicity photos of Marilyn and decided to request a date with her.  DiMaggio was 37 years old at the time and his baseball glory days were now behind.him.  He was freshly retired after an illustrious career with the New York Yankees (DiMaggio made his final major league appearance on September 30, 1951).  Marilyn Monroe, on the hand, was riding the crest of a career that was clearly on the rise.  She was reluctant to meet Joe because she expected him to be just another arrogant athlete.  After meeting the baseball legend, however, she formed a positive impression of him, and they soon became a couple.

1953 was a banner year for Monroe's Hollywood career.  Niagara, the thriller film noir in which she co-starred with Joseph Cotten, was released.  It was a huge box office hit, as were two of her other films that year, Gentleman Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire.  On July 26, 1953, Marilyn and Jane Russell, her co-star in Gentleman Prefer Blondes, signed their names and placed their hands and feet in wet cement in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

In 1954, the marriage of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe made international headlines.  The nuptials took place in the early afternoon at San Francisco's City Hall, and Judge Charles S. Perry performed the ceremony. In her book Marilyn Monroe, author Barbara Learning describes the wedding in these words:

. . . she (Marilyn) was wearing a chocolate brown broadcloth suit with a white ermine Peter Pan collar . . . and clutched a spray of three white orchids.  Joe, in a dark suit, wore the same polka-dot blue tie as on their first date.  He had a white carnation in his lapel . . . The single-ring ceremony in the judge's chambers took all of three minutes.

Joe and Marilyn on their wedding day

The couple spent their wedding night at the Clifton Motel in Paso Robles, California and honeymooned in Japan and Korea.  Below is a photo of them at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo on their honeymoon. Behind DiMaggio is Tetsuzo Inumaru, the hotel's general manager.

In February of 1954, Marilyn went on a four-day USO tour of Korea to entertain the troops.  It was a great success and she entertained thousands of soldiers.  She stated that . . . standing in the snowfall facing these yelling soldiers, I felt for the first time in my life no fear of anything, I felt only happy."  Marilyn's new husband did not accompany her on the tour.  "Joe hates crowds and glamour," she explained.

Below is a photo of Monroe posing for soldiers after a USO performance on February 17, 1954.

Joe and Marilyn returned to Hollywood in March of 1954, and Marilyn was cast in one of her most well-known film roles, as "The Girl" in The Seven Year Itch, a comedy directed by Billy Wilder,   On the night of September 15, 1954, a scene for the movie was shot at Lexington Ave. and 52nd Street in Manhattan.  The scene featured Marilyn in a white halter dress.while the air from a subway grating blew her skirt.

The film's publicity department apparently revealed the time and location of the shooting and throngs of onlookers and photographers showed up at the site.  Director Billy Wilder shot over a dozen takes as the crowd became more boisterous and unruly.  Meanwhile, Joe DiMaggio and gossip columnist Walter Winchell were at the nearby Toot Shor night club.  Knowing how Joe would react, Winchell persuaded him to watch the shooting.  When DiMaggio arrived, he was livid at the sight of his wife being ogled by so many men.  He and Marilyn reportedly had a fight later that night at their hotel.

Part of the crowd during filming of Marilyn's skirt billowing scene

Joe and Marilyn officially separated in early October of 1954, less than nine months after they were wed, and Marilyn filed for divorce on grounds of mental cruelty.  On October 6, Marilyn's lawyer, Jerry Giesler, announced to the press that ". . .  as her attorney, I am speaking for her and can only say that the conflict of careers has brought about this regrettable necessity."  The press quickly pounced on Marilyn, but she refused to answer their questions.  "I can't say anything today," she told them.

Why did Joe and Marilyn's marriage fall apart so quickly?  Unlike Dorothy Arnold, Monroe was not willing to sacrifice Hollywood stardom in order to please her husband.  Of her breakup with DiMaggio, she stated, "I didn't want to give up my career, and that's what Joe wanted me to do most off all."  It was evident that Joe could not deal with his wife's stardom and popularity.  He resented the attention she received from other men.

After her breakup with DiMaggio, Marilyn tried to stay out of the public eye for awhile.  She spent some time with friends in Connecticut and later in an apartment in New York.  It was during this time she became involved with famed playwright, Arthur Miller, author of Death of a Salesman. The two had met earlier in Hollywood, and upon learning that Monroe was in New York, Miller arranged for them to get together.

On June 29, 1956, Marilyn married Miller in a civil ceremony at the Westchester County Court House in White Plains, New York.  The couple wed again on July 1st in a traditional Jewish ceremony.  Miller, an alleged Communist sympathiser during the McCarthy era, was 40 years old.  Marilyn was ten years his junior,  The marriage ended in divorce in 1961.

On August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her home at the age of 36 from an overdose of barbiturates.  Though officially ruled a "probable suicide," there has been much speculation about whether her death was actually caused by an accidental overdose and also the possibility that it was a homicide.

Joe DiMaggio died of lung cancer on March 8, 1999 in Hollywood, Florida.  He was 84 years years old. According to his lawyer and confidant, Morris Engelberg, the Yankee Clipper died with Marilyn's name on his lips.  Engelberg, who was at DiMaggio's bedside when he passed away, claimed that the Hall of Famer's last words were, "I'll finally get to see Marilyn."  The attorney dismissed a New York Daily News report quoting a hospice worker who denied DiMaggio had any final words.  He adamantly insisted that Joe had told him he wanted to be with Monroe.

For twenty years after her death, Joe sent flowers to Marilyn's grave at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.  He instructed his florist to discontinue the practice in 1982.


* Marilyn Monroe's mother, Gladys, died of heart failure on March 11, 1984 in Gainesville, Florida.  Born circa May 27 1902, she was 81 years old when she passed away.

* Joe DiMaggio's first wife, Dorothy Arnold, died of pancreatic cancer on November 13, 1984.  She was 66 at the time of her passing in Palm Springs, California.  Arnold married twice more after her divorce from DiMaggio.  She and her third husband, Ralph Peck, opened Charcoal Charley's, a night club located on the outskirts of Cathedral City, California, near Palm Springs.  Dorothy entertained there.

* Joe DiMaggio's only child, Joe Jr., lived a very troubled  life.  The younger DiMaggio had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and was involved in several minor incidents with police. Although estranged from his famous father, Joe Jr. was a pallbearer at the elder DiMaggio's funeral.  Sadly, he died about five months later, on August 6, 1999.

At the time of his passing, Joe DiMaggio Jr. was only 57 years old.  He was divorced and had two adopted daughters.  According to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times, Joe Jr. died in a hospital in Antioch, California.

- Joanne