After spending much of her childhood in foster homes, Monroe began a career as a model, which led to a film contract in 1946 with Twentieth Century-Fox. Her early film appearances were minor,
but her performances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (both 1950), drew attention. By 1952 she had her first leading role in Don’t Bother to Knock and 1953 brought a lead in Niagara, a melodramatic film noir that dwelt on her seductiveness. Her “dumb blonde” persona was used to comic effect in subsequent films such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and The Seven Year Itch (1955). Limited by typecasting, Monroe studied at the Actors Studio to broaden her range.
Her dramatic performance in Bus Stop (1956) was hailed by critics and garnered a Golden Globe nomination. Her production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, released The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), for which she received a BAFTA Award nomination and won a David di Donatello award. She received a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Some Like It Hot (1959). Monroe’s last completed film was The Misfits, co-starring Clark Gable with screenplay by her then-husband, Arthur Miller.
Monroe had three marriages, all of which ended in divorce. The first was to James Dougherty, the second to Joe DiMaggio, and lastly to Arthur Miller. It is claimed she was briefly married to writer Robert “Bob” Slatzer. She is alleged to have had affairs with both John and Robert Kennedy. Marlon Brando, in his autobiography Songs My Mother Taught Me, claimed that he had had a relationship with her, and that they remained friends until her death. She also suffered two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy during her three marriages.
Monroe married James Dougherty on June 19, 1942, at the home of Chester Howell in Los Angeles. When she began her modeling career, he began to lose interest in her and stated that he did not approve of her new job. Monroe then decided to divorce Dougherty. The marriage ended when he returned from overseas in 1946. In The Secret Happiness of Marilyn Monroe and To Norma Jeane with Love, Jimmie, he claimed they were in love, but dreams of stardom lured her away. In 1953, he wrote a piece called “Marilyn Monroe Was My Wife” for Photoplay, in which he claimed that she threatened to jump off the Santa Monica Pier if he left her. She was reported to have been furious and explained in 1956 interview that she confessed to having attempted suicide during the marriage and stated that she felt trapped and bored by Dougherty, even blaming their marriage on her foster mother. In her autobiography, explaining the sudden dissolution of their marriage, Monroe stated,
“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.”
Doc Goddard had plans to publish extra details about the marriage, citing that he hoped to clear up rumors about an arranged marriage, but decided against the publication at the last minute. In the 2004 documentary Marilyn’s Man, Dougherty made three new claims: that he invented the “Marilyn Monroe” persona; studio executives forced her to divorce him; and that he was her true love and her “dedicated friend for life”.
Monroe eloped with Joe DiMaggio at San Francisco City Hall on January 14, 1954. In 1951, DiMaggio saw a photograph of Monroe alongside Chicago White Sox players Joe Dobson and Gus Zernial, prompting him to request a date with her in 1952. Of their initial meeting, Monroe wrote in My Story that she did not have a desire to know him, as she had feared a stereotypical jock.
During their honeymoon in Japan, she was asked to visit Korea as part of the USO. She performed ten shows in four days for over 100,000 servicemen. Maury Allen quoted New York Yankees PR man Arthur Richman that Joe told him that the marriage went wrong from then. On September 14, 1954, Monroe filmed the famed skirt-blowing scene for The Seven Year Itch in front of New York’s Trans-Lux Theater. Bill Kobrin, then Fox’s east coast correspondent, told the Palm Springs Desert Sun in 1956 that it was Billy Wilder’s idea to turn the shoot into a media circus, and that the couple had a “yelling battle” in the theater lobby. She filed for divorce on grounds of mental cruelty nine months after the wedding.
In February 1961, Monroe was admitted to the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic. She contacted DiMaggio, who secured her release. She later joined him in Florida, where he was serving as a batting coach at the New York Yankees’ training camp. Bob Hope jokingly dedicated Best Song nominee The Second Time Around to them at the 1961 Academy Awards. According to Allen, on August 1, 1962, DiMaggio-alarmed by how Monroe had fallen in with people he considered detrimental to her well-being-quit his job with a PX supplier to ask her to remarry him. After Monroe’s death, DiMaggio claimed her body and arranged her funeral. For 20 years, he had a half-dozen red roses delivered to her crypt three times a week. In 2006, DiMaggio’s adopted granddaughters auctioned the bulk of his estate, which featured two letters Monroe penned to him and a photograph signed “I love you, Joe, Marilyn.”
On June 29, 1956, Monroe married playwright Arthur Miller, in a civil ceremony in White Plains, New York. Monroe first met Miller in 1950. During this filming of Bus Stop, the relationship between Monroe and Miller had developed, and although the couple were able to maintain their privacy for almost a year, the press began to write about them as a couple, often referred to as “The Egghead and The Hourglass”. In reflecting on his courtship of Monroe, Miller wrote, “She was a whirling light to me then, all paradox and enticing mystery, street-tough one moment, then lifted by a lyrical and poetic sensitivity that few retain past early adolescence.” The reports of their romance were soon overtaken by news that Miller had been called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee to explain his supposed communist affiliations. Called upon to identify communists he was acquainted with, Miller refused and was charged with contempt of Congress. He was acquitted on appeal. During the investigation, Monroe was urged by film executives to abandon Miller, rather than risk her career but she refused, later branding them as “born cowards”. The press began to discuss an impending marriage, but Monroe and Miller refused to confirm the rumor. In June 1956, a reporter was following them by car, and as they attempted to elude him, the reporter’s car crashed, killing a female passenger. Monroe became hysterical upon hearing the news, and their engagement was announced, partly in the expectation that it would reduce the excessive media interest they were being subjected to. City Court Judge Seymour D. Robinowitz presided over the hushed ceremony in the law office of Sam Slavitt. (The wedding had been kept secret from both the press and the public.) Monroe and Miller wed again two days later in a Jewish ceremony before a small group of guests. Rabbi Robert E. Goldburg, a Reform rabbi at Congregation Mishkan Israel, presided over the ceremony. Their nuptials were celebrated at the home of Miller’s literary agent, Kay Brown, in Westchester County, New York. Some 30 friends and relatives attended the hastily arranged party. Nominally baptised and raised as a Pentecostal Christian but before her 1956 conversion (to Judaism), Monroe laughingly rejected Jane Russell’s conversion attempts during the 1953 filming of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, saying, “Jane tried to convert me (to religion) and I tried to introduce her to Freud”. She did convert to Judaism before marrying Miller. Less than two weeks after the wedding, the Millers flew to London, where they were greeted at Parkside House by Laurence Olivier and wife Vivien Leigh. Monroe created chaos among the normally staid British press. After she finished shooting The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier, the couple returned to the United States from England and discovered she was pregnant. Tony Curtis, her co-star from Some Like It Hot, claimed Monroe became pregnant during their on-off affair that was rekindled during the filming of Some Like It Hot in 1959, while she was still married to Arthur Miller. Miller’s screenplay for The Misfits (1961), a story about a despairing divorcée, was meant to be a Valentine gift for his wife, but by the time filming started in 1960 their marriage was beyond repair. A Mexican divorce was granted on January 24, 1961, in Ciudad Juarez by Francisco José Gَmez Fraire. On February 17, 1962, Miller married Inge Morath, one of the Magnum photographers who photographed the making of The Misfits. In January 1964, Miller’s play After The Fall opened, featuring a beautiful and devouring shrew named Maggie. Simone Signoret noted in her autobiography the morbidity of Miller and Elia Kazan resuming their professional association “over a casket”. In interviews and in his autobiography, Miller insisted that Maggie was not based on Monroe. However, he never pretended that his last Broadway-bound work, Finishing the Picture, was not based on the making of The Misfits. He appeared in the documentary The Century of the Self, lamenting the psychological work being done on her before her death. On May 19, 1962, Monroe made her last significant public appearance, singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” at a birthday party for President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden. The dress that she wore to the event, specially designed and made for her by Jean Louis, sold at an auction in 1999 for $1.26 million. Monroe reportedly had an affair with President John F. Kennedy. JFK’s reputed mistress Judith Exner, in her 1977 autobiography, also wrote about an affair that she said the president and Monroe had conducted. Journalist Anthony Summers examines the issue of Monroe’s relationships with the Kennedy brothers at length in two books: his biography of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, entitled Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1993), and his biography of Monroe, entitled Goddess (1985). In the Hoover book, Summers concludes that Monroe was in love with President Kennedy and wanted to marry him in the early 1960s; that she called the White House frequently; and that, when the married President had to break off their affair, Monroe became even more depressed, and then turned to Robert Kennedy, who visited Monroe in Los Angeles the day that she died. Patricia Seaton Lawford, the fourth wife of actor Peter Lawford, also deals with the Monroe-Kennedy matters in her biography of Peter Lawford, entitled The Peter Lawford Story (1988). Lawford’s first wife was Patricia Kennedy Lawford, a sister of John and Robert; Lawford was very close to the Kennedy family for over a decade, including the time of Monroe’s death. In 1997, documents purporting to prove a coverup of a relationship between JFK and Monroe were discovered to be fraudulent.