Marilyn Monroe is one of the most iconic stars that Hollywood has ever churned out. However, before she became an icon, she was Norma Jeane Mortenson, a regular girl who had curly, brown hair. Her prospects looked very much like those of other young women in her time: get married, become a housewife and raise a family. The future actress was, in fact, barely 16 when she got married for the first time – though this move might have been made out of desperation more than anything else.
After all, the early life that Monroe had was a really far cry from Hollywood’s glitz and glamor and was marked by abuse and poverty. Her beauty and comedic talents did help her break away from the difficult past she had, but fame also came at its own price.
Struggle Under The Spotlight
Apparently, Monroe had struggles under the spotlight. She saw her on-screen persona and her real self as two completely different people, and there’s a popular anecdote related to this. With a scarf on her head, she was strolling through New York with a pal and hiding from paparazzi when she turned to her friend and supposedly said, “Do you want me to be her? Watch.” Monroe undid her jacket, take off the shawl and started doing the iconic Marilyn Monroe strut. Within seconds, she was reportedly accosted by fans.
Monroe was undeniably beautiful, but she was actually also a talented actress. While she portrayed the ditzy blonde in many movies, her true personality was apparently very different. Aside from the fact that she loved to read, Monroe also reportedly had hundreds of books. Fellow actress Shelley Winters said that the sex symbol was also attracted to smart men.
Her Third Husband
Monroe’s third husband was Arthur Miller, who was definitely an intellectual. As a matter of fact, the couple was mocked by the media when the two married in 1956. For example, Variety had a wry headline that read “Egghead Weds Hourglass.” Many could not believe that the writer and the blonde bombshell could make a good match. Sadly, these people was more or less right in the end.
Personal And Professional Struggles
In 1961, Monroe split from Miller. This was around the same time her film The Misfits bombed at the box office. On top of everything else, her performance in the movie earned her some negative reviews as well. For instance, the actress was described by the New York Times as “blank and unfathomable” playing her character divorcée Roslyn Tabor.
That said, some of the bad press Monroe had may have been due to anxiety instead of the lack of talent. In 2002, Richard Widmark, her one time co-star, told The Daily Telegraph, “I liked Marilyn, but she was God-awful to work with.” He also said, “Impossible, really. She would hide in her dressing room and refuse to come out.”
Deeper Personal Issues
Monroe could not hide her deeper personal issues from her co-stars either. Widmark continued, “When she finally would show up, she was a nervous wreck.” He added, “It was all a result of fear. She was insecure about so many things and was obviously self-destructive. She was a wounded bird from the beginning.”
Apparently, Monroe’s mental health reached such a low around the time she got divorced from Miller, so she got treatment in a psychiatric ward. There are also claims that her ex-husband Joe DiMaggio – her second husband – was a huge support for her at this time. That said, there have been several controversial rumors about Monroe’s relationship with DiMaggio over the years.
Passionate And Tumultuous Marriage
Apparently, Monroe’s short-lived marriage to DiMaggio was passionate and tumultuous. According to reports, the baseball star had particular hang-ups about the public persona of his wife – so much so that their relationship started to turn sour. As a matter of fact, DiMaggio reportedly wanted Monroe to become a housewife instead of continuing acting. However, as a sex symbol, Monroe had to be flirtatious as it was part of her job.
A Story Behind The Iconic Photo
For instance, the iconic photo of Monroe in the billowing white dress actually has a dark tale behind it. As you may know, that famous snap comes from one scene in Billy Wilder’s film The Seven Year Itch. Apparently, on the day the sequence was shot, Monroe’s husband at the time, DiMaggio, came to watch. According to some sources, he wasn’t happy with what he saw and became agitated.
Possible Domestic Violence
In “Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love,” a book published in 2014, C. David Heymann wrote about the violence Monroe’s husband may have inflicted on the actress. “When [Monroe] didn’t respond the way [DiMaggio] wanted her to, he became physical,” Heymann wrote. “On one occasion, he ripped an earring from her lobe and scratched her face.”
The grounds of “mental cruelty” were reportedly used by Monroe when she filed for divorce from DiMaggio. However, the sporting legend is said to have stayed preoccupied with his ex-wife even after their split. In spite of everything that had supposedly happened throughout their tumultuous relationship’s course, the actress ended up going back to him, more or less.
However, why would Monroe have gone back to a man who reportedly have treated her badly? Many biographers point out that, sadly, majority of Monroe’s short life was filled with abuse in some form. Even when she was the beautiful yet ordinary Norma Jeane Baker, there were awful things that she had experienced in her early childhood.
In 1926, Monroe was born in Los Angeles, California. Gladys Pearl Baker, her mother, had come from a poor family while Monroe’s father wasn’t in the picture. As a matter of fact, Monroe reportedly hadn’t even seen a photograph of her father until she was eight years old. It is believed that a man by the name of Charles Stanley Gifford was her dad.
Unable To Care For The Newborn
Gladys suffered from mental health issues as well. They included schizophrenia, so she couldn’t take care of her child on her own. When Monroe was only a few weeks old, the newborn’s mother dropped her off with Ida and Wayne Bolender, who were foster parents.
Subsequently, Monroe was raised mostly by the evangelical Christian couple – the Bolenders. Apparently, Monroe already knew when she was really young that she wanted to enter showbiz. In 1962, Monroe told Life magazine, “When I was five, I think, that’s when I started wanting to be an actress. I loved to play.” She explained, “I didn’t like the world around me because it was kind of grim, but I loved to play house.”
A Difficult Childhood
The Bolenders did provide care for Monroe and they put a roof over the young girl’s head, but her childhood was still difficult. For one thing, the family were totally devoted to their religion, and they seemed to have expectations of their ward. In fact, Monroe claimed she couldn’t sing or dance in the presence of the Bolenders.
Her Mother Came Back For Her
Then in 1933, Gladys came back to take her daughter – despite the fact that the Bolenders had already planned to adopt her officially. After that, Monroe and her mom moved into a Hollywood home which they shared with a family called the Atkinsons. However, Gladys was actually not well enough to take care of her child. The following year, she was hospitalized after suffering a breakdown.
A Hard Life
Monroe was bounced around different foster homes and schools. Later, she revealed to the press that during this period, she was sexually abused. Even though the star never named the perpetrator in her lifetime, some biographers have suggested that the individual who had been responsible might have been the Atkinson family patriarch.
Feelings Of Being Unwanted
As her childhood went on, Monroe reportedly felt more and more unwanted. She told Life in 1962, “Some of my foster families used to send me to the movies to get me out of the house, and there I’d sit all day and way into the night.” She added, “Up in front there with the screen so big – a little kid all alone.”
Time At An Orphanage
When Monroe was around nine years old, she was placed in an orphanage – a place which she would later talk harshly about in interviews. The star claimed that she had needed to wash hundreds of dishes, forks and knives every day while getting paid next to nothing for her work. However, these allegations have been disputed by other sources.
Taken In By Her Mother’s Friend
Regardless of whether she was exploited at the orphanage, Monroe definitely did not enjoy life there. Finally, one of her mother’s friend named Grace McKee Goddard got her out of there and took her in. Sadly, though, Monroe might have also been sexually abused at this new home. Grace’s husband, Doc, is allegedly the guilty party.
No Luck Finding Another Home
Monroe did try to find other places to live, but she still ended up going back to the Goddard home. In 1942, however, the Goddards needed to move state together with Doc’s company. Since Monroe couldn’t go with them, she was confronted with the prospect of getting sent back to the orphanage.
The Answer To The Problem
This problem actually had an answer: Monroe could get married. At the time, a suitor came along. James “Jim” Dougherty was the Goddards’ 21-year-old neighbor. He and Monroe had already been on several dates, and he seemingly did not have any objections to marrying a beautiful girl like Monroe.
Three weeks after Monroe turned 16, she and Jim married. Her fairly simple gown for the occasion was a present from one of the foster parents she had. With lengthy sleeves and made of white lace, it was very different from the bold fashion statements which Monroe would make at her second and third weddings.
According to reports, Monroe was in tears at this first ceremony. Were they tears of joy, or did she cry because she had realized she didn’t want to get married after all? After Monroe was not his wife anymore, Dougherty insisted their marriage had been harmonious. However, some of Monroe’s notes and letters, which were published back in 2010, seemingly reveal the true thoughts she had on the relationship.
Historians that have analyzed these documents suggested that Monroe possibly first wrote about Dougherty when she was 17 years old. “My relationship with him was basically insecure from the first night I spent alone with him,” she wrote to herself. Other asides that she made on the union were not that flattering, either.
Very Personal Musings
As a matter of fact, what Monroe wrote about her first husband shines light on some of very personal musings. She said that she was attracted to Dougherty since he was “one of the few young men [she] had no sexual repulsion for.” She continued, “It gave me a false sense of security to feel that he was endowed with more [overwhelming] qualities which I did not possess.”
Prone To Self-Introspection
Monroe wrote of her marriage to Dougherty: “On paper it all begins to sound terribly logical.” The same message sees the future star call herself “a young, rather shy girl.” She also makes note of her “desire to belong and [develop].” From these letters, it seems as though Monroe was prone to self-introspection. She wrote, “I had always felt a need to live up to that expectation of my elders.”
A Sobering Read
These letters document other turning points in Monroe’s life aside from her first marriage. For instance, she made extensive notes about the time she was in the psychiatric hospital after her divorce from Miller. These make for a sobering read. She wrote, “I felt I was in some kind of prison for a crime I hadn’t committed. The inhumanity there I found archaic.”
A Letter To A Therapist
In a letter to Dr. Greenson, her therapist whom some biographers think was too attached to Monroe to be useful for her mental health, she described some of the specific experiences she had at the hospital. She wrote, “I said to [the doctors], ‘If you are going to treat me like a nut, I’ll act like a nut.’”
Worsening Mental Health
Some of the notes Monroe penned also mention the worsening condition of her mental health. “I wish I knew why I am so anguished,” an undated letter to her friend Paula Strasberg read. “I think maybe I’m crazy like all the other members of my family were. When I was sick, I was sure I was.”
Rumors And Conspiracy Theories
It is possible that these demons eventually contributed to her death in August 1962. There are rumors and conspiracy theories about what – or who – killed Marilyn Monroe, but according to Los Angeles County coroners, it may have been a suicide. There were plenty of drugs in her system, and they appeared to have been taken all at once.
Three psychiatrists were tasked to investigate the mental state of Monroe around the time that she died, and their findings suggest the actress had gone through extreme distress. The report read, “Miss Monroe had suffered from psychiatric disturbance for a long time.” It also said, “She experienced severe fears and frequent depressions. Mood changes were abrupt and unpredictable.”
Inevitably, the reactions of her lovers were scrutinized after Monroe’s death. For instance, it was noted that DiMaggio planned Monroe’s funeral with her business manager and invited just a few people to the event. The police kept away those who came unsolicited, and the baseball star sent roses to Monroe’s grave three times a week for some 20 years.
The Real Reason
Meanwhile, Miller didn’t attend the funeral, which some Monroe fans viewed as an action by a cold-hearted ex that never really cared for the actress. However, an unpublished essay by Miller was released in 2018. In it, he wrote his real reason for choosing not to attend that day. He wrote, “I decided to stay home and let the public mourners finish the mockery… Most of them there destroyed her.”
Blaming Her Celebrity
As for Dougherty, he spoke of the passing of his ex-wife to the Associated Press back in 2002. He also appeared to place part of the blame on her celebrity. “I had almost been expecting it,” Dougherty said. He had become a police detective. He added, “Fame was injurious to her. She was too gentle to be an actress.”
In 2005, 84-year-old Dougherty died of complications related to leukemia. His whole life he had avoided questions about Monroe, but in 1990, he spoke to the United Press International and his words were truly poignant. “I never knew Marilyn Monroe, and I don’t claim to have any insights to her to this day,” Dougherty said. “I knew and loved Norma Jeane.”
Nobody Could Save Her
Very few ever really knew Norma Jeane, but millions adored and loved Marilyn Monroe. In the end, however, nobody could save her. One of the letters the star wrote while she and Miller were still married reads in part, “I have always been deeply terrified to really be someone’s wife, since I know from life one cannot love another, ever, really.”