Marilyn Monroe’s Rumoured Romances & 3 Marriages Have A Complicated History, Here’s Why

'Blonde' was vastly different to what really happened...

Trigger warning: This article contains references to domestic violence, sexual assault and abortion and may be distressing for some readers.

Ever since she skyrocketed to worldwide fame, Marilyn Monroe solidified herself as an unforgettable movie star and sex symbol. But aside from her impressive career, she became defined by a patriarchal society for her many relationships, rumoured affairs and multiple marriages.

Now, her story has been retold in Netflix’s Blonde, with Ana de Armas giving a potentially award-winning performance as the blonde bombshell herself. Directed by Andrew Dominik and based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel of the same name, the film has received criticism over its portrayal of Marilyn and the unnecessary inclusions of domestic violence, trauma and sexual assault.

The film attempts to retell Marilyn’s rise to fame and her eventual death, however, it also takes audiences through each of her real-life relationships and treats the rumoured ones as if they were based on fact.

While most of us know that Marilyn was married three times in her life, some may be unfamiliar with the romances and supposed affairs she was rumoured to have had, like the one she supposedly had with former US President John F. Kennedy.

Below, everything we know about Marilyn Monroe’s real-life romances, marriages and the rumoured relationships that many speculated she’d been a part of.

James Dougherty

(m. 1942 – 1946)

Before Marilyn—then going by her birth name, Norma Jean—became a Hollywood hit, she was married to a man named James Dougherty, when she was just 16 years old. A chapter of her life skipped completely by Blonde, their marriage lasted four years, from 1942 to 1946.

Their decision to marriage wasn’t born from love, but was planned by Marilyn’s guardian and family friend, Grace Goddard, after she and her husband decided to move to West Virginia. Since Marilyn was still under age, she was given the choice to return to the orphanage she spent part of her childhood in or marry James—she chose the latter. 

“My relationship with him was basically insecure from the first night I spent alone with him,” Marilyn later wrote about the marriage, as per Vanity Fair.
Marilyn Monroe husbands
(Credit: Getty Images)

However, once James became a member of the Merchant Marines and Marilyn began her modelling career, the pair grew apart. And by 1946, Marilyn chose to file for divorce, not long before she signed a studio contract at 20th Century Fox.

In an interview with People in 1976, James confessed that if he hadn’t made the decision to leave, then Marilyn might not have left him.

“If I hadn’t gone into the Merchant Marines during World War II, she would still be Mrs. Dougherty today,” James confessed in an interview with People in 1976, and felt the same way when writing about their marriage in the 2001 book, To Norma Jeane With Love, Jimmie.

Charlie “Cass” Chaplin Jr. and Edward “Eddy” G. Robinson Jr.

Blonde claims that Marilyn was part of a ‘throuple’ with Charlie “Cass” Chaplin Jr. (played by Xavier Samuel) and Edward “Eddy” G. Robinson Jr. (played by Evan Williams). But was the film’s take on their three-person romance based on facts? Well, no.

According to the film, the three refer to themselves as ‘the Geminis’ and begin a relationship as her career starts to take off. While Marilyn’s talent agency supposedly wanted the relationship to be kept a secret, the group didn’t end things until she became pregnant and chooses to have an abortion.

Of course, as we said, there’s no proof that this ‘throuple’ that Marilyn was supposedly part of ever happened, nor that she fell pregnant. According to Sarah Churchwell in her 2004 novel The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, this was entirely created for Oates’ novel and the subsequent Netflix film.

Despite this, many have claimed that Marilyn was in separate relationships with the men throughout her life, but never at the same time. Chaplin even mentioned his relationship with Marilyn in his 1960 memoir and Anthony Summers dove into the relationship in the 1985 novel, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe.

“She would cram into a single bed with him, while brother Sydney slept in his bed in the same room,” Summers wrote about Marilyn and Charlie’s supposed first meeting in 1947.

Marilyn Monroe husbands
(Credit: Netflix)

“The romance ended one day when Charlie came home to find Marilyn in the wrong bunk—Sydney’s.”

As for Robinson, he apparently met Marilyn through Chaplin and they reportedly began a relationship, while she was filming Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. 

“Any passion to the Robinson affair was soon spent, and turned to friendship,” Summers wrote.

“We three men [James, Chaplin, and Robinson] were a sort of trio, and Marilyn saw us all occasionally, together or separately, for the rest of her life,” close friend of Chaplin’s, Arthur James, told Summer. 

According to James, Marilyn’s unplanned pregnancy allegedly took place in 1947 and was a “sad legacy of the affair with Chaplin.” Despite James’ claims, the reports that Marilyn was pregnant or had an abortion were never confirmed.

Joe DiMaggio

(m. 1954 – 1955)

Played by Bobby Cannavale in Blonde, he stars as New York Yankees baseball star Joe DiMaggio, credited as “the Ex-Athlete” in the film. Joe and Marilyn met on a date in 1952, six months after Joe retired from the sport, and quickly fell for one another.

“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,” Marilyn said of Joe, as per Vanity Fair, adding, “He treated me like something special”.

According to Donald Spoto’s 1993 biography, he claimed the Joe saw Marilyn as a “beautiful blonde showgirl who might double as a devoted mother and homemaker”.

These exact expectations on Marilyn were depicted in Blonde, when she shared how she wanted to leave Hollywood to study acting in New York, which Joe disapproved of as he wanted her become a housewife instead. After the pair married in 1954, these differing beliefs continued to cause tension between Marilyn and Joe from there on. 

Marilyn Monroe husbands
(Credit: Getty Images)

Nine months after they wed, Marilyn filed for divorce, citing “mental cruelty” as her reason for wanting to split. Later, she cited that her iconic role in The Seven Year Itch—and a scene where her skirt blew up over a subway grate—as the “last straw” for Joe.

In Blonde, Marilyn endures domestic violence at the hands of Joe after she returns home from filming the exact scene. It was never confirmed if that exact moment of violence took place, but Joe’s son did allege that his father was physically abusive with Marilyn, as per The New York Post.

Despite their short marriage, the pair remained in contact until Marilyn’s death in 1962. Following her death, Joe reportedly took over the funeral organisation and even sent roses to her grave three times a week for 20 years, according to The New York Times.

In a letter that was found near Marilyn’s bed following her death, she reportedly wrote, “Dear Joe, If I can only succeed in making you happy—I will have succeeded in the biggest and most difficult thing there is—that is to make one person completely happy.”

Arthur Miller

(m. 1956 – 1961)

When Marilyn headed to New York City to studio at the Actor’s Studio, it was there that she met her third husband, Arthur Miller. Referred to as “The Playwright” (and played by Adrien Brody) in Blonde, the film claims that the the pair met when Marilyn performs one of Arthur’s plays and he begins referring to her as “my Magda” after his first love. 

However, in real life, the pair met on set of the 1951 film As Young As You Feel, courtesy of their mutual friend Elia Kaza, who Marilyn was rumoured to be dating. At the time, the Death of a Salesman playwright was married to his first wife, Mary Slattery, but once Marilyn and Arthur reconnected in 1956, they were married by June of the same year.

Marilyn Monroe husbands
(Credit: Getty Images)

Given away by her acting teacher, Lee Strasberg, Marilyn even converted to Judaism in preparation for her wedding to Arthur. However, throughout their marriage, Marilyn reportedly suffered multiple miscarriages and became distant from Arthur after discovering his diary entries where he wrote that he was “disappointed” and embarrassed by Marilyn. 

Their relationship came to a close around the same time that the 1961 film The Misfits was in production. For the film, Arthur wrote Marilyn as a “wounded young woman, who falls in love with a much older man”, which was eerily similar to their real-life romance. However, during the film’s production, Arthur fell in love with photographic archivist Inge Morath.

“I still feel hopeless,” Monroe wrote in her diary around that time, as per Vanity Fair. “I think I hate it here because there is no love here anymore.”

Arthur and Marilyn went onto divorce before the film’s 1961 premiere.

John F. Kennedy

To this day, nothing has ever been confirmed about any relationship between Marilyn and the United States’ 35th President, John F. Kennedy—and especially not an abusive one, as Blonde depicted.

According to Marilyn’s personal masseur, Ralph Roberts, he claimed that Marilyn and JKF engaged in a sexual relationship once, at Bing Crosby’s home in 1962, and Oates also claimed that the pair had a relationship.

“She pinned a lot of hope on John Kennedy, which was such a fairy-tale idea,” Oates told The New Yorker.

What many remember—and use as supposed ‘proof’ for the rumoured affair—was Marilyn’s famous performance of “Happy Birthday Mr. President” at Madison Square Garden in May 1962. At the event, she wrote her infamous embellished, skin-tight gold dress that was controversially worn by Kim Kardashian at the 2022 Met Gala—after the dress was sold to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! for USD $4.8 million in 2016.

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“The standard take on the aftermath is that JFK was publicly embarrassed and that he dumped her. She was heartbroken, calling him every five seconds and falling apart,” biographer Sarah Churchwell claimed on CNN’s Reframed.

“But her friends at the time said that she absolutely wasn’t—that she wasn’t in love with him and that she wasn’t forlorn. But we insist on seeing Marilyn as a passive victim of the men around her.”

Of course, come August of that same year and Marilyn tragically died of a barbiturate overdose at her home in Los Angeles. She was only 36 years old.

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