Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller – “The most unlikely marriage since the Owl and the Pussycat,” decried one slick newsstand magazine.
How Did Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller Meet?
The year: 1950. Setting: The studio that housed director Harmon Jones’s Hollywood feature, As Young As You Feel, in which she appeared. Miller would later write that upon shaking Monroe’s hand, “the shock of her body’s motion sped through me.”
Monroe would later confide to a girlfriend that she had “met a man tonight… It was bam! It was like running into a tree. You know, like a cool drink when you’ve had a fever.”
The immediate, shared connection resulted in a relationship that was kept alive over the next few years through phone calls and letters and perhaps something a bit more intimate – despite Miller’s status as an already married man.
Whatever the case, the couple did indeed reunite, physically, in 1955 and one year later, Miller established residency in Reno, Nevada with the purpose of divorcing his wife. While there, he submitted a passport application in order to accompany Monroe to a film shoot in England.
The result was a subpoena to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. During his hearing, Miller denied being a member of the Communist Party, but his refusal to “name names” resulted in a citation for contempt of court.
Through it all, Monroe supported him. The couple was eventually wed on June 29, 1956, in a judge’s office in White Plains, New York. A traditional Jewish ceremony (the religious affiliation of the groom) followed on July 1. The festivities of the first deeming was marred by the death of a reporter who had been trailing the couple earlier in the day.
Trouble From the Start
To the outside world, the pairing of Miller and Monroe – dubbed the Egghead and the Hourglass – was dubious at best. Inside the fractious marriage, the couple endured personal disappointments over their relationship and together they struggled to cope with Monroe’s miscarriages and her ever-increasing dependency on drugs and alcohol.
The pair’s collaboration on the John Huston classic picture The Misfits – he was the writer, she the star – proved to be their undoing. “Arthur said it’s his movie. I don’t think he even wants me in it. It’s all over. We have to stay with each other because it would be bad for the film if we split up now.”
Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller Call It Quits
November 1960: With production wrapped and the need for propriety no longer an issue, Miller and Monroe separated. He decamped to their home in Roxbury, Connecticut and she to their New York apartment.
An official separation notice was filed on the 11th of the above mentioned month. On January 20, 1961, Monroe travelled to Juarez, Mexico and filed a petition for divorce which charged “incompatibility of character.” The decree absolute was handed down by Judge Gomez Guerra one week later.
In response to the dissolution of her third marriage, Monroe offered, “I wasn’t sweet all through. He should love the monster, too. But maybe I’m too demanding. Maybe there’s no man who could put up with all of me. I put Arthur through a lot, I know. But he also put me through a lot.”
Death and the Maiden
August 5, 1962: Marilyn Monroe is found dead inside her Los Angeles bungalow – the victim of a suspected overdose. Miller did not attend her funeral. “To join what I knew would be a circus of cameras and shouts and luridness was beyond my strength. To me, it was meaningless to stand for photographs at a [grave]stone.”
Instead, he spent August 8 – the day of his ex-wife’s internment – penning a scathing missive. It reads in part, “Instead of jetting [from New York] to the funeral to get my picture taken I decided to stay home and let the public mourners finish the mockery. Not that everyone there will be false, but enough. Most of them there destroyed her, ladies and gentlemen.”
Inspiration and a Token of Affection
Over the next few decades, Miller would consistently look to his past, and particularly his relationship with Monroe, for theatrical fodder – 1964’s After the Fall and 2004’s Finishing the Picture are undeniable roman a clefs.
A final coda for this couple’s story. While the supposed love of Monroe’s life, Joe DiMaggio, eventually seemed to forget about her – his “forever” order of flowers to adorn Monroe’s crypt ceased after about 20 years – Miller was revealed to have kept a special memento from his time with Marilyn.
Inside the garage of the home, the two had once believed they would live in forever, was her bicycle. “It’s been hanging up in there for 40 years.”