Marilyn Monroe Was My Wife
Marilyn Monroe and I were married for four years, and if we had stayed married, it’s a cinch that today I’d be Mr. Monroe. I like it better the way it is. I’m married again and have three tow-headed daughters. I have a good job with the Patrol Division of the Van Nuys police force, and all four females in my house are content to stay on board and let me steer their ship. I’m the captain and my wife is first mate, and I have a crew any man would be proud of.
Marilyn and I could have had a life like this, and the first two years of our marriage I thought we would. But when things began busting apart at the seams it turned out to be another story.
Our marriage was a good marriage in those years before I went into the maritime service. It’s seldom a man gets a bride like Marilyn—girls don’t come very often like her. She was only a kid, just turned sixteen, and she’d had a pretty rough life. There’d been nothing for her to hang on to until she became Mrs. Dougherty, and then she felt secure for the first time. She used to tell me if anything happened to our marriage she’d go to the Santa Monica pier and jump off.
I’d laugh and say, “Why always the Santa Monica pier, baby? Couldn’t you use some other pier?” And then she’d put her arms around me and tell me how much she loved me.
She has told the press that our marriage was one of expediency, that she was never happy with me. I wonder if she has forgotten how much in love we really were. We had our arguments, sure, but they never lasted long, and I don’t think two people were ever happier when they were making up. Neither of us could stand being mad at the other for very long.
You probably know by now about her childhood, how her mother was so sick and shifted from hospital to hospital, and how Marilyn stayed with her mother’s friends, or friends of her mother’s friends. She never knew her father; she never knew a real home. There was nothing she could call her own.
I came into the picture when Marilyn was living with Doc and Grace Goddard. The Goddards were friends of ray family. We’d lived next door to each other during the depression days and I used to make blueprints of Doc’s inventions. We stayed pretty close after my parents moved away from that neighborhood, and when I was twenty, Marilyn moved in with the Goddards and their two daughters. I was working the “graveyard shift” at Lockheed at the time, and our house was near the school where Marilyn and one of the Goddard girls went. She and Bebe used to come to our house after school was out and wait for me to wake up. Then I’d drive them home.
I never paid much attention to the kids. They were only fifteen, and five years is a big difference when you’re that young. I had a special girl then—she was Queen of the Santa Barbara Festival—and when I looked at Marilyn, I didn’t even see her. I guess I subconsciously concentrated on her age so much that I didn’t realize, at first, what a beautiful child she was.
On day when I woke up at the usual hour of 3:00 P.M., I found a note pinned to my pillow. It was from Grace Goddard. She wanted me to take Marilyn out dancing that night and to get a date for Bebe.
I remember I felt pretty foolish about it, and until the evening really got started I thought I was robbing the cradle. But I found that Marilyn was a pretty mature kid in the way she thought and spoke. It was probably the result of her uncertain life; she knew much better than the average adolescent that life isn’t all sweetness and light, and although she was awfully naive about some things, her mentality was much higher than most girls’ in their ’teens.
Despite her age, I enjoyed the evening and began to date her frequently. I don’t think she ever went out with another man after that. We went dancing and to the beach and the fun house, and fishing up at Lake Sherwood. We did all the things kids do when they’re in love. For we were in love by that time, head over heels. I broke off with the other girls I knew almost immediately. Marilyn was different from the others; she was sweet and innocent, and I must admit that she inflated my ego. She had a typical adolescent crush on me, things like liking me in white shirts, and being fascinated by my moustache.
She told me once that she’d heard of me long before we began dating, when she first started at Van Nuys High School. When I was there, I was elected president of the student body purely on my promise of a swimming pool for the school. Once I was elected I found the faculty was in definite disagreement with me about the project, and for years after ward, whenever there was a mud puddle in the school yard, some wag would stick a sign in it reading “Dougherty’s Swimming Pool.” The legend made me a hero in her eyes and when she met me through the Goddards, I was already established in her mind as a knight on a white horse. I became her first love.
I soon knew that I wanted to marry her, but felt she was much too young for marriage. The war was on, and I knew, too, that sooner or later I would be in the Services and go overseas. So we talked about getting married after the war was over, and she promised to wait for me.
It might have been like that if the Goddards hadn’t moved to West Virginia. They couldn’t take Marilyn with them, and, in the bustle of planning to move, shifted Marilyn back with Aunt Anna once more. And then one day Grace Goddard came to see me.
“Jim,” she said. “Would you marry Norma Jean now?”
(I must explain that we all knew her by her real name, Norma Jean, and that I use Marilyn here only in order to avoid confusion.)
“She’s too young. She’s only a kid.”
“But you don’t understand. We can’t take her back East with us, and Aunt Anna hasn’t the money to keep her. It means that unless you marry her now, she’ll have to go back to the orphanage.”
It was a pretty strong argument, that one. I figured I’d be in the service pretty soon, and that even if I was shipped out, I could give her a home while I was gone. So that night, after Marilyn and I had seen a movie, I parked my car on a side Street near Grace’s house and asked Marilyn if she’d marry me as soon as she was sixteen. I didn’t tell her then that the proposal was a thing of expediency. In my heart, it wasn’t. I had wanted all along to marry her right away but had put it out of my mind because of her age, and now I had a solid excuse.
We were both awfully happy. A week before the wedding, we rented a furnished apartment on Vista Del Monte in the Valley, and moved our wedding gifts into it. She picked out double rings for us, and made arrangements to leave University High School, where she had gone after moving in with Aunt Anna, the Christian Science practitioner who had kept Marilyn before the Goddards took her in. She was in the tenth grade then, and, while I didn’t like to see her leave school, there wasn’t much help for it.
She turned sixteen on June 1, 1942, and we were married June 19th in Westwood, at the home of friends, Doris and Chester Powell. She was shaking so hard, poor kid, that she could hardly stand, but nevertheless she was a beautiful bride. I wasn’t any too calm myself, but my brother had helped the situation by giving me a double shot of whiskey before the wedding. To this day I don’t know whether it helped or hindered. I didn’t drink in those days and I think I felt a little undone during the ceremony. It was a help to have it performed by old Benjamin Lincolnfelter. He was a friend of the family and despite his advanced age, he could walk the legs off my brothers and me when we all went hunting.
After the wedding, we went to the Florentine Gardens, a nightclub in Hollywood. It has been printed that Marilyn that night got into a Conga line while I sat and sulked on the sidelines. The person who reported this was not even there that night. The story is not only untrue, it is the exact opposite of what really happened.
Marilyn that night was a typical blushing bride and nervous as a hen on a hot griddle. I was trying to bluff through the situation by being the life of the party, and when one of the chorus girls pulled me up onto the stage, I went willingly. With two drinks added to the double shot I’d had before the wedding, I put on a pretty good show. Or at least, I thought I did. When I came back to the table Marilyn wasn’t very happy. “You made a monkey out of yourself,” she said. And I think she was right.
I also think, looking back over it now, that she was glad to have some excuse to be peeved with me. She was terrified of being alone with me, and I learned later that she had asked Grace Goddard if she could be married and be “just friends” with her husband.
Aunt Anna had given her a book on marriage and she had read it from cover to cover, but it didn’t make her feel any more confident. She needn’t have given it a second thought; she was a most responsive bride—a perfect bride in every respect—except the cooking department.
I remember I found out about that right away. The next morning we wakened in our new apartment and Marilyn, all domesticity, proudly served me a cup of her first coffee. It tasted as though she’d made it with sea water.
“What was in the cup?” I said.
“Nothing,” she said.
“Are you sure? Didn’t you put some salt in it?”
“Yes, sure I put salt in it. A teaspoon.”
I laughed. “Baby, this is pretty soon to be pulling practical jokes on your old man.” I tried hard to keep a straight face.
“But Aunt Anna told me it would make it good.” Her lower lip came out in a pout.
“Yes, honey, a pinch to the pot—not a spoonful to the cup!”
I teased her about it for a long time after that, and she always got upset about it. I should have learned then to keep my mouth shut and not criticize. I think my teasing was the one thing that made her unhappy during our marriage.
She was a wonderful housekeeper and didn’t have a lazy bone in her body. She darned socks and sewed on missing buttons like a veteran housewife. She banged ears a lot with the neighbors, but she never took out so much time that our apartment didn’t look like a professional cleaning crew had just gone through it.
For the rest, I had to teach her a lot about life. She hung on my every word just as though I was an oracle. She did everything I wanted to do. I don’t think she ever really liked to fish or hunt, but she went along with me willingly. I gave her a .22 rifle and taught her to be a pretty good shot. For a long time we kept an empty shotgun shell that she had nicked right through the middle from a distance of fifty feet.
We went around mostly with my friends, and she got along very well with them. She would shy, though, when any of them began telling jokes. She didn’t like that sort of thing, partly, I guess, because she didn’t understand them. I’d have to explain them to her afterward when we were alone. And during those first few months, she’d always answer my explanation with, “What’s so funny about that?” She caught on after a while, but for a long time her favorite joke was about the two morons, one of whom kept diving into the pool and yelling, “Whee, tomorrow’s Thursday!” After a while the second moron said, “What’s so wonderful about Thursday?” And the first moron said, “That’s the day they put the water in the pool.”
It was the only joke she ever told, and while she came to understand the kind with double meanings, she never caught on to fast repartee. I’m pretty sure that the so-called “Monroeisms” of today are dreamed up by publicity people. They just don’t sound like Marilyn.
She was naive about drinking, too. She didn’t know a thing about it. One night my brother brought a girl friend over to our house and handed Marilyn a fifth of whiskey. She took the bottle into the kitchen and came out later with our drinks. When I tasted mine, the top of my head almost blew off. I didn’t say anything, so as not to embarrass her, but watched her carefully and was happy to see that she didn’t drink more than half of hers. When our guests had left, I checked the bottle and it was empty. Marilyn had started to giggle and wanted to know what was the matter with her.
“I’ll tell you what’s the matter with you,” I said. “You poured a half pint of liquor into each drink!”
She used to sit and talk for hours about her childhood, and many times she told me that she’d never felt secure until she’d married me. I’d try to console her and show her where some things in her past had happened for the best, because she’d been conditioned for life.
I worked as a shaper operator at Lockheed for the first year of our marriage, always on the “graveyard shift.” It was dangerous work—a machine that sends metal chips flying through the air, but I never told her about the danger. She took our marriage so seriously, and worried about me all the time when I was away from her. If I didn’t kiss her goodbye every time I left the house, she thought something was wrong. She used to pack my lunch for me every evening before I left for work, and tucked little love notes in between the sandwiches. They were always sweet, and brought a glow to me when I read them in the middle of the night. I remember one that went, “Dearest Daddy. When you read this I’ll be asleep and dreaming of you. Love and kisses, Your baby.”
She always called me Daddy, a nickname that probably stemmed from the fact that she felt so secure with me. I realize now that I did many things that didn’t deserve her adoration. We both had our faults, and I had plenty. For instance, I used to play pool sometimes during the day, instead of staying home like a good husband should. She didn’t like that, and she didn’t like my teasing, either. But she never held a grudge.
I remember one night when we went to bed after having an argument about something and she kept crying and crying. Finally I moved into the living room and went to sleep on the couch, and when I woke up a couple of hours later, she was asleep by my side.
I was young myself and didn’t know very much about how to treat a woman. One time I caught a catfish and brought it home for dinner. When I bit into it, it was half raw. “I could throw this fish back right now,” I said, and went out to get us some chiliburgers. While we were sitting there eating them, instead of keeping my mouth shut, I said, “Baby, when are you going to learn to cook?”
“You’re nothing but a brute!” she yelled, and in a flare of temper picked up a trash can and hit me over the head with it. It didn’t hurt so much that it didn’t strike me as funny. I started to laugh, and that made her furious. I was still laughing at her when I picked her up and carried her toward the bathroom. ‘I’m just going to cool you off, lass,” I said, and stuck her under the shower. She came out of that dripping wet and mad as—well, as mad as a woman can get. I knew then I’d gone too far and went out for a walk. When I came back she had cooled off.
We had a lot of silly arguments like that, but all in all, it was a wonderful marriage, and it was always a lot of fun making up.
She was awfully sensitive, and instead of having sense enough to console her, I’d try to point out where she was wrong. If I’d been old enough myself to realize she wasn’t mature, I’d have known better how to handle the situation. I remember one night I woke up and heard her crying. I’d said something in jest to her that day, and as usual, she had taken it seriously. “Go to sleep,” I said.
And then she grabbed me. “There’s a man following me,” she said.
“Baby, you’re dreaming,” I said. “Go back to sleep.”
“No I’m not dreaming,” she said. “I was so mad at you I decided to leave you and I went out in the street in my nightgown. And a man saw me and followed me.”
She had a curiously one-track mind, a fact which might explain that she would absentmindedly go wandering out in the street in her nightgown. It explains why one time she drove right into the front of a streetcar because she was thinking about something other than driving. It explains why, when she wanted to become a movie star, she became one.
She grew hysterical easily. Like the night I came home and heard her crying in the bedroom. It seems there had been a shorted wire under the rug and when she saw the sparks, she threw a whole pot full of coffee at the spot and then locked herself in the bedroom for the rest of the day. That was the house on Bessemer Street.
It was there, too, that I found her one day trying to pull a cow into the house. The cow always grazed in the big empty lot facing our house, and that day it was raining buckets. When I drove up the street in our old Ford I could see Marilyn tugging away at the animal.
“You’ll have to help me,” she said when I got to the front door.
“But honey, it isn’t our cow. You mustn’t worry about it.”
“But the poor thing,” she said. “We can’t leave it out in this weather.”
I suppose it would have struck some people as funny, but to me it showed what a softhearted, sentimental girl my wife really was.
We’d lived in three different places in that year before I joined the maritime service—first, the apartment on Vista Del Monte, then with my brother in my folks’ house when they went away for a while, then the little house on Bessemer Street.
When I went into boot camp at San Diego, Marilyn stayed with my parents. She always got along beautifully with them and they with her. She particularly liked my brother Tom, but my brother Marion was too much of a tease. Like me, I guess. Marilyn adored my dad, thought he was the greatest guy in the world. He’s honest and straightforward and wouldn’t tell a lie if a lie would do better, and Marilyn liked him for it.
After boot camp, I was sent to Catalina as a physical training instructor, and before long found an apartment and sent for Marilyn. I made seventy-five dollars a month and paid thirty-five dollars for the apartment. It was small, just a living room, bath and kitchen, and we sham it with Muggsy, our collie dog, but think those were the happiest days of marriage. It took the place of the honey moon I hadn’t been able to afford.
On Saturdays I was free after inspection and we used to go after abalone and lobsters. By this time she could cook quit well and took great pride in turning good meals. She knew lemon pie was favorite and would work over one-two hours to make sure it would be god I remember she used to have mixed and carrots a lot—not because she like them particularly but because “the cold looked so pretty.” We used to sing a together. We both had average voices, too good and not too painful, and I play a guitar. Our living room window over looked the bay, and on moonlit nights would sit at the window and watch soft light on the water and sing to eat other. We loved every minute of it.
If Marilyn was meticulous about herself (she used to take what seemed like an hour to wash her face at night. And like to mention that despite her public she does wear underwear, and is very fussy about it), she was even more about Muggsy. She kept him clean as whistle, and combed and brushed like show dog. When she put on a white blouse and shorts and took him for a walk, was like watching a dream walking.
I think it was during our year on Catalina Island that I first realized what tremendously attractive girl Marilyn way. There was a shortage of women on the island, and wherever we went I’d spot other guys giving Marilyn the eye. When went to the beach and she wore skimpy bathing suits I’d give her a lecture. As she’d look at me wide-eyed. “But we shouldn’t I wear this suit?”
“Honey, you don’t know what these guys are thinking!”
She was so naive that she’d get angry with me for saying such things.
But the naivete began to wear off who we were on the island. At first her cloth were conservative, but after a while began wearing sweaters more often. So knew she had a beautiful body and know men liked it, and didn’t mind showing little bit of it. She was quite aware of he pretty face, too, and even in school he worn pretty heavy makeup. The other had criticized her for it and she’d simple say, “Why not? It’s my face.” I do think her awareness made her conceited it was just that her face and figure we the only advantages she had over other people, and she made the most of them.
One night there was a Street dance Catalina with Stan Kenton’s band. It we the chance of a lifetime for the guys service, and if I remember rightly, I had one dance with my wife all evening long. I stood on the sidelines and watch over her like a mother hen. And I head the other men talking about her. I decided I’d better take her home. It was midnight then, but she was having the time of he life and didn’t want to leave.
“I think we’d better go.” I said again “Right now.”
“You know what?” she said. “I think go home with you and then when you asleep I’ll come back and dance some more.”
“Where would you sleep?” I said.
Her eyes widened. “What do you mean—where would I sleep?”
“I mean,” I said, “that if you do that, you’re not coming home tonight.”
That won the argument, but I realized that night that I’d been feeling a few pangs of jealousy. In the first days of our marriage, Marilyn had been intensely jealous of my old girl friends, and now the shoe was on the other foot. It wasn’t mainly my jealousy that worried me; it was the fact that she was so darned naive about these guys on the island. Despite all my teachings, she still would have swallowed any lines they cared to hand out.
We were at Catalina a year before I shipped out for the first trip in the maritime service. When she knew I was going to go, she spoke briefly about wanting a baby. It was the only time she ever gave an inkling that she might want a child. The rest of the time we had argued about it. I didn’t want her to have a baby while I was in the service, but I very definitely wanted a family after the war was over. She turned a deaf ear to the whole idea. It wasn’t that she didn’t like children—she was wonderful with my nieces and nephews, but I think she was afraid that she might lose her figure. At one time she had thought she might be expecting a baby, and she was distraught with worry. So for the time being, I let the problem drift, and figured to talk about it more seriously when I’d been discharged.
We went back to the mainland and stayed with my parents for about a week before I shipped out. Marilyn took every cent out of our bank account and gave me a watch as a going-away gift. We said our goodbyes at the house, because ship departures in those days were kept secret. When I left the house she was crying and I was bawling a little myself. We might well have cried. It was the last time together that we were ever truly happy.
I hadn’t been gone long when my mother, who was a nurse at a defense plant called Radio Plane, got Marilyn a job there. Marilyn wanted something to do to occupy her time while I was away, and she ended up in what they call the dope room, where the workers apply a special paint on the wing fabrics to make them stiff and waterproof. She wrote me regularly, but because my ship docked at odd places, it was sometimes three months before I received any mail. Then I’d stack it in chronological order and settle down for a long siege of reading and yearning. Her letters that first year were all about her work.
I sent her money the whole time I was away, of course, but I saved enough for a big blow-out my first trip home. We had it, too. The first night I was home we stayed in a motel on Ventura Blvd. She had told me she had a surprise for me and I didn’t know what it was until she came walking into the room in a black lace nightgown. I haven’t got words to describe how she looked. I suppose you could see her looking like that in a movie some time, but with me, it wasn’t the same as seeing her in a movie.
The next day, we went up to a lodge at Big Bear Lake. We had a high time up there for several days. There was snow on the ground, and I remember there was one couple who tried to teach us how to ski. Once I made a jump and went in head first and Marilyn thought I was hurt and got hysterical trying to dig me out again. One night there she ordered a Tom Collins, and then another one. It was the first time I’d seen her drink at all, and I didn’t like it. I kept swallowing her drinks to keep them away from her, and the only result of that was that I had too many. Then one night I got into a blackjack game with some college girls who were there, and Marilyn gave me the big old green eye and went upstairs. When I went up later she was in bed and crying. And then we had another argument about having children. She was still only lukewarm toward the idea.
My second trip away was sailing coast-wise, and I got home more often. But these weren’t happy times. I can’t construct them all in an exact chronological order, but it seems every time we saw each other the gulf had widened. Soon after my first visit at home, Marilyn was photographed at her work by some Army photographers. One of them gave her a letter of introduction to a woman who owned a modeling agency at the Ambassador Hotel, and that started the ball rolling. She quit Radio Plane soon after and did nothing but modeling, and then moved from my parents’ home to her own apartment, which was part of Aunt Anna’s house.
One time when I was home I found a script for a screen test and asked her if she was gunning for a movie career. She denied it and said someone had given her the script as a curiosity.
The next time I was home she asked me to drive her to a studio where she had an appointment to make a screen test. I didn’t like the idea and said so. “Look,” I said. “There are a thousand and one girls walking the streets of Hollywood who can sing and dance and act. And you want to be a movie star!” I should have known then that if she’d set her mind on it, she’d do it. Anyway, I sat out in the car and waited for her, and pretty soon she came out, all in a huff. “You’re right,” she said. “They’re just a bunch of fresh guys.”
Once I wired her from Texas that I was coming cross country from the East and would be home at a certain time. She wasn’t there when I got to the apartment I waited more than an hour, and she finally drove up in the old Ford, which looked as though it had been driven through the Mississippi mud. She gave no excuse and I didn’t ask for any.
I knew she was modeling in Bikini bathing suits and pleaded with her not to do “Why not?” she said. “They pay me for it.”
She told me they wanted her to post nude but she wouldn’t do it. For one job she posed with nothing but a drape and when I objected, she pointed out that the one hundred dollars she’d been paid would buy a new motor for our car.
She was letting money slip through her fingers faster than ever. She’d never had much sense about money at Catalina. She used to use our food money to buy me a whole tin of my favorite cigars. It was a gesture out of the goodness of her head and I appreciated it, but I never could teach her the wisdom of saving money once I sent her, from the Orient, one hundred dollars to buy a coat for her Christmas gift. She took two hundred dollars more out of the bank for the coat. Other time she took every cent out of the account to go to West Virginia to visit the Goddards.
I was beginning to feel pretty helpless about the whole situation. I couldn’t control what she did while I was gone, I did put my foot down about the future. “All this business is fine, but when I out of service we’re going to have family. You can only have one career and a woman can’t be two places at Kids should have security and know the mother is home when they need her.”
I was wasting my breath. She thought she had security in our marriage but now there was the modeling game the glamour that went with it: visions a movie contract were dancing in her head. To Marilyn, it all seemed a better security than marriage. For my part, I had known she was young but thought I knew what she wanted out of life and that I could handle the situation. But I hadn’t known at all what she wanted, and I wasn’t handling anything.
The worst blow came when I arrived home after a trip and she told me she was leaving town with a photographer. They were going up into the mountains to take some pictures, she said, and business was business. She was sorry, but she wouldn’t be at home.
The next time I got off the ship I had a pretty decent leave. It was in November, and when my leave was up I signed back on the ship so that I could be home for Christmas. I worked on board during the day and went home at night. Two nights before I was due to sail again, she wouldn’t have anything to do with me. She said she had to go over to this photographer’s house to see some pictures. And when I objected, she said once more, rather flatly, that she had to go see those pictures.
I went back to my ship and slept on board the ship that night.
The next day while I was working in the forecastle one of my shipmates stuck his head through the door. “Hey, Jim—your wife’s on the dock!”
When I went down to see her she was as attentive as though nothing had happened. “Were you going to leave without saying goodbye?” she said.
“It didn’t seem as though you cared,” I said. “You had to see those pictures, so I figured I might as well go back to sea.”
We patched it up—we almost had to, it was my last night before going out on my longest trip yet, a trip that was to take me around the world in more ways than one. We spent that night together and the next day I shoved off.
I remember the day the letter came. It was summer, and blistering hot. My ship was on the Yangtze River, near Shanghai, and I was leaning over the fantail, bargaining with a Chinaman on a bumboat. I’d just bought a camphor chest for Marilyn when the shout went up that the mail had come on board. I hadn’t had any mail for three months, but that was normal and I’d thought nothing of it. That day there was just one letter for me, and it was postmarked from Las Vegas.
One of the guys handed it to me with a laugh. “Here, Jim. I guess your wife’s divorcing you!”
I grinned. “Fat chance,” I said.
It has been written that Marilyn Monroe has denied writing me a Dear John letter, and the report is quite correct. She didn’t write me at all. The contents of that envelope from Las Vegas were papers from a lawyer to the effect that Norma Jean Dougherty was suing me for divorce. Would I please sign the enclosed papers and return them?
I felt as though I’d been hit on the head with a steam shovel. I had all sorts of thoughts in those first few minutes after opening the envelope. I asked the ship’s officers what chance I had to telephone or send a cable to my wife, and they replied that under the circumstances, a letter would reach her just as fast. And then, after I thought more about it, I didn’t even write a letter. And I didn’t return the divorce papers. As the day wore on I got madder and madder, and before night fall I’d canceled her allotment.
I’ll never forget how upset she was about that when I saw her, months later. She had been in the hospital for a minor infection when the notice arrived. “There I was, lying in bed,” she told me, “when the nurse handed me the envelope. How could you possibly cut me off like that?”
“Look, baby, that’s how it goes,” I said. “You don’t pay for anything when you’re not getting it.”
Anyway, out there on the Yangtze River, I opened my foot locker and looked at all the stuff I’d packed from home to use for bartering. I’d brought American nail polish and all sorts of things like that to trade with the natives in return for gifts for Marilyn. I took it all out and turned it into cash, and the only thing I put back was the camphor chest I’d just bought, so I could give it to my mother.
It was the end of that summer of 1946 when I finally got back to the States. We docked in San Diego and from there I phoned Aunt Anna, who gave me the phone number of the place Marilyn was staying in Las Vegas to establish residence for the divorce. I asked the operator for the number and waited for the click on the other end of the line. Her voice came over, low and purring, not at all like the voice I remembered.
Hello,” I said. “Norma Jean?”
“Oh, hello, Bill,” she said. I think she used the name Bill. It could have been Joe or Wadsworth—I don’t remember. all I know is that it was another guy’s name. “This is Jim,” I said.
“Oh, Jim!” she said without even a ripple. “How are you?”
“What the devil happened to your voice?” I said. “It doesn’t sound like you.”
She told me they wanted her to keep it low, that it sounded better that way. “They” was the studio, for by this time she was nibbling at a contract. I told her I wanted to see her, had to see her, to talk this thing over, and she said she’d be back in Los Angeles in a week or so.
It was a couple of weeks before I got to Los Angeles myself. After the ship was unloaded in San Diego I rode it up to San Pedro, the Los Angeles harbor. It was night when I arrived, but I went anyway to the apartment under Aunt Anna’s where Marilyn still lived. I went in, using the key I’d kept all those months, and woke her up. Her mother was sleeping there with her that night, and I guess I scared them both, coming in like that.
I ought to mention here that Marilyn’s mother has been well for years and working as a nurse herself. I understand that Marilyn has been wonderful to her in every way, and that their relationship in these past few years has made up for all the empty spots during Marilyn’s childhood. I saw her mother, incidentally, just the other day, and realized for the first time what a really beautiful woman she is. She was walking down the street as I drove by in a police car, and she looked like a million bucks.
Anyway, that night I walked in, Marilyn came into the living room and her mother stayed in the bedroom so we could talk. Even so, the circumstances weren’t right for a serious discussion, so I asked if I could borrow her car (or my car, whichever way you want to put it) to drive up to Thousand Oaks to see my folks.
When I brought the car back the next day we buckled down to sorting the thing out. I asked her if all the things we’d gone through together didn’t mean anything to her. She said of course, but that she wanted a career. She said “they” had told her she must be divorced in order to have a contract. I don’t know who told her that—it doesn’t make much sense—but it’s what she told me. And I realize by now that the studio doesn’t want her to get married. She’s worth more single, and I figure this Joe DiMaggio business is all publicity.
She said she’d made up her mind that the career was what she wanted, but that she’d never love anybody else but me. She suggested that we date each other, that she wanted to go on seeing me.
“But what’s the use of dating?” I said. “I want a wife and a home and a family.”
It was the old, old stalemate, and it ended there. I went back to the ship and that night she drove down to the harbor. Once more a shipmate told me my wife was waiting on the dock to see me. I went down, hoping against hope that I could change her mind. We went to a little place in Long Beach for something to eat and sat in a booth.
“Come on,” she said. “Sit a little closer.”
“Are you crazy, woman?” I said. “We’re divorced!”
“Not yet. You haven’t signed the divorce papers. That doesn’t make any difference, anyway.”
All through dinner we went over the same argument and then I told her I’d thumb my way back to the ship and she could take the car home. But she asked me to drive her home and said I could bring back the car the next day. I dropped her off at her apartment and said goodnight at her door, and the next day I took the car back. When she answered the door I handed her the divorce papers, signed. She smiled and said, “Thanks, Jim. Thanks for not making any trouble about all this.”
That was about it. I went back to the ship and soon afterward shipped out again. I carried a torch for a long time. When you’ve patted a telephone pole every time you’ve passed it for a few years, you miss it when it’s gone. I liked being married, and I had been happy with Marilyn, and now it was all over.
I saw her again some months later when I was back in town. My family was planning to give a New Year’s Eve party and we needed a phonograph for dance music. I’d given Marilyn everything—the car, the furniture, everything we’d accumulated, and I remembered that we’d had a phonograph. I went over to her apartment.
She met me at the door and when I called her Norma Jean, she told me her name had been changed to Marilyn Monroe . . . the Monroe from her grandfather’s name. I asked if I could borrow the phonograph and she said no, that she needed it to practice her dancing lessons.
I began to burn on the way home, and I think it was then that the torch went out.
It had been cold that day, standing there on the doorstep and I’d got the feeling that I was begging. All my longing turned to anger. It must have been Providence that made it that way, because I met my present wife at that New Year’s Eve party.
By that time I knew what I wanted in a wife and didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. So before I proposed to Pat, I asked her all the things I wanted to know: did she want kids, did she want a career, or was she willing to stay at home? I liked the answers she gave me, and by now, years later, I’m set up the way I like it. I don’t make much dough— three hundred and twenty a month take home pay, and I couldn’t see Marilyn being happy with that. But Pat is.
The Marilyn Monroe of today, whose face and figure are all over the country on movie screens and in magazines and newspapers, seems to me like a different person from the Norma Jean I married more than ten years ago. I suppose she is, for the years change everyone. Her body has filled out a lot more, and she looks more like a woman than the girl I knew. Her hair was always blonde, and naturally curly, and when it was wet it piled over her head in ringlets. I think the studio has taken out that natural curl so that they can arrange it the way they want to. I think she’s happy—I hope so—for there is still a grapevine via the Goddard family, and they say that she is going great guns. I was wrong when I told her she’d never have a chance in movies, but I should have known, with that one-track mind, that she’d make the big time in a big way. I think she’d give up anything for stardom—she already has.
I think about her sometimes, sure, in a detached sort of way. Unless she’s changed a lot, I’m afraid she’s going to be lonely one of these days, and maybe broke. She never had a close friend among women. It wasn’t her fault, she was just too attractive, and other girls resented it, I guess.
There’s not a chance in a thousand she’d ever come to me for advice—there’s no reason why she should—but if she did I’d tell her to find a good guy, someone she could respect and trust. Someone who’d be a really true friend to her and steer her right. Someone who could protect her from being shoved around, and someone who’d know how to invest her money for her so that when the golden goose stops laying, There’ll be some eggs left for her somewhere.
It was great fun, our marriage, but it was just one of those things. I wish her all the happiness in the world. Me, I’ve got mine.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MARCH 1953