In 1951, Marilyn did a series of photos with the Chicago White Sox during spring training at Brookside Park in Pasadena, California. The blonde in white shorts caught the attention of New York Yankee player, Joe DiMaggio, who requested that their mutual friend David March set them up on a blind date.
On 8 March 1952, the reluctant Marilyn arrived at the Villa Nova restaurant two hours late for the date. Not knowing who he was, Marilyn feared she would meet a big-headed sports star with a huge ego and no personality. Instead she found a quiet and shy man. At first she rejected his proposal for a second date but after asking around Marilyn decided to give him a chance. But from the start things were difficult. Joe was a divorced man with a ten year old son, Joe Jr.. Marilyn tried her best to befriend the child, but their friendship made the mother, Dorothy Arnold, angry, claiming that Marilyn was morally corrupting her son. Joe Jr. and Marilyn would end up having a better relationship than Joe Jr. and his father.
By October of 1952 rumours of a secret marriage between Marilyn and Joe had began to surface. Marilyn denied it stating “If I wanted to get married now, I would. And if I already were, the studio’s wishes would not be important enough to make me keep it secret." She had however begun to settle down, moving to 2393 Castillian Drive on September 15th. Joe became an almost permanent feature in the home and would invite friends and family to share meals and evenings together. Marilyn began learning how to cook. The difficulties between Dorothy and Joe created a short lived separation between Marilyn and Joe, lasting from 1st of October to around Thanksgiving. Joe surprised Marilyn on Christmas Eve by showing up at her hotel room with a tree and presents.
Tragedy struck Joe’s family in 1953 when he learned that his brother Mike was killed in a fishing accident. Marilyn joined Joe in San Francisco and made a pleasant impression on his family. It was during this time that Joe realized how much he was in love with her and Marilyn confessed to friends that she knew she really did want to marry him. On New Year’s Eve Joe asked Marilyn to marry him, she agreed. And on 14 January 1954, the couple got married at the San Francisco City Hall. After a short honeymoon in a mountain hideaway in Idyllwild, the couple decided to travel to Japan for Joe’s coaching trip.
On 28 January Marilyn broke her thumb. A variety of speculation has revolved around the event. Many believe that it was Joe’s hotheadedness, including Dorothy Arnold’s relative who claimed “Joe was extremely possessive of Dorothy; also Marilyn." When asked by reporters what had happened Marilyn said "I just bumped it against the door, Joe was there. He heard it crack." This was not to be the last rumour of Joe’s anger.
On 16 February Marilyn began her Korea tour. She would later state that this was her favourite time. On her return to Japan, Marilyn excitedly told DiMaggio, “Joe, you never heard such cheering," to which he replied, "Yes, I have.”
Returning back in L.A., Marilyn began work on ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business.’ Talk of abuse resurfaced as Marilyn began turning up to work with bruises on her arms [x]. Jokingly Marilyn stated “I bite myself in my sleep.” Joe highly disapproved of Marilyn’s revealing costumes and sexy performance. Joe’s friend, Mark Scott later told reporters, “Joe wanted a wife, not a star. Marilyn would come home at night too tired for anything but sleep. That would leave Joe looking at the television."
In an interview during the filming of TNBLSB, Marilyn told a reporter that she’d like to make Joe proud of her. “He’s not proud of you?" asked the reporter. "I mean more so,” she corrected. "Proud of me as a performer. It makes no difference to him whether I work or not. Joe knows he comes first, before everything."
After finishing work on TNBLSB, Marilyn travelled to New York on 9 September to begin work on The Seven Year Itch. When she arrived at Idlewild Airport, a reporter asked, “No Joe?" to which she replied, "Isn’t that a shame?" When asked about a rumour that Joe was spending a lot of time away from home, Marilyn denied it stating that it was difficult to get him out of the house.
The infamous shooting of Marilyn with the skirt of her dress would be the nail in the coffin of her and Joe’s marriage. The scene would have to be re-shot on a soundstage in Hollywood due to sound problems. Joe, who was present at the time of the shooting did not stick around. When the couple returned to their hotel room, other guests claimed to hear a terrible row coming from their room. Amy Greene would later claim that when she and her husband Milton (Marilyn’s favourite photographer at the time) met the couple for dinner shortly after, she saw bruises on Marilyn’s back. When the couple returned to L.A., Marilyn was confined to her bed with the flu, and Joe left for San Francisco to meet his friend.
Marilyn decided that while she was still in love with him, her only option was to to divorce him. She called her lawyer Jerry Giesler, who tried to determine what was best but Marilyn was adamant- she wanted a divorce, with no request for alimony or property.
Marilyn’s close friend Hal Schaefer, would state ‘DiMaggio had got physical with her and although she didn’t have a great deal of self-esteem, she did finally have enough and picked up and left. She was very serious about divorcing him, which is why she hired Jerry Giesler- she wanted to get away from Joe. Marilyn was a super-sensitive woman and had a real artistic thirst to grow; she loved the arts, but Joe was into none of these things. Marilyn didn’t want any part of him- she was hurt and emotionally fragile and turned to me.’
By this time DiMaggio was back in L.A. and living on the ground floor of North Palm Drive, while Marilyn spent her time upstairs. On 4 October, Giesler arrived at their house and served Joe with the divorce papers. A statement was given to the press informing them that the charges would be mental cruelty and that neither Joe or Marilyn would make any comment. The next day Joe left the home stating that he would never be back.
Marilyn moved out into an apartment at 8338 Delongpre Avenue. Her friendship with Hal Schaefer developed into a physical relationship, according to him. While the truth about their relationship may be questionable, it concerned DiMaggio enough to hire private detectives from the City Detectives and Guard Service to follow the couple. Marilyn and Hal were aware that they were being followed. ‘It was a sick and hostile situation because of DiMaggio,' remembered Schaefer. 'He hired private detectives and bugged Marilyn’s car, my car, and my apartment. We were followed everywhere and it was very scary. Marilyn was terrified.’
When she appeared at Santa Monica Court House on 27 October, Marilyn didn’t mention the surveillance, though it was still going on. She stated that her dream of marital bliss had turned into a nightmare of ‘coldness' and 'indifference.’ She added, ‘My husband would get into moods where he wouldn’t speak to me for days at a time- a week, sometimes longer, maybe ten days. If I tried to coax him to talk to me, he wouldn’t answer at all, or he would say, “Leave me alone, stop nagging me!’" Adding that while she offered to give up her film career to make the marriage work, ‘But his treatment of me made me ill and I was under the care of a physician quite a bit of the time.' She was awarded a divorce.
The spying continued and on 5 November the ‘Wrong Door Raid’ took place. The hired detectives tailed Marilyn to 754 Kilkea Drive, the apartment block of Sheila Stewart, a friend of Marilyn and an ex-student of Schaefer. DiMaggio, along with his friend Frank Sinatra, had followed the detective. DiMaggio was determined to catch Marilyn ‘in the act’ with Schaefer. The detectives, DiMaggio and Sinatra stormed the apartment and instead of finding an orgy, they found a terrified lady, Florence Kotz. Sinatra later claimed that he stayed in the car and smoked a cigarette, and when the case went to court in March 1957, DiMaggio backed him up while Private Detective Phil Irwin insisted that Sinatra was an active participant.
Despite everything, Joe and Marilyn somehow remained friends. He kept her company on 8 November when Marilyn has a gynaecological operation. The press began to wonder if there was a chance of a reconciliation. After the couple were seen dining at Villa Capri on 13 November, Marilyn released a statement which read, ‘Joe and I are just friendly, that’s all. There’s nothing to it.’
Soon after Marilyn decided to start fresh in New York City.
Marilyn and Joe, 1951- 1954 [Part 1]