When Marilyn Monroe met Joe DiMaggio

The ultimate romance between a beautiful Hollywood actress and a retired baseball player 12 years her senior began 70 years ago.

Although it appeared to be a match made in heaven, the relationship between Monroe and DiMaggio sadly ended in divorce, just two years on from their first meeting.

Their fairy tale marriage broke down after the subsequent media frenzy and their conflicting career demands drove them apart. However, in a true story resembling a plot from a romantic movie, it was DiMaggio who helped his ex-wife recover when she was later admitted to a psychiatric clinic.

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Despite rumours of their remarriage being unfounded, the sporting hero never got over losing Monroe. He always made sure roses were placed on her grave, several times a week, for 37 years until his own death in 1999.

How two icons met

DiMaggio was labelled the greatest baseball player of all time and the “Yankee Clipper”. Born in Martinez, California, in November 1914, he had started playing semi-pro baseball in 1931. His whole 13-year career was spent with the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball.

His record 56-game hitting streak from 15th May to 16th July 1941 still stands today. During his career, he won many accolades including the Most Valuable Player Award three times. He was also awarded a prestigious All-Star every season. Loved by the American public, he was voted baseball’s greatest living player of all time.

Monroe was born in Los Angeles in 1926 and grew up to become one of the most iconic Hollywood stars of all time. She won leading roles in classic movies such as Niagara, How to Marry a Millionaire, Monkey Business, Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; establishing her “blonde bombshell” image that the fans adored.

In 1952, DiMaggio asked a friend to arrange a blind date for him with Monroe, who was 26 at the time. At 38, he had retired from major league baseball six months earlier. He wanted to arrange a low-profile dinner date with the actress. However, they were each considered hot property by the media and it was inevitable the press would get wind of their meeting right away and begin to hound them.

Monroe’s scepticism

Initially, Monroe was sceptical about meeting the baseball star. In her autobiography, My Story, co-written with Ben Hecht, she described how she expected a “flashy New York sports type”. However, she agreed to go on the dinner date.

They preferred the seclusion of a back corner at DiMaggio’s own restaurant in San Francisco. Monroe admitted afterwards she was pleasantly surprised when she met the sportsman. She described him as a “reserved guy” and liked the fact he didn’t make a pass at her straight away, adding, “He treated me like something special.”

In ecstasy at their blossoming romance, the press ensured the couple continually made the headlines. Wherever they went, they were followed by a mob of reporters, photographers and adoring fans. They chose to stay in quite often to avoid the public gaze, although dined out privately at DiMaggio’s restaurant from time to time.

Wedding of the year

The happy couple married on 14th January 1954 at San Francisco City Hall. The usual crowd of reporters and fans arrived for the event, which was supposed to be a private and secret ceremony – something they both wanted. However, someone at the film studio leaked the news to the press and they were out in force for the wedding of the year.

They jetted off to Japan for their honeymoon. Although a romantic occasion, it was combined with DiMaggio’s business trip to Tokyo. While on honeymoon, Monroe was asked to go to Korea and perform for the US troops stationed there. She agreed, despite DiMaggio being unhappy about her trip.

She travelled from Tokyo alone, leaving her new husband in Japan. When they both returned to the US, tensions were already running high after the honeymoon incident. The cracks began to show when DiMaggio reportedly felt increasingly uncomfortable at his wife’s sexy public image.

During filming of Billy Wilder’s comedy, The Seven Year Itch, in September 1954, Monroe filmed one of the most famous movie scenes of all time. She was required to stand over a subway grate as the air blew up the skirt of her white dress, sending it billowing up to her waist.

The press and a crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the filming – Wilder had arranged the press attendance to publicise the film. Monroe had to film the scene several times. Every time her skirt blew up, the crowd started cheering. DiMaggio was on set watching; he was furious.

The shoot lasted for several hours, and it was reported there were 2,000 spectators by the end of it. While the subsequent photos appeared on the front of newspapers and magazines all over the world, becoming one of the most iconic images of the 20th century, it signalled the end of the couple’s short marriage.

Painful divorce

In October 1954, just one month after the filming incident, and only 274 days after their wedding, DiMaggio and Monroe were divorced. Monroe filed for divorce, citing her husband’s “mental cruelty”. It was claimed this was because he wanted her to be a “demure housewife” rather than a celebrity actress.

Two years later, Monroe married playwright Arthur Miller, but she ended up divorced a second time in January 1961. After becoming emotionally fragile, in February 1961 she was admitted into a psychiatric clinic. DiMaggio still cared deeply about his ex-wife and secured her release. He whisked her away to the Yankees’ Florida spring training camp for relaxation and rest. Rumours circulated about their planned remarriage, although they denied this was in the pipeline, maintaining they were “just good friends”.

Death of an icon

Sadly, no one will ever know the true story and can only speculate on what might have happened. On 5th August 1962, Monroe died at the age of 36. She was discovered by her housekeeper, Eunice Murray, at her home on Helena Drive, Los Angeles.

The cause of death was given as acute barbiturate poisoning. However, even now, 60 years on, there are still conspiracy theories about how and why the tragic star died.

Heartbroken, DiMaggio arranged her funeral and his love for the troubled actress never faded. He continued to send roses to place on her grave in Los Angeles until his own death, at the age of 84, in March 1999.

Marilyn Monroe remains an icon today and the legend of the beautiful and talented actress is as strong as it was 60 years ago. Anything connected to Monroe still makes the international headlines.

“Mr President” dress controversy

When reality TV star and businesswoman Kim Kardashian wore Monroe’s legendary lace “Mr President” dress to the 2022 Met Gala on 2nd May, it caused a massive media backlash. The dress was last worn on 19th May 1962, when Monroe sang Happy Birthday Mr President to US President John F Kennedy at a Democratic Party fundraising gala.

Kardashian, 41, was permitted to wear the crystal-embellished dress for around ten minutes for publicity photos, bringing the Red Carpet to a standstill when she arrived. She spoke to Vogue magazine about her fitness regime and diet to enable her to slim into the dress, which was on loan from Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum.

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