Vintage Photos of Marilyn Monroe With Each of Her Three Husbands

Marilyn Monroe was a Hollywood star whose dramatic off-screen life attracted almost as much attention as her memorable roles in films such as Some Like It Hot and The Seven Year Itch. She was also an object of desire to men around the world, but in real life, happiness eluded her. Though the iconic performer was married three times throughout her short life, all the relationships ended in divorce. Here, we take a look back at Monroe’s three marriages. 

Marilyn Monroe married James Dougherty in 1942 

Marilyn Monroe with James Dougherty on their wedding day
Marilyn Monroe and James Dougherty on their wedding day | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Monroe — then known as Norma Jean Baker — married for the first time in 1942, to James Dougherty. She was just 16 when she said “I do” to Dougherty, a member of the Merchant Marine, partly to avoid being sent to foster care or an orphanage. Later, he headed out to sea on an overseas assignment, while she stayed in California and got a job working in a WWII defense plant. It was there that a photographer snapped a photo of her, leading her to eventually pursue a career in Hollywood. But her relationship was a problem — the studios weren’t interested in a married starlet. 

Dougherty returned to LA in 1946, and he and Monroe divorced soon after, according to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times. He later went on to become a police detective. He remarried twice and died in 2005 at the age of 84.  

“I never knew Marilyn Monroe, and I don’t claim to have any insights to her to this day,” Doughtery said in a 1990 interview, according to his obituary. “I knew and loved Norma Jean.”

Her second marriage was to Joe DiMaggio

Marilyn Monroe leaves courthouse With Joe Dimaggio
Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio after their wedding in San Francisco | Mondadori via Getty Images

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Monroe started dating baseball star Joe DiMaggio in 1952. She walked down the aisle for a second time in January 1954, when she and the ex-Yankees player married in San Francisco. But the marriage was short-lived. Joltin’ Joe was reportedly jealous of his Monroe’s career and disliked her sex symbol status, according to Biography. He wanted a traditional wife who would stay home and keep house. Soon, the marriage turned violent, according to the New York Post

Monroe and DiMaggio divorced after just nine months, but eventually reconciled, though the relationship was never the same. Still, the MLB great remained loyal to the screen star, even organizing her funeral in 1962 and arranging to have flowers sent to her grave three times a week for the next several decades. When he died 1999, he supposedly said, “‘I’ll finally get to see ­Marilyn again.”   

Marilyn Monroe’s third husband was Arthur Miller

Marilyn Monroe and husband Arthur Miller in car at Idlewild
Marilyn Monroe with Arthur Miller | Jack Clarity/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

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Monroe married for the third and final time to playwright Arthur Miller. The two wed in 1956 and soon after went abroad to England so Monroe could work on the film The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier. (The making of that movie is depicted in 2011’s Oscar-nominated My Week With Marilyn.)  

The couple were initially very much in love, but happiness was short-lived. Monroe came across some words Miller had written about her that described her and their marriage in an unflattering way. The actor was devastated, according to Biography. She also experienced several miscarriages, which further strained the relationship. In 1960, the two worked together on what would be her final film, 1960’s The Misfits, based on a story by Miller. But the marriage was over and they divorced in November of that year. 

Less than two years later, Monroe was dead of a drug overdose at age 36. Miller did not attend her funeral, though he included characters obviously based on his ex-wife in several of his future works.