It looked good on paper – or to be more precise, they looked good in the papers – “they” being Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, who were married in San Francisco in a civil ceremony on this date in 1954.
The media dubbed the union as a “fairy tale” marriage, pairing America’s favorite sports hero with its leading female sex symbol.
But just as cruelty lurks in the subtext of all classic fairy tales, the DiMaggio-Monroe pairing turned out to be short-lived and fraught with pain.
This was a couple who should have entered marriage counseling before they were wed, or at the very least, been given Myers-Briggs tests to let them in on what friends of both knew from the start: that the marriage was doomed.
DiMaggio, the recently-retired immortal center fielder for the New York Yankees, was accustomed to hearing the roar of the crowd and resented finding he was no longer the center of attention when he entered a room with his stunning starlet wife on his arm.
Monroe, the uber-extrovert who craved the attention of all, was twelve years younger than Joltin’ Joe, and was at the height of her career.
DiMaggio wanted Monroe to leave Hollywood behind and be his stay-at-home wife; something his new bride refused to consider. An intensely jealous man, DiMaggio bristled every time he saw Monroe play to an audience using the full arsenal of her sensuality.
The straw that broke the marriage’s back landed on September 15th of that same year when DiMaggio was on-hand (along with hundreds of other spectators) to witness his wife’s white dress billow above her shoulders in the famous subway grate scene from The Seven Year Itch.
There had already been whispers of spousal abuse, and DiMaggio was said to have swatted his wife like an inside fastball after the filming. They were divorced less than two months later.
But their relationship wasn’t over. Around the time of The Misfits, Monroe’s final completed film, she suffered a complete breakdown and turned to DiMaggio for solace.
After Monroe’s death in 1962, DiMaggio had fresh roses delivered to her crypt at Westwood Cemetery three times a week for twenty years.
It was assumed that DiMaggio’s body would eventually occupy the vacant crypt at Monroe’s side. This rumor proved unfounded, as he was interred in a Catholic cemetery in the Bay Area after his death in 1999 from lung cancer.
(The crypt is now thought to belong to Hugh Hefner, who made Monroe the first Playboy centerfold in 1953.)