The true story of the relationship between Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio as a blonde
Marilyn Monroe’s marriage to Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio is practically a footnote in her biography. But the relationship has come to the public’s attention again, and for deeply disturbing reasons involving him potentially beating her up, in Netflix’s new Monroe biopic. Blond.
Blond, based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, is heavily fictionalized but assembled from a splash of well-researched truths. Directed by Andrew Dominik (Killing them softly), the rare NC-17 rated feature works like a “dream movie” as much about Monroe’s image as it is about her real life, according to Dominik. The plot is structured around a cascading series of traumas suffered by Monroe that intersect in a dizzying, sometimes powerful, sometimes mind-numbing cycle. Monroe (real name: Norma Jeane Mortenson) struggles and can’t get out of the persona the rest of the world has given her. She wants agency, she just can’t get it.
With a Hollywood output as rich and productive as Monroe’s and a tabloid-splattered private life, it can be easy to overlook DiMaggio. But their later-in-life romance, split, and friendship have long captivated audiences. In Blondeverything is pretty much considered ugly: we watch Bobby Cannavale’s DiMaggio abusing Ana de Armas’ Monroe verbally and physically, putting her down when she’s already reached a mental low point.
What in BlondIs the description of the relationship faithful to reality? What turns into fiction? Here is a quick explanation.
How did Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio get involved?
Monroe’s relationship with Joe DiMaggio was unusual from the start. DiMaggio was captivated by the then-rising blonde bombshell in 1952 as a fan. After retiring from professional baseball the previous year (he spent his entire 13-year career with the New York Yankees), he asked an acquaintance to introduce him to Monroe. Monroe was reportedly hesitant to meet DiMaggio, assuming he would be the arrogant type of athlete, according to Daily Women’s Clothing in her relationship history.
Still, Monroe and DiMaggio maintained a two-year long-distance entanglement, with Monroe staying in California while the former Yankee remained on the East Coast.
Then in January 1954, they had a very public but unconventional wedding. They fled to San Francisco City Hall. Monroe eschewed a typical dress in favor of a sleek brown suit with a fluffy white collar, while DiMaggio wore a simple suit. They were, unsurprisingly, mobbed by crowds of fans and paparazzi.
The match was not meant to be. Monroe filed for divorce in October 1954, after only nine months of marriage. Back in Los Angeles after filming The Seven Year Itch with her famous New York skirt-blowing scene, she cited ‘mental cruelty’ as grounds for divorce from DiMaggio, according to WWD. Rumors of DiMaggio’s jealousy and controlling nature regarding Monroe’s sexpot status have persisted ever since.
How it works Blond represent Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio wedding?
In Blond, Monroe’s meeting with DiMaggio is more or less a one-sided conversation. DiMaggio falls in love with Monroe and gestures towards their shared understanding of public life as she looks sheltered and vulnerable.
“Hey, I know what it’s like to be alone,” Cannavale’s DiMaggio tells a crying Monroe (de Armas) at a restaurant booth. “Wanting a better life. A simple and good life. A decent life.
Monroe nods and cries. “I just want to start over,” she says. Yet she cannot. And we know that this relationship, like his others, is doomed.
Nude photos of Monroe are used as blackmail by Charlie Chaplin Jr. and Edward G. Robinson Jr., sons of more famous actors who engage in a “troupe” romance with Monroe early in the film. The two juniors approach DiMaggio with the photos, extorting money from him to keep the material private.
DiMaggio returns home with Monroe and slaps her in the face. ” These photos. That’s what you are: meat,” he says.
At this point, Monroe has already internalized the derogatory view of herself.
“Oh dad. It’s my fault,” de Armas replies in a whisper.
Abuse escalates later in Blondwhile Monroe shoots director Billy Wilder’s film The Seven Year Itch. Cannavale as DiMaggio is visibly mortified by the scene she films in which the wind from a subway grate blows her skirt, revealing her leg in the acclaimed rom-com and her underwear in Blond‘s hobbies behind the scenes.
Monroe in Blond returns to his hotel room, where DiMaggio removes his belt. As he begins to bombard her, he yells, “Everyone, they’re gonna know what a fucking bitch you are!” DiMaggio’s beating of Monroe largely happens off-screen, but it’s among Blond‘s most disturbing moments.
Did Joe DiMaggio really abuse Marilyn Monroe like in Blond?
Blond is, by design, extremely difficult to watch. Andrew Dominik, and in turn Joyce Carol Oates in the source material, want you to witness Monroe in her most painful moments. DiMaggio’s abuse is sadly just one chapter in his lifelong trauma.
But did DiMaggio actually abuse Monroe physically or emotionally? The answer gets a bit confusing. Remember, we’re talking about potential domestic violence seen through the prism of the 1950s.
What we do know is that, like the trio involving Chaplin Jr. and Robinson Jr., there’s no evidence the duo blackmailed DiMaggio with nude photos of Monroe.
There was some tension between DiMaggio and Monroe. And it came to mind during filming The Seven Year Itch. Witnesses confirmed the couple’s heated argument in the lobby of a New York hotel, E ! The news. And Monroe’s makeup artist revealed in Monroe’s biography Goddess that the actress arrived on set the next day with bruises on her shoulders.
Other details beyond their hotel spat and his apparent bruising are pure speculation or unconfirmed rumors. But it’s safe to say that DiMaggio and Monroe approached his stardom with different expectations, and DiMaggio may have held backward views when it came to his very famous wife.
Yet what Blond doesn’t show is the weirdest twist of them all: DiMaggio and Monroe then rekindled a longtime friendship after her divorce from playwright Arthur Miller in 1961, WWD Remarks. He held his funeral in 1962 and regularly sent roses to his crypt at Westwood Memorial Park for years. according to E!. He is sad to have loved Monroe until his own death in 1999.
What really happened between Monroe and DiMaggio? Were there physical beatings as horrific as those shown in Blond?
It’s hard to say. Much of Monroe’s life is shrouded in the myth that surrounds her. Blond is just an attempt to untangle this myth, what could have been, and the image of the woman that is still impossible to ignore in our collective minds.
Paul Schrodt is a freelance writer and editor who also contributes to Esquire, GQ, Money, The Wall Street Journal, and more.