Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Breaking Down "Secret Life" Part 6/10

Episode 2: Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio

We’ve got a shorter post than normal today, but we’re covering a lot of information.

This is a continuation of my series of blog posts breaking down The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe the movie. Before reading, please check out the previous parts before continuing.

Links are here!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

(1)THE MOVIE: Joe DiMaggio, played by Jeffery Dean Morgan, has been waiting a long while for his date to arrive. Eager to meet him, Kelli as Marilyn finally shows up to dinner and introduces herself to the former Yankee, who she had originally thought was a football player. They stay at the restaurant until one in the morning, chatting it up about life and learning all there is to know about each other. The restaurant they are at is supposed to represent Chasen’s, located in Hollywood.

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"
(1)REAL LIFE: They did not have their first date at Chasen’s, however, they did dine there on occasion. Chasen’s was a popular star-spot at the time. This meeting in the movie was more a representation of when the famous couple went there in June of 1953. Marilyn had just gotten back from an important event in her career: placing her handprints and footprints in the cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. They met up at Chasen’s afterwards with Jane Russell, her husband Bob Waterfield, and Marilyn’s close friend Sidney Skolsky. Her and DiMaggio had already been dating for about a year prior to this dinner, so this was not the first time they met. But a great recreation nonetheless, down to the restaurant booths.  They did not sleep together after their first date either, as implied in the film. Marilyn didn’t go around sleeping with men the first day she met them.  Marilyn herself recalls that on their first date, “We [drove] around for three hours” (My Story). After they ate, Joe and Marilyn rode around Beverly Hills before she dropped him back off at his hotel.

Image result for marilyn and joe at chasens
Marilyn and Joe at Chasen's, 1953.
(2) THE MOVIE: Marilyn returns home with Aunt Grace, played by Emily Watson. Grace is visibly exhausted and obviously not well. When Marilyn asks what is wrong, Grace tries to tell her she's fine, but Marilyn can tell something isn't right and urges Grace to be honest. Grace finally tells her that she has cancer. The film then cuts to a scene where Marilyn is in bed with Grace reading her the Bible.

(2) REAL LIFE: As we know, Grace McKee was one of the most important people and influences in Marilyn's life. She is a very rare case being that she witnessed little Norma Jeane transform from small, lonely child to the stunning Marilyn Monroe the movie star. The movie depicts them to be a bit closer in Marilyn's adult life than they actually were. In July of 1953, Grace wrote to Marilyn's sister, Berniece, notifying her that she had cancer. In September of 1953, she passed away not from the cancer, but from an overdose of the barbiturate phenobarbital. She had committed suicide. According to Berniece, her and Marilyn had always thought that Grace had died from cancer, but the true nature of her death was not discovered until after Marilyn herself had passed away. 

Grace McKee Goddard
From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

(3) THE MOVIE: Marilyn takes Joe to visit her mother at Rockhaven to receive her blessing for Joe to marry her. After Gladys does so, she also asks Joe if Marilyn told him she was barren. Joe is visibly disappointed and taken aback, saying "Were you planning on telling me Marilyn?"

(3) REAL LIFE: Joe DiMaggio and Gladys Baker never met. In fact, while Marilyn paid for Gladys's stay at Rockhaven and took care of her from a distance, she never visited her. Therefore, a meeting between the three of them just didn't happen. Marilyn had endometriosis, a painful condition in which the tissue which normally lines the inside of the uterus grows on the outside. She had been suffering from this since her early teens, and includes regularly having severe abdominal pain and having a difficult time conceiving, something Joe had definitely been aware of prior to their marriage. 

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

(4) THE MOVIE: Joe and Marilyn are relaxing in bed when Marilyn grabs for her pill bottle, which frustrates Joe. He tries to explain that she doesn’t need the pills. After an argument, Joe angrily yanks them away from her and throws them over the bed and onto the floor. The bottle crashes on the ground and several tiny pills spill out all over the carpet. Marilyn, furious, scrambles off the bed and onto the floor and hurriedly begins picking them up one by one, saying “You don’t know what it’s like not to be able to sleep!”

               (4)REAL LIFE: As we just determined, it was not Marilyn that overdosed with phenobarbital, it was Grace. Marilyn had been trying sleeping pills at least since around 1950. She began undergoing occasional psychotherapy in 1952. She didn’t start using them more frequently and becoming addicted until around 1955, when she was seeing a psychoanalyst several times a week and being prescribed them in larger doses.  There is no account of Joe wrestling with her over a bottle of pills. Severe insomnia was something she struggled with greatly for much of her life.

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

(5)THE MOVIE: Marilyn and Natasha Lytess are sitting on a couch having a discussion about acting. Natasha wants for Marilyn to harness her deep-seated feelings about her childhood and her feeling of neglect so that she can present them believably on screen. Joe quickly becomes angry with her technique, shooting down Natasha’s beliefs. He doesn’t believe that Marilyn should be storing these awful memories, and that instead she should start with a clean slate.

         (5)REAL LIFE: Joe and Natasha never saw eye to eye. Natasha was an important figure in Marilyn’s life, and she felt that now with Joe in the picture, he was jeopardizing that. Joe didn’t like Natasha constantly hanging around the set, and Natasha claims that Marilyn frequently called her in the late hours of the night complaining about the way DiMaggio treated her.  Marilyn and Natasha had a close bond early in her career, saw each other every day, and even lived together with Natasha’s young daughter at one point. So, naturally, when Joe came along, Natasha resented him, and for Joe the feeling was mutual.

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

(6)THE MOVIE:  Marilyn finds Grace’s prescription for phenobarbital in the medicine cabinet. Soon, Joe comes home and finds Marilyn unconscious in bed as a result of overdosing on those pills. Joe blames her overdose on Hollywood and her career, telling the doctor that there’s nothing wrong with Marilyn that can’t be fixed by getting out of Hollywood.

        (6)REAL LIFE: Marilyn never overdosed or attempted suicide during her marriage to Joe. This could be the representation of a similar event which occurred a few years prior. Shortly after the death of Johnny Hyde, Natasha Lytess tells of a night that Marilyn went into such a depression that she attempted suicide. Natasha came home to find Marilyn unconscious in bed after an apparent overdose of sleeping pills. Her mouth was partially open, showing dissolving pills, which Natasha then scooped out of her mouth in a hurry before rushing her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped.  We can also confirm at least one other suicide attempt. This occurred in 1957, shortly after Marilyn miscarried. In his book Timebends, Arthur Miller found her collapsed in a chair with labored breathing. She had apparently overdosed on sleeping pills, and had to be rushed from to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. Susan Strasberg also later wrote that Marilyn explained she was grateful for Arthur having found her in time. Close friend Norman Rosten also writes of a similar event in his memoir, which is likely this 1957 attempt.

(7)THE MOVIE: Kelli as Marilyn is in a meeting with Fox head Daryl Zanuck. He says he has a script for a film called The Girl in Pink Tights prepared “just for her.” She says that is wonderful and that she would love to take a look at it to see if that is something she would like to make. Zanuck is surprised by her comment, basically stating that she works for him and has no right to script approval. The meeting ends on a sour note with Marilyn storming out of the office.

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

     (7)REAL LIFE: These events occurred mainly between the end of 1953 and the beginning of 1954. In December of 1953, Marilyn did not show up for the filming of Pink Tights. Although this picture would have also starred Frank Sinatra, Marilyn considered the script “inferior” and, always knowing what was best for her career, refused to be a part of it. She challenged her studio by refusing to show up for any of her required filming schedules. She said, regarding this incident, “When a studio stumbles on a box office name in its midst, it means millions of dollars income. And every studio has learned to be very considerate financially towards the goose that lays their golden eggs. The trouble was about something deeper. I wanted to be treated as a human being who had earned a few rights since her orphanage days. When I asked to see the script of a movie in which it was announced I was going to star, I was informed that the studio didn’t consider it necessary for me to see the script in advance. I would be given my part to memorize at the proper time.” She was suspended multiple times, but received a lot of moral support from her soon-to-be husband Joe DiMaggio, who was looking forward to making her his wife and Marilyn working less so they could spend more time together and raise a family. Which brings us straight into our next topic:

(8)THE MOVIE: Marilyn returns home exhausted the day she fought with Zanuck over refusing to appear in The Girl in Pink Tights before reading the script. She suggests her and Joe get away to San Francisco and get married. Joe readily agrees and supports her in her decision to not show up for work at the studio. Upon their return, Marilyn and Joe get into a fight about Marilyn’s career. Joe once again is angry that Marilyn works far too much, while he wishes that she would stay home and be a proper wife and raise children. At the end of the argument, Joe slaps her across the face.

     (8)REAL LIFE: During this whole fiasco with Pink Tights, Joe proposed to Marilyn. Shortly after, the couple got married in a small, intimate ceremony in San Francisco on January 14, 1954. It wasn’t long before Joe was to appear in Japan for the Yankees training sessions. They decide to make Japan their honeymoon destination, after spending a week in San Francisco relaxing and enjoying themselves. After their return from Japan, and after Marilyn had sung for the soldiers in Korea, the couple flew back to Hollywood and began business as usual. Marilyn set to work on her next project, There’s No Business Like Show Business. They were already having problems in their marriage; Joe wanted a traditional family and was ready to settle down, after being retired from baseball and reaching the peak of his career. Marilyn was still very involved in her work and had no plans to quit any time soon. As for the part about Joe slapping her, well … there are a lot of issues concerning that.  In September of 1954, Joe became furious with her when he was dragged out to Lexington Avenue by friend Walter Winchell to watch his wife showcase her underwear in front of thousands for a scene for The Seven Year Itch: A scene that went down in pop culture history and gave Marilyn her “white dress” image. That night, the couple got into a heated argument. By several accounts, screaming and yelling and banging were heard coming from their hotel room. The next morning, Marilyn showed up to work with bruises all over her back, which had to be covered up by makeup. This is the only event that we can say with, pretty much certainty, that Joe laid a violent hand on her. A couple previous events can be speculated. In 1954, Marilyn visited the set of A Streetcar Named Desiree. She is photographed with Marlon Brando, and can be seen with obvious bruising on her arm. When asked what happened by the press, she said that she must have bitten her arm in her sleep. Although closer examination reveals that it looks more like a bruise left by someone grabbing her. In another case, while packing for Japan, Joe is said to have slammed her thumb in a suitcase (either intentionally or accidentally), which is why she can be seen in several photos wearing a thumb splint. Finally, Joe threw her off of him when she tried to hug him on the set of Show Business, as witnessed by several people. She was wearing the costume used in her Heat Wave number, and Joe was embarrassed by it and refused to be photographed with her.

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