Whatever Happened To Marilyn Monroe's First Husband, James Dougherty?

Norma Jeane Baker was born on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, and while she was just a small-town girl at the time, she grew up to be one of the biggest icons Hollywood has ever known (via History). Famously known as Marilyn Monroe, she went on to star in movies like 1947's "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim," 1950's "The Asphalt Jungle," and 1953's "Niagara," where she plays an unfaithful young woman who plots with her lover to murder her husband.

Her films have garnered over $200 million to date for Hollywood (via the Los Angeles Times), but sadly her career did not last very long. Her life was cut short at just 36 years old, leaving behind only heartbreak, mystery, and a trove of possessions revealing the starlet's true nature (via The Marilyn Monroe Collection). While the expected dresses and jewelry, makeup, and the like could be found in Monroe's former possessions, a library of over 400 books from theology to psychology, "The Great Gatsby" to "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," shed light on her intellectual side. Monroe additionally married three different men throughout her life, all ending in divorce and all with their own tragic stories.

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A Rough Start

Norma Jeane Baker (aka Marilyn Monroe) had an impossibly difficult childhood (via History). Mental illness was a constant in her family, with both maternal grandparents and her own mother being admitted to mental hospitals throughout her childhood, leaving the young girl in foster care. To try and escape foster care, Baker went on to marry one of her neighbors at just 16 years old. His name was James Dougherty, a 21-year-old man who eventually left to fight with the Merchant Marines during World War II.

While Dougherty was gone, Baker transformed into the star we know today. After being discovered by a photographer in the munitions factory she worked for, she dyed her brown hair blonde, changed her name to Marilyn Monroe (Monroe being her grandmother's maiden last name), and signed a film contract with 20th Century Fox. But only after divorcing Dougherty in 1946, upon his return from service in the South Pacific.

Heartbreak on the Diamond

Although Marilyn Monroe's marriage to James Dougherty ended after just a few short years (via History), those close to her said all she truly ever wanted was love and stability (via Screen Rant). She went on to get married two more times — once to all-star baseball player Joe DiMaggio in 1954 and another time to famed playwright Arthur Miller in 1956 (via Biography). Both obviously ended in divorce, but only after some trauma.

DiMaggio was notoriously passionate, but also controlling and abusive over his discomfort with Monroe's sex appeal. He did not appreciate being married to history's greatest sex symbol, who once nearly caused a riot among U.S. military men due to a performance she gave during her and DiMaggio's honeymoon. The outfielder became so enraged with jealousy at times that some say he beat her. Despite a toxic relationship and heartbreaking divorce, the two remained friends. DiMaggio even famously sent roses to Monroe's grave several times a week for decades until he died in 1999.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

No Love in Theater

Marilyn Monroe went on to have her longest marriage with playwright Arthur Miller, but that also ended in divorce in 1961 (via History). Many believe this divorce struck a chord with Monroe's failing mental health, as she died of a possible suicide just a year later. Her failed relationship with Miller swung her into a depression, and she was admitted to hospitals for psychiatric evaluation twice the year of her divorce. Her psychiatrist at the time — Ralph Greenson — and his family were reportedly her main support system at the time, inviting her to dinner regularly, caring for her, and showing her the unconditional love she had always craved (via Screen Rant).

But she had seen real potential in her relationship with Miller, even writing "hope, hope, hope" on the back of their wedding photo. What many fans did not know is that Monroe went through several miscarriages during her marriage to him, and he did not try to hide his disappointment with her. Despite this, she stuck it out as long as she could.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

A Mysterious Death

After a short but iconic career in Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe was fired from 20th Century Fox in June 1962 for her increased absences on the set of "Something's Got to Give" (via History). Just a few short months later, on August 5, Monroe was found dead in her home by her housekeeper, overdosed on barbiturates in a possible suicide. However, some of her fans do not accept this theory (via Screen Rant).

Around this same time, Monroe was amidst an infamously speculated affair with both Kennedy brothers, President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, aka "Bobby" (via Time). Due to the destructive nature of the affair, especially with a standing U.S. president, some conspiracy theorists believe the government had something to do with Monroe's abrupt death. Conflicting details in various reports — such as Monroe being dead when found versus dying in the ambulance — have fueled skeptics, though Metro claims that such rumors have been "debunked." Regardless, she died without experiencing the only thing she ever wanted since she was just a child: true love.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

A lost chance for love

Many of those who worked with or knew Marilyn Monroe described her as a classy intellectual (via Screen Rant). Famed Hollywood Agent Al Rosen once said that although he had seen countless starlets be taken advantage of in Hollywood, Monroe was no pushover. However, some may argue that men came to be her downfall. James Dougherty, the Merchant Marine and Monroe's first love from the beginning of this story (via The Washington Post), apparently helped pave the way for Norma Jeane to become Marilyn (via NPR). Dougherty met Monroe at their high school when she was a shy, down-to-Earth tomboy at just 15 years old. He helped give her confidence, brought her everywhere with him, taught her how to walk and talk like a "lady," and helped bolden her sense of humor.

Dougherty, who went on to remarry twice and work for the Los Angeles Police Department as a detective for 25 years, died in 2005 of leukemia. Before his death, he retired in 1974 and moved to Arizona and then Maine. His third wife, Rita, died in 2003. Dougherty apparently did not like to discuss his marriage to Monroe, but after his second divorce, he became more open and wrote "To Norma Jeane With Love, Jimmie," a tell-all book that he wrote in 1997. He also attended a commemorative stamp ceremony in Monroe's honor in 1995 and was quoted saying that her plans at the time of their marriage "were to be a homemaker." And while the world knew a star, he knew a small-town girl with dreams of love.