Los Angeles, CA – In the annals of Hollywood history, there are love stories that have captured the world’s imagination. None, however, were as enigmatic and complex as the union of Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller. Two souls from entirely different worlds came together in a whirlwind romance that seemed destined for the stars. Yet, beneath the glitz and glamour, their love story was marked by trials, misunderstandings, and personal demons that would ultimately extinguish the flame.
Marilyn Monroe, the eternal screen siren and embodiment of American beauty, first crossed paths with Arthur Miller, the renowned playwright, and intellectual powerhouse, in 1950. At the time, Monroe was still in the throes of struggling for fame, while Miller was already celebrated for his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Death of a Salesman.” Their initial meeting was orchestrated by Elia Kazan, a friend of Miller’s and Monroe’s lover at the time.
Miller was immediately struck by Monroe’s magnetic presence, her vulnerability, and her undeniable allure. But he kept his emotions in check, acting aloof during their first encounter. Monroe interpreted his restraint as a sign of respect and found it utterly captivating. She confided in a friend, comparing the experience to “running into a tree, like a cool drink when you’ve had a fever.”
As Miller returned to New York in January 1951, he left an indelible mark on Monroe. She placed his photograph above her pillow, eagerly anticipating his return to Los Angeles. Their correspondence, filled with the subtleties of a budding romance, deepened their connection. Monroe even bought a biography of Abraham Lincoln, a book Miller had recommended, signifying the intellectual bond that was forming.
The pair wouldn’t meet again until 1955, after Monroe had moved to New York City to study at the Actors’ Studio. Her second marriage to Joe DiMaggio had crumbled, and she was single and resolute in her pursuit of Miller. Monroe, ever the seductress, cultivated relationships with Miller’s close friends, Norman and Hedda Rosten, with the hope of getting closer to the playwright. When Miller and Monroe reconnected, despite his existing marriage, they embarked on a secret affair. However, secrecy was an illusion, as the prying eyes of the media were drawn to the movie star and the acclaimed writer.
Monroe’s desire for Miller was twofold: she yearned for the love and security he offered, and she longed to be seen as a serious actress alongside a renowned playwright. Miller, though hesitant to leave his wife, was deeply in love with Monroe. He once wrote to her, “I believe that I should really die if I ever lost you.” In the spring of 1956, he began the process of establishing residency in Nevada, a precursor to divorcing his wife.
In a fateful turn of events, Miller was subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to testify about his connections to Communism. Monroe, whose affection and public image were deeply intertwined, faced the risk of alienating her fanbase by staying loyal to Miller. Advised to distance herself from him, she defied counsel and stood by Miller both publicly and privately. Her loyalty served as a shield for Miller, who won the heart of a Hollywood legend.
Despite Miller’s contempt citation from HUAC (a conviction later overturned on appeal), they were able to travel to England for Monroe’s film project. The two were married in 1956, and a Jewish ceremony followed shortly after. Monroe was ecstatic about her marriage, calling it “the first time I’ve been really in love.” Yet, the idyllic union began to unravel when Monroe stumbled upon notes written by Miller, expressing disappointment in their marriage and his sometimes embarrassing wife.
For Monroe, this discovery was shattering, as she had idealized Miller. She interpreted his words as a betrayal and struggled to come to terms with the disillusionment. Adding to the turmoil, Monroe suffered a series of heartbreaking miscarriages during their marriage. The toll of these failed pregnancies, combined with her pill and alcohol dependencies, plunged her into a profound sense of self-blame.
Monroe made attempts at domesticity, embracing a quieter life filled with cooking and homemaking. These moments of bliss, however, were fleeting, disrupted by the strain of Monroe’s inability to bear Miller’s child. The sense of emotional quiet and solitude that Miller needed for his writing eluded him, while Monroe’s resentment toward him deepened. Her disappointment was compounded when Miller undertook a lackluster rewrite of her film scenes in “Let’s Make Love.”
Monroe’s affair with her co-star, Yves Montand, offered further proof of her growing dissatisfaction. Surprisingly, Miller neither fought for her nor voiced objection to the affair, which was a critical juncture in their marriage’s decline.
Their final collaboration came with the film “The Misfits,” and it marked the last chapter of their love story. The script, based on Miller’s short story, was intended to establish Monroe as a serious actress. However, by the time filming began in 1960, her distaste for the script and her clash with co-star Laurence Olivier soured the experience. Monroe’s discovery of Miller’s notes on their marriage, calling her embarrassing and disappointing, only deepened her anguish.
Monroe and Miller announced their plans for divorce in November 1960. She journeyed to Mexico in January 1961, carefully timed to coincide with John F. Kennedy’s inauguration to divert media attention. The union, which had once held so much promise, was over.
In her reflections on their relationship, Monroe confessed, “I put Arthur through a lot, I know. But he also put me through a lot.” The actress, who had battled personal demons throughout her life, tragically succumbed to a drug overdose on August 5, 1962. Miller chose not to attend her funeral, stating, “She won’t be there.”
In January 1964, Miller’s play “After the Fall” premiered in New York, featuring a character, Maggie, who bore a striking resemblance to Monroe. The character mirrored Monroe’s background, mannerisms, and self-destructive tendencies. Miller’s willingness to transform his relationship with Monroe into material for a play sparked controversy and accusations of exploitation.
Miller would revisit characters reminiscent of Monroe in his subsequent works, including the 2004 play “Finishing the Picture,” inspired by the tumultuous “The Misfits” shoot. Though their marriage had ended years prior, it was evident that he could never truly forget her.
The love story of Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller was a tale of attraction, passion, and ultimate disillusionment. Two souls from opposite sides of the spectrum found themselves irresistibly drawn to one another. However, the weight of personal demons, misunderstandings, and the relentless glare of the public eye proved to be insurmountable obstacles. Their love story, though short-lived, remains an indelible chapter in Hollywood’s history, a reminder of the fragility of love and the complexities of the human heart.