Jim Dougherty was Marilyn’s first husband back when she was known simply as Norma Jean Mortenson, and long before her transformation into the iconic sex symbol that was Marilyn Monroe. ‘I never knew Marilyn Monroe’, he told United Press International in 1990. ‘I knew and loved Norma Jean.’ They began dating in January 1942 when 20 year-old Jim was employed on the night shift at Lockheed Aircraft. The then unknown Robert Mitchum worked alongside him, became a friend, and knew Marilyn when she was Jim’s wife. Norma Jean was only fifteen at that time and lived with foster parents who were about to move to West Virginia and would be unable to take her with them. Just 18 days after her sixteenth birthday (June 1942) Norma Jean married Jim. ‘She would have gone back to an orphanage or another foster home, so her foster mother suggested I marry her’, he recalled. ‘I thought she was awful young. She was a pretty mature girl and physically she was mature, of course.’ In 1944 he joined the merchant marine.
Mr & Mrs James Dougherty 1942
After Jim was assigned overseas Norma Jean gained employment at Radioplane Co. packing parachutes. It was there that a photographer snapped her and she began to get modeling work in the Los Angeles area. When Hollywood beckoned she sought a quickie divorce in Las Vegas and sent the documents off to Jim. ‘I was on a ship in the Yangtze River getting ready to go into Shanghai when I was served with divorce papers’, he said. ‘She wanted to sign a contract [with 20th Century Fox] and it said she couldn’t be married – they didn’t want a pregnant starlet. She wanted me to be there – she just wanted us to keep on and not be married for the contract. I couldn’t do that.’ Soon after the divorce he married again and moved on. Norma Jean changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. ‘I destroyed all my letters from Norma Jean – hundreds of them. I don’t need them for a memory, but I probably could have built a house for what they are worth.’ Dougherty passed away in 2005 aged 84.
Jim on leave poses with Norma Jean
In 1946 things began to happen for Marilyn. She quickly found that the ‘casting couch’ was part of the system if a young woman wanted to get a foot in the door in Hollywood. At Fox she learned to play Darryl F Zanuck’s game. He was well-known to be ‘in conference’ with aspiring young starlets every afternoon between 4pm and 4.30pm. Marilyn was one of them on occasion. ‘No big tragedy’, she once explained. ‘Nobody ever got cancer from sex. I’ve slept with producers. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t.’ She was a ‘bimbo’ of the first water – a ‘body immaculate, brains optional’ lady who was prepared to use her body to get wherever she needed to be. But there were limits. There were standards, even for gold-diggers like her. When detested Columbia head Harry Cohn invited her on an overnight cruise on his yacht, then told her to strip naked for him – she declined. ‘I had never seen a man so angry’, she said later. If we can believe the late porn star Linda Lovelace’s biographer Darwin Porter, 1946 also saw cowboy star Roy Rogers bedding Marilyn when she was still known as Norma Jean. Porter says that Linda portrayed straight-shooter Roy as a champion of ‘rough sex’. Well, maybe.
Darryl F Zanuck ‘King of the Cowboys’
When 1947 rolled around Marilyn was being ‘noticed’ by a lot of wealthy, powerful men. One of the wealthiest was former billionaire (he died flat broke) Jorge Guinle. The diminutive Brazilian playboy (he was only 1.62m tall), bedded just about every sex symbol on the planet, among them Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Jayne Mansfield, Ginger Rogers, Hedy Lamarr, Veronica Lake and Anita Ekberg. It has been said that it was Guinle who lured Janet Leigh away from her husband Tony Curtis. And he had Marilyn too. In fact, he met her in 1947 and was still seeing her in 1962, claiming he was on his way to give her an expensive topaz necklace when he heard on the radio that she was dead. Not one to cry over lost love, he immediately detoured and gave the jewel to Jayne Mansfield instead! His secret to success with the world’s most glamorous women, he delighted in telling anyone gullible enough to believe him, was to ‘shower them with compliments. ‘That’s all there was to it’, he said. Evidently, being a billionaire and targeting women who would sleep with Idi Amin if he spent enough money on them were not factors.
Jayne Mansfield & Jorge Guinle 1962
That same year, 1947, saw Marilyn’s connection with 20th Century Fox co-founder Joseph Schenck begin at his famous mansion situated at 141 S. Carolwood, an address that would one day be the home of Tony Curtis and, later still, Sonny and Cher Bono. According to legend, Marilyn flashed old Joe a smile as he left the studio one evening, and received his card and a dinner invitation in return. She became his ‘regular girl’ at parties or standing behind his chair ‘for luck’ at poker games. She was 21 and had just lost her Fox contract when the 70 year-old, cigar chomping mogul had her move into his guesthouse. He got Harry Cohn to sign her at Columbia in 1948 because Zanuck had lost interest in her at Fox – for the time being anyway. She serviced Schenck for years. ‘Sometimes it took hours’, she told friends. ‘I was relieved when he fell asleep.’ In 1955 she signed the richest contract for any actress to that time – with 20th Century Fox. Triumphantly, she told friends: ‘I’ll never have to suck another cock again!’
Old Joe Schenck and his ‘girlfriend’ MM
German acting teacher Natasha Lytess first met Marilyn in 1946. Interviewed in 1962, the year MM died, Lytess described her as ‘not beautiful’ at that time. ‘She couldn’t speak, she didn’t know how to open her mouth, and she feared everything’. The two women shared a house for several years and soon became lovers. ‘She was always naked in the house’, said Lytess. ‘Six or seven or eight hours…she was naked all day long. I’m not exaggerating!’ Marilyn told her close friend, actor Ted Jordan, that she and Lytess were sleeping together. ‘Why not?’ she said, ‘Sex is something you do with people you like. What could be wrong with a natural act?’ Author Lois Banner wrote in Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox, ‘Natasha and Marilyn lived together as husband and wife, although Marilyn often simply wanted to be held. ‘She was like a child in her need for physical affection.’ Natasha would remain with the troubled actress until 1955.
Natasha Lytess and her live-in lover and pupil
(Part two on Tuesday, April 12)