Blonde's Despicable Attack on Marilyn's Happiness: The DiMaggios
In Blonde, Marilyn is portrayed as a lamb going to the slaughter wherever she goes, whether walking into the studios to get raped, onto a set to have a panic attack, into her own dressing room to be read the abuse she’s receiving in fan letters, or even visiting her husband’s relatives who shamelessly and openly mock her. I want to concentrate on the latter specifically. While I was shocked by the former, the many reviews discussing the upset and reading the book had prepared me.
What I wasn’t prepared for however, was for the deliberate cruelty inflicted on Marilyn in the most trivial of settings.
Let this be known: Marilyn was adored by her in-laws. Both the DiMaggios and the Millers accepted Marilyn with open arms. They loved her. They respected her. Marilyn kept a very close relationship with Isidore Miller until she passed. When Marilyn was staying at her in-laws’, Blonde chose to depict their ruthless meanness. She’s mocked for her hair, doesn’t know what a boiled egg is (seriously) and basically complains to Joe (aka “Daddy number 1”/“Ex-Athlete”) about it.
Needless to say, this is a hot mess of a scene. Marilyn loved the DiMaggio family. She was invited to San Francisco very early on when she and Joe started dating in 1952. With both Joe’s parents having passed away, she met his siblings and many nieces and nephews.
Joe’s sister Marie told Modern Screen in 1954: “When Joe first started going with her, a few of us in the family wondered what sort of girl she really was. Maybe she was one of these stuffy, conceited stars. Not Marilyn. You couldn’t ask for a sweeter sister-in-law. You can go all-over this town - Joe’s introduced her to all his friends and all our relatives - and find nobody who will say one unkind word about that girl”.
His brother Tom recalled a fishing trip when he first met her: “Marilyn was tops. Never a peep of complaint out of her. She’s just like Joe. She’s quiet and plain and shy and I like her very much.”
When Marilyn died, Marie replied to hundreds of letters sent to Joe’s house on Beach Street, what had briefly been their marital home and remained Joe's house until he passed in 1999.
Joe’s closest brother Dom only revealed after Joe died that he had tried to help the marriage: “When they separated, I wrote to them that it was important for them to stay together, to try to make it work, that the whole world looked upon their marriage as the ideal. I know Marilyn accepted the letter and read it to Joe, but it did not help. Joe had wanted that relationship to work. He held on to it for the rest of his life.”
In October 1960 Ralph Roberts - Marilyn’s masseur - was on a trip to San Francisco with Marilyn. He wrote in his notes that they visited Joe’s restaurant and several DiMaggio family members were elated to see her: “Marilyn had walked down the wharf, gone into the DiMaggio restaurant and had a wonderful talk with some of Joe’s relatives.”. It had been half a decade since they had seen her.
So no, not everyone was horrible to Marilyn and hoped to make her suffer much like Blonde is trying to. Marilyn met many wonderful, kind and giving people in her life. She was the recipient of their love, which no doubt brought her great comfort and eased some of her abandonment fears. Marilyn once said about the DiMaggios in 1954: “When I was very little I had no one. Now I have so many fine people to love.”
It is a shame - if not a crime - that these unknown, unassuming people were used to push a cruel narrative that robs Marilyn from even enjoying time within a family, something she so desperately craved her whole life.
Marilyn would be beyond outraged.
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