Arts and Leisure

Marilyn Monroe in Connecticut: The Misfit

As implausible as Marilyn Monroe in Connecticut may seem today, it’s where she thought her most cherished dream would come true.

When Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller in 1956, she thought she wanted to live a quiet life in rural Connecticut. She had visions of raising a family

As it turned out, she couldn’t have been more wrong.

Looking back on her five years in Connecticut, she said:

We had a beautiful place in Roxbury, but it wasn’t the place for me. I didn’t really like Connecticut at all. It was too stuffy and kind of pretentious for me. Artie and I would go to social events and the women would sort of look down their nose at me.

They divorced in 1961. Marilyn died 19 months later. Her five years with Arthur Miller were the longest she’d spent with anyone.

During their time together, Miller didn’t produce much work. “I was taking care of her,” he said.

 

Courtship

When Arthur Miller met Marilyn Monroe in Hollywood at the start of 1951, he was more famous than she. He had won a Tony and a Pulitzer for his play, Death of a Salesman, which some critics called one of the greatest plays of the 20th century.

Marilyn Monroe in The Asphalt Jungle.

She stood on the brink of success, a starlet and model who recently won acclaim for two small parts in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve. Miller had probably never heard her name when he first laid eyes on her.

Miller and his friend Elia Kazan had traveled to Hollywood together to try to sell Miller’s screenplay, The Hook, to Columbia Pictures. He saw her on the set of As Young as You Feel, in which she had a bit part as a sexy secretary. She was talking to Kazan and crying because her lover and agent, Johnny Hyde, had died.

“She was so striking and so terribly sad that the combination struck me,” Miller wrote.

Opposites Attract

They had little in common. He was a 35-year-old Jewish intellectual from New York, married with two children. She was an insecure 24-year-old divorcee, a high school dropout who’d grown up in Los Angeles.

Miller invited her to a party, picked her up and danced with her. When they sat down he squeezed her toe. He then told her about his unhappy marriage. Kazan said she told him Miller’s shy approach appealed to her after the mauling she’d received in Hollywood.

She slept with Kazan instead of Miller. But then she slept with Miller.

In her diary she wrote of her meeting with the playwright. “Met a man tonight … It was, bam! It was like running into a tree. You know, like a cool drink when you’ve had a fever.”

He later explained his attraction to her. He thought she was serious and struggling.

Connecticut

Miller returned to Connecticut and his family. They lived in a farmhouse on Tophet Road in the town of Roxbury, 75 miles from New York City. a rural magnet for celebrities like Alexander Calder,  Richard Widmark, William Styron, Gay Talese, Stephen Sondheim.

Miller and Monroe wrote letters to each other. Miller, still married, wrote The Crucible, staged in January 1953. Critics at first panned the play, but Miller revised it. A year later, the revised version assured Miller’s stature as America’s greatest playwright.

Meanwhile, Monroe rocketed to fame with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How To Marry a Millionaire and, in 1955, The Seven Year Itch. In January 1954, Marilyn embarked on her nine-month marriage to Joe DiMaggio.

Then on Sept. 29, 1955, Miller’s new play, A View From A Bridge, was first staged – just as Marilyn’s divorce to Joe DiMaggio became final.

Miller later recounted how her image had taunted him in Manhattan as he worked on rehearsals for A View From the Bridge. “I passed a life-sized cutout of her in the lobby every day — the famous laughing shot from The Seven Year Itch in a white dress with her skirt blowing up over a subway grate.”

Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch

Marilyn had moved to Manhattan and started dating — Arthur Miller and Marlon Brando. Miller won her. On June 12, 1956, Miller got a Reno divorce from Mary Slattery, citing mental cruelty. Seventeen days later he married Marilyn in a civil ceremony in White Plains, N.Y. The press called them “The Egghead and the Hourglass.”

Miller and Monroe wed in White Plains.

Marilyn Moves to the Country

“I hate Hollywood,” she told Miller when they married. “I want to live quietly in the country and just be there when you need me.”

But first, they flew to England. It wasn’t quite a honeymoon. She filmed The Prince and the Showgirl, he staged a revised version of A View From the Bridge – this time successfully.

After they returned, they bought a sagging, Revolutionary-era farmhouse in Roxbury in October 1957. It was just down the road from Miller’s first wife. For the next four years they would spend summers in Connecticut and winters in their apartment in New York City.

At first they thought they’d tear down the house and build a new one. Marilyn met with Frank Lloyd Wright and asked him for a design. He came up with plans for an enormous pleasure palace with a 60-foot living room. That was too much for the frugal playwright. So they decided instead to modernize the old house.

In his autobiography, Miller wrote that Marilyn threw herself into the remodeling. They put in sliding glass doors, a garage, a veranda and a one-room studio for Arthur. Marilyn, a fastidious housekeeper. dusted and vacuumed plaster dust every day during the renovation.

She then persuaded her husband to buy another 315 acres, bringing the total property to 340 acres of prime Connecticut real estate. The house and land was deeded in her name.

At Home With Marilyn Monroe in Connecticut

But it was more Arthur’s home. He enjoyed playing the country squire, doing carpentry, planting pine trees and fixing the plumbing. His two children, Bob and Jane, lived down the road.

While in Roxbury, she planted flowers, played badminton, shopped at Hodge’s General Store and went to antique shops in Woodbury. She made breakfast sometimes, brought Arthur mid-morning coffee while he wrote and cut his hair.

But her dreams of living a quiet, happy life in the country and raising children never materialized.

She suffered from insomnia and night terrors, which led to her addiction to uppers and downers. After a sleepless night she’d take out her motor scooter at sunrise and drive along Roxbury’s one-lane roads. Then she’d go home and nap.

Mamrilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller at the Waldorf=Astoria in April 1957.

Children

Marilyn loved children, and she and Arthur tried to start a family of their own. But Marilyn suffered a miscarriage in September 1956, lost an ectopic pregnancy in August 1957 and then had another miscarriage in December 1958.

Arthur’s children stayed with them on weekends in Roxbury. She tried to nurture them, as she had Joe DiMaggio’s son. In one of her last interviews, she talked about her three stepchildren.

I take a lot of pride in them. Because they’re from broken homes … I can’t explain it, but I think I understand about them. I think I love them more than I love anyone. I’ve always said to my stepchildren that I didn’t want to be their mother – or stepmother – as such. I wanted to be their friend.

She grew especially close to Bobby Miller, nine when she married his father. “While she could be pleasant and fun and bubbly and, you know, lovely,” Bobby said, “she could go places that were just… she was in pain. You could see it come over her kind of in a way.”

Animal Lover

Marilyn also loved animals. She had a horse named Ebony, which she rode. She indulged their Bassett hound, Hugo, and their cat, Sugar Feeny. She filled feeding stations for birds around the property and kept two parakeets, Bob and Butch. She’d take them on a plane where they’d startle passengers with, “I’m Marilyn’s bird.”

They rented the land surrounding their home to a dairy farmer. Once, when a cow gave birth to a male calf, she found the farmer putting the calf in a truck to be butchered. “You can’t do that! You can’t take it away from its mother,” she shouted hysterically.

The same day a hawk tried to grab some swallow chicks above her front porch. She threw rocks at the hawk.

The Misfit

Arthur Miller tried to write a screenplay that would feature Marilyn as a serious actress. The result was The Misfits, a western about an unhappy divorcee and her last complete film.

According to one oft-told story, Miller wrote in his diary that she embarrassed him. She was devastated when she read it.

The film’s title aptly described Marilyn Monroe in Connecticut.

I just felt like I didn’t really fit in there, she said.

I wasn’t part of the elite or the little upper social strata. it didn’t matter how famous you were. It wasn’t about that. It was you had to be in with the right people, or the right family, or something. I never really felt like they accepted me there. That was a big problems with Artie and me. I didn’t really fit in with his crowd even though I guess I created a certain amount of excitement and conversation.

The cast of the Misfits: Estelle Winwood, Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable in foreground, Eli Wallach and Montgomery Clift in background at left

A Sad Ending

Production on The Misfits began in 1960 – a time Miller described as the lowest point in his life. His marriage had fallen apart. Marilyn got drunk after shooting, then took drugs to sleep and drugs to wake. She was constantly late to work. They had to stop filming for two weeks while she was hospitalized.  Director John Huston said he knew she was doomed.

Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe got a Mexican divorce on Jan. 21, 1961. She died Aug. 4, 1962 of an apparent drug overdose. Miller didn’t attend her funeral.

Of his life with her, Miller once said,

She never lived that many years with anybody else because nobody could hang in there that long. I wasn’t writing anything in those days. I would call it a calamity — to me. It was for her, too, I suppose, but she was more accustomed to it. Her life as a whole was full of calamity. …Success is the great man eater. Surviving it is as hard as attaining it, if not harder.


With thanks to The Genius and the Goddess:Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe by Jeffrey Meyers.

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