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Did Marilyn Monroe Have a Secret Husband?

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox / Charles Brackett / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox / Charles Brackett / MovieStillsDB

Marilyn Monroe rose to fame in the 1950s as an actress, model, and singer. She also became one of the most popular sex symbols of the era and beyond. As such, much speculation has surrounded Monroe’s romantic life. Whether it was the glitz and glamour of the parties she attended, her high-profile partners, or just the intrigue of it all, people love finding out more and thinking they know what really happened.

Hollywood’s most famous ‘blonde bombshell’ also inspired a lot of rumors. One, published in the 1974 book, The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe, claimed that the author, Robert Slatzer, was married to Monroe in the early 1950s. This is the truth behind that claim.

Slatzer’s version of events

Robert Slatzer holds up a copy of his book during a press conference in 1974.
Robert Slatzer holds a copy of his book, “The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe,” which contains the story of their secret marriage. (Photo Credit: Gregory Lee / Fairfax Media / Getty Images)

Robert Slatzer attended Ohio State University and began his writing career working as a newspaper journalist. In 1946, he relocated to Hollywood and began to write for movie studios, later becoming a screenwriter and director. His career spawned films such as The Hellcats (1968) and Bigfoot (1970).

It is around his first arrival in Hollywood that Slatzer’s story about Marilyn Monroe begins. According to him, he first met the young model named Norma Jeane Baker in 1946 in the lobby of Twentieth-Century Fox Studios. 

This allegedly spurred a long relationship that led to the pair traveling to Mexico in secret to get married on October 4, 1952. Fearing that it would impact Monroe’s image, Darryl F. Zanuck, then-head of 20th Century Fox Studios, ordered that the marriage end. The story concludes with Slatzer and Monroe traveling back to Mexico and burning the marriage certificate after taking it from the Mexican authorities.

This story has never been proven, and the only person who persisted that it was true is Robert Slatzer.


Marilyn Monroe in a promo shot for 'Niagara' against the backdrop of the Falls
Monroe posed in front of the Falls in a promo shot for ‘Niagara’ (Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox / Charles Brackett / roksana / MovieStillsDB)

In 1953, Monroe starred in the movie Niagara. The film-noir thriller emphasized Monroe’s sex appeal as the seductive Rose Loomis and resulted in her becoming a star. Niagara also served as the backdrop for the real meeting between Monroe and Robert Slatzer.

The only evidence of Monroe and Slatzer ever meeting are photos that they appeared in together during filming of the movie. 

Problems with the story

Marilyn Monroe looks on while holding hands with ex-husband Joe DiMaggio who looks at her while at the premiere of the film The Seven year Itch.
Marilyn Monroe and her ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio at the premiere of her film ‘The Seven Year Itch.’ (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

In 1952, Marilyn Monroe met Joe DiMaggio, the All-Star baseball player who was center fielder for the New York Yankees. The two were married in January 1954. Their union would only last a year, and Monroe soon married Arthur Miller in 1956. It seems quite improbable that she would have squeezed in a secret marriage during this time. 

Adding even more doubt to the story, a novelist named William Fowler was a ghostwriter for early drafts of Slatzer’s 1974 book, The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe. When it was used as the basis for a television movie in 1991, Fowler said that Slatzer’s tale was “filled with lies.” He withdrew from the book project once he realized that Slatzer’s assertions were total fabrications.

Fowler said in an interview that he had been approached by Slatzer to write an account of Monroe’s 1962 death. As he recalled, “I said in the beginning, ‘If you were married to Marilyn, you’d really have a book here.’ Then a few days later [Slatzer] came to me and said, ‘I didn’t want to say anything, but I was married to her, but it was only for a weekend.'” He added that Slatzer’s account “kept changing.”

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So why did Slatzer tell this story? We will never know for certain–money, or perhaps notoriety. Whatever the reason, the story of the marriage between Marilyn Monroe and Robert F. Slatzer has kept fans of the actress busy, with most remaining highly skeptical. 

Ryan McLachlan

Ryan McLachlan is a historian and content writer for Hive Media. He received his Bachelor of Arts in History and Classical Studies and his Master of Arts in History from the University of Western Ontario. Ryan’s research focused on military history, and he is particularly interested in the conflicts fought by the United Kingdom from the Napoleonic Wars to the Falklands War.

Ryan’s other historical interests include naval and maritime history, the history of aviation, the British Empire, and the British Monarchy. He is also interested in the lives of Sir Winston Churchill and Admiral Lord Nelson. Ryan enjoys teaching, reading, writing, and sharing history with anyone who will listen.

In his spare time, he enjoys watching period dramas such as Murdoch Mysteries and Ripper Street and also enjoys reading classical literature and Shakespeare. He also plays football and is an afternoon tea connoisseur.