On June 22, 1956 – sixty-five years ago this week – Marilyn and Arthur Miller posed for reporters outside her Sutton Place South apartment building, and confirmed their plans to marry. One of the photographers present on that day was Paul Slade, a native New Yorker whose work was published all over the world. The press went wild for the news, pursuing the couple relentlessly over the following days. The media onslaught soon culminated in tragedy, as noted in a prologue to this piece from the Paris Match archives.
“The couple married at Miller’s home in Roxbury, Connecticut, a week after the announcement, on June 29, 1956. Hours before the ceremony, Monroe and Miller drove out of the property. Another car followed them. On board, the head of the New York office of Paris Match, Mara Sherbatoff, led by Ira Slade, the brother and assistant of our photographer Paul Slade. The driver of the stars, knowing the small roads well, picked up speed. Ira also accelerated, but was surprised by a turn. The car crashed into an oak tree. Mara Sherbatoff would eventually succumb to her injuries.
Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, having heard the shock, were the first on the spot. The actress, very disturbed, would always see in this drama a bad omen for their marriage. They divorced in 1961.
Here is the report devoted to the marriage of Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, as published in Paris Match in 1956.
Marilyn is getting married
by Guillaume Hanoteau (from our New York office: report Mara Sherbatoff – Paul Slade)
The most ‘attractive’ star in the world has chosen the ideal fiancé from among 200 million Americans: leftist intellectual, glasses, 1 m. 85, 75 kilos.
‘Come on, Marilyn, you wear enough makeup already.’
Fifty children chanted this sentence, their faces raised towards the third floor of a building, while reporters sitting on the curb and sucking ice cream, photographers cluttered with cameras and lenses, cinema operators and television perched on top of their trucks encouraged them with gestures and heels.
At the ends of Sutton Place, one of the most elegant squares in New York, near the East River, policemen diverted traffic and to those who questioned them, they dropped this name out of the corner of their lips: ‘Marilyn Monroe.’ There was no need for more. Motorists drove off in search of less congested lanes with a smile that seemed to say: ‘Who else could have done this?’
What had she done? The most natural thing in the world: Announcing her engagement to playwright Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible, on Friday, June 22, at 4:30 p.m. in the apartment she occupies in the absence of her friends, the Milton Greenes. And that was enough to organize a traffic jam, to stir up a riot, to put an entire neighbourhood under siege.
Not only had all the journalists and photographers from New York come to the rendezvous, but also children, onlookers, neighbours, fanatics, autograph hunters, and ice-cream vendors joined them. The crowd must have been refused entry to the building and now was happily camping out on the road, under the windows of the speedboat. Minus the sea and the roller coasters, it felt like being in Long Island on a Saturday afternoon.
At 5 o’clock, Marilyn had not yet spoken. No one was surprised. Her delays are legendary and to someone who reproached her she answered: ‘If I arrived on time, I would be the one to wait.’ At 6 p.m., however, the police began to worry. Their headquarters were besieged by phone calls from tenants complaining of the uproar. We decided to act. A delegation was sent.
No signal was given and suddenly the crowd fell silent and everyone stood up. They were there. As you stood on tiptoe, you could see them. She seemed smaller than on the screen and much less sophisticated. No neckline or slit dress, but a very simple cream blouse and a black skirt. Her famous hair was pulled back. Other than her eyelids and eyelashes, she was barely made up.
As for him, he did not have that cynical scowl that we readily attribute to left-wing intellectuals. He seemed intimidated and embarrassed by his thinness and the 6’5” height. He waddled, twirled his fingers like he was rolling a cigarette and leaned over to his fiancée for help. She, much more at her ease, snuggled up against him and raised her face very high while speaking to him in order to point out that she was very small beside him.
After the announcement of their engagement in 53rd Street, Marilyn and Arthur left to take refuge in the property that Miller bought in Connecticut with the money brought to him by his plays and his only novel, Focus, about $ 200,000, or nearly 70 million francs. Roxbury is the name of the property, is a two-story, eight-room house with white walls and black shutters built at the crossroads of two roads on the top of a small hill.
As soon as they got out of Miller’s Thunderbird, the two fiancées ran off to put on their country uniforms. Him, old khaki pants, a beige jacket and very old, wide and comfortable shoes. Her, a straight skirt and a low-cut bodice. Then Miller picked up his mower and began to cut the grass from his lawns.
Sometimes he would stop and murmur, leaning on the handle of his instrument, phrases like this: ‘From Hamlet to Medea, from Orestes to Macbeth, the heroes of literature have never had but one concern, to gain a fair place in society!’ In the middle of the meadow, Marilyn was listening open-mouthed.
In Roxbury, life is frugal. No servant to serve you. Arthur Miller’s mother does the cooking. We have lunch and dinner in the entrance hall near a large exposed stone fireplace. But we have coffee in a little house that Marilyn loves. Miller with his own hands built it on top of an old beech tree.
Because this man of letters also knows how to use his hands. Son of a family of ruined traders, he did all trades. We saw him on courts teaching tennis to rich children. He was an actor, plumber and even a dishwasher in a restaurant. When Miller confessed this last profession to him, Marilyn said to him: ‘It’s funny, all American writers have been dishwashers. Fortunately, the United States is the home of washing machines.’
All those who rub shoulders with Arthur Miller have been struck by the joy which since his meeting with Marilyn transfigures him. Even the great success of his career, his play Death of a Salesman, which was performed for twenty-one months on Broadway and which was crowned with the Pulitzer Prize, a sort of American Goncourt Prize, did not give him such happiness. Certainly, Arthur Miller is flattered to have been noticed by one of the most adulated women in the whole world. This glory, moreover, he will now enjoy.
Desiring to obtain a passport for England in order to follow Marilyn who must turn in this country, Miller, whom his enemies accuse of being a crypto-communist, had to appear before the famous commission of inquiry. When asked about his past activities, he replied: ‘About me, I will tell you everything, but don’t count on Arthur Miller to denounce a friend or even an acquaintance.’
At other times, the writer’s passport would have been refused on the spot. But can we today deprive such a famous couple of their honeymoon? The serious senators themselves hesitated and gave the author of The Crucible ten days.
And yet, an incident has already nearly put an end to this romance. One morning, opening his diary, Arthur Miller found on the front page a photo of his fiancée in a tight swimsuit and provocative bodice. It was an image promoting the film Bus Stop. Like former baseball champion Joe DiMaggio, the writer entered into a great fury. But while Marilyn had not given in to DiMaggio, this time she bent to her new fiancé’s wishes. She tore up the negatives of the licentious image.
Cruelty of life. By uncovering a brain, Marilyn Monroe will perhaps deprive us of the charming sight of her body.”
Following the accident at Roxbury, Arthur and Marilyn decided to marry without further delay, and at last succeeded in evading the press. Following a civil ceremony on June 29, Marilyn converted to Judaism on the morning of July 1st, 1956. Later that day, the couple were joined by family and friends for a religious wedding in South Salem, N.Y. The photo below was taken by Milton Greene.