“It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well
You could see that Pierre did truly love the madamoiselle
And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell,
"C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell…”
You Never Can Tell – Chuck Berry
During early 1940’s America, the average age for a first time bride was 21yrs 5months with 24yrs 3months for the groom.
At 21 James Dougherty was over 3yrs younger than the average man getting married – his bride Norma Jeane Mortenson was just 18 days past her 16th birthday, making her 5yrs and 4months younger than the average American bride! Today the gap has widened even further with first time brides being a full decade older than Norma Jeane at almost 26yrs old!
In his book ‘The Secret Happiness of Marilyn Monroe’ Jim Dougherty tells of Norma Jeane’s intense interested in the Dougherty family and their history – it’s worthy of note that as Marilyn she showed the same depth of interest in the families of her future husbands, the Dimaggio’s and the Miller’s. Marilyn was so intrigued by their lifestyles and history that she went as far as changing her religion and becoming Jewish to fit in with Arthur Millers family and learned to cook both Italian and Jewish depending on the cultural preference of each husband.
Dougherty also expels the myth that Norma Jeane suffered in poverty as a child, stating that she knew neither hardship nor poverty as she was growing up.
After experiencing foster homes and an attempt by Gladys, to provide a home for herself and her young daughter, eventually Norma Jeane was admitted to the Los Angeles Orphanage for care, despite the fact that she had a living mother (and most probably a living father out there somewhere!) after leaving the orphanage sometime in June 1936 Norma Jeane lived between the homes of Grace Goddard and her Great Aunt Ida Mae Martin until 1938, when at the age of 12, Norma Jeane was returned to the full time care of her legal guardian Grace Goddard. Grace was Gladys’s best friend and had over seen the care of Norma Jeane throughout her young life. Having married a gentleman by the name of Erwin (Doc) Goddard, Grace felt that she was now well placed to provide stability for Norma Jeane.
Doc and Grace lived with Norma Jeane and Doc’s daughter Beebe at 14743 Archwood Street, Los Angeles – there was only 6 months between the girls and they became firm friends well into adulthood.
The family that shared the boundary of the Goddard’s back fence were the Dougherty’s – Grace became a close friend of her neighbour and Jimmy’s mother, Ethel.
In 1941 the Goddard family move back to Odessa Avenue about a mile from Archwood Street, in order to keep Norma Jeane and Beebe at their school Grace asks Jim if he will take the girls back and forth to school in his car, to which he agreed. He was also coerced by Grace and his mother to take Norma Jeane to a Christmas dance and to provide a friend to make up a foursome with Beebe.
Things moved on a pace and there were casual dates here and there, including catching movies at Graumans Chinese Theatre.
In 1942 Doc was promoted and required to move to West Virginia. However, the Goddard’s were unable to take Norma Jeane. There is a great deal of uncertainty and debate as to why Norma Jeane was unable to move with them. It has been alleged that Doc came home one evening drunk and proceeded to attempt a French kiss with the fifteen year old Norma Jeane, therefore, Grace felt it would be prudent to eliminate any further temptation by removing the attractive teenager (though it is interesting to note that Marilyn remained in contact with Doc Goddard throughout her adult life until the year before her death) Not wanting to return Norma Jeane to the orphanage Grace and Ethel came up with a plan to persuade the handsome and popular 21yr old Jim that he should Marry the beautiful, polite and healthy Norma Jeane who was soon to be 16.
It seems Jim didn’t need much convincing and agreed to the plan. It’s not certain as to whether Norma Jeane had any serious objections, either way, on 19th June 1942 the teenage bride was given away by her Aunt Anna Lower who also made the wedding gown and Norma Jeane became a Dougherty.
Other guests at the wedding included her foster parents the Bolenders. At that time her mother was institutionalised and was not given mention.
“I have too many fantasies to be a housewife. I guess I am a fantasy” Marilyn Monroe
Their marriage lasted four years, ending on 13th September 1946 with a divorce that Norma Jeane instigated. According to Dougherty, the marriage was a happy one; he always maintained that their marriage was more than a marriage of convenience and that they were sweethearts, whilst Marilyn confided to journalist Clarice Evans that she had always regarded Jim as a brother.
According the biographer Fred Lawrence Guiles ‘The dispute as to whether she was in love with Jim or not prior to their marriage caused a falling out between Doc Goddard and Marilyn a year or two before her death. Doc called to tell her he was planning to publish his version of ‘the truth’ behind her nuptials so soon after her sixteenth birthday, ‘to set the record straight,’ so the world would not believe, in case it cared, that the Goddards had pushed her as a matter of convenience into an arranged marriage. Marilyn failed to understand Doc’s motives in this publishing venture and had become, by this time deeply mistrustful of many people, her circle having narrowed to her husband (Miller) and his friends and her own hirelings. When she later learned that Doc had decided not to publish the story without her permission, it was too late to heal the rift between them. Doc Goddard says he declined to visit Marilyn in her final residence on Fifth Helena in Brentwood ‘out of pride’, even though they had been on such close terms before the rupture that when he had visited Marilyn and Arthur in their East Fifty Seventh Street apartment in Manhattan, Marilyn had climbed on his lap, hugged him and called him ‘daddy’’
James Dougherty was for the most part, discreet about his life with Norma Jeane and went on to marry twice more – his second marriage to Patricia Scoman ended in divorce but his third marriage to Rita Lambert lasted for 32 years, until her death in 2003.
In 1976, 14yrs after the death of his first wife Norma Jeane, Dougherty wrote and published ‘The Secret Happiness of Marilyn Monroe’ and in 1997 he said he loved her but he was in ‘in love’ with her, also that year he published a memoir ‘To Norma Jeane With Love, Jimmie’ and in 2004 he appeared in the documentary ‘Marilyn’s Man’ admitting that he followed all the events in her life and career, believing that it was the studio that had been the downfall of their marriage as he was far too ordinary a husband.
After discharge from the Navy, James Dougherty went on to become a police detective for the Los Angeles Police Force, retiring in 1974 he spent the remainder of his life living in Arizona and Maine. He was elected to a county commission in Maine and he taught at the MaineCriminalJusticeAcademy. In 1986, he lost a congressional bid to Republican Rep Albert G.Stevens. Sadly he died from pneumonia as a complication of leukaemia at the age of 84 on 15th August 2005 at San Rafael, living behind three daughters and two step-daughters.