A documentary on Marilyn Monroe’s first husband, James Dougherty of Auburn, will debut in August.
It’s one of those iconic moments.

Marilyn Monroe celebrates John F. Kennedy’s birthday with a slow, breathy rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Grainy, black-and-white footage of the event shows the voluptuous actress’ clumsy moves. The soundtrack picks up a hint of a slur.

“She drank a lot of champagne,” said 83-year-old James Dougherty, watching the film in his Auburn living room. “When I was married to her, she didn’t drink.”

She was barely a woman, then. They married when she was 16 and he was 21.

But Marilyn, whom he knew as Norma Jeane Baker, was “a sweet, honest and generous person.”

He’s trying to set the record straight.

Dougherty is the focus of a new feature-length documentary titled “Marilyn’s Man.”

The movie includes some of those signature moments, such as JFK’s birthday and her stare-inducing strut past Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in “Some Like it Hot.”

Much of it is also includes early photos of the movie star and long interviews with Dougherty.

“I try to get the truth out,” he said. “I hope the world sees this.”

The result is a documentary that portrays Monroe as a kind, fragile woman. It also shows her first marriage as both loving and romantic, even if it did start unusually.

Dougherty was a 20-year-old worker at a California aircraft factory when Norma Jeane’s mother, Gladys Baker, introduced the couple.

At first, she was just a 15-year-old girl whom he’d pick up after school with her sister. But she seemed older than her years, said Dougherty.

“She didn’t talk like a teenage girl,” he says in the movie. And she was beautiful.

“I didn’t know Marilyn Monroe,” he said. “I only knew Norma Jeane.”

Still smitten

The film carries the couple through their marriage, her request for a divorce while he was abroad during World War II and her death in 1962.

It also details some of Dougherty’s later life, including his work as a Los Angeles police detective. He remarried twice. Rita, his wife of 32 years, died last year.

The movie was written, produced and directed by Schani Krug, who runs Valhalla Productions, a small film company in Kittery.

“Marilyn’s Man” premiered at the New York International Film and Video Festival on April 23. The film will be released in August, on the 42nd anniversary of Monroe’s death.

Producers also planned to go to the Cannes Film Festival this week. However, the movie was not accepted for any of the festival’s official competitions.

Yet, the movie’s title character gives it praise. Dougherty, who has long been critical of the portrayals of Monroe, said Krug captured more of his ex-wife than anyone has before. And there have been so many documentaries and analyses.

Much of it feeds a still-huge thirst for the actress’ image. She is still loved. That led Dougherty to write two books, “The Secret Happiness of Marilyn Monroe” and “To Norma Jeane with Love, Jimmie,” which he wrote with LC Van Savage.

The continuing adoration doesn’t bother him.

“They love the innocence that came out in Norma Jeane,” he said.

He still receives an average of one letter a day from people with questions, some of them looking for marital details. Those are questions he never answers, neither to strangers or reporters.

“I tell them, Get lost,'” Dougherty said. Some things don’t deserve telling.

He answers few of the other inquiries, either the letters or the e-mails that come into his Web site, www.jimdougherty.com.

“I hear from people all over the world,” he said. “But you never know what kind of person is on the other end. A lot of them were born after she died,” he said.

Some just want to know if she was the same as the woman they know from the old movies. Of all of them, his favorite is her last, “The Misfits,” directed by John Huston and released in 1961.

One scene in particular captured the woman he married.

It shows Monroe riding in a truck beside Clark Gable. Warmly, she wraps an arm around his and snuggles up to his shoulder.

“She would do that to me,” Dougherty said.

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