original name Norma Jean Mortenson , also called Norma Jean Baker
( 1926 – 1962 )
Actress. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson (later baptized
as Norma Jeane Baker) on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, California. During
her all-too-brief life, Marilyn Monroe overcame a difficult childhood
to become of the world's biggest and most enduring sex symbols. She
never knew her father, and her mother Gladys, developed psychiatric
problems and was eventually placed in a mental institution. Growing
up, Monroe spent much of her time in foster care and in an orphanage.
In 1937, a family friend and her husband, Grace and Doc Goddard, took
care of her for a few years. But when Doc's job was transferred in 1942
to the East Coast, the couple could not afford to bring Monroe with
again, Monroe faced life in foster care. But she had one way
out—get married. She wed her boyfriend Jimmy Dougherty
on June 19, 1942. A merchant marine, Dougherty was later sent
to the South Pacific. Monroe went to work in a munitions factory
in Burbank where she was discovered by a photographer. By the
time Dougherty returned in 1946, Monroe had a successful career
as a model. She dreamt of becoming an actress like Jean Harlow
and Lana Turner.
marriage fizzled out as Monroe focused more on her career. The
couple divorced in 1946—the same year she signed her first
movie contract. With the movie contract came a new name and image,
she began calling herself "Marilyn Monroe" and dyed
her hair blonde. But her acting career didn't really take off
until the 1950s. Her small part in John Huston's crime drama
The Asphalt Jungle (1950) garnered her a lot of attention. That
same year she impressed audiences and critics alike as Claudia
Caswell in All About Eve, starring Bette Davis.
1953, Monroe made a star-making turn in Niagara, starring as
a young married woman out to kill her husband with help from
her lover. The emerging sex symbol was paired with another bombshell,
Jane Russell, for the musical comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
(1953). The film was a hit and Monroe continued to find success
in a string of light comedic fare, such as How to Marry a Millionaire
with Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall, There's No Business like
Show Business (1954) with Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor, and
The Seven Year Itch (1955). With her breathy voice and hourglass
figure, Monroe became a much-admired international star.
of bubbly, dumb blonde roles, Monroe moved to New York City to
study acting with Lee Strasberg at the Actors' Studio. She returned
to the screen in the dramatic comedy Bus Stop (1956), playing
a saloon singer kidnapped by a rancher who has fallen in love
with her. She received mostly praise for her performance.
1959, Monroe returned to familiar territory with the wildly popular
comedy Some Like It Hot with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. She
played Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, a singer who hopes to marry a millionaire
in this humorous film in which Lemmon and Curtis pretend to be
women. They are on the run from the mob after witnessing the
St. Valentine's Day Massacre and hide out with an all-girl orchestra
featuring Monroe. Her work on the film earned her a Golden Globe
Award for Best Actress in a Comedy.
Reunited with John Huston, Monroe starred opposite Clark Gable and Montgomery
Clift in The Misfits (1961). Set in Nevada, this adventure drama features Monroe
who falls for Gable's cowboy, but battles him over the fate of some wild mustangs.
This was her last completed film.
1962, Monroe was dismissed from Something's Got to Give—also
starring Dean Martin—for missing so many days of filming.
According to an article in The New York Times, the actress claimed
that the absences were due to illness. Martin declined to make
the film without her so the studio shelved the picture.
professional and personal life seemed to be in turmoil. Her last
two films, Let's Make Love (1960) and The Misfits (1961) were
box office disappointments, and she got herself fired from her
last project. In her personal life, she had a string of unsuccessful
marriages and relationships. Her 1954 marriage to baseball great
Joe DiMaggio only lasted nine months, and she was wed to playwright
Arthur Miller from 1956 to 1961. There have also been rumors
that she was involved with President John F. Kennedy and/or his
brother Robert around the time of her death.
only 36 years old, Marilyn Monroe died on August 5, 1962, at
her Los Angeles home. An empty bottle of sleeping pills were
found by her bed. There has been some speculation over the years
that she may have been murdered, but it was officially ruled
as a drug overdose.
her career, Monroe's films grossed more than $200 million. She
still remains popular today as an icon of sex appeal and beauty.
our special MARILYN MONROE Tribute Site for photo gallery, timeline,
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