The Most Famous Woman in the World
Marilyn Monroe died a suicide at 36, after starring in only a handful of movies, but she dominated the golden age of Hollywood and personified Hollywood glamour and she became, without question, the most famous woman of the 20th Century. Although she was an alluring beauty with voluptuous curves and a generous pout, Marilyn was more than a '50s sex goddess. Her apparent vulnerability and innocence, in combination with an innate sensuality, has endeared her to a mass consciousness. She was also a clever actress and comedienne.
The teenage Norma Jeane
Marilyn in 1946
Marilyn was born as Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles General Hospital. Her mother, Gladys, listed the father's address as unknown. Marilyn would never know the true identity of her father.
Due to her mother's mental instability and unmarried state at the time, Norma Jeane spent most of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages until 1937, when she moved in with family friend Grace McKee Goddard. Unfortunately, when Grace's husband was transferred to the East Coast in 1942, the couple couldn't afford to take 16-year-old Norma Jeane with them.
Norma Jeane had already met Jim Dougherty, 5 years her senior. Grace encouraged the relationship and set in motion plans for Norma Jeane to marry Dougherty which she did on June 19, 1942, just two weeks after she turned 16, basically so that Norma Jeane would not have to return to an orphanage or foster care.
It was not the ideal recipe for a long term relationship, and so it proved. Jim was soon sent overseas with the Merchant Marines and Norma Jeane started working in a parachute factory. She was soon discovered by photographer David Conover while taking pictures of women contributing to the war effort for Yank magazine. He couldn't believe his luck. She was a "photographer's dream." By spring of 1945, she had appeared on 33 covers of national magazines. In 1946, she came to the attention of talent scout Ben Lyon. He arranged a screen test for her with 20th Century Fox and she was offered a standard six-month contract. She divorced Jimmy in June of that year.
Soon after, Norma Jeane dyed her hair blonde and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe (borrowing her grandmother's last name). A star was very definitely born.
After several minor roles in low budget movies Marilyn's first serious acting job came in 1950 when she had a small but crucial role in "The Asphalt Jungle" and received favorable reviews. Later that year, Marilyn's performance as Claudia Caswell in All About Eve (starring Bette Davis) earned her further praise. From then on Marilyn worked steadily in movies such as: Let's Make It Legal, As Young As You Feel, Monkey Business and Don't Bother to Knock. It was her performance in 1953's Niagara, however, that delivered her to stardom.
Around this time, nude photos of Monroe began to surface, taken by photographer Tom Kelley when she had been struggling for work. Prints were bought by Hugh Hefner and, in December 1953, appeared in the first edition of Playboy. To the dismay of Fox, Monroe decided to publicly admit it was indeed her in the pictures. When a journalist asked her what she wore in bed she replied, "Chanel no.5". When asked what she had on during the photo shoot, she replied, "The radio". None of the publicity surrounding the Playboy photos did her blossoming career any harm.
Read about Marilyn in Your One-Stop Classic Hollywood Site
Great Marilyn Monroe Resource
- Marilyn Monroe on Hollywood's Golden Age
All about Marilyn Monroe, the voluptuous 50's sex goddess who had affairs with the Kennedy brothers and who became the most famous woman of the mid twentieth century.
How to marry a Millionaire
Superstardom and a Famous Husband
Marilyn's success in Niagara was followed with lead roles in the wildly popular Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (co-starring Jane Russell) and How to Marry a Millionaire (co-starring Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable). The lavish Technicolor comedy films established Monroe's "dumb blonde" on-screen persona. Photoplay magazine voted Marilyn the Best New Actress of 1953, and at 27 years old she was undeniably the best-loved and best known actress in Hollywood.
Marilyn sings I Want to be Loved By You
Top Ten Marilyn Quotes
Dogs never bite me. Just humans.
Dreaming about being an actress, is more exciting then being one.
Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.
Husbands are chiefly good as lovers when they are betraying their wives.
I am not interested in money. I just want to be wonderful.
I don't know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot.
I don't mind living in a man's world as long as I can be a woman in it.
A career is wonderful, but you can't curl up with it on a cold night.
I've been on a calendar, but I've never been on time.
No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they're pretty, even if they aren't.
Marilyn met Joe DiMaggio in early 1952, she was 25 and he was 37. DiMaggio, recently retired from baseball, had expressed a desire to meet this famous star. By February the romance was in full bloom and in January 1954 Joe and Marilyn were married. The wedding captured the headlines worldwide but the marriage was in trouble from the beginning, haunted as it was by Marilyn's fame and sexual image and Joe's jealousy. Nine months later on October 27, 1954, Marilyn and Joe divorced. They attributed the split to a "conflict of careers," and remained close friends.
In 1956, Marilyn started her own motion picture company, Marilyn Monroe Productions. The company produced Bus Stop and The Prince and the Showgirl (co-starring Sir Laurence Olivier). These two films allowed her to demonstrate her talent and versatility as an actress. She received further recognition in 1959 when she scored the biggest hit of her career starring alongside Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Billy Wilder's comedy Some Like It Hot. After shooting finished, Wilder publicly blasted Monroe for her difficult on-set behavior. Soon, however, Wilder's attitude softened, and he hailed her as a great comedienne. Some Like It Hot is consistently rated as one of the best films ever made. Monroe's performance earned her a Golden Globe for best actress in musical or comedy.
Happy Birthday Mr President
On June 29, 1956, Marilyn wed playwright Arthur Miller. The couple met through Lee Strasberg, and friends reported she made him "giddy."
Nominally raised as a Christian, she converted to Judaism before marrying Miller. After she finished shooting The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier, the couple returned to the United States from England and discovered she was pregnant. However, she suffered from endometriosis and the pregnancy was found to be ectopic. A subsequent pregnancy ended in miscarriage.
While they were married, Arthur wrote the part of Roslyn Taber in 1961's The Misfits especially for Marilyn. She frequently clashed with director John Huston and co-stars Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift, often failed to appear on-set, and was hospitalized several times for depression.
The Misfits was to be Marilyn and Gable's last completed film By the time filming started in 1960 her marriage to Miller was beyond repair. A Mexican divorce was granted on January 24, 1961. On February 17, 1962, Miller married Inge Morath, one of the Magnum photographers recording the making of The Misfits.
In light of her erratic behavior on the set of the follow-up, the ironically titled Something's Got to Give, she was fired 32 days into production and slapped with a lawsuit.
In May 1962, she made her last significant public appearance, and one of her most famous, singing Happy Birthday, Mr. President at a televised birthday party for President John F. Kennedy.
Just three months later, on August 5, 1962, she was found dead by her housekeeper. She was discovered lying nude on her bed, face down, with a telephone in one hand. Empty bottles of pills, prescribed to treat her depression, were littered around the room.
One of Marilyn's favourite songs "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" was played at her funeral. She was laid to rest in a lime green Pucci dress in a bronze casket.
The official cause was an overdose of barbiturates, although the truth will likely never be revealed and there is strong suspicion of suicide. Her alleged affairs with President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert, have been the focus of much speculation regarding the events leading to her demise, but many decades later fact and fantasy are virtually impossible to separate. In death, as in life, the legend of Marilyn Monroe continues to grow.
Check out these other great Hollywood sites!
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- Celebrity Movie Clips
Marilyn's last photo, 1962.
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For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- Marilyn had 2 names before she became Monroe, one was Norma Jean Baker, what was the other name?
- Norma Jeane Mayfield
- Norma Jeane Mortenson
- What was the name of the orphanage where Marilyn stayed as a girl?
- The famous 'skirt blowing' scene from what movie?
- 'Seven Year Itch'
- 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes'
- Norma Jeane Mortenson
- 'Seven Year Itch'
Keke on March 24, 2012:
I wish she was hear now so I can meet her.she was a beautiful blond. I wonder where her sister at
joshua on August 03, 2011:
famous and pretty buy lonely :(
The Tea Lady on February 04, 2011:
Thank you for a really informative hub. I love the photographs of Marilyn. She really was an innocent ingenue. She was too trusting of other people and didn't have a mean bone in her body. It was as if she was a little girl who never grew up. She was naïve, innocent and vulnerable and people took advantage of her mental instability. It is impossible to really know what happened to cause her death. Perhaps it really was suicide and she was cashing in her chips, unfortunately we will never know the true facts of this case.
rlc1232 on September 09, 2010:
I believe she was killed by some branch of the government to protect President Kennedy's reputation. It is a known fact that he was sneaking around with her, and I believe she became a threat so Bobby Kennedy called the hit to protect him.. Mob got Kennedy!!
Jasmine on August 23, 2010:
This was an excellent piece on Marilyn Monroe. Thanks for all the solid information and the pleasing images of her!
Angela Michelle Schultz from United States on August 16, 2010:
This is a really awesome hub about Marilyn Monroe. I rated it up and awesome! I also put a link to my celebrity deaths hub! Great job!
Kevin Schofield on June 30, 2010:
Brilliant hub with great photographs. Thanks for the memories. She's a darling! Kind regards, Kev.
Mandyy on March 26, 2010:
she didn't commit suicide. someone killed her!
rickey tomlin on February 26, 2010:
marilyn was truly wonderfull and full of the love of oeople and for people. She will be loved and remembered forever. god bless marilyn.
Chris Crow on November 06, 2009:
It's a really sad story. She was sort of a naïve innocent person looking for love in all the wrong places.
DennisBarker from Newcastle Upon Tyne,UK on October 02, 2009:
Marilyn Monroe has been one of my idols since I first saw some like it hot 35 years ago as a child.
google biz kit on September 06, 2009:
hey very good photo
Kudlit from Laguna on August 26, 2009:
"Around this time, nude photos of Monroe began to surface, taken by photographer Tom Kelley when she had been struggling for work. Prints were bought by Hugh Hefner and, in December 1953, appeared in the first edition of Playboy."
The pictures "Golden Dream" and "A New Wrinkle" probably catapulted her rise to stardom.
I wrote a hub about the first issue of Playboy that featured Marilyn Monroe here:
Cara777 on August 07, 2008:
OKAY...FIRST OFF NORMA JEAN DID NOT TAKE HER OWN LIFE...GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT...SHE WAS MURDERED BY THE MOB!!
ClipDrone on July 20, 2007:
She was a one-of-a-kind classic. Too bad she ended up a suicide girl. She was beautiful.
Isabella Snow on July 09, 2007:
Poor Marilyn. :(