Lady Nina and a Candle in the Wind

“She had such a magnetism that if 15 men were in a room with her, each man would be convinced he was the one she’d be waiting for after the others left.” -Publicist Roy Craft

I could be the 16th

Probably the most celebrated of all actresses, Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on Tuesday, June 1st, 1926, in Los Angeles General Hospital. Prior to her birth, Marilyn’s father bought a motorcycle and headed north to San Francisco, abandoning the family in LA. Marilyn grew up not knowing for sure who her father really was. Her mother, Gladys, had entered into several relationships, further confusing her daughter as to who it was who fathered her. Afterward, Gladys gave Norma Jeane (Marilyn) the name of Baker, a boyfriend she had before Mortenson.

Difficult Childhood

Norma Jeane Mortenson, known to the world as Marilyn Monroe, was born on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California. Due to her mother’s psychiatric problems, Monroe spent much of her childhood shuffled between foster homes and two years in an orphanage.

The Name

Norma Jeane didn’t legally change her name to Marilyn Monroe until 1956, well after she had become famous. Throughout her life she used various names, including:

  • Norma Jeane Mortenson — her birth name
  • Norma Jeane Baker — Baker was the surname of her mother’s first husband
  • Jean Norman — used in her modeling days
  • Mona Monroe — she signed a model release form using this name when posing nude
  • Carol Lind — her original stage name
  • Marilyn Monroe — adopted as her stage name, incorporating her mother’s maiden name, Monroe
  • Zelda Zonk — used when checking into hotels
  • Faye Miller — used at a psychiatric clinic

Munitions Factory Worker

In 1945, Norma Jeane was working on an assembly line in a munitions factory while her husband, Jim Dougherty, was serving in the Merchant Marine. It was there that she was discovered by a photographer sent to capture morale-boosting pictures at the Radioplane plant in California owned by actor Reginald Denny. He encouraged her to apply to a modeling agency. She left her job and signed with Emmeline Snively‘s modeling agency. Marilyn began to model swimsuits and bleached her hair blonde. Her first modeling job paid only five dollars.

Natural Brunette

Although naturally brunette, Norma Jeane was told by The Blue Book Modeling Agency that they needed models with a lighter hair color, so she bleached hers a golden blonde. By the time she filmed ‘Monkey Business’ in 1952, Marilyn Monroe had acquired her trademark platinum blonde locks; and in 1953, she cemented her blonde bombshell image by appearing in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.’

High Profile Relationships

“I knew that they were going to have to put me in another foster home – my foster mother got sick – so I got married instead.”

Marilyn Monroe’s relationships with famous men contributed to her own fame.

  • She first married James Dougherty in 1942 at the age of 16 to avoid being sent to yet another foster home or orphanage. Dougherty didn’t approve of her modeling career, and the marriage fell apart by 1946.
  • Monroe’s second marriage was to MLB player Joe DiMaggio in 1954. The newlyweds honeymooned in Japan, but the marriage lasted a mere nine months.

Ten days in advance, on Saturday, May 19th, 1962, she performed for U.S. President John F. Kennedy at his 45th birthday tribute in his honor at Madison Square Garden. She sang “Happy Birthday”. (Kennedy’s real birthday was May 29th).

“Seven Year Itch”

“Sex is a part of nature. I go along with nature.”

Marilyn Monroe’s glamorous sex symbol status was emblazoned in history in the 1955 movie ‘Seven Year Itch,’ in which her skirt was blown up by air from a subway grating. Her then husband, Joe DiMaggio, was reportedly furious with the performance.

“Some Like It Hot”

In 1960 Marilyn Monroe was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Leading Role – Musical or Comedy for the classic comedy ‘Some Like It Hot,’ her most successful movie. That same year she was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“The Misfits”

By the time filming began on Marilyn Monroe’s final movie, ‘The Misfits,’ written by Arthur Miller and co-starring Clark Gable, she was becoming difficult to work with or would refuse to work at all, partially due to her use of sleeping pills and alcohol. Despite all that, the film was well received and became a classic.  

Playboy

The first Playboy magazine cover, featuring her, is pictured on one of six stamps issued in a souvenir sheet, issued by Grenada & the Grenadines on Saturday, December 1st, 2003 to celebrate Playboy’s 50th and golden anniversary.

The famous nude photo of her by Tom Kelley originally appeared as anonymous on a calendar entitled “Miss Golden Dreams.” In 1952, a blackmailer threatened to identify the model as Marilyn, but she shrewdly thwarted the scheme by announcing the fact herself.

Marilyn Monroe was Playboy’s first Sweetheart of the Month, later called Playmate of the Month, in December of 1953. She had only been paid $50 for her modeling, yet Hugh Hefner later bought the image for $500.

The Passing of an Icon

“Suicide? Oh no…
It’s my feeling that Marilyn looked forward to her tomorrows.” Marilyn’s housekeeper.

On August 5, 1962, at the age of 36, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood, California home. Coroners recorded her cause of death as “probable suicide,” involving “acute barbiturate poisoning,” although conspiracy theories about her possible murder include the following suspects:

  • John and Robert Kennedy
  • The CIA
  • The Mafia

In 1999, the American Film Institute listed Marilyn Monroe as the sixth greatest female star of all time. Her legacy as an actress, model, and beautiful blonde bombshell endures.

….

“Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die, young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know yourself. However Suicide is a person’s privilege. I don’t believe it’s a sin or a crime, it’s your right if you do. Though it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Nearly 11 years after her death, she appeared on the cover of the Tuesday, July 17th, 1973 edition of “Time Magazine” in a full-color portrait taken by Bert Stern, from the last photographic sitting before her death. The cover-story heralds the publication of “Marilyn,” the biography of her by Norman Mailer. On the cover, her image dwarfs a black & white photo of Mailer. Mailer reportedly was displeased that “Time” chose to play up Monroe and diminish him, visually on the cover. The publication of the coffee table biography, which contained many photographs including several by Stern, was a major event of that publishing season. The book retailed for $19.95, which is approximately $100 in 2008 money, when factored for inflation.

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