Marilyn Monroe was an actress and model popular in the 1950s. She lived a troubled life filled with a mentally ill mother, mental and physical abuse, multiple foster care families, three husbands and drug use. She is known for her films such as The Seven Year Itch, through which she became an icon of glamor and sexuality. Monroe died while still very young, but she had a profound effect on actresses and models who followed her. She remains one of the most beloved people of Hollywood to this day.
Birth and Early Life
Born Norma Jeane Mortenson in Los Angeles on 1 June 1926, Monroe's mother was Gladys Pearl Baker. The birth certificate lists Martin Edward Mortenson, Gladys former husband, as her father, but there is speculation that she used his name to spare her daughter the stigma of being illegitimate. Gladys soon changed the child's name to Norma Jeane Baker.
Gladys suffered from mental instability, and as a result, Norma Jeane lived with foster parents Ida and Albert Bolender until she was seven. After living with her mother again for a brief period, the child was declared a ward of the state, and her mother's best friend, Grace McKree, took over guardianship. When Grace married, Norma was sent to an orphanage, was passed through the foster system and eventually landed back with Grace.
Eventually, Norma Jeane began a relationship with James (Jim) Dougherty, whom she married in 1942. The marriage was arranged by Grace, who planned to move away and who did not want the girl to enter the foster system again. The marriage took place when Norma Jeane was just 16, and it lasted only four years.
During her first marriage, Jim enlisted in the military and was called to duty during World War II. As he served, Norma Jeane went to work in the Radioplanes Munitions Factory. There, she caught the attention of photographer David Conover, who had been assigned to snap some pictures of women in the factory to boost morale of the military servicemen. Conover suggested to her that she pursue modeling, which she did.
To kick-start her modeling career, Norma Jeane dyed her hair blonde and quickly became one of the most successful models for The Blue Book Modeling Agency. She studied acting and gained a studio contract with 20th Century Fox. Working with Ben Lyon, she eventually changed her first name to Marilyn and adopted her grandmother's surname, Monroe.
Despite her contract with 20th Century Fox, Monroe's roles were extremely limited, with many not having any lines. When her contract with 20th Century Fox expired, Monroe bounced around several modeling agencies and film studios, being cast in small roles. Finally, in the 1953 film, Niagara, Monroe caught the world’s attention. She was voted best new actress, and it seemed that she could do no wrong.
On 14 January 1954, Marilyn married baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, although the marriage lasted only nine months. Much of the issue in the marriage was DiMaggio's discontent with his wife's increasingly sexy image. He reportedly was infuriated by the crowd's positive response during the famous scene in The Seven Year Itch (1955), in which air from a subway grate repeatedly blows up Monroe's skirt. Monroe accused DiMaggio of being mentally abusive. Despite this, the pair remained friends after their divorce.
Continued Fame and Success
Determined to become a serious actress, Monroe moved to New York to study acting. Her success continued to grow, and she won a Golden Globe award for her role in Some like it Hot (1959). She was a natural in comedies such as Bus Stop (1956).
Marilyn Monroe married for a third time in 1956 to playwright Arthur Miller, which seemed to many to be a strange match. Some even called the marriage "the beauty and the brains." This marriage lasted only five years, and she entered a mental hospital following the divorce.
Monroe's private life in her later years was surrounded by rumor and gossip. Tales of drugs, abortions and affairs with famous people, including President John F. Kennedy, are all well documented. The press would not leave her alone, and every part of her life seemed fair game to the media. In 1962, she died at the age of 36. At the time, she was the most famous actress in the world.
The cause of Monroe’s death has also been surrounded by rumors. Drugs were found in her system, leading to speculation about whether she might have committed suicide or was killed in order to prevent a scandal regarding her alleged affair with President Kennedy. Since her death, speculation has been constant.
The public loved Marilyn Monroe during her life, and she still has a huge fan following. Her childlike innocence shone through and touched many people’s hearts. She stills exerts a huge influence on many people today. Every new blonde that appears, from Debbie Harry to Madonna, seems to credit the actress with an influence on her career.