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Norma Jeane Mortenson—who will become better known around the world as the glamorous actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe—is born on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, California. She was later given her mother’s name, and baptized Norma Jeane Baker.
After a tumultuous childhood—both maternal grandparents and her mother were committed to mental institutions, and she lived with a string of foster families—Norma Jeane married one of her neighbors, James Dougherty, when she was 16. He later joined the Merchant Marines and was sent to the South Pacific during World War II. A photographer “discovered” the naturally photogenic Norma Jeane while she was working in a California munitions factory, and she was soon launched into a successful modeling career. She divorced Dougherty in June 1946 and soon after signed a film contract with 20th Century Fox.
READ MORE: All About Marilyn: A Look at Her Family Tree
At the outset of her acting career, Norma Jeane dyed her brown hair blonde and changed her name again, calling herself Marilyn Monroe (Monroe was her grandmother’s last name). After a bit part in 1947’s The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, she had a string of forgettable roles before landing a spot in John Huston’s thriller The Asphalt Jungle (1950). That same year, she also drew attention for her work in All About Eve, starring Bette Davis. Her true breakout performance, however, came in Niagara (1953), a thriller in which Monroe played an adulterous young wife who plots with her lover to kill her husband.
After starring turns in Gentleman Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire–both also released in 1953–Monroe was at the top of Hollywood’s A-list. In January 1954, she married baseball great Joe DiMaggio at San Francisco’s City Hall after a two-year romance. Though the press hailed their relationship as the quintessential All-American love affair, trouble began brewing almost immediately. DiMaggio was notoriously uncomfortable with his new wife’s sexy public image, and her wild popularity, as evidenced by the near-riot among U.S. servicemen stationed in Korea during a performance she gave in the middle of the couple’s honeymoon. They would divorce that October, after only nine months of marriage, but remained good friends. (After Monroe’s death, DiMaggio famously sent roses to her grave several times a week for more than three decades, until his own death in 1999.)
Monroe attempted to switch to more serious acting roles, studying at the prestigious Actors’ Studio in New York. She earned positive reviews for her more nuanced work in Bus Stop (1956), The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) and particularly Some Like It Hot (1959). By 1961, however, trouble in Monroe’s personal life–her third marriage, to the acclaimed playwright Arthur Miller, dissolved after four years–had led to her increasing emotional fragility, and that year she was admitted on two occasions to hospitals for psychiatric observation and rest. Her final film was The Misfits (1961), written by Miller and co-starring Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable (it would also be Gable’s final appearance on-screen). In June 1962, Fox dismissed the actress after repeated and extended absences from the set of Something’s Got to Give. On August 5, 1962, Monroe was found dead from an overdose of barbiturates in her home in Brentwood, California. She was 36 years old.
READ MORE: Marilyn Monroe: Inside Her Final Days and Fragile State of Mind
Her name brings beauty and sensuality, with a note of innocence, to the minds of those who hear it. Marilyn Monroe dominated the age of movie stars to become, without question, one of the most famous women of the 20th century. During her career, Monroe made 30 films and left one, "Something's Got to Give," unfinished. A worldwide sensation in her lifetime, Monroe's popularity made her much more than a star she became an American icon. Childhood and schooling Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, California, to Gladys Baker. There was a dispute about her father's identity, and she was later baptized Norma Jeane Baker. After her mother was committed to a mental institution, Norma Jeane spent most of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages until 1937, when she moved in with family friend Grace McKee Goddard. While with her, Norma Jeane attended Van Nuys High School and University High School. When Grace's husband was transferred to the East Coast in 1942, the couple could not afford to take 16-year-old Norma Jeane with them. That left her with one of two choices: Return to the orphanage or get married. She chose the latter. On June 19, 1942, Norma Jeane wedded 21-year-old Jimmy Dougherty, whom she had been dating for six months. In 1944, Jimmy joined the Merchant Marines and was sent to the South Pacific. A big break After Jimmy left, Norma Jeane took a job on the assembly line at the Radio Plane Munitions factory in Burbank, California. Several months later, "Yank" magazine photographer David Conover saw her while taking pictures of women contributing to the war effort. Conover used Norma Jeane for the shoot, then began to send modeling jobs her way. Within two years, she was a reputable model with numerous popular magazine covers to her credit. Norma Jeane began to study the work of legendary actresses Jean Harlow and Lana Turner, and enrolled in drama classes. She was forced to make a hard choice between her marriage and her career, when Jimmy returned in 1946. Norma Jeane divorced him in June 1946, and signed her first studio contract with Twentieth Century Fox in August. Norma Jeane becomes Marilyn Soon after, Norma Jeane dyed her hair blonde and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, borrowing her grandmother’s last name. Her beauty and bubbly personality won her the title "Miss California Artichoke Queen" in 1947. Monroe's first movie role was a bit part in "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim" (1947). She played a series of supporting characters until 1950, when John Huston's movie, "The Asphalt Jungle," provided her with a small, but influential role. Later that year, Monroe's performance in "All About Eve," which starred Bette Davis, earned her considerable notice. From then on, Monroe worked steadily in such movies as, "Let's Make It Legal," "As Young As You Feel," "Monkey Business," and "Don't Bother to Knock." It was her performance in "Niagara" (1953) that made her a star. Film stardom Monroe's success in "Niagara" was followed with lead roles in such popular movies as "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," co-starring Jane Russell, and "How to Marry a Millionaire," which also starred Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable. In 1953, "Photoplay" magazine voted Monroe the Best New Actress. Also in 1953, Monroe became the first centerfold for "Playboy" magazine. In January 1954, Monroe married baseball star Joe Dimaggio at San Francisco's City Hall. During their Tokyo honeymoon, she took time to perform for the servicemen stationed in Korea. Her presence caused a near-riot among the troops. Unfortunately, Monroe's fame and sexual image became a sore spot in their marriage. Nine months later, Marilyn and Joe divorced, but they remained close friends. In 1956, Monroe established her own motion picture company, Marilyn Monroe Productions. The company produced "Bus Stop" and "The Prince and the Showgirl." With those films, Monroe demonstrated her talent and versatility as an actress. She received a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy in 1959 for the movie "Some Like It Hot." In June 1956, Monroe wedded playwright Arthur Miller. Miller wrote the part of Roslyn Taber especially for Monroe, in the 1961 film "The Misfits." The movie co-starred Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift. The marriage ended in divorce in January 1961, and "The Misfits" was to be Monroe's last completed film. In 1962, Monroe was purportedly involved in affairs with President Kennedy and his brother, Robert Kennedy. Also that year, at the Golden Globe Awards, Marilyn was named female "World Film Favorite," proving once and for all that she was worthy of the title "Icon."
Demise of an icon Early on the morning of August 5, 1962, 36-year-old Marilyn Monroe died in mysterious circumstances at her Brentwood, California home. The world was stunned, and speculation about the cause of death persists. On August 8, 1962, Monroe's remains were laid to rest in the Corridor of Memories, at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Shortly following Monroe's death, pop artist Andy Warhol helped to immortalize her with a series of colorful prints, and singer Elton John did his part with "Candle in the Wind," recorded in the early Seventies.
Marilyn Monroe: People who knew her recall the real person
Once upon a time, before she was the ultimate screen sex symbol, before she became an icon and source material for generations of writers and artists, Marilyn Monroe was a working actress.
She died 50 years ago this Sunday at the age of 36 from an overdose and in the intervening years the actual person has disappeared behind the myth of “Marilyn Monroe.” A visit to her place of rest at the Westwood Village Memorial Park offers testimony to the power of her memory. The wall of her crypt had to be replaced multiple times because of fans who made a pilgrimage there to caress, embrace and kiss it.
But she was real, and to those who knew her Monroe was a devoted, if troubled, actress who took her craft seriously. In interviews, they remember her as an exceptionally bright and determined woman with a sly sense of humor — a far cry from the sweet but dumb blonds she played in such hits as 1953’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” 1955’s “The Seven Year Itch” and 1959’s"Some Like It Hot."She was also someone who could be exasperating to work with — unprofessional with deep insecurities.
In the 1956 drama “Bus Stop,” based on William Inge’s Broadway hit, Monroe played Cherie, a down-on-her-luck chanteuse who dreams of going to “Hollywood and Vine.” Don Murray played Beau, an exuberant, naive cowboy who pursues her.
“She was trying to prove she was a serious actress and not just a movie star playing bimbo parts,” said Murray, who earned an Oscar nomination as Beau. “She was trying to prove she was an actress of substance, and in my opinion she certainly did.”
But Murray recalled that Monroe had a difficult time remembering lines, a problem that would plague her through her career. “The joke was she couldn’t make two sentences meet,” said Murray, who noted that she was often two or three hours late on the set. “That was very strange, that lack of discipline,” said Murray.
“She was a very experienced film actress, but she could forget so many of the mechanical techniques. She would constantly miss her marks so she would be out of focus or out of the light or in a shadow. I think it was a lack of confidence. For somebody who the camera loved, she was still terrified of going before the camera and broke out in a rash all over her body.”
That combination of ambition, skill and fear turns up in other accounts as well. Actress and dancer Mitzi Gaynor performed with Monroe in the 1954 movie musical “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” along with such seasoned musical comedy veterans as Ethel Merman, Dan Dailey and Donald O’Connor. Monroe was still basking in the glow of her sexy “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” number from the film “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”
“I never saw anybody work so hard,” noted Gaynor. But it wasn’t an easy ride. “She did such a good job and personally, I think she stole the whole damn show. I just think she was thrown into a nest of vipers.”
The cast had years of experience on the stage. Monroe didn’t. “Ethel would say ‘All right, where’s the blond?’ Marilyn was always late on the set if she had to work with Ethel because I think she scared the you-know-what out of her,” Gaynor said.
But Gaynor had another, eerier memory of Monroe. She recalled that the star’s longtime makeup artist Allan “Whitey” Snyder, made an unusual promise to Monroe.
“Whitey told me many years ago that they had a pact that if she died he would make her up so that the paparazzi would at least see a pretty picture of her when they took her out on the gurney,” Gaynor said.
Even though she was a major star, Monroe continued working on her acting skills. In the mid-1950s she studied acting at the Actors Studio in New York. Oscar winner Martin Landau, who currently runs the Actors Studio West with director Mark Rydell, recalls being in class with Monroe at the studio along with some of the leading actors of the day, including Marlon Brando.
“She was taking Lee Strasberg’s private classes and Tuesday and Friday sessions at the studio,” he said in a recent interview. “She was sitting among people like Geraldine Page, Kim Stanley and Patricia Neal. She was kind of docile, quiet and attentive.”
And remarkably gifted. Landau recalled Monroe’s first scene work in front of the class. “It was with Maureen Stapleton, a scene from ‘Anna Christie.’ It was very well-received.” Landau found something very “genuine about her and very needful at times. She had demons. There were mood swings…"
Her sexuality was as visible off-screen as it was on. Another Oscar winner,Louis Gossett Jr.(“An Officer and a Gentleman”), was also in class with her in New York in the 1950s. Monroe was at the height of her beauty and stardom then, and the 20-year-old Gossett was too intimidated to even sit next to her in class.
“So I am at the Actors Studio and there’s Brando and Marty Landau up front,” recalled Gossett. “She had Arthur Miller’s shirt on tied at the waist with some jeans and flip-flops. She says ‘Where’s Lou?’ Everybody starts giggling at me. I think it was a joke [by his classmates]. There is no way I could sit next to her. That’s the effect Marilyn Monroe had on me.”
For all her triumphs, Monroe’s life was filled more than its share of tragedy. Born June 1, 1926, as Norma Jeane Mortenson, Monroe had a Dickensian childhood. Her mother Gladys had bouts with mental illness her father’s identity was unknown. She was shuttled between foster homes.
She married at 16 and was still a teenager when she began to catch the eye of photographers.
Susan Bernard, author of the new coffee table book “Marilyn: Intimate Exposures,” was just a little girl when she met Monroe. Her father, Bruno Bernard, began taking pictures of the unknown Monroe in 1946 when she was still a curvy, brunet teenager. In the 1955 comedy “The Seven Year Itch,” he captured the classic Monroe pose of her dress floating up in the breeze over the subway grate.
“They were doing the scene with her skirt flying over the grate,” Susan Bernard said. “They were doing the scene over and over again and Billy Wilder was getting exasperated. Suddenly, she saw my dad in the crowd. She ran up to him in front of the whole crew and gave him a big hug and said ‘Remember Bernie, everything started with you.’”
Photographer/writer/director Lawrence Schiller was just 23 when he shot Monroe on the set of 1960’s “Let’s Make Love” and again in 1962 during the production of the ill-fated “Something’s Got to Give,” from which she was fired because of her tardiness and absences.
“There were two Marilyns that I met,” said Schiller, who writes about his experiences with Monroe in his new book, “Marilyn & Me.” “Marilyn in 1960 was like fresh dew on the lawn when you get up in the morning. She wasn’t the stupid dumb blond we saw in the movies. You could really see her humor and wit.”
But in those final months, Schiller felt that Monroe didn’t know “where she was in her life. She was fighting to stay alive. She couldn’t get to work on time. She was taking more of a toll on other people and the studio. She had no perspective. She had no idea what was going on really — no idea at all.”
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Despite Being an American Sex Symbol, Marilyn Monroe's Mom Was Born in Mexico
Many celebrities have come forward and confessed that they changed their names while trying to “make it.” Legendary sex symbol and Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe was no different. While more and more celebrities are celebrating their heritage and original roots, back when Marilyn was making moves in Hollywood, diversity was not celebrated.
After digging into Marilyn’s past, historians learned that Marilyn’s mother was actually born in Mexico. So, yes, Marilyn did have some connection to Mexico. Due to the time in history when Marilyn Monroe was riding to stardom, she hid her Mexican roots from the public in order to maintain the spotlight, but behind closed doors, it seems like Marilyn truly embraced her mother’s birthplace.
She stood up to HUAC
In 1956, while involved with Monroe, playwright Arthur Miller was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Artists who refused to reveal people who&aposd been involved with Communist activities could be sent to prison for contempt of Congress, but Miller refused to name names. Throughout this ordeal, Monroe remained committed to Miller — despite studio executives and acting teacher Paula Strasberg warning that her decision could expose Monroe to a public backlash that might destroy her career.
Monroe also agreed to marry Miller, even after he surprised her by announcing their wedding plans in his HUAC testimony. Her public display of loyalty likely helped keep him out of prison (Miller was given a suspended sentence for his contempt conviction in 1957 the conviction went on to be overturned in 1958). However, Monroe&aposs actions ended up attracting further interest: Support of Miller, combined with a request she&aposd made to visit the Soviet Union in 1955 (though she didn&apost make the trip), prompted the FBI to open a file on her.
The Birth Of The Iconic Actress Marilyn Monroe In History Today June 1, 1926
Marilyn Monroe posing in the film Manhattan for The Seven Year Itch (doc. Wikimedia commons)
JAKARTA - Exactly today June 1, the glamorous actress Marilyn Monroe was born in the world. The actress, whose real name is Norma Jeane Mortenson, was born in Los Angeles, California in 1926. She was later given her mother's name and christened Norma Jeane Baker.
Marlyn Monroe's childhood was arguably bitter. Monroe's grandparents and mother have to be in a mental hospital while Monroe doesn't know who her father is.
This resulted in Monroe having to live with a series of host families. Monroe then married one of her neighbors, James Dougherty, when she was 16 years old.
Citing the History page, Marilyn Monroe had joined the Merchant Marines and was sent to the South Pacific during World War II. At that time a photographer "discovered" the photogenic Marilyn Monroe while she was working at a California ammunition factory.
This led Monroe immediately to a successful modeling career. He divorced Dougherty in June 1946 and soon after signed a film contract with 20th Century Fox.
Early in her acting career, Marilyn Monroe dyed her natural brown hair blonde and introduced her stage name, Marilyn Monroe more widely. After a minor role in The Shocking Miss Pilgrim in 1947, she managed to land a number of minor roles before finally landing a place in John Huston's thriller The Asphalt Jungle (1950).
That same year, she also caught the eye in All About Eve, which also starred Bette Davis. Her true appearance, however, was in Niagara (1953), a thriller in which Monroe played an unfaithful young wife who conspired with her lover to kill her husband.
After starring in the films Gentleman Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, Monroe topped Hollywood's A list. In January 1954, she married baseball great Joe DiMaggio in San Francisco after a two-year romance.
Although the press praised their relationship as a quintessential love affair, problems began to surface soon. DiMaggio was uncomfortable with Marlyn Monroe's sexy public image and wild popularity.
This is evidenced by near-miss riots among US servicemen stationed in Korea during a show Monroe gave in the middle of the couple's honeymoon. The two divorced in October 1954, only nine months married, but remained good friends.
Monroe attempted to move into more serious acting roles, studying at a prestigious actor studio in New York. He received positive reviews for his acting in Bus Stop (1956), The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) and in particular Some Like It Hot (1959).
However, in 1961, problems in Monroe's personal life caused her emotional vulnerability to increase. In that year, he was twice hospitalized for psychiatric observation and rest.
His last film was The Misfits (1961), written by Miller and co-starring Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable. In June 1962, Fox fired the actress after repeated absences.
Monroe died at her Los Angeles home on August 5, 1962, at the age of 36. An empty bottle of sleeping pills was found near his bed. There has been some speculation over the years that he may have been murdered, but the cause of death is officially declared to be an overdose.
Monroe was buried in her favorite Emilio Pucci gown. He was also laid in the most luxurious "Cadillac casket". The chest was made of bronze and lined with champagne-colored silk. Hugh Hefner bought the cellar right next to Marlyn Monroe's resting place.
Marilyn Monroe born - HISTORY
Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days
Director : Patty Ivins Specht, Producers : Patty Ivins Specht, Erika Schroeder, Jason Fine, Kevin Burns, Michael D. Stevens, Writer : Monica Bider, Narrated By James Coburn. In The Final Days, Producer-Director Patty Ivins Chronicles Marilyn Monroe’s Final, Aborted Feature Film, Something’s Got to Give, Which Was Ultimately Shut Down After The Star Was Dismissed From The Production. Beyond Monroe’s Fragile Emotional And Physical Health, This Well-Crafted Profile Examines The Financial Crisis Facing Her Studio As Well As The Mounting Frustration Of Meticulous Director George Cukor And His Cast, Including Costar Dean Martin, As Monroe’s Absences Drove The Shoot Over Budget. The 2001 Documentary, Which Was Previously Available Only As Part Of The Diamond Collection, Concludes With A 40-minute Reconstruction Of Footage Completed For The Feature, Which Would Subsequently Be Reshot As A Vehicle For Doris Day And James Garner, Move Over, Darling. –Sam Sutherland.
Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962) was an American actress, model, and singer, who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950s and early 1960s.
After spending much of her childhood in foster homes, Monroe began a career as a model, which led to a film contract in 1946 with Twentieth Century-Fox. Her early film appearances were minor, but her performances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (both 1950), drew attention. By 1952 she had her first leading role in Don’t Bother to Knock and 1953 brought a lead in Niagara, a melodramatic film noir that dwelt on her seductiveness. Her “dumb blonde” persona was used to comic effect in subsequent films such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and The Seven Year Itch (1955). Limited by typecasting, Monroe studied at the Actors Studio to broaden her range. Her dramatic performance in Bus Stop (1956) was hailed by critics and garnered a Golden Globe nomination. Her production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, released The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), for which she received a BAFTA Award nomination and won a David di Donatello award. She received a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Some Like It Hot (1959). Monroe’s last completed film was The Misfits, co-starring Clark Gable with screenplay by her then-husband, Arthur Miller.
The final years of Monroe’s life were marked by illness, personal problems, and a reputation for unreliability and being difficult to work with. The circumstances of her death, from an overdose of barbiturates, have been the subject of conjecture. Though officially classified as a “probable suicide”, the possibility of an accidental overdose, as well as of homicide, have not been ruled out. In 1999, Monroe was ranked as the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. In the decades following her death, she has often been cited as both a pop and a cultural icon as well as the quintessential American sex symbol.
Early work: 1945–1947
Mrs James Dougherty, June 26, 1945
While Dougherty served in the Merchant Marine, his wife began working in the Radioplane Munitions Factory, mainly spraying airplane parts with fire retardant and inspecting parachutes. During that time, David Conover of the U.S. Army Air Forces’ 1st Motion Picture Unit was sent to the factory by his commanding officer, future U.S. president Captain Ronald Reagan to shoot morale-boosting photographs for Yank, the Army Weekly magazine of young women helping the war effort. He noticed her and snapped a series of photographs, none of which appeared inYank magazine, although some still claim this to be the case. He encouraged her to apply to The Blue Book Modeling Agency. She signed with the agency and began researching the work of Jean Harlow and Lana Turner. She was told that they were looking for models with lighter hair, so Norma Jeane bleached her brunette hair a golden blonde.
Norma Jeane became one of Blue Book’s most successful models she appeared on dozens of magazine covers. Her successful modeling career brought her to the attention of Ben Lyon, a 20th Century Fox executive, who arranged a screen test for her. Lyon was impressed and commented, “It’s Jean Harlow all over ag She was offered a standard six-month contract with a starting salary of $125 per week. Lyon did not like the name Norma Jeane and chose “Carole Lind” as a stage name, after Carole Lombard and Jenny Lind, but he soon decided it was not an appropriate choice. Monroe was invited to spend the weekend with Lyon and his wife Bebe Daniels at their home. It was there that they decided to find her a new name. Following her idol Jean Harlow, she decided to choose her mother’s maiden name of Monroe. Several variations such as Norma Jeane Monroe and Norma Monroe were tried and initially “Jeane Monroe” was chosen. Eventually, Lyon decided Jeane and variants were too common, and he decided on a more alliterative sounding name. He suggested “Marilyn”, commenting that she reminded him of Marilyn Miller. Monroe was initially hesitant because Marilyn was the contraction of the name Mary Lynn, a name she did not like. Lyon, however, felt that the name “Marilyn Monroe” was sexy, had a “nice flow,” and would be “lucky” due to the double “M.”
Her first movie role was an uncredited part as a telephone operator in The Shocking Miss Pilgrim in 1947, starring Betty Grable. She won a brief role that same year in Dangerous Years and extra appearances in the western film Green Grass of Wyoming starring Peggy Cummins and the musical film You Were Meant for Me starring Jeanne Crain and Dan Dailey. She also won a three-scene role as Betty in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!, starring a young Natalie Wood, but before the film’s release her part was cut-down to a brief one-line scene.
In 1948, Monroe signed a six-month contract with Columbia Pictures and was introduced to the studio’s head drama coach Natasha Lytess, who became her acting coach for several years. Monroe was soon cast in a major role in the low-budget musical Ladies of the Chorus (1948). Monroe was capitalized as one of the film’s bright spots, and the film enjoyed only moderate success. During her short stint at Columbia, studio head Harry Cohn softened her appearance somewhat by correcting a slight overbite she had.
After the release of the poorly reviewed Ladies of the Chorus and being dropped by Columbia, Monroe had to struggle to find work. She particularly wanted film work, and when the offers didn’t come, she returned to modeling. In 1949, she caught the eye of photographer Tom Kelley, who convinced her to pose nude. Monroe was laid out on a large fabric of red silk and posed for countless shots. She was paid $50 and signed the model release form as “Mona Monroe.” This was the only time that Monroe was paid for her nude posing.
Soon thereafter she had a small walk-on role in the Marx Brothers film Love Happy (1949). Monroe impressed the producers, who sent her to New York to feature in the film’s promotional campaign. Love Happy brought Monroe to the attention of thetalent agent, Johnny Hyde, who agreed to represent her. After signing on with Hyde, Monroe had brief roles in three films, A Ticket to Tomahawk, Right Cross, and The Fireball, all of which were released in 1950 and brought no attention to her career. Hyde soon thereafter arranged for her to audition for John Huston, who cast her in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer drama The Asphalt Jungle as the young mistress of an aging criminal. Her performance brought strong reviews, and was seen by the writer and director, Joseph Mankiewicz. He accepted Hyde’s suggestion to cast Monroe in a small comedic role in All About Eve as Miss Caswell, an aspiring actress, described by another character, played by George Sanders, as a student of “The Copacabana School of Dramatic Art”. Mankiewicz later commented that he had seen an innocence in her that he found appealing, and that this had confirmed his belief in her suitability for the role. Following Monroe’s success in these roles, Hyde negotiated a seven-year contract for her with 20th Century Fox, shortly before his death in December 1950. It was at some time during this 1949–1950 period that Hyde arranged for her to have a slight bump of cartilage removed from her somewhat bulbous nose which further softened her appearance and accounts for the slight variation in look she had in films after 1950.
In 1951, Monroe enrolled at University of California, Los Angeles, where she studied literature and art appreciation. During this time Monroe had minor parts in four films: the low-budget drama Home Town Story with Jeffrey Lynn and Alan Hale, Jr., and three comedies: As Young as You Feel with Monty Woolley and Thelma Ritter Love Nest with June Haver and William Lundigan and Let’s Make It Legal with Claudette Colbert and Macdonald Carey, all of which were filmed on a moderate budget and only became mildly successful. In March 1951, she appeared as a presenter at the 23rd Academy Awards ceremony. In 1952, Monroe appeared on the cover of Look magazine wearing a Georgia Tech sweater as part of an article celebrating female enrollment to the school’s main campus. In the early 1950s, Monroe unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of Daisy Mae in a proposed Li’l Abner television series based on the Al Capp comic strip, but the effort never materialized.
Leading films: 1952–1955
First issue of Playboy, December 1953
In March 1952, Monroe faced a possible scandal when one of her nude photos from her 1949 session with photographer Tom Kelley was featured in a calendar. The press speculated about the identity of the anonymous model and commented that she closely resembled Monroe. As the studio discussed how to deal with the problem, Monroe suggested that she should simply admit that she had posed for the photograph but emphasize that she had done so only because she had no money to pay her rent She gave an interview in which she discussed the circumstances that led to her posing for the photographs, and the resulting publicity elicited a degree of sympathy for her plight as a struggling actress.
She made her first appearance on the cover of Life magazine in April 1952, where she was described as “The Talk of Hollywood.” The following year, she was photographed by notedLife magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, considered “The father of photojournalism.” He photographed Monroe on the patio of her Hollywood home. Many of the images from that sitting have been reproduced in numerous subsequent publications and byLife magazine. Monroe was pleased with his images of her, later telling him, “You made a palace out of my patio.”
Stories of her childhood and upbringing portrayed her in a sympathetic light: a cover story for the May 1952 edition of True Experiences magazine showed a smiling and wholesome Monroe beside a caption that read, “Do I look happy? I should—for I was a child nobody wanted. A lonely girl with a dream—who awakened to find that dream come true. I am Marilyn Monroe. Read my Cinderella story.” It was also during this time that she began dating baseball player Joe DiMaggio. A photograph of DiMaggio visiting Monroe at the 20th Century Fox studio was printed in newspapers throughout the United States, and reports of a developing romance between them generated further interest in Monroe.
Four films in which Monroe featured were released beginning in 1952. She had been lent to RKO Studios to appear in a supporting role in Clash by Night, a Barbara Stanwyck drama, directed by Fritz Lang. Released in June 1952, the film was popular with audiences, with much of its success credited to curiosity about Monroe, who received generally favorable reviews from critics.
THE STORY OF: Marilyn Monroe’s Signature Blonde Hair
Hollywood’s golden era had no shortage of platinum blondes: Jean Harlow, Veronica Lake, Carole Landis, Jayne Mansfield and Grace Kelly…. But one actress’s iconic blonde hair is a perfect reflection of the time, and has transcended that era to become one of the most iconic of any actress of the 20th century.
When you think about Marilyn Monroe, you immediately imagine the actress’s signature look: bleach blonde hair, red pouty lips and full black lashes. That’s the persona that the former Norma Jeane carefully created through her movies, photo shoots and life in the public eye. But her look – especially her hair colour – was far from natural and took years to achieve.
Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson at the Los Angeles County Hospital on June 1, 1926. Throughout her young life Norma Jeane would use various surnames interchangeably: Baker (for her mother Gladys’s first husband), Mortenson (for Gladys’s second husband) and Monroe (Gladys’s maiden name).
Gladys was unsure of her daughter’s paternity, and today most Marilyn Monroe biographers agree that Gladys had no idea who the father was. The most frequently told story is that Gladys had an affair with her boss, C. Stanley Gifford, at the film lab where she worked, and that he broke things off once he found out she was expecting. (Gifford notoriously refused contact with Marilyn in later years, even after she became famous.)
In 1934, Gladys had what was then described as a nervous breakdown, and was institutionalized after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She spent the rest of her life in and out of hospitals, and was rarely in contact with her daughter, who ended up spending her troubled childhood in at least one orphanage and being shuffled between a series of 12 foster homes (where she endured sexual assault on several occasions and was raped at age 11). When she wasn’t living in a foster home, Norma Jeane lived with relatives or in the various homes of her mother’s friend, Grace McKee (later Goddard), who eventually became her guardian and took responsibility for her and her mother’s affairs.This situation became more complicated when Grace remarried.
Even when Grace couldn’t house Norma Jeane herself, she remained very involved in her life. When Norma Jeane would return to the foster system, Grace would visit her often, bringing new dresses and makeup to keep up the often-abandoned girl’s spirits. In fact, it was Grace who planted the dream of Hollywood stardom in Norma Jeane. Grace was captivated by Hollywood’s original blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow, and that obsession formed the basis for Norma Jeane’s fascination with the cinema and Hollywood’s glamorous actresses.
At age 16, the fresh-faced brunette Norma Jeane was back living with Grace when she was faced with another return to the foster system. Instead, she dropped out of high school and opted to marry 21-year-old James Dougherty on June 19, 1942, just weeks after her 16th birthday. A year later, in 1943, he joined the US Merchant Marine, and she took a job at an airline plant in Burbank as part of the World War II factory effort, working first as a parachute inspector and later as a paint sprayer.
In late 1944, Norma Jeane met photographer David Conover, who had been sent by the US Army Air Forces’ First Motion Picture Unit to the factory where she was working to shoot morale-boosting pictures of the women working in the plant. Conover was immediately taken with the pretty brunette and snapped a few colour photos of her working on the line.
As Conover later wrote: “I moved down the assembly line, taking shots of the most attractive employees. None was especially out of the ordinary. I came to a pretty girl putting on propellers and raised the camera to my eye. She had curly ash blonde hair and her face was smudged with dirt. I snapped her picture and walked on. Then I stopped, stunned. She was beautiful. Half child, half woman, her eyes held something that touched and intrigued me.”
Norma Jeane was flattered. No one had ever singled her out for a good reason. After that day Conover wanted to shoot her again and again, and so did his photographer friends. On each shoot she’d pester the photographer with questions about lenses and lighting, and what she could do with her poses and makeup to make each image perfect. In no time, Norma Jeane defied her deployed husband, moved out on her own, and in January 1945 quit working at the factory. By August 1945, she had signed a contract as a photographer’s model with the Blue Book Model Agency.
Ironically – considering what she came to represent in terms of artificial, unattainable beauty – in 1945 the future Marilyn Monroe was coveted by photographers for her natural look.
When Jim Dougherty returned in December 1945, after 18 months away, he didn’t recognize his wife. In the spring of 1946, she divorced Dougherty and was ready to throw herself into her work.
Soon enough, Emmeline Snively, the head of the Blue Book Model Agency, told Norma Jeane that if she wanted to work more, she would have to bleach her hair. After all, according to Snively, brunettes could only be photographed a limited number of ways, while a blonde could be anything.
“Look, darling,” Snively later recalled telling her, “if you really intend to go places in this business, you’ve just got to bleach and straighten your hair, because now your face is a little too round and a hair job will lengthen it.”
One afternoon in 1946, Snively sent Norma Jeane to Frank & Joseph’s Beauty Salon, which was across the street from the Blue Book Agency. The renowned stylists were responsible for the hair of such Hollywood notables as Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman. Tint technician Sylvia Barnhart immediately set out to straighten Norma Jeane’s hair, which Barnhart has described as “brown and kinky.”
The strong solution used in the process also lightened her hair, giving it a reddish-blonde cast. Norma Jeane was quite pleased by the effect (she thought it brought out her eyes) and wanted to go even blonder, to be more like her idol Jean Harlow. So over the next few months, Barnhart slowly changed the colour of Norma Jeane’s hair to a golden honey-blonde by lightening and toning it one step at a time.
She also underwent electrolysis around her hairline to remove her widow’s peak.
Like Harlow, Norma Jeane’s blonding hair caught Hollywood’s most prolific eye, Howard Hughes. In the mid-’40s, Hughes (the head of RKO) spotted one of the 33 magazines that had published pictures of Norma Jeane, and requested that she be found and brought in for a screen test. Norma Jeane’s agency used Hughes’ interest as leverage to get their client a meeting with Ben Lyon, casting director at 20th Century Fox, and Norma Jeane was quickly tested with cinematographer Leon Shamroy.
When Shamroy got the film back from the session, he was stunned. He would later say that the camera captured something in this newly blonde woman that he hadn’t seen in years – surely not since Hollywood’s original blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow. Shamroy notably described her as “sex on a piece of film.”
On August 26, 1946, Norma Jeane was signed to a one-year, $125/month contract with 20th Century Fox, on the condition that she find herself a new name. Lyon suggested that she take the name Marilyn, and she added her mother’s maiden name (the only name she was sure she could accurately embrace as her own), Monroe.
As the shy, timid Norma Jeane transformed into the more glamorous Marilyn Monroe, her hair continued to change. Barnhart continued to straighten and bleach her hair for years to come, and when Barnhart moved to Frank & Joseph’s other salon on Hollywood Boulevard, Marilyn followed her.
For several years afterwards, Marilyn kept a weekly appointment with Barnhart on Saturdays at 1:30 pm. “She’d come in like two or three hours late and still expect to be taken care of,” Barnhart recalled. “But she was just magnificent, breathtaking to look at.”
Ironically, Barnhart would play another key role in Monroe’s life. Years after their first meeting, Barnhart inspired Pola, Monroe’s character in How To Marry A Millionaire (1953). Monroe recalled watching Barnhart without her glasses bumping into furniture, and incorporated the glasses and klutziness into her iconic role.
Stardom wasn’t instant for Monroe – changing her hair colour did help set the wheels in motion, but she didn’t truly become a star for another few years. There were the short-lived film contracts with 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures, and a series of minor film roles. There were also more modelling gigs, plastic surgery, a string of failed relationships, and acting classes. She signed a new contract with Fox in late 1950 and finally began to break through, securing roles in several comedies, including As Young as You Feel (1951) and Monkey Business (1952), and in the dramas Clash by Night (1952) and Don’t Bother to Knock (1952).
Then Monroe found herself at the centre of a scandal in March 1952, when news broke of the publication of an upcoming pinup calendar. Golden Dreams claimed to feature nude pictures of Monroe shot by pinup photographer Tom Kelley. Uneasy studio execs begged her to deny the story to avoid damaging her budding career, but Monroe took matters into her own hands and went rogue during an interview. She cried to the journalist that it really was her in the pictures! She stressed she had been cash-strapped and jobless back in 1949 and had posed for Kelley (whose wife was also in the room) because she needed the $50 to make a car payment.That turned out to be a move that only increased her star power. The story, which she knew the journalist would lead with, didn’t damage her career…instead it generated sympathy and resulted in increased interest in her films.
Eventually Marilyn’s hair was completely stripped of pigment and her hair lightened to a dazzling platinum blonde – or, in her own words, “pillow-case white.”
Barnhart may have been the stylist who turned Monroe into a blonde, but she wasn’t the only stylist in Monroe’s life. Years later, when Monroe was a bona fide star, she would work with a rotating team of hairstylists like Kenneth Battelle, Gladys Rasmussen and Pearl Porterfield – the Hollywood hairdresser responsible for Jean Harlow’s own pale blonde locks. For the remainder of Monroe’s life, according to author Pamela Keogh, her stylists applied peroxide and bleach highlights every three weeks.
“There are several problems with doing Marilyn’s hair it’s very fine and therefore hard to manage,” Rasmussen once said in an interview. “The way we [get] her shade of platinum is with my own secret blend of Sparkling Silver bleach plus 20 volume peroxide and a secret formula of silver platinum rinse to take the yellow out.”
Monroe was said to have minimized washes and hidden her dark regrowth by dabbing sifted Johnson’s Baby Powder (the OG dry shampoo) on her roots.
Monroe and her pillow-case white blonde hair dominated Hollywood. With performances in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), she became the object of unprecedented popular adulation around the world. In 1954 she married baseball star Joe DiMaggio, and while the marriage lasted less than a year, the publicity was enormous. In 1956 she married playwright Arthur Miller. By the end of the decade she won critical acclaim (for the first time) as a serious actress for Some Like It Hot (1959). Her last role, in The Misfits (1961), was written by Miller, whom she had divorced the year before.
In 1962 Monroe began filming the comedy Something’s Got to Give, but was fired in June because she was frequently absent from the set because of illnesses. Of course, that was after she travelled to New York City in May to attend a gala where she famously sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy, with whom she was allegedly having an affair.
After several months as a virtual recluse, Monroe died from an overdose of sleeping pills in her Los Angeles home on August 5, 1962. Her death was ruled a “probable suicide,” though conspiracy theories continue to persist to this day.
The last word
Today Marilyn Monroe remains the definitive platinum siren of Hollywood’s golden era herbiography is a collage of stories, some true and some creative concoctions of her blonde bombshell persona created by Hollywood studios. But, ultimately, Monroe had the final word on her infamous hair. In her posthumous autobiography titled My Story (which was released 12 years after her death), she wrote: “In Hollywood a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hair-do. You’re judged by how you look, not by what you are. Hollywood’s a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents.”
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How Did Marilyn Monroe Get Her Name? This Photo Reveals the Story
It’s been 72 years since studio executive Ben Lyon suggested she change her name to Marilyn Monroe, the actress whose name became synonymous with blonde bombshells she played in films.
And now her fans can see &mdash and even own &mdash proof of the origins of her name.
The above photograph &mdash inscribed by Marilyn Monroe to Lyon: &ldquoDear Ben, You found me, named me and believed in me when no one else did. My thanks and love forever. Marilyn&rdquo &mdash will be on display at The Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles, beginning this Saturday Aug. 18 until Sep. 30. The photo of the duo, taken during the filming of The Seven Year Itch (1955), is expected to hit the auction block at the end of October. Considered to be one of the most important photographs in Hollywood history because it debunks myths about how she got her iconic stage name, it could fetch more than $100,000, according to Profiles in History CEO Joseph Maddalena, who runs the auction house that specializes in Hollywood memorabilia. He said photos autographed by Monroe usually fetch between $20,000 and $30,000.
They met one final time before Monroe&aposs death, with the actress slipping her mother alcohol
As Monroe completed her transformation into Hollywood icon, star of such features as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and The Seven-Year Itch (1955), her mother continued to send her mail on a regular basis from Rock Haven Sanitarium in La Crescenta, usually with the request to get her out.
Of course, Monroe&aposs screen success was only masking her own troubles, from her crumbling marriages to Joe DiMaggio and then Arthur Miller, to her increasing dependence on doctors and barbiturates.
In February 1961, after confessing to a doctor that she had considered suicide, Monroe found herself following her mother&aposs path when she was committed to the Payne Whitney Clinic in New York. Her stay there was brief but long enough for word to leak to the press. Shortly after watching a news report on the subject from Rock Haven, Baker was found unconscious in her room, her left wrist slit.
According to The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, the movie star last saw her mother in the summer of 1962. Attempting to get a new doctor to prescribe her Thorazine, Monroe took the doctor to Rock Haven, only to learn that Baker was refusing to take her own Thorazine.
Mother and daughter then had one more face-off in the yard, with Monroe pleading for her to take her medication and Baker insisting that prayers, not medicine, was all she needed. When Baker stood up to depart, Monroe stopped her and slipped a flask into her purse, drawing a smile from the older woman. "You&aposre such a good girl, Norma Jeane," she said, before leaving without a goodbye.
On August 5, Monroe’s body finally caved to years of drug abuse. Reportedly showing few outward signs that the death impacted her, Baker managed to outlive her daughter by another 22 years, even spending her final days free from the psychiatric homes that had kept her confined for so long.