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Marilyn Monroe magic

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Marilyn Monroe quick links:

Marilyn Monroe quick facts:

  • Birth Name: Norma Jeane Mortenson
  • Birth Place: Los Angeles, CA
  • Date of Birth : June 1, 1926
  • Date of Death: August 5, 1962

Marilyn Monroe biography:


Marilyn Monroe's birth name was Norma Jean Mortenson. Norma Jean was an illegitimate child. Marilyn grew up not knowing for sure who her father was. The most likely candidate was Edward Mortenson, thus that name on her birth certificate. Norma's mother, Gladys, had entered into several relationships, so even she was confused as to who had fathered her daughter.

Gladys later changed Norma Jean's last name to Baker. Baker was a boyfriend she had before Mortenson.

Poverty was a constant companion to Gladys and Norma. Gladys, who was extremely attractive and worked for RKO Studios as a film cutter, lost her job when Norma was young. Gladys didn't regain steady employment after that. She suffered from mental illness and was in and out of mental institutions for the rest of her life.

Consequently, Norma Jean spent years in foster homes and orphanages. When she was nine, she was placed in an orphanage where she was to stay for the next two years. Upon being released from the orphanage, she went to yet another foster home.

In 1942, at the age of 16, Norma Jean married 21-year-old aircraft plant worker, and neighbor, James Dougherty. The marriage lasted four years. They divorced in 1946.

Norma Jean began working at the Radio Plane factory in Burbank. A visiting Army photographer took her photo, and Norma Jean liked what she saw. So did others.

Norma Jean then began modeling bathing suits. After bleaching her hair blonde, she began posing for pinups and glamour photos. Various shots made their way to the public eye, where some were eventually seen by RKO Pictures head Howard Hughes.

Hughes offered Marilyn a screen test, but Ben Lyon of 20th Century Fox beat Hughes to the punch. Lyon signed Norma Jean Baker to a contract. Fox was a much bigger and more prestigious studio than RKO. Norma Jean signed a contract at $125 per week for a six-month period. That increased by $25 per week at the end of that time, when her contract was extended. At about that time, she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe.

After appearing in small parts in films including "Love Happy" (1949) and "All About Eve" (1950), Monroe achieved celebrity with starring roles in three 1953 features, "Niagara," "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "How To Marry a Millionaire."

Monroe also posed for a series of  calendar photos, taken in 1948. These appeared in the December 1953 debut issue of Playboy magazine. By the end of the year, Monroe had been voted the top star of 1953 by American film distributors.

In all of her film roles, from "Niagara" to "The Misfits" (1961), Monroe portrayed an object of desire and exhibition. Her basic character grew out of the dumb blonde archetype, but Monroe's dumb blonde could not be pinned down to any particular origin or social class. She was defined only by what was shown on the screen, with neither a previous history nor, seemingly, a future.

Frequently, her characters were nameless ("Love Happy," 1955's "The Seven Year Itch"), further accentuating her status as an object. The character she played usually had no discernable job. When she did, it was a female-relegated job such as chorus girl, actress, or secretary.

But to the dumb blonde stereotype, Monroe added a sense of innocence, naturalism and overt sexuality. Her sexuality was never seen as a threat, but as something harmless and naive. Time Magazine's  response to Monroe's Playboy centerfold summed up her appeal: "Marilyn believes in doing what comes naturally."

Along with this kindly, innocent sexuality came a vulnerability. Monroe's characters were often humiliated at the expense of a voyeuristic pleasure, whether being lassoed like a cow in "Bus Stop" (1956) or exposing herself unknowingly in "Some Like It Hot" (1959).

At the height of her fame, Monroe sensed the limited range of her screen persona and clearly desired to change it. "To put it bluntly, I seem to be a whole superstructure without a foundation." Forming Marilyn Monroe Productions in 1956, she produced "Bus Stop" and "The Prince and The Showgirl" (1957). But her personal problems, with failed marriages to baseball star Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller and increasing reliance on drugs to combat depression and physical ailments, served to forestall any serious change in her career. The public wanted Marilyn as they had discovered her in 1953, and that was what they got in "Let's Make Love" (1960).

Marilyn Monroe was still capable of memorable work, especially with top directors like Billy Wilder ("Some Like It Hot") and John Huston ("The Misfits"). But her personal demons, or precarious involvement with people in high places, eventually overwhelmed her. On August 5, 1962, she was found dead of an overdose of sleeping pills.

After the death of her rival, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, facts regarding her death emerged. Monroe had been having a hot affair with President John F Kennedy (JFK or "Jack"), aided by the Secret Service. Jackie was understandably upset by this, and had made it very clear to Jack that he must end the affair or she would leave him.

Fearing the public humiliation of his son and an end to the "Kennedy mystique" he had worked so hard to build, Joe Kennedy took measures to "solve the Monroe problem." While we lack a hard evidence "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that Joe had Marilyn killed, there is significant evidence that he did.

The Kennedy attitude toward women is well-documented in everything from Chappaquiddick to Joan Kennedy's retreat into alcoholic stupor to books such as "The Kennedy Women." 

Monroe's death was a tragedy in which her public, the media, and the Hollywood power brokers initially blamed. That blame lasted until nearly the end of the 20th Century, under the now discredited notion that she committed suicide after being driven into despondency. This notion is immortalized in the Elton John tribute to her, "Like a Candle in the Wind."




Some Marilyn Monroe Movies


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