Marilyn Monroe: The Blonde Bombshell

About Marilyn Monroe:
"Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring."

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.

The final years of Monroe's life were marked by illness, personal problems, and a reputation for unreliability and being difficult to work with. Ever since Monroe's death from an overdose of barbiturates on August 5, 1962, the exact circumstances have been subject to conjecture. Though officially classified as a "probable suicide", the possibilities of an accidental overdose or a homicide have not been ruled out.

Early Life:
Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson at the charity ward of the Los Angeles County Hospital on June 1, 1926  as the third child of Gladys Pearl Baker (née Monroe, 1902 –1984), a negative-cutter at Columbia. Gladys' older children, Robert (nicknamed "Jack" or "Jackie", 1917–1933) and Berniece (1919–), were from her first marriage to John Newton Baker (also called Jasper or Jack), whom she had married in 1917 at the age of 15 after becoming pregnant by him.

She had filed for divorce in 1921, after which Baker had taken the children with him to his native Kentucky; Monroe would have no contact with her sister until adulthood. Gladys had then married Martin Edward Mortensen in 1924, but they had separated after only a few months and before she had become pregnant with Monroe; they would divorce in 1928. However, in Monroe's birth certificate, Gladys named Mortensen as the father (although the name was misspelled), probably to avoid the stigma of illegitimacy. During Monroe's childhood, Mortenson, Mortensen and Baker were all variably used as her surnames.

1. Sexual abuse:
As an adult, Monroe told several friends and interviewers that she had been sexually abused during her childhood. It is unclear when this occurred and who the perpetrator was; biographers have named George Atkinson, Doc Goddard and one of Monroe's cousins as possibilities. Due to lack of evidence to either prove or disprove the claims, biographers have been divided in their opinions: Summers, Guiles and Carl Rollyson have denied them as fabrication, while Spoto, Banner, Gloria Steinem, and Barbara Leaming have accepted them as truthful. In her analysis on the topic, Sarah Churchwell has stated that biographers' opinions on both sides of the debate have been "predetermined by what they already believe" about Monroe's personality and sexual abuse in general, and that "we simply don't know what happened".

2. Contract dismissal:
She was given her first two film roles: a one-line appearance in the comedy Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1948), and minor role as a waitress with nine lines of dialogue in the drama Dangerous Years (1947). The studio also paid for her to attend acting classes at the Actors' Laboratory Theatre, an acting school teaching the techniques of the Group Theatre. However, her contract was not renewed for a second time and she was let go in August 1947.

Following her dismissal, Monroe returned to modeling, and was also aided financially by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's (MGM) talent executive Lucille Ryman and her husband, actor John Carroll, whom she had befriended during her contract.

3. Nude photo-shoot:
 In March 1952, a scandal broke when she revealed in an interview that she had posed for nude pictures in 1949, which were featured in popular calendars. The studio had learnt of the photographs some weeks earlier, and in order to contain their potentially disastrous effects on her career, they and Monroe had decided to talk about them openly while stressing that she had only posed for them due to a dire financial situation. The strategy succeeded in gaining her public sympathy as well as increasing her popularity: the following month, she was featured on the cover of Life as "The Talk of Hollywood".

Monroe added to her reputation as a new sex symbol with other publicity stunts that year, such as by wearing a dress which décolleté was cut down to her navel when acting as Grand Marshal at the Miss America Pageant parade, and by revealing in Earl Wilson's column that she usually wore no underwear. The nude photo scandal ensured that all five films in which Monroe appeared in 1952 became popular with the audiences.

"Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul."
4. Difficulties on film sets:
Monroe also gained "a reputation for being difficult on film sets", which would only get stronger as her career progressed: she was often late to work or did not show up at all, had trouble remembering her lines, and would demand several re-takes until she was satisfied. Her reliance on her acting coaches, first Natasha Lytess and later, Paula Strasberg, also often irritated her directors. Biographers have attributed these issues to a combination of perfectionism, low self-esteem, stage fright, and her gradually escalating use of barbiturates and amphetamines.

5. The girl with the horizontal walk:
Niagara, Rose was the most overtly sexual role of her career, and the film included scenes in which her body was covered only by a sheet or a towel, which contemporary audiences considered shocking. However, its most famous scene was a long shot of Monroe shown from behind walking down a street with her hips swaying; it was used heavily in the film's marketing and gained her the nickname "the girl with the horizontal walk". Niagara became a box office hit upon its release in January. Reviews of the film d welled on her sexually suggestive performance, with many finding it "indecent".

6. Revealing outfits:
Monroe also continued to attract attention with her revealing outfits in publicity events, most famously when she appeared in a skin-tight gold lamé dress at the Photoplay awards in January 1953, where she won the "Fastest Rising Star Award", prompting veteran star Joan Crawford to describe her behavior as "unbecoming an actress and a lady" to the press.

7. Diamonds are a Girl's best friend:
Based on Anita Loos' bestselling novel and its subsequent Broadway and film versions, the film focused on show girls Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw, played by Monroe and Jane Russell, who are looking for rich husbands. The role of Lorelei was originally intended for Betty Grable, who had been 20th Century-Fox's most popular "blonde bombshell" in the 1940s; Monroe was now fast eclipsing her as a star who could appeal to both male and female audiences. The film included one of the most famous scenes of her career, a performance of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" in a shocking pink dress. As part of the film's publicity campaign, she and Russell pressed their hand- and footprints in wet concrete in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in June. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was released shortly after and became one of the biggest box office successes of the year, earning back more than double its production costs.

"The real lover is the man who can thrill you by kissing your forehead or smiling into your eyes or just staring into space."

8. Sex symbol:
Monroe's position as a leading sex symbol was further strengthened in December, when Hugh Hefner, who had bought the rights for her nudes from the 1949 Kelley session, featured one of the images, previously unreleased "Golden Dreams", as the centerfold and a photograph of her in a low-cut dress at the Miss America Pageant parade in 1952 as the cover in the first issue of Playboy.

"Sex is a part of nature. I go along with nature."

9. Conflicts with 20th Century-Fox (1954–1955):
Although Monroe had become one of 20th Century-Fox's biggest stars, her contract had remained the same since 1950, meaning that she was paid far less than her colleagues and could not choose her projects or the people she worked with. She was also tired of being typecast, and her attempts to be cast in films other than comedies or musicals had been thwarted by Zanuck. In December 1953, she was slated to begin filming yet another musical comedy, The Girl in Pink Tights, with Frank Sinatra. In protest, she did not show up on set when filming was due to start, which resulted in the studio suspending her on January 4, 1954.

The suspension was front page news and Monroe immediately began a campaign of self-promotion to counter any negative publicity and to strengthen her position in the conflict. On January 14, she and Joe DiMaggio, whose relationship had been subject to constant media attention since 1952, were married in San Francisco. She then traveled with DiMaggio to Japan, combining a honeymoon with his business trip.

10. The Prince and the Showgirl:
The Prince and the Showgirl, at Pinewood Studios in England. It was a period film set in 1911, in which she played a show girl who has an affair with the fictional Prince Regent of Carpathia (Olivier), and uncovers a treason plot. Its filming was troubled due to conflicts between Olivier and Monroe. He was frustrated by the state of his career, and angered Monroe by being patronizing to her, telling her "All you have to do is be sexy, dear Marilyn", and by trying to make her play the lead role exactly like Vivien Leigh had done in the stage version.

He also disliked the constant presence of Paula Strasberg, her acting coach, on set. In retaliation to Olivier's treatment of her, Monroe started arriving late to work and became difficult to work with. Her drug use also increased during the production and she possibly had a miscarriage. Other conflicts also took place: she clashed with Greene over the running of MMP and whether Miller should join it, and Greene and Olivier disagreed on who should be named executive producer in the credits. Despite its difficulties, the film was completed on schedule by the end of the year, with the cast members, including Olivier, being happy with her performance. The Prince and the Showgirl was released in June 1957, receiving mixed reviews and proving unpopular with the audiences in the United States. It was however better received in Europe, where she received the Italian David di Donatello and the French Crystal Star awards, and was nominated for a BAFTA.

After completing The Prince and the Showgirl, Monroe took an 18-month hiatus from work, focusing instead on married life with Miller in New York, Long Island and Connecticut. When she and Greene could not settle their conflicts over MMP, she dismissed him and bought out his share of the company.

"I don't want to make money, I just want to be wonderful."

11. Like kissing Hitler:
In July 1958 to play the female lead, singer Sugar Kane, in Billy Wilder's comedy Some Like It Hot, about two men (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) who dress as women and join her all-female orchestra after needing to go into hiding after witnessing the Valentine's Day Massacre. In the film, she performed one of her most famous songs, "I Wanna Be Loved by You".

The difficulties of the film's production have since become "legendary". Monroe would demand dozens of re-takes, and could not remember her lines or act as Wilder directed; Curtis famously stated that kissing her in a romantic scene was "like kissing Hitler" due to the number of times it had to be re-taken. Biographer Sarah Churchwell has however suggested that the issues stemmed from a power struggle between Wilder, who also had a reputation for being difficult on set, and Monroe on how she should play the role, and that she deliberately ruined several scenes in order to act it her way. In the end, he was happy with her performance, stating: "Anyone can remember lines, but it takes a real artist to come on the set and not know her lines and yet give the performance she did!" Despite the difficulties of its production, when Some Like it Hot was released in March 1959, it became one of the most successful films of the 1950s, and earned Monroe a Golden Globe.

"I restore myself when I'm alone."

12. Fox troubles:
In the musical comedy Let's Make Love, about an actress whose theater company stages a satire about a billionaire, who by accident ends up being cast playing himself, for 20th Century-Fox. She chose George Cukor to direct and Miller re-wrote portions of the script, which she considered weak; she had only accepted the part because she had so far only made one film out of the four stipulated by her contract with the studio. Fox had difficulties in finding a male star for the role of the billionaire, eventually casting French star Yves Montand, who had not previously acted in American films. The filming was again complicated by Monroe's behavior, and her absences caused its production schedule to be delayed. While working on the film, she and Montand had an affair, which was widely reported by the press and used by the studio in the film's publicity campaign. Let's Make Love flopped upon its released in September 1960.

13. Drug addiction:
The Misfits, based on a short story that Miller had developed into a screenplay with the idea of providing her with a role in a drama. Directed by John Huston, it was filmed in the Nevada desert, and focused on the friendship between a recently divorced woman (Monroe) and three aging cowboys, played by Clark Gable, Eli Wallach and Montgomery Clift, who capture mustangs for a living. Its filming between July and November 1960 was complicated by several issues. Monroe and Miller's marriage was effectively over by this time, making working together difficult. She resented her character, which she thought was "less nuanced" than the male roles, and disliked that he had included elements of her life in it. She also struggled with his habit of re-writing scenes the night before filming, forcing her to rehearse through the night.

Her health was also failing: she was in pain from gall stones, and her drug addiction was severe by this point, to the extent that her make-up had to usually be applied while she was still asleep under the influence of barbiturates. In August, filming was halted for her to spend a week detoxing in a Los Angeles hospital. Other cast and crew members also struggled: the Nevada heat made filming difficult, Huston spent nights drinking and gambling with the result of sometimes falling asleep on set, and Gable suffered a fatal heart attack only days after completing the film. The Misfits was released in February 1961, receiving mixed reviews and failing at the box office.

14. Divorce:
Monroe and Miller divorced in early 1961. She had no new projects in 1961, and was preoccupied by her health issues, undergoing surgery for endometriosis and a cholecystectomy, and spending several weeks in two psychiatric hospitals to overcome her issues with addiction and depression. She returned to the public eye in 1962, receiving a "World Film Favorite" Golden Globe award in March and beginning to shoot a new film for 20th Century-Fox, Something's Got to Give, a re-make of My Favorite Wife (1940), on April 23. It was to be co-produced by MMP, directed by George Cukor and co-starred by Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse. Monroe was absent for the first two weeks of filming, officially due to the flu; biographers have also attributed her absence to sinusitis or her ongoing drug addiction.

"It's better to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone - so far."

15. President Kennedy:
The extent of a relationship between President Kennedy and Monroe will never be known, although the White House switchboard did note calls from her during 1962. In the opinion of one writer, Monroe was in love with President Kennedy and wanted to marry him, and when their affair ended, she turned to Robert Kennedy, who reportedly visited Monroe in Los Angeles the day that she died.

"I don't mind living in a man's world as long as I can be a woman in it."

16. After death:
On May 4, 2007, a New York judge ruled that Monroe's rights of publicity ended at her death. In October 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 771. The legislation, supported by Anna Strasberg and the Screen Actors Guild, established that non-family members may inherit rights of publicity through the residuary clause of the deceased's will, provided that the person was a resident of California at the time of death. In March 2008, the United States District Court in Los Angeles ruled that Monroe was a resident of New York at the time of her death, citing the statement of the executor of her estate to California tax authorities, and a 1966 affidavit by her housekeeper. The decision was reaffirmed by the United States District Court of New York in September 2008.

In July 2010, Monroe's Brentwood home was put up for sale by Prudential California Realty. The house was sold for $3.6 million. Monroe left to Lee Strasberg an archive of her own writing—diaries, poems, and letters, which Anna discovered in October 1999. In October 2010, the documents were published as a book, Fragments (ISBN 0-00-739534-5)

On August 5, 1962, at 4:25 a.m., LAPD sergeant Jack Clemmons received a call from Dr. Ralph Greenson, Monroe's psychiatrist, saying that Monroe was found dead at her home at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California. She was 36 years old. At the subsequent autopsy, 8 mg/dL of chloral hydrate and 4.5 mg/dL of Nembutal were found in her system, and Dr. Thomas Noguchi (known as the "coroner to the stars") of the Los Angeles County Coroners office recorded cause of death as "acute barbiturate poisoning", resulting from a "probable suicide". Many theories, including murder, circulated about the circumstances of her death and the timeline after the body was found. Some conspiracy theories involved John and Robert Kennedy, while other theories suggested CIA or Mafia complicity. It was reported that President Kennedy was the last person Monroe called.

Monroe was interred on August 8, 1962, in a crypt at Corridor of Memories No. 24, at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Joe DiMaggio took control of the funeral arrangements, which consisted of only 31 close family and friends, excluding Hollywood's elite. Lee Strasberg, her acting teacher, delivered the eulogy, and had once claimed that of all his acting students, she was the one who stood out above the rest, second only to Marlon Brando.

Interesting Facts:
1. Monroe arrived two hours late to her first date with Joe DiMaggio, but she charmed him into forgiving her when she told him, "There's a blue polka dot exactly in the middle of your tie knot. Did it take you long to fix it like that?"

2. "Niagara" is the only movie Monroe made in which her character dies.

3. Monroe notoriously became Playboy magazine's first monthly Playmate in 1953 after the magazine published a nude calendar photo she had posed for six years earlier, for which she had been paid just $50. (Hugh Hefner had paid the photographer $500 for the rights.) Back then, the magazine called its centerfold "Sweetheart of the Month."

4. For 20 years after Marilyn’s death, Joe DiMaggio arranged to have roses sent to her crypt three times a week.

5. She was never nominated for an Academy Award, but she was voted the “Oomph Girl” at Emerson Junior High in 1941; crowned Castroville’s first Artichoke Queen in 1948; and was Stars and Stripes magazine’s Miss Cheesecake of 1950.

6. Her funeral was a riot. Hundreds of her fans rushed into the cemetery after the service and stole the flowers from the floral tributes she’d been sent.

7. A report in The New York Times said that the number of suicides in New York a week after her death hit a record high of 12 in one day. One suicide victim left a note saying, “If the most wonderful, beautiful thing in the world has nothing to live for, then neither must I.”

1. In 1999, Monroe was ranked as the sixth-greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute.

2. 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.

3. In 2009, TV Guide Network named her No. 1 in Film's Sexiest Women of All Time.

4. After returning to Hollywood in February, she was awarded Photoplay's "Most Popular Female Star" prize.

5. In an early modeling gig, at an agricultural festival in Castroville, California, Monroe was named the state's first-ever Artichoke Queen.

6. Monroe came in third (behind Michael Jackson and Elvis) on Forbes' annual list of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities. According to Forbes, she earned $27 million last year. Authentic Brands Group, which owns her likeness rights, is reportedly planning to license a chain of Monroe-themed cafes.

7. She was named “The Most Advertised Girl in the World” by the Advertising Association of the West in 1953. Among the brands she represented were American Airlines, Kyron Way Diet Pills, Pabst Beer, Tan-Tan Suntan Lotion and Royal Triton Oil.

The Story:
The identity of Monroe's father is unknown. Biographers Fred Guiles and Lois Banner have stated that her father was most likely Charles Stanley Gifford, a co-worker with whom Gladys had had an affair in 1925 and whose photograph she had allegedly shown Monroe, telling her it was her father. Anthony Summers and Donald Spoto disagree. In addition to the lack of evidence to prove Gifford's paternity, Spoto has stated that Monroe did not know who her father was, although as an adult she unsuccessfully tried to contact a number of men, including Gifford, to find answers. He instead suggests that any of Gladys' boyfriends in 1925 may have been the father, naming film developer Raymond Guthrie as the strongest possibility.

When Monroe was only a few weeks old, her mother placed her with evangelical Christian foster parents Albert and Ida Bolender in Hawthorne, California, as she was unable to quit working to take care of her. She paid for Monroe's upkeep and, according to Banner, lived with them to take care of the child herself until longer working hours forced her to move back to Hollywood in 1927, after which she visited her daughter weekly. Monroe lived with the Bolenders until the age of seven in 1933, when she was able to move in with her mother. Soon after, Gladys bought a small house for them, which they shared with lodgers, English actors George and Maude Atkinson. However, only some months later in early 1934, Gladys had a mental breakdown and was hospitalized. She was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was institutionalized at the State Hospital in Norwalk in 1935, spending the rest of her life in and out of hospitals.

Following her mother's hospitalization, Monroe was declared a ward of the state, and her mother's friend, Grace McKee Goddard, took responsibility over her and her mother's affairs, later becoming her legal guardian. She was however often unable to foster Monroe herself, and placed her in foster families, most of them her friends and family members, although she would visit her often. In September 1935, she was placed in the Los Angeles Orphans Home (later named Hollygrove) and began attending nearby Vine Street Elementary School. Biographers disagree on how long she spent at the orphanage, with accounts varying from nine months to two years, and in how many foster families she stayed afterwards.

Spoto and Banner agree that after briefly staying with Grace and her husband Erwin "Doc" Goddard, she lived for several months from November 1937 onwards with her maternal uncle's wife Olive Monroe and their children, and for over two years from September 1938 onwards with Grace's aunt, Ana Atchinson Lower, in West Los Angeles. Lower introduced Monroe to her faith, Christian Science, which services she began to attend weekly. She attended Emerson Middle School, where she wrote for the school's newspaper and was elected "the Oomph Girl" by her classmates. Due to elderly Lower's health issues, Monroe moved to live with the Goddards in Van Nuys in either late 1940 or early 1941, and after graduating from Emerson began attending Van Nuys High School.

"Give a girl the right pair of shoes and she'll conquer the world."

In early 1942, the company that Doc Goddard worked for named him the head of sales at their plant in West Virginia. California laws prevented the Goddards from taking the fifteen-year-old Monroe out of state, and she faced the possibility of having to return to the orphanage. As a solution, it was decided that she would marry the neighbors' 21-year-old son, James "Jim" Dougherty (1921–2005). Biographers disagree on whether he and Monroe had already been dating before the Goddards knew they were moving to the East Coast or whether the marriage was entirely arranged by Grace.

They married on June 19, 1942, after Monroe had just turned 16. Subsequently, she dropped out of high school and became a housewife. In 1943, Dougherty enlisted in the Merchant Marine. He was initially stationed on Santa Catalina Island off California's coast, and she lived with him there for several months until he was shipped out to the Pacific in April 1944. Monroe then moved in with Dougherty's parents, and began working at the Radioplane Munitions Factory as part of the war effort, mainly spraying airplane parts with fire retardant and inspecting parachutes.

"I don't know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot."
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