BIOGRAPHY Marilyn Monroe
MAYBE THE MOST ATTRACTIVE ACTRESS OF ALL TIME.
Who Was Marilyn Monroe?
Actress Marilyn Monroe overcame a difficult childhood to become one of the world’s biggest and most enduring sex symbols. Her films grossed more than $200 million. She is known for her relationships with Arthur Miller, Joe DiMaggio and, possibly, President John F. Kennedy. Monroe died of a drug overdose on August 5, 1962, at only 36 years old.
Early Life and Education
Monroe was born on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, California. Monroe was named Norma Jeane Mortenson at birth (later baptized as Norma Jeane Baker). Growing up, Monroe spent much of her time in foster care and in an orphanage.
In 1937, a family friend and her husband, Grace and Doc Goddard, took care of Monroe for a few years. The Goddards were paid $25 weekly by Monroe’s mother to raise her.
The couple was deeply religious and followed fundamentalist doctrines; among other prohibited activities, Monroe was not allowed to go to the movies. But when Doc’s job was transferred to the East Coast, the couple could not afford to bring Monroe with them.
At seven years old, Monroe returned to a life in foster homes, where she endured sexual assault on several occasions; she later said that she had been raped when she was 11 years old. She dropped out of high school by age 15.
Monroe had a way out through marriage, and she wed her boyfriend and merchant marine Jimmy Dougherty in 1942, at the age of 16.
Monroe never knew her father. She once thought Clark Gable to be her father — a story repeated often enough for a version of it to gain some currency. However, there’s no evidence that Gable ever met or knew Monroe’s mother, Gladys, who developed psychiatric problems and was eventually placed in a mental institution.
As an adult, Monroe would maintain that one of her earliest memories was of her mother trying to smother her in her crib with a pillow. Monroe had a half-sister, to whom she was not close; they met only a half-dozen times.
By the time Dougherty returned in 1946, Monroe had a successful career as a model. That year, she signed her first movie contract. With the contract came a new name and image; she began calling herself “Marilyn Monroe” and dyed her hair blonde.
At first, Monroe wasn’t initially considered to be star acting material. Her acting career didn’t really take off until a few years later. With her breathy voice and hourglass figure, she would soon become one of Hollywood’s most famous actresses. She proved her skill by winning various honors and attracting large audiences to her films.
Monroe became a much-admired international star despite chronic insecurities regarding her acting abilities. She suffered from pre-performance anxiety that sometimes made her physically ill and was often the root cause of her legendary tardiness on film sets, which was so extreme that it often infuriated her co-stars and crew.
“She would be the greatest if she ran like a watch,” director Billy Wilder once said of her. “I have an aunt Minnie who’s very punctual, but who would pay to see Aunt Minnie?”
Throughout her career, Monroe was signed and released from several contracts with film studios.
In the mid-1950s Monroe grew tired of bubbly, dumb blonde roles and moved to New York City to study acting with Lee Strasberg at the Actors’ Studio.
By the early 1960s, however, Monroe’s professional and personal life seemed to be in turmoil following unsuccessful relationships. Her last two films, Let’s Make Love (1960) and The Misfits (1961), were box office disappointments.