Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jeane Mortenson) was born on the first of June, 1926, in the charity ward of the Los Angeles General Hospital to Gladys Baker. Due to the identity of her father being undetermined, she was later baptized Norma Jeane Baker. Most of the childhood of Norma Jeane was spent in foster homes and orphanages since her mother had psychological problems that eventually led to her becoming committed to a mental institution.
In 1937, Norma Jeane was taken-in by family friend, Grace McKee Goddard. However, in 1942, Grace’s husband was transferred to the East Coast and were financially forced to leave Norma Jeane behind. Norma Jeane was now faced with two options: return to the orphanage or get married. On June 19, 1942, at the age of sixteen, Norma Jeane wed her 21-year-old neighbor and good friend, Jim Dougherty. Unfortunately, Jim joined the Merchant Marines and in 1944, was sent to the South Pacific. Now that Jim was away, Norma Jeane began feeling lonely so she started working on the assembly line at the Radio Plane Munitions factory in Burbank, California.
Norma Jeane had always dreamt of being in the spotlight and it appeared to her that this was about to come true. A photographer, David Conover, took pictures of her for Yank magazine and then began sending modeling jobs her way. Within two years, Norma Jeane was a reputable model and had her face on the covers of numerous popular magazines. She studied the work of legendary actresses and enrolled in drama classes to follow her dreams of stardom.
However, in 1946, Norma Jeane had to choose between her marriage to Jim (he wanted her to settle down and be a housewife) and pursuing her career. Norma Jeane divorced Jim Dougherty in June of 1946 and signed her first contract with Twentieth Century Fox on August 26, 1946. Soon after, Norma Jeane dyed her hair blonde and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe (Monroe being her grandmother’s last name). Marilyn played small parts in numerous movies until 1950 when The Asphalt Jungle provided her with a small but influential role. Later the same year, Marilyn’s performance as Claudia in All About Eve earned her further praise. It was her performance in 1953’s Niagara that delivered her to stardom and led to numerous leads in popular films.
On January 14, 1954, Marilyn married baseball legend Joe DiMaggio at San Francisco’s City Hall. However, this marriage was destined to fail as well. Joe was unable to handle the fact that his wife was ogled by men all over as she was becoming a sex symbol of that time. Nine months later, on October 27, 1954, Marilyn and Joe divorced but remained close friends. Marilyn was now ready to shed her “shallow blonde” image and moved to New York City to study serious acting. It was here that she met and fell in love with playwright Arthur Miller. Meeting in secret for nearly a year until Miller’s divorce was finalized, the two were married in private on June 29, 1956.
Two weeks following the marriage, Miller and Monroe flew to England were Marilyn began working on Marilyn Monroe Productions’ first independent feature, The Prince and the Showgirl, costarring and directed by Laurence Olivier. Monroe was terrified of working under and with Olivier. She desired challenging acting roles yet felt deeply inadequate.
Unable to cope with her constant inner torment, Marilyn turned more and more to pills and alcohol for relief. Only two months into their marriage, Arthur became Marilyn’s nursemaid and babysitter, carefully monitoring her pill intake and pushing her to the movie set. After trying to recover a few times, the marriage between Miller and Monroe settled into that of a troubled one. The two had many tentatively happy times but also seriously tragic ones as well. For example: Marilyn had two miscarriages and made a second suicide attempt. With her husband reduced to the role of caretaker, their marriage began to unravel. Marilyn began an affair with Yves Montand who was her costar in Let’s Make Love, and was married to actress Simone Signoret. Their affair was public knowledge. Between her pills and alcohol, kamikaze career moves, and marriage troubles, Monroe was locked in a downward spiral that inexorably moved her toward disaster.
At the end of her marriage, Marilyn starred in The Misfits, which Arthur wrote as a Valentine for Marilyn. It was the last film Marilyn would ever complete. It was a sensitive, artful film directed by John Huston, about an isolated, lonely woman who befriends three troubled cowboys while waiting in Reno for her divorce. The film starred Clark Gable (whom Norma Jeane had dreamt was her father since she was young), Montgomery Clift, and Eli Wallach. From the start, the production was doomed. Since the character Monroe played was so much like herself, Marilyn found the role to be difficult. When the film was finally wrapped after numerous setbacks, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller announced their plans for a divorce.
After The Misfits having opened to harsh reviews, Marilyn entered New York’s Paine Whitney Psychiatric Clinic. Ex-husband Joe DiMaggio later transferred her to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. The friendship between the two had grown like a weed since the end of her marriage to Miller and would last until her death. She saw her psychiatrist sometimes every day of the week and showed signs of recovery when she purchased a small house. However, in 1961 Marilyn did not work at all, though to keep her contract with Fox, she was asked to play a role in Something’s Got to Give. Marilyn, however, only showed up one out of every three days during the shoot which ultimately led to her being fired and sued for half a million dollars as well as the end of her career as a movie star.
In this last phase of her life, Marilyn had numerous affairs with well known men such as Frank Sinatra, the attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, and the president of that time, John F. Kennedy. She also became involved with members of the Mafia through Sinatra such as Sam Giancana. Sadly, in the early morning of August 5, 1962, 36-year-old Marilyn Monroe died in “her sleep” at her Brentwood, California home. Joe DiMaggio helped to arrange her funeral and on August 8, 1962, Marilyn’s body was laid to rest in the Corridor of Memories, #24, at Westwood memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.
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