Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jean Mortenson on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles in a charity ward of the hospital. Her mother worked as a film-cutter at a studio and there seems to be some dispute as to Marilyn’s biological father, although her father was listed as her mother’s second husband on her birth certificate. For awhile her mother tried to get her grandmother to take the baby in; however, when she was unable to succeed in this the child was placed with foster parents and lived there until she was seven years old. Her mother brought her back in to live with her; however, she had a breakdown within just a few months and was placed in a State Hospital. Reports later indicated that Marilyn’s uncle committed suicide as well as her great-grandfather.
At this time Norma Jean became a ward of the state and went to live with a friend of her mother. This did not last long and in 1935 began living in a series of foster homes. She married James Dougherty just two weeks after her 16th birthday. Not long thereafter her husband began to serve in the Merchant Marine during World War II and Norma Jean went to live with her mother-in-law. During this time period, she worked in an airplane factory and was discovered by an Army photographer. She signed a modeling contract and began a modeling career that lasted until 1946 at which time a screen test was arranged with 20th Century Fox. She and James Dougherty were divorced and after passing the test she was offered a six-month contract and her transformation to Marilyn Monroe began. The name Marilyn was taken from Marilyn Miller, a well-known actress from the 1920s, and Monroe; which was her mother’s maiden name.
Marilyn did not begin to actually appear in any films until after her six-month contract had been renewed, with such minor appearances in Dangerous Years and Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! When neither film was successful, her contract was not renewed and Marilyn returned to modeling. After making several contacts in Hollywood she signed a six-month contract with Columbia Pictures. Yet once again she failed to make an impression at the box-office and her contract was canceled. After being turned down by MGM she was eventually re-signed by Fox and went on to appear in films such as The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve. Her roles in these films were small; however, she was well received and began to earn a fan following.
Later films included Monkey Business and Don’t Bother to Knock. Her first chance at Stardom came in 1953 with Niagara. Unfortunately, around the same time, a scandal broke when nude photos taken early on in her career emerged and were subsequently published in Playboy. Marilyn made no effort to deny the photos were actually of her, upsetting the executives at Fox. The scandal failed to harm her budding career and she quickly became an A-List actress with roles in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire. Her next two films were not well received and after The Seven Year Itch finished filming in 1955 Marilyn moved to New York in order to study acting. She and Fox entered a bitter feud with the studio demanding that she return to Hollywood to fulfill the demands of her contract while she steadfastly refused to do so. After Fox finally agreed to write her a new contract she finally returned from New York, now with far more control over her own career. New film projects included Bus Stop, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe. She soon formed her own production company. In 1959 she starred in what many views to be the most successful film of her career, Some Like it Hot. During filming; however, her demands on the set only added to her reputation as a difficult actress. She earned a Golden Globe for the film.
Her last major public appearance was given in May of 1962, at which time she sang Happy Birthday, Mr. President to then-President John F. Kennedy. Monroe’s continued absences from the set Fox on edge and she was dropped from her current film project for a time period. It was only after Dean Martin insisted that he wouldn’t work with anyone else that she was rehired.
Marilyn was discovered dead in her Los Angeles home on August 5, 1962, before a resumption of the film, Something’s Got to Give, could resume; however. Her death was ruled to be a suicide by drug overdose. She was 36 years old at the time of her death.
After her marriage to Dougherty ended Marilyn was married to Joe DiMaggio for less than one year in 1951. Although the marriage did not last long, DiMaggio never remarried and he had red roses delivered to her crypt several times a week following her death for 20 years. Marilyn was also married to Arthur Miller from 1956 to 1961.