Marilyn Monroe: Biography
Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jean Mortenson at 9:30 in the morning on 1 June 1926 in the Charity Ward of Los Angeles General Hospital. She began life with one significant strike against her. Within no father to help raise her. Thought her birth certificate identifies her father as Edward Mortenson, who was Gladys's second husband, most biographers agree that Norma Jean's father was actually C. Stanley Gifford also worked at Consolidated Film Industries, but he abandoned Gladys after being told of the pregnancy.After she was born, Gladys didn't feed Norma Jean with much of anything, for the little girl was farmed out to foster parents while Gladys worked to save for a home seeing Norma Jeane, when she could, at weekends. It took eight years before she had earned enough for a down payment on a bungalow and she and her daughter could live together. But only a short while later Gladys was committed to an asylum.
There was a strong streak of mental instability in her family; both her parents and her brother lived much of their lives in mental institutions. In 1933, Norma Jeane lived briefly with her mother. Gladys begin to show signs of mental depression and in 1934 was admitted to a rest home in Santa Monica. Grace McKee, a close friend of her mother took over the care of Norma Jeane. Grace loved and adored her recalled one of her co-workers. Grace, telling her...Don't worry, Norma Jeane. You're going to be a beautiful girl when you get big...an important woman, a movie star. Grace was captivated by Jean Harlow, a superstar of the twenties, and Marilyn would later say...and so Jean Harlow was my idol Grace was to marry in 1935 and due to financial difficulties, Norma Jeane was placed in an orphanage from September 1935 to June 1937. Grace frequently visited her, taking her to the movies, buying clothes and teaching her how to apply makeup at her young age. Norma Jeane was to later live with several of Grace's relatives. The world around me then was kind of grim.
I had to learn to pretend in order to...I don't know...block the grimness. The whole world seemed sort of closed to me...(I felt) on the outside of everything, and all I could do was to dream up any kind of pretend-game.Norma Jean DoughertyShortly before Norma Jeane’s sixteenth birthday, Grace said that she and her husband were moving away and they were unable to take Norma Jeane with them. Grace gave the teenager two choices: either marry the boy next door, James Dougherty, or move back to the orphanage. Choosing the former option, she became Norma Jeane Dougherty just two weeks after her sixteenth birthday.By all accounts, Norma Jeane’s marriage to Dougherty was a pleasant experience for the young bride. She enjoyed the time spent with her young husband and finally felt the stability she had longed for -- until the advent of World War II. Dougherty was shipped overseas and Norma Jeane felt abandoned once more.Norma Jeane, while working in a factory inspecting parachutes in 1944, was photographed by the Army as a promotion to show women on the assemblycontributing to the war effort. One of the photographers, David Conover, asked to take further pictures of her.
By spring of 1945, she was quickly becoming known as photographers and had appeared on 33 covers of national magazines. In the fall of 1946 she was granted a divorce...later saying, ,,My marriage didn't make me sad, but it didn't make me happy either. My husband and I hardly spoke to each other. This wasn't because we were angry. We had nothing to say. I was dying of boredom.”StarletNorma signed a contract with Twentieth Century Fox. Changing her name to Marilyn Monroe, she was assigned extra work and bit parts, but Fox considered Marilyn not particularly photogenic and unmarketable. Marilyn felt downtrodden when she was dropped from her contract, but she persevered to fulfil her Hollywood dream.1949 turned out to be a busy year for Marilyn Monroe. She starred in Columbia’s movie, Ladies of the Chorus. She began intense training with acting coach Natasha Lytess.
1949 saw a near destitute Marilyn posing nude for photographer Tom Kelley under the assumed name Mona Monroe. She also had a walk-on part in the movie Love Happy which garnered attention from a William Morris agent named Johnny Hyde. Hyde worked diligently to promote Marilyn’s career. He paid for some minor cosmetic surgery on Marilyn’s nose; dyed and straightened her hair; got her small but significant parts in All About Eve and The Asphalt Jungle. Sadly, Hyde would never see the fame achieved by his final protégé. Johnny Hyde died in 1950, leaving Marilyn alone in Hollywood.Twentieth Century Fox head chief, Daryl Zanuck never liked Marilyn. He found her untalented, unattractive and annoying. However, he was an excellent businessman and he realized when Marilyn walked onscreen, people in the audience watched no one else. He signed her to a seven-year contract at $1500 per week and put her in a series of comedies before giving her the lead in the melodrama, Don’t Bother to Knock. While filming Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1952, a couple of skeletons fell from Marilyn’s closet.
Rumours spread that Marilyn’s mother was not really dead as the Fox publicity department previously stated. Gladys Baker was discovered alive in a mental institution. It was also revealed that a naked girl sprawled across a blanket of red velvet in the Golden Dreams calendar was Hollywood’s newest rising star. Marilyn Monroe. In conservative 1950’s America, these rumours were potentially devastating to a woman’s career. Fox ordered Marilyn to deny these allegations and hoped the rumours would fade away. Instead, Marilyn did something unique -- she told the truth. Yes, her mother was ill and institutionalized. Yes, she posed nude for $50 in 1949. Her reasoning for the latter was simple -- she needed the money to pay her rent. Remarkably, the public forgave Marilyn for her “indiscretions and fibs”. Movie fans then fell in love with her character Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. After the enormous success of the film, Marilyn and her co-star, Jane Russell, placed their feet and handprints in cement at Graumen’s Chinese Theatre. ...the same place she had visited with Gladys and Grace years earlier as a child. Marilyn Monroe was a star. Fox suspended Marilyn in 1954 for failure to appear on the set of Pink Tights.The studio had refused to let her look at the script prior to accepting the part.
She felt that due to her star status, she should have the right to script approval.Marilyn & Joe DiMaggioAfter meeting on a blind date, Marilyn and baseball legend, Joe DiMaggio soon became inseparable and quickly fell in love with each other. While on suspension from Fox for refusing to star in a particular film, Marilyn and Joe married January 1954.For movie and baseball fans, this union sparked a frenzy of adoration toward the couple. A baseball legend marrying Hollywood’s sexiest star was the equivalent of a royal wedding. However, wedded bliss would not flourish in the DiMaggio home. Joe had retired from baseball and was prepared for a quiet home life while Marilyn’s star was nearing its peak and she had no intention of stopping her career.
She was asked to go on a USO tour of Korea in February to entertain the troops, beginning on the 16th for four days.She entertained over 60,000 soldiers, many who had never seen a Monroe film. having been in the service during her rise to stardom... most had seen still photos of her in many magazines and newspapers. She was a huge success. Joe did not accompany her on this trip...explaining, Joe hates crowds and glamour. He grew increasingly jealous and resentful of the show business atmosphere.May 29, Marilyn began filming There's No Business Like Show Business. Throughout the summer she was ill with bronchitis and anaemia. For the first time, Marilyn began showing serious side effects of the many sleeping pills she had been taking for the last few years...often groggy, lethargic and crying on the set. The famous skirt-blowing scene from the Seven Year Itch filmed in 1954 was to be a hit with both amateur and professional photographers.
Several hundred, along with 2000 spectators gathered outside the Trans-Lux Theatre in New York City in the early morning hours of September 15th to see and record her as she posed for over two hours for her adoring fans. Unfortunately, one of the audience members watching Marilyn’s skirt fly in the air was her husband. That scene, though unforgettable to the fans, proved to be the end of the fairy tale marriage. Marilyn and Joe were married for nine months.New YorkShortly after her divorce, Marilyn decided to exert some independence at Fox by refusing to perform in certain movies. She had grown tired of constantly portraying the dumb blonde onscreen. She craved meatier roles with more depth to their characters. Daryl Zanuck, who still did not like Marilyn, became infuriated that this woman demanded a say in her own career. He suspended her, without pay from Fox. In early 1955 Marilyn again returned to New York to open her own production company with the aid of her friend, photographer Milton H. Greeneand joined the Actors Studio, in pursuit of becoming a serious actress.
There she met Lee Strasberg, head of the Studio and drama coach. Mr. Strasberg and his family would play an important role in her life. She was to renew her acquaintance with Arthur Miller and have an affair with him before their marriage over a year later. While Greene was busy creating Marilyn Monroe Productions, Marilyn took time to further perfect her craft. She studied method acting at the Actor’s Studio; became a close family friend with the studio’s teacher, Lee Strasberg; started intense psychotherapy. She began dating and eventually marrying playwright Arthur Miller. When Marilyn’s suspension was lifted, Marilyn Monroe Productions involved itself with two films: Bus Stop and The Prince and the Showgirl. The company could not get off the ground. Marilyn and Milton Greene severed ties shortly afterward.Marilyn & Arthur MillerTo Marilyn, Miller represented the serious theatre and an intellect that she found attractive. To Miller, years later;,,It was wonderful to be around her, she was simply overwhelming. She had so much promise. She was endlessly fascinating, full of original observations...there wasn't a conventional bone in her body.” Marilyn returned to Hollywood in February 1956, after over a years absence, to film Bus Stop.
After completing the film she returned to New York in June. Miller also returned to New York after obtaining a divorce in Reno, Nevada. They where married June 29 in White Plains, NY. The Millers departed for London soon after their marriage so that Marilyn could start production on "The Prince and the Showgirl with Lawrence Olivier. As early as July, Arthur began to have doubts about the marriage. Sidney Skolsky remarked that...Miller looked on Marilyn strictly as an ideal and was shocked to discover that she is a human being, a person, even as you and I and maybe Miller. Bus Stop opened in London in October 1956. A Times review said... ,,Miss Monroe is a talented comedienne, and her sense of timing never forsake her. She gives a complete portrait, sensitively and sometimes even brilliantly conceived.”Marilyn Monroe did not return to Hollywood until 1958 to make Some Like It Hot with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.
Her health continued to deteriorate due to increased dependency on drugs and involvement in an unhappy marriage. She often came to the set late and was unable to remember her lines. Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller lasted longer than her marriage to anyone else, but their four years together experienced a lot of turbulence. Marilyn’s chemical dependency became a serious problem. Low finances forced her to go to work in the movie Some Like it Hot while she was pregnant. She had a miscarriage during its filming. Feeling neglected, Marilyn had an affair with Let’s Make Love co-star, Yves Montand. By the time she starred in the movie Arthur had written for her, their marriage was over.Marilyn was consulting with Dr. Ralph Greenson, a prominent psychoanalyst to Hollywood stars. As common during this period, he relied heavily on drug therapy...routinely prescribing barbiturates and tranquilizers in addition to his psychotherapy.Arthur’s gift to Marilyn was called The Misfits; but shooting the movie was a gruelling experience for Marilyn. Her doctor gave her medication that she grew addicted to and she was unable to refill her prescription in the desert. The Nevada heat soared to unbearable temperatures.
While on location the Millers lived in separate quarters and were barely speaking.Miller constantly changed the script so she could not remember her lines. Sometimes showing up hours late, Marilyn finally collapsed on the set and had to be hospitalised for exhaustion. The worst news came shortly after the completion of filming. Clark Gable, Marilyn’s co-star and hero, died of a heart attack. Marilyn felt a great deal of guilt, commenting.I kept him waiting kept him waiting for hours and hours on that picture. Evelyn Moriarty remembered. Marilyn was being blamed for everything. All of her problems were exaggerated to cover up for Director Huston's gambling and the terrible waste of money on that production. It was easy for her to be made the scapegoat Marilyn divorced Arthur Miller in January 1,1961, the same month that The Misfits was released. Another unhappy marriage was terminated.Pills, medicaments, barbituratesEntering a pit of despair, Marilyn’s mental and emotional state grew increasingly fragile. Her psychiatrist suggested she stay temporarily at a hospital. Marilyn was thrown into a ward for the insane and she had finally reached the breaking point. She feared she was losing her sanity just as her mother had. Realizing none have the doctors listened to her need to leave, she called the only person she knew who would come to her aid: her ex-husband and close friend, Joe DiMaggio.
After Joe threatened to tear the building down if they did not let her go, the doctors released Marilyn.In 1961 Marilyn purchased a house in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles. At the urging of her psychoanalyst, Dr Greenson, she hired Eunice Murray as housekeeper. Murray, calling herself a nurse, had neither the training nor credentials. It is suspected that she was a spy for Dr. Greenson who continued to have more and more control over Marilyn's life, seeing her almost daily when she was in Los Angeles.Unfortunately, Marilyn’s unreliable reputation began to catch up with her. Despite the fact that several doctors confirmed her illness, the studio heads at Fox had grown tired with her showing up hours, sometimes days late. Their exasperation reached its summit when a helicopter showed up on the Fox lot on May 17, 1962 and whisked Marilyn away to sing Happy Birthday at a gala party for President Kennedy. Though Fox originally gave her permission to go, they changed their minds after Marilyn missed so many days of work. Infuriated, the studio heads used the birthday gala as a reason for firing her on June 8, 1962. Marilyn began production on Something’s Got to Give in April 1962. What the studio heads neglected to remember was a stipulation in the movie’s other star’s contract.
Dean Martin’s contract gave him approval of his co-star; and he refused to shoot the movie with anyone but his friend, Marilyn Monroe. When the studio heads refused to allow Marilyn to come back, Dean Martin walked off the set. With both stars gone, Fox realized they had just destroyed their own film. Quietly, they rehired Marilyn and shooting was to resume in September 1962. Grateful to her friend Dean Martin and elated to be rehired, Marilyn finally began to exude an independence she had never possessed before. She ordered furniture for her new house. She decided to relieve her housekeeper, Eunice Murray from her duties. Marilyn even contemplated ending her psychotherapy. She was standing tall and feeling proud. The future began to brighten for Marilyn Monroe. Fox filed suit against Marilyn Monroe Productions on June 7, but the suit was later dropped. Marilyn had been seeing Joe DiMaggio frequently during this time and had finally agreed to remarry him. The wedding date was set for August 8, 1962. Fox rehired her on August 1 to complete Something’s Got to Give with a salary of $250,000, which was two and a half times the original amount.The End Then suddenly, she was gone.
A world awoke August 5, 1962 to hear the news that the Hollywood sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her bedroom. The autopsy records declared that her death was a probable suicide, though many people refused to believe that this woman who was just beginning to find her independence would take her own life. Despite what anyone believed, the ghastly truth was that Marilyn Monroe was dead. Distraught that he could not rescue her one last time, Joe DiMaggio made all the arrangements for her funeral. On August 8, 1962, he placed the love of his life in the wall of a crypt and wept openly as was driven away. Never losing his love for her, he did not remarry. Marilyn died over forty years ago and yet her memory remains as fresh as it was in 1962. Her legend far eclipses that of her predecessors including Clara Bow, Jean Harlow and even Rudolph Valentino. Rumours abound about exactly how she died -- some people believe the Kennedy family murdered her. Others believe the Mafia murdered her. Some think she accidentally overdosed on her medication. Another theory has Eunice Murray, her last day on the job, accidentally killing Marilyn by giving her an enema incorrectly.
Yet, some people believe that her death was indeed, an intentional suicide. An IconSo much controversy arises over how she died, yet so few people look at how she lived. Marilyn Monroe was a sensitive human being who constantly swam upstream in her pursuit for happiness. Born into illegitimacy; unwanted in childhood, she grew into a sexual icon. She longed for a happy marriage and motherhood, but both eluded her. She demanded artistic freedom in her career at a time when it was rare for a woman to have a voice. Uneducated, but highly intelligent, she desired to be seen as more than just a “dumb blonde”. Then, just when her long sought after happiness was within her grasp, her life was ripped away from her at the tender age of thirty-six. These were the building blocks that made up Marilyn Monroe -- a complex, loving, emotional person. These are the characteristics that made the public fall in love with her -- and these are the characteristics that keep the love for Marilyn alive in the hearts of millions of people. Though physically gone, the spirit of Marilyn Monroe will never die.