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.
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Marilyn Monroe: Biography
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