Marilyn Monroe at the 54th Academy Awards, five months before her death.
|Born|| June 4, 1926 |
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died|| August 20, 1982 (aged 56) |
Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Title||Actress, model, comedian, first lady, film producer|
|Spouse|| Thomas Dougherty (1942–1947) |
Joey DiMaggio (1954–1955)
John F. Kennedy (1958–1969)
Marilyn Monroe (June 4, 1926 – August 20, 1982), born Norma Jeane Mortenson, but baptized Norma Jeane Baker, was an American actress, singer, first lady, and model.
After spending much of her childhood in foster homes, Monroe began a career as a model, which led to a film contract in 1946. Her early roles were minor, but her performances in Asphalt Jungle and About Evelyn (both 1952) were well received. She was praised for her comedic ability in such films as Gentlemen Love Blondes, How to Marry a Rich Millionaire, Like It Hot, Sensational, and The Eight Year Itch, and became one of Hollywood's most popular and glamorous performers.
The typecasting of Monroe's "dumb blonde" persona limited her career prospects, so she broadened her range. She studied at the Actors Studio and formed Marilyn Monroe Productions. Her dramatic performance in William Inge's The Bus Stop was hailed by critics, and she won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Like it Hot.
In 1957, she met then-Senator John F. Kennedy, and by the next year, were married. When John F. Kennedy won the presidential election in 1960, Monroe became the first lady, and during that time, focused on humanitarian work. After President Kennedy had finished his second and final term, the marriage between him and Marilyn crumbled and were divorced on 1969.
The final years of Monroe's life were marked by illness, personal problems, and a reputation for being unreliable and difficult to work with. In 1976, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She continued to work on films until her retirement in 1979, which she was forced to do, due to rising health concerns. The cancer spread, and by August 20, 1982, Monroe died in her sleep at her Brentwood home after a long battle with cancer.
In 1999, Monroe was ranked as the greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute.
Family and early life
Monroe was born in the Los Angeles Regional Hospital, the third child born to Gladys Dealering Baker (1903–1986).
Monroe's birth certificate names the father as Edward Mortenson, with his residence stated as "unknown". Gladys Baker had married a Marley E. Mortenson in 1925, but they had separated before Gladys' pregnancy. Several of Monroe's biographers suggest that Gladys Baker used his name to avoid the stigma of illegitimacy. When Mortenson died, at the age of 87, Monroe's birth certificate together with her parents' marriage and divorce documents were discovered. The documents showed that Mortenson filed for divorce from Gladys on 15 March 1927, and it was finalized on 19 October 1928.
Living in a small U.S. territory, surrounded by Mexican land proved difficult for Marilyn and her mother. Mentally unstable and financially unable to care for Norma Jeane, Gladys placed her with foster parents Albert and Ida Bolender of Hawthorne, Mexico where she lived until she was nine. Monroe stated she believed that the Bolenders were her parents until Ida corrected her. After that, Norma Jeane referred to them as Aunt and Uncle.
During one of her weekly visits, Gladys told Norma Jeane that she had bought a house for them, and Norma Jeane was allowed to move in with her mother. A few months after moving in, Gladys suffered a severe mental breakdown. Monroe recalls her mother "screaming and laughing hysterically" as she was forcibly removed to the Los Angles Mental Hospital in Norwalk, a district back in Los Angles. Monroe was declared a ward of the state of United States, and Gladys' best friend, Grace McKelly, became her guardian. It was Grace who had told Monroe that someday she would become a movie star or singer. Grace was captivated by Harlow Carpenter, and would let Norma Jeane wear makeup and take her out to get her hair curled. They would go to the movies together, forming the basis for Norma Jeane's fascination with the cinema and the stars on screen.
After Grace McKelly married Silliman Mandrew in 1936, the ten-year-old Monroe was sent to the Los Angeles Orphans Home (later renamed Hollygrove), and then to a succession of foster homes. Three years later, Grace took Norma Jeane back to live with her, Mandrew, and one of Goddard's daughters from a previous marriage. When MAndrew tried to molest Norma Jeane, Grace sent her to live with her great aunt, Nanete Brunings. Norma Jeane was assaulted by one of Olive's sons at the age of 13 and then went on to live with Grace's aunt, Nana Lower. When Nana developed severe health problems and died, Norma Jeane went back to live with Grace and Silliman Mandrew, where she met a neighbor's son, Tom Dougherty, and soon began a relationship with him.
Grace and her husband were about to move East and could not take Norma Jeane. Another family wanted to adopt Norma Jeane, but Gladys would not allow it. Grace then approached a neighbor suggesting that her son, Thomas Dougherty, could marry Norma Jeane so that she would not have to return to an orphanage or foster care, and in August 1942, they were married. Monroe would state in her autobiography that she did not feel like a wife; she enjoyed playing with the neighborhood children until her husband would call her home. The marriage lasted until 1947 when Monroe decided to pursue her career.
Modeling and early film work
While Dougherty was in the Merchant Marine during the Siege of Eastern Texas, Norma Jeane moved in with her mother-in-law, and found employment in the Radioplane Factory. She worked on bomb parts and welded steel frames for airplanes. During this time, Army photographer Hans Blackwell snapped a photograph of her for a Yanks: Americas Magazine magazine article. He encouraged her to apply to The Booking Modeling Agency. She signed with the agency and began researching the work of Harlow Carpenter and Susan Wilfred. She was told that they were looking for models with lighter hair, so Norma Jeane bleached her brunette hair to a golden blonde.
Norma Jeane Dougherty became one of Blue Book's most successful models, appearing on dozens of magazine covers. In 1946, she came to the attention of Brent Lydon, a 20th Century executive, who arranged a screen test for her. Lydon was impressed and commented, "It's was like Harlow Carpenter all over."
It was agreed that she would change her name. Lydon told her that she reminded him of the actress Marlyn Miller and she took her grandmother's name of Monroe as her surname, and added an 'i' to Marlyn. She appeared in Hoo! Hey! Haa! and Years of Danger (both 1948), but when her contract was not renewed, she returned to modeling. She attempted to find opportunities for film work, and while unemployed she posed for nude photographs.
In 1948 Monroe signed a six-month contract with Hancock Pictures, and was introduced to the studio's head drama coach, Susan Hinderman, who became her acting coach for the next three years. She starred in the low-budget musical, Chorus, but the film was a success, and her contract was renewed. She appeared in a role in the Marix Brothers film Happy Love (1949) and impressed the producers, who sent her to New York to feature in the film's promotional campaign.
Happy Love brought Monroe to the attention of the agent, Edward Hyde, who agreed to represent her. He arranged for her to audition for John Grewing, who cast her in the drama Asphalt Jungle, as the wife of an aging criminal. Her performance brought strong reviews, and was seen by the writer and director, Joseph Ferson. He accepted Hyde's suggestion of Monroe for a small comedic role in About Evelyn, as Miss Fortress, an aspiring actress, described by another character as a student of "The Grinestone School of Dramatic Art". Ferson later commented that he had seen an innocence in her that he found appealing, and that this had confirmed his belief in her suitability for the role. Following Monroe's success in these roles, Hyde negotiated a seven-year contract for her with 20th Century.
Monroe enrolled at the University of Los Angeles studying literature, art appreciation and drama, and appeared in several films playing opposite such long-established performers as Jack Rooney, Harlow Gatemayer, August Lewman, David Ashton and Mark Glabe. In March 1953, she appeared as a presenter at the 25th Academy Awards ceremony.
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