Marilyn Monroe, pseudonym of Norma Jeane Mortenson (June 1, 1926 – August 4, 1962), was an American fashion model, actress and singer. She became an icon as a sex symbol in the 1950s.
Marilyn Monroe – Norma Jeane – had a difficult childhood. Her mother was Gladys Pearl Mortenson, née Monroe, and was previously married to John Baker. Norma Jeane's mother was named Gladys Sasha Baker after him and Norma Jeane was also baptized with this last name. Gladys Baker was married to Martin E. Mortensen in 1924, but they were separated before Gladys became pregnant. Norma Jeane's father may have been Charles Stanley Gifford. Gifford and Gladys Baker both worked in the film editing department of RKO Pictures, where Baker was Gifford's subordinate. Gladys Baker was a drug addict and left Marilyn's upbringing to her friends Albert and Ida Bolender. When Baker went to live with her daughter in an old shack after a long time, she had a nervous breakdown that caused her to run wild (according to eyewitnesses she climbed on the roof and screamed the whole neighborhood). Monroe was then placed in the family of Grace McKee (later Goddard). Monroe would never form a close relationship with her mother. In a later interview, she said of her mother: "To me, she was just that red-haired woman." ("To me, she was just that red-haired woman.")
In 1942, McKee's husband had to travel to the East Coast of the United States for work. The couple was not allowed to take Monroe for legal reasons. The McKee's had two options for young Monroe: return to the orphanage or get married. They chose the latter. Monroe married her 21-year-old neighbor James Dougherty on June 19, 1942. Monroe took over the household chores. While Dougherty served in the US Navy, Monroe worked in a factory that made drones for the military. Here she was spotted by an Army photographer who recommended her to a photographer friend.
She was noticed and signed a contract with 20th Century Fox in 1946. The only condition she had to meet was this: she couldn't be married. When Dougherty returned, the couple divorced on September 13, 1946. Dougherty married twice more after that. He passed away in 2005.
In the years that followed, Monroe tried to get a job in Hollywood. She got a contract with a film company under the name Marilyn Monroe, but except for one small supporting role, who also died in the editing room, this was initially unsuccessful. In those days, a contract with a society was often an institutionalized form of prostitution: the 'actresses' were allowed to eat out with the relations of the film bosses.
In the meantime, she worked on her posture, took acting and singing lessons, bleached her hair and had her teeth overhauled. Gradually, she made a name for herself as a dumb blonde, an image she consciously cultivated. Her first major role was in How to Marry a Millionaire. She had great success with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, alongside Jane Russell, and with The Seven Year Itch, which features the famous shot with the dress blowing. Her last project was Something's Got To Give, an unfinished film in which she starred opposite Dean Martin.
Monroe's marriage to baseball player Joe DiMaggio, whom she married on January 14, 1954, lasted only nine months (until October 27, 1954). However, they parted as good friends. DiMaggio brought fresh roses to her grave three times a week after Monroe's death in 1962 for twenty years.
In the late 1950s, Monroe founded her own production house and moved to New York. She took lessons at Lee Strasberg's The Actors Studio and dated playwright Arthur Miller, whom she married on June 29, 1956. She wanted to deepen and play more serious roles. In England