To Norma Jeane, With Love, Marilyn - 6/1/1926

US History |

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The glamour of old Hollywood is currently unmatched. The dramatic love scenarios, the keen way of speech, the slick way of dressing, and the sex. No other actress brought the power of sex more gracefully into film than Marilyn Monroe. And it is on this day, June 1, 1926, Norma Jeane Mortenson- who will later become glamorized sex symbol Marilyn Monroe- was born in Los Angeles, California. Later, she would be given her mother’s name, and baptized as Norma Jeane Baker.

Norma Jeane had an extremely tempestuous and stressful childhood. Both of her maternal grandparents and her mother were committed to mental institutions, which left Norma Jeane a child of the foster system. At age 16, she married her neighbor, James Dougherty, who joined the Merchant Marines and during World War II was sent to the South Pacific. While working in a California munitions factory, a photographer discovered the young woman and her photogenic capabilities. Soon Norma Jeane was propelled into a prosperous modeling career. And right before singing a film contract with 20th Century Fox, she divorced Dougherty in June 1946.

In the initial stages of her acting career, the brunette Norma Jeane dyed her hair blonde. She also decided to change her name once more, and that is how Marilyn Monroe was born (Monroe being the last name of her grandmother). Her first film was a bit part in The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947). After the film she had a list of nondescript roles, but in 1950 she landed a spot in John Huston’s thriller The Asphalt Jungle. That very same year, Marilyn garnered much attention for her work in All About Eve, which starred the immaculate Bette Davis. Being able to work with such Hollywood royalty as Davis, Monroe was able to adopt new techniques to up her anti in the acting world. Her breakout role came in 1953’s Niagara, the film was a thriller in which Monroe plays an unfaithful young wife who plots with her lover to kill her husband.

In 1953, Monroe starred in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, and by the time the films hit theaters she was at the very top of Hollywood’s A-list actresses. After a two year romance, Marilyn married the baseball great Joe DiMaggio at San Francisco’s City Hall. The press gushed over their relationship, and coined it as the quintessential All-American love affair. But trouble began to spout almost immediately. It was well-known that DiMaggio did not approve of his new wife’s wild popularity, and sexy public image. This was made clear by the near-riot among U.S. servicemen stationed in Korea amid a performance she had given during the couple’s honeymoon. After nine months of marriage, DiMaggio and Monroe would divorce but they still remained good friends. 

In the late 1950s, Monroe attempted more serious acting roles, and began studying at the renowned Actors’ Studio in New York. Her last film was The Misfits (1961) which was written by her recently ex-husband Arthur Miller. Monroe had become increasingly emotionally fragile throughout rough patches in her personal life, and in June of 1962 Fox let her go due to repeated absences. On August 5, 1962 Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood, California home of an apparent barbiturates overdose. She was only 36 years old.

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