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I don't think you will find many people arguing when I say that Marilyn Monroe is, worldwide, the most famous and iconic person of the 20th century. But why? Sure she was a great actress but there have been many great actresses and she was patently beautiful but then Hollywood has always had its fair share of beautiful people. There has to be more, something more.

She had that something, that indefinable star quality that makes her better than all the rest. It is hard, no impossible, to actually put into words but whatever that mysterious quality is then she had it.

Whatever it is, she has allured and fascinated generation after generation that has come in the 50 years or so since her death. She has grabbed hold of a collective psyche and stamped her white dress all over it. And it is just my take and I'm sure many would disagree but I think that is largely due to the famous Andy Warhol potrait (below). It is an iconic image that has transcended art and permeated into everyday life. I mean, you see repros of it everywhere and I'm sure that many when they see Marilyn in their mind's eye see that picture.

I just wonder whether so many people woul remember Marilyn if that picture never existed. That, I suppose, is the genius of Andy Warhol - from out of the ordinary he gave us extraordinary - things that will never be forgotten.

That's just my take and I'm sure that even without that picture Marilyn Monroe would still be one of the most famous stars that ever existed.

But would she of been number 1?

- © Paul Page, 2013

Biographical Facts

  • Name: Marilyn Monroe
  • Birth name: Norma Jean Mortensen
  • Profession: Actress
  • Date of Birth: 1 June 1926
  • Place of Birth: Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Height: 5' 5½" (1.66 m)

  • Spouses:
    Arthur Miller (29 June 1956 - 20 January 1961) (divorced)
    Joe DiMaggio (14 January 1954 - 27 October 1954) (divorced)
    James Dougherty (19 June 1942 - 13 September 1946) (divorced)

  • Died: 5 August 1962
  • Place of Death: Los Angeles, California, USA. (drug overdose)
  • Interred: Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California, USA, in the Corridor of Memories, crypt #24

    Fragments From A Life

    "A career is wonderful, but you can't curl up with it on a cold night." - Marilyn Monroe

    Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jean Mortenson, at 9:30 am on June 1, 1926, in the Los Angeles General Hospital, in California. Prior to her birth, Marilyn's father bought a motorcycle and headed north to San Francisco, thus abandoning his family in LA.

    Her father, Martin Edward Mortensen, emigrated from Haugesund, Norway. Today the town has a statue of Marilyn sitting on the docks with her back to the ocean, created by legendary Norwegian artist Nils Aas (1933-2004).

    The origin of Marilyn's name has been subject to debate. Although it's believed that her movie-crazy mother, Gladys, named her after Norma Talmadge, Gladys reportedly told her daughter, Bernice (Marilyn's half-sister), that she named Marilyn after Norma Jeane Cohen, a woman Gladys knew while she lived in Kentucky with Bernice's father.

    Gladys, who was extremely attractive, worked for RKO Studios as a film-cutter. She suffered from mental illness and therefore was in and out of mental institutions for the rest of her life. Subsequently, Marilyn spent time in foster homes.

    She was almost smothered to death at two, nearly raped at six. At nine the LA Orphans' Home paid her a nickel a month for kitchen work while taking back a penny every Sunday for church...(more).


    She was a direct descendant of U.S. President James Monroe, on her mother's side.

    In 1942, at the age of sixteen, Marilyn married a 21 year old aircraft plant worker by the name of James Dougherty. The marriage only lasted four years as they divorced in 1946. By this time, Marilyn began modeling swim suits and bleached her hair blonde. Her first modeling job paid only five dollars.

    She was "discovered" by press photographers during a WW2 photo shoot at the Radioplane plant in California (a manufacturer of military drone targets), owned by actor Reginald Denny. She was one of the plant's employees and her attractive looks and natural charm made her a "magnet" for the photographers. Her measurements were: 37C-24-35

    Various shots made their way into the public eye, where some were eventually seen by RKO head, Howard Hughes. Hughes offered Marilyn a screen test, but an agent suggested that Fox Studios would be the better choice since it was bigger and more prestigious. Her first film was in 1947 with a bit part in The Shocking Miss Pilrim.


    Started using the name Marilyn Monroe in 1946, but did not legally change it until 1956 when she obtained an order from the City Court of the State of New York to legally change her name.

    During this period, she was roommates with Shelley Winters.

    1948 saw Marilyn in the largely forgettable film Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! The two of the three brief scenes she appeared in wound up on the cutting room floor. Later that same year, Marilyn was given a better role as Evie in Dangerous Years. Columbia Studios then picked her to portray Peggy Martin in the short film Ladies of the Chorus (1948). Columbia dropped her after that film. In 1949, Marilyn appeared in United Artists' film Love Happy.


    It was also the same year in which she posed nude for the now famous calendar shot which was later to appear in the first issue of Playboy magazine in 1953, which boosted her career. She was Playboy's first centerfold.

    This famous nude photo of her by Tom Kelley originally appeared as Anonymous on a calendar entitled Miss Golden Dreams. In 1952, a blackmailer threatened to identify the model as Marilyn, but she shrewdly thwarted the scheme by announcing the fact herself. Hugh Hefner then bought the rights to use the photo for $500. Marilyn became The Sweetheart of the Month in the first issue of Hefner's magazine, Playboy. Neither Kelley or Monroe ever saw a dime of the millions the calendar made for its publisher. Incidentally, Hugh Hefner owns the burial vault next to hers at Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California, USA,.


    1950 proved to be a good year for Marilyn. Not because she appeared in five films, but because of the notices for her small parts in two of the five. They were The Asphalt Jungle with Mgm and All About Eve with Fox. Even though both roles were amounted to bit parts and later recieved Oscar nominations, movie fans remembered Marilyn's dumb blonde performances (she was actually a natural-born brunette).

    In 1951, Marilyn got a fairly sizable role in Love Nest. The public was now getting to know Marilyn and was enthralled with her. In 1952, Marilyn appeared in Don't Bother to Knock and in Monkey Business where she was seen for the first time as a platinum blonde. The original platinum blonde, Jean Harlow, was her idol.

    In 1953, she appeared in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as Lorelei Lee. This was also the year when she began dating baseball great, Joe DiMaggio. Later, she appeared with Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall, and Rory Calhoun in How to Marry a Millionaire. Although her co-stars got rave reviews, it was the sight of Marilyn who excited the audience, particularly if they were men.

    Marilyn thought the right side of her face was her "best" side. Thoroughout her life, she wore glasses.

    During the filming of Niagara (1953), Marilyn was still under contract as a stock actor, thus, she received less salary than her make-up man.

    monroe monroe

    On January 14, 1954, Marilyn married Joe DiMaggio. She offered to convert to Catholism in order to marry the Catholic DiMaggio in a Church ceremony, but was turned down because she was divorced. Subsequently, when the divorced DiMaggio married Marilyn in a civil ceremony at San Francisco City Hall, he was automatically excommunicated by the Church; this edict was struck down by Pope John XXIII's Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) in 1962.

    After the marriage she proceeded to the film There's No Business Like Show Business. By 1954, Marilyn announced her divorce from DiMaggio. The union only lasted eight months. She won an interlocutory decree from DiMaggio on 27 October 1954, but, under California law, the divorce was not finalized until exactly 1 year later.


    In 1955, she appeared in The Seven Year Itch which showed one of the film's most memorable scenes where she stands over a subway grating causing her dress to blow up all around her. Her work was slowing down due to problems with being tardy or not showing up at all. Indeed, it was in Marilyn's contract that she did not have to work when she was having her menstrual cycle! In Bus Stop (1956), she finally proved to the critics that she could play a dramatic role.

    Formed her own production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions on 31st December 1955.


    Also in 1956 she married the brilliant playwright, Arthur Miller, not once but twice! The 1st time in a civil ceremony, then in a Jewish (to which she had converted) ceremony 2 days later. (They divorced in 1960).

    In 1957, Marilyn flew to Britain to film Prince and the Showgirl, The (1957) with Laurence Olivier which proved less than reliable at the box-office. Though it made money, it was thought to be slow-moving.

    After a year off in 1958, Marilyn returned to the silver screen for the delightful comedy, Some Like It Hot with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The film was an absolute smash hit with Curtis and Lemmon pretending to be females in an all girl band so they can get a job. That would be the only film for that year. In 1960, Marilyn appeared in the production of George Cukor's Let's Make Love with Tony Randall and Yves Montand. The following year, Marilyn made what was to be her final film. The Misfits would also prove to be the final film for the legendary Clark Gable who died later that year of a heart attack. In 1962, Marilyn was chosen for the film, Something's Got to Give. Again, her absences caused delay in production and she was fired in June.


    She went into seclusion in her home in LA. On August 5, 1962, Marilyn's housekeeper found her lying face down in her bed and nude, the phone in her hand, the victim of an overdose on sedatives. She was only 36.

    Upon her death, Marilyn Monroe left an estate valued at $1.6 million. In her will, Monroe bequeathed 75% of that estate to Lee Strasberg, her acting coach, and 25% to Dr. Marianne Kris, her psychoanalyst. A trust fund provided her mother, Gladys Baker Eley, with $5,000 a year. When Dr. Kris died in 1980, she passed her 25% on to the Anna Freud Centre, a children's psychiatric institute in London. Since Strasberg's death in 1982, his 75% has been administered by his widow, Anna, and her lawyer, Irving Seidman.

    monroe monroe

    Ex-husband Joe DiMaggio put fresh roses at her memorial site for years after her death. He died in 1999.

    Marilyn made only 30 movies during her lifetime, but since her death her fame has increased 10 fold.


    She was:

  • Pictured on a 32¢ US commemorative postage stamp in the Legends of Hollywood series, issued 1 June 1995.

  • Chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (#2). [1995]

  • The first Playboy magazine cover, featuring her, is pictured on one of six stamps issued in a souvenir sheet, issued by Grenada & the Grenadines on 1 December 2003 to celebrate Playboy's 50th anniversary.

    Death :: The Probable Cause

    It would appear that Marilyn was not killed by the Kennedys as has been widely speculated. (Both Bobby and John had alibis, and there was no reason why they would want to assassinate her anyway.) From what has been uncovered, Marilyn was planning to remarry Joe DiMaggio and to her friends it didn't seem that she was planning to kill herself.

    The hypothesis must be that her suicide may have been accidental, after being fed all those barbituates by different people through all the years, and Dr. Ralph Greenson and her housekeeper, Eunice Murray, may have had a hand in it.



  • Something's Got to Give (1962) .... Ellen Wagstaff Arden
  • Misfits, The (1961) .... Roslyn Taber
  • Let's Make Love (1960) .... Amanda Dell
    ... aka Billionaire, The (1960)
    ... aka Millionaire, The (1960)
  • Some Like It Hot (1959) .... Sugar Kane Kowalczyk
  • Prince and the Showgirl, The (1957) .... Elsie Marina
  • Bus Stop (1956) .... Cherie
    ... aka Wrong Kind of Girl, The (1956)
  • Seven Year Itch, The (1955) .... The Girl
  • There's No Business Like Show Business (1954) .... Vicky Hoffman/Vicky Parker
  • River of No Return (1954) .... Kay Weston
  • How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) .... Pola Debevoise
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) .... Lorelei Lee
    ... aka Howard Hawks' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (2001) (USA: complete title)
  • Niagara (1953) .... Rose Loomis
  • O. Henry's Full House (1952) .... Streetwalker (The Cop and the Anthem)
    ... aka Full House (1952/I) (UK)
  • Monkey Business (1952) .... Miss Lois Laurel
    ... aka Be Your Age (1952)
  • Don't Bother to Knock (1952) .... Nell Forbes
  • We're Not Married! (1952) .... Annabel Norris
  • Clash by Night (1952) .... Peggy
  • Let's Make It Legal (1951) .... Joyce Mannering
  • Love Nest (1951) .... Roberta Stevens
  • As Young as You Feel (1951) .... Harriet
  • Home Town Story (1951) .... Iris Martin
  • Right Cross (1950) (uncredited) .... Dusky Ledoux
  • Fireball, The (1950) .... Polly... aka Challenge, The (1950/I)
  • All About Eve (1950) .... Miss Caswell
  • Asphalt Jungle, The (1950) .... Angela Phinlay
  • Ticket to Tomahawk, A (1950) (uncredited) .... Clara
  • Love Happy (1950) .... Grunion's Client
    ... aka Kleptomaniacs (1950) (USA)
  • Ladies of the Chorus (1948) .... Peggy Martin
  • Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1948) (uncredited) .... Girl in Canoe (lake scenes)
    ... aka Summer Lightning (1948) (UK)
  • Dangerous Years (1947) .... Evie
  • Shocking Miss Pilgrim, The (1947) (uncredited) .... Bit Part



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