“Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.”
Marilyn Monroe was born as Norma Jean Mortenson in Los Angeles, California in 1926 and died on August 5, 1962, precisely 50 years ago.
She came from a broken home. She never knew her father and her mother, Gladys, was mentally and financially unable to take care of her, so she spent her childhood in different foster homes.
In 1942 she married Jim Dougherty in an attempt to get rid of foster care. During the war she started working in a factory and was encouraged to apply to a modeling agency. As they were looking for light hair models she coloured her brunette hair blond. She appeared in many magazine covers and became very successful. She divorced Jim Dougherty in 1946.
In the same year Norma Jean caught the attention of film executives and after changing her name to Marilyn Monroe made her debut in some films in non-speaking roles. After several movie flops and in desperate need of money, she agreed to pose nude.When a calendar of her nude colour photos was discovered the studio went out of control. Marilyn calmly confirmed that she had needed the money and the problems quickly receded.
In 1953, during the wedding of Eunice Kennedy (one of the Kennedy sisters), someone decided that in honour of the bride´s family everyone should sing “Maryland, my Maryland”. That was fine until the Kennedys started singing “Marilyn, my Marilyn” in honour of Marilyn Monroe. (Leamer 426)
In January 1954 she married Joe DiMaggio, a baseball player. In response to a question about married life, she said: “Ballplayers make good husbands. Joe and I want a lot of little DiMaggios.” (Cramer362)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Diamonds Are a Girl´s Best Friends contributed to her popularity.
She won one of her most notable film roles in The Seven Year Itch. In September 1954, she appeared in a white summer dress standing on a subway grate with her skirt blowing up, as if cooling herself with the wind from the train below (this scene was on Lexington Avenue at 52nd Street in New York City, but was never seen in the film-it was only for publicity).
Publicists knew that wherever she went, the town stopped around her. One of them even said: “The Russians could have invaded Manhattan, and nobody would have taken any notice”. In the crowd was her husband who didn´t like what he saw. That night, there was a fight in their suite on the 11th floor of the St Regis and that fight would stay famous as the end of their marriage. (Cramer 366)
In 1956 she married Arthur Miller, an American playwright who wrote in his memoirs: “This golden girl was like champagne on the screen…with all her radiance she was surrounded by a darkness that perplexed me” He once told her: “You´re the saddest girl I´ve ever known”.
In Some like it hot, she won the Golden Globe award for best comedy actress (1960) and started filming The Misfits, (her last completed film) a short story by Arthur Miller adapted to screenplay. Before the film's premiere in 1961, they divorced.
Monroe started filming another film, Something’s Gotta Give, in 1962. However, her deteriorating physical condition, her mood swings and her emotional instability (she forgot her lines and missed numerous shoots) reached a point that she was eventually dropped from the film. She saw her psychiatrist almost daily and her doctor several times a week.
“She seemed to have a mind of immense capacity that had been assaulted by life, bludgeoned by a culture that asked only enticement of her. She had acted that role, and now she was petitioning to display another dimension, but in some difficult- to- grasp way she could not get a hearing, and this was hurtful when like any actor she was almost totally defined by what was said and written about her” (Miller 425)
On May 19, 1962, she made her last public appearance, singing “Happy Birthday, Mr President” to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.
Monroe died of a possible drug overdose. Her ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio, came forward to manage her funeral. This happened 50 years ago but her myth continues…
Andy Warhol´s paintings that feature Monroe`s likeness are based on 1953 publicity for the film Niagara.
Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana, “Candle in the Wind,” was originally written to commemorate Monroe’s life: (Goodbye Norma Jean…)
Cramer, Richard Ben. Joe DiMaggio. Simon & Schuster. New York, 2000
Laurence Leamer. The Kennedy Women. Fawcett Columbine, New York, 1994
Miller, Arthur. Timebends. A Life. Grove Press. New York, 1987