On June 1, 1926, Marilyn Monroe was born in Los Angeles, CA. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, later baptized as Norma Jeane Baker, after enduring a tumultuous childhood, she would grow up to seduce the world as America’s most iconic sex symbol. A keen businesswoman, she started her own production company when Hollywood refused to meet her demands. Almost six decades later, Monroe still remains one of the most popular – and marketable – Hollywood legends of all time.
Monroe defied the odds to become a Hollywood legend and a pop culture icon. She never knew her father and her mother was institutionalized before Monroe turned 10. As a result, she spent the rest of her childhood shuffling between foster homes and an orphanage. At 16, she married her first husband, Jimmy Dougherty. During World War II, Monroe was discovered while working at a munitions factory. With her voluptuous figure and beautiful face, she became a popular pin-up model. In 1946, she divorced Dougherty, dyed her hair platinum blonde, assumed the screen name of Marilyn Monroe, and launched her Hollywood career.
After some minor parts in films including “The Asphalt Jungle” and “All About Eve,” Monroe began to make a name for herself as a sex symbol. By 1953, she had emerged as a major movie star, often typecast as a bubbly blonde in films like “Niagara” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” She dazzled and titillated audiences across the globe with her hourglass figure and breathy voice. Monroe’s subway grate scene with her white dress in 1955’s “The Seven Year Itch” is one of the most iconic moments in motion picture history.
Monroe quickly grew tired of playing the same roles, while also being underpaid. In response, in 1955 she started her own production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions. She announced her new venture at a press conference, saying, “(I’m) tired of the same old sex roles. I want to do better things. People have scope, you know.” In an effort to hone her craft, that same year she studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio in New York City. All the while, Monroe suffered from crippling anxiety, often affecting her performance and punctuality on set. She also had a series of failed marriages, including to legendary baseball player Joe DiMaggio in 1954 and the prestigious playwright Arthur Miller in 1956.
Monroe’s performance in “Some Like It Hot,” alongside co-stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. She then starred, opposite Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable, in what would be the last completed film of her career, “The Misfits.”
One of Monroe’s final public appearances was on May 19, 1962, where she provocatively performed “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy. Three months later, Monroe died from a drug overdose on August 5, 1962. Only 36 years old, Monroe, who believed “we are all of us stars, and we deserve to twinkle,” was unable to outrun her demons. She once said, “Fame doesn’t fulfill you. It warms you a bit, but that warmth is temporary.” If still alive, Monroe would have turned 92 today. Nevertheless, she remains an enduring pop culture icon, who lives on in her photos, films and our imaginations.