Considered the most celebrated of all actresses, Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jean Mortenson in 1926 in Los Angeles and died in 1962 at the age of 36 from an overdose of sleeping pills. She made 30 films in her lifetime, and her status and allure remain legendary.
Abandoned by her father, she grew up in poverty with her mentally-ill mother who was committed to a mental institution. During her mother’s illnesses, she was sent to live with twelve different sets of foster parents; some of whom were severe and dysfunctional. She spent two years in a Los Angeles orphanage. Her dream as a child was to be a movie star, and she succeeded beyond her wildest imaginings.
She was 16 when she married James Dougherty, 21, an aircraft worker. They divorced four years later. At that time Marilyn began to model swimsuits and bleached her hair blond. Small parts in the movies followed where she played ditzy but very sexy blondes.
In 1951, Marilyn got a larger role in Love Nest. She combined intense sexuality with almost childlike innocence. Monkey Business followed, and over the next decade she made several classic movies, such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire. She became a sex symbol and a superstar. In The Seven Year Itch, she showed she had considerable comedic talent.
In 1953, Marilyn married American baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. The union lasted only eight months. In 1956 she married Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Arthur Miller and divorced him in 1960.
In Bus Stop (1956), Marilyn played a straight dramatic role. Some Like It Hot (1958), another comedy, was a smash hit. Her last film, The Misfits (1961), was also legendary Clark Gable’s final film.
Fans wrote her 5,000 letters a week, many proposing marriage. The Communists denounced her as a capitalist trick to make the American people forget how miserable they were.
She suffered two miscarriages and was not able to have a child. She required the care of doctors and psychiatrists for her many illnesses and deep emotional insecurity.
Marilyn’s romantic life was always the subject of speculation. She was known to be romantically involved with President Kennedy.