Marilyn Monroe was a famous American actress, model and singer. In 1999, Monroe was ranked as the sixth-greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. In 2009, TV Guide Network named her No. 1 in Film’s Sexiest Women of All Time. Here are 10 interesting facts about the childhood, husbands, modelling career, famous movies, awards and the mysterious death of Marilyn Monroe, America’s quintessential sex symbol and one of the greatest icons in popular culture.

 

#1 As a child Monroe pretended that Clark Gable was her father

Marilyn Monroe was born as Norma Jeane Mortensen on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles. Her mother Gladys Pearl Baker soon changed her surname form Mortensen to Baker, the surname of her first husband which she still used. There is confusion on who was Marilyn’s actual father. Although her birth certificate lists Martin E Mortensen as her father, throughout her life Marilyn denied this. Her mother told Norma that Charles S Gifford was her father. Marilyn later said that Gifford’s photograph resembled Clark Gable and that she amused herself by pretending that Gable was her father. Later Monroe co-starred with Gable in the 1961 film “The Misfits”. Gable died of a heart attack before the release of the film and it is said that Monroe cried for days.

Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in 'The Misfits'
Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in ‘The Misfits’

 

#2 She had to bear with sexual assaults as a child which impacted her life

Norma had a tough childhood. Her mother Gladys was mentally unstable and Monroe had to spend her early years with various people: foster parents, Gladys’ best friend Grace McKee, her various aunts and even at the Los Angeles Orphans Home. During this time Norma was sexually assaulted more than once. Biographers and psychologists believe that Monroe’s later behavior (i.e., hyper-sexuality, sleep disturbances, substance abuse, disturbed interpersonal relationships) was a manifestation of childhood sexual abuse and problematic relationships with her psychiatrically ill mother and subsequent caregivers.

Gladys Baker
Monroe’s Mother Gladys Baker

 

#3 She most probably had an affair with President John F. Kennedy

In 1942, sixteen years old Norma Jeane was living with her mother’s friend Grace and her husband. They decided to relocate to Virginia but didn’t want to take Monroe along. Norma was having a relationship with James Dougherty (Jim) and Grace asked his mother to let Monroe marry Jim so that she wouldn’t have to return to the orphanage. So Norma married James Dougherty on June 19, 1942. Marilyn had two more marriages with Joe DiMaggio, and Arthur Miller. All three marriages ended in divorce. She also reportedly had an affair with President John F. Kennedy.

Marilyn and JFK Affair
There were reports of an affair between Marilyn and JFK

 

#4 She became popular after modelling for the Blue Book

During World War II, Jim enlisted in the Merchant Marine. While he served there Norma began working in the Radioplane Munitions Factory, mainly spraying airplane parts with fire retardant and inspecting parachutes. During this time David Conover was sent by his commanding officer, Ronald Reagan, to shoot morale-boosting photographs of young women helping in the war effort. David found Norma there and encouraged her to apply to The Blue Book Modeling Agency. Norma signed with the agency and as they wanted models with lighter hair, she bleached her brunette hair a golden blonde. Soon she became Blue Book’s most successful model and her photos appeared in a dozen magazine covers.

Marilyn as a model for The Blue Book
Marilyn started her career as a model for The Blue Book

 

#5 Monroe adopted the name of popular Broadway star Marilyn Miller

Norma’s successful career as a model brought her to the attention of Ben Lyon, a 20th Century Fox executive, who arranged a screen test for her. Ben invited her to spend a weekend with him and his wife. It was there that they decided to change her name. Following her idol Jean Harlow, Norma decided to choose her mother’s maiden name of Monroe. Ben suggested Marilyn to be her first name as she reminded him of Marilyn Miller. So Norma-Jeane changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, the name by which she is known the world over.

 

#6 Her first appearance in a major movie was in All About Eve

Monroe’s first major role was in the low-budget musical Ladies of the Chorus (1948). Her performance as the mistress of an aging criminal in The Asphalt Jungle brought strong reviews and as did a small comedic role as Miss Caswell in All About Eve. Sometime in 1949-50, Monroe had the slight bump in cartridge removed from her nose accounting for the slight change in her appearance after 1950.

All About Eve
Marilyn as Miss Caswell in All About Eve

 

#7 She was described as “The Talk of Hollywood” by Life Magazine

In 1949 when Marilyn was struggling for work and had no money to pay her rent, she had posed nude for a photographer. She was paid $50 for the photo-shoot. In March 1952 she faced a scandal when these photos featured in a calendar. The press speculated that the model was Monroe. Marilyn gave an interview in which she discussed the circumstances that led to her posing for the photographs, and the resulting publicity elicited a degree of sympathy for her plight as a struggling actress.  She made her first appearance on the cover of Life magazine in April 1952, where she was described as “The Talk of Hollywood”. Her Cinderella story from a child that no one wanted to an actress, featured as the cover story for the May 1952 edition of True Experiences magazine.

Marilyn Monroe on the cover of LIFE Magazine
Marilyn Monroe on the cover of LIFE Magazine

 

#8 Marilyn Monroe made Playboy popular

The 1953 thriller film-noir Niagara, in which Monroe played a femme fatale scheming to murder her husband, elevated Marilyn to star status. It was one of the biggest hits of the year and a scene which showed Monroe (from the back) making a long walk towards Niagara Falls was much talked about. When the first issue of Playboy was published in December 1953, Marilyn’s photograph was used on its cover with a nude photograph of her, taken in 1949, inside the magazine. In 1992, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, who never met Monroe, bought the crypt immediately to the left of hers as he attributed the initial success of his magazine to her.

December 1953 Cover featuring Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe featured on the cover of the first issue of Playboy in 1953

 

#9 Lee Strasberg considered her acting skills second to only Marlon Brando

Marilyn suffered from stage fright and found it difficult to learn lines. However while Marilyn was the student of Lee Strasberg, considered the father of method acting, he said about her, “I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of actors and actresses, and there are only two that stand out way above the rest. Number one is Marlon Brando, and the second is Marilyn Monroe.” Although Marilyn never won the Academy Award, she won the David di Donatello and French Crystal Star Award for her performance in the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl. Her most famous film, which is now considered a classic, is the 1959 screwball comedy Some Like It Hot. Marilyn’s portrayal of Sugar in the film won her the Golden Globe Award for the best actress.

Marilyn in Some Like it Hot
Marilyn’s portrayal of Sugar in Some Like it Hot won her the Golden Globe Award

 

#10 Marilyn Monroe’s death remains a mystery

In the late 1950s Monroe’s health began to deteriorate and she was seeing a psychiatrist. She complained of insomnia and started getting addicted to drugs. In early 1960s her intake of alcohol prescription medications began to take a toll on her health. On August 5, 1962 Monroe was found dead at her home in Brentwood. She was 36 years old. The cause of death was recorded as “acute barbiturate poisoning”. Although her death was ruled as “probable suicide” and no murder charges were filed, many detectives believe that it was a case of homicide. There are conspiracy theories which suggest CIA or Mafia complicity while others suggest the involvement of John and Robert Kennedy. It was reported that President Kennedy was the last person Monroe called. In 1973, Elton John (music) and Bernie Taupin (lyrics) released a song in her honor titled Candle in the Wind.

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