Marilyn Monroe Biography: Success Story of Film Actress and Model

Marilyn Monroe Biography

Marilyn Monroe

In this success story, we will share the biography of Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson (Baker), an American model, actress, singer, and undoubtedly one of the most iconic sex symbols of the 20th century.

Marilyn Monroe gained her popularity thanks to her career in the movie industry. She starred in dozens of films. Some Like It Hot (1959) is one of the most famous motion pictures featuring Marilyn Monroe in the leading role. This romantic comedy film created a big bang for the audience and helped Monroe win the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in 1959.

As a model, Marilyn Monroe posed for eminent photographers like Alfred Eisenstaedt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Elliott Erwitt, Philippe Halsman, and Milton Greene. Also, many other less famous photographers got to capture the shine of her fantastic beauty. An interesting fact is that even today, some of the previously unknown photographs of Monroe are promulgated from private collections.

Marilyn Monroe also performed soundtracks for the series of films and songs. She easily won the hearts of music lovers with her beautiful voice and appearance.

I Wanna Be Loved by You, a song with lyrics by Bert Kalmar, was written for the musical Good Boy in 1928. Two talented composers, Herbert Stothart and Harry Ruby, wrote the music for the song. One of the most famous performances of this song by Marilyn Monroe was featured in the movie Some Like It Hot (1959). The song became not only the soundtrack to the film but also was released as a single together with the song I’m Through with Love, also performed by Monroe. The Recording Industry Association of America included this song in the Songs of the Century list.

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world. – Marilyn Monroe Click To Tweet

Marilyn Monroe was shy, humble, and straightforward. In her everyday life, she lived in a small 3-bedroom house and wore simple clothes. She was an incredibly kind woman and was loyal to her friends. She contributed to many charities, giving much of her savings to numerous orphanages and children’s causes. She was also an early civil rights supporter.

Even today, Marilyn Monroe holds leading positions among the most well-known women in the world. Men adore her beauty, while women are trying to emulate it. Unsurprisingly, more than 300 books were written about this famous blonde girl. She was the sex symbol during her lifetime, and she remains one until today.

Early Life

The life story of Marilyn Monroe has been surrounded by mysteries, omissions, and misunderstandings since her birth. Marilyn Monroe was born on June 01, 1926, at the Los Angeles County Hospital. The hospital registered her under the name of Norma Jeane Mortenson. Her mother, Gladys Pearl Monroe, gave her daughter the name of her second husband by changing one letter. Meanwhile, Martin Edward Mortensen, with whom Gladys Flighty had broken up a couple of years before, almost certainly had nothing to do with her child. The behavior of the young mother could be explained by the fact that the conservative society did not tolerate the birth of children out of wedlock in the 1920s. How do you explain the change of the letters, then? Maybe it was a random slip of the pen. However, the truth is unknown until now. However, six months later, the girl was baptized under the last name of Baker, which Gladys inherited from her first marriage.

Marilyn Monroe was the third child in the family. Her mother, Gladys Pearl Baker, was born in Mexico. Her maternal grandmother, Della Monroe, comes from Ireland, and her grandfather, Otis Monroe, arrived from Scotland. The biological father of Marilyn Monroe is unknown. There is a lot of controversial information about Monroe’s father, but in any case, Martin Edward Mortenson is indicated as the girl’s father on the birth certificate.

The childhood of Marilyn Monroe cannot be called dull or careless. Because of her mother’s unstable mental health and financial instability, Norma spent most of her childhood in orphanages and foster families.

When Marilyn Monroe was only two weeks old, her mother gave her to Albert and Ida Bolender, neighbors of Della Monroe in Hawthorne, California. Monroe lived with the Bolender family until she turned 7. In the fall of 1933, her mother moved with little Monroe to their house. The life with her mother ended just as quickly as it had begun. In 1934, Marilyn had to separate from Gladys again. Her mother suffered from psychological disorders and got into the Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, where she was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Marilyn started to live with Gladys’ friend, Grace McKee, who became her legal guardian.

Unfortunately, the wanderings of Monroe did not stop at that point. In less than a year, Marilyn’s guardian, Grace, got married, and on September 13, 1935, the girl had to move to the orphanage in Los Angeles, where Norma Jeane was given orphan ID No. 3463. Monroe had been living there for over one and a half years. Several families tried to adopt her, but Monroe’s mother did not give her consent and refused to sign the relevant documents.

In June 1937, Grace took Norma Jeane out of the orphanage. She started living with Grace, her husband Erwin Goddard, and his daughter from the first marriage, but only for a while. Later, Grace sent Monroe to her aunt Olivia Brunings in Compton because of the sexual harassment from Erwin’s side. But even there, the girl stayed only briefly – one of Olivia’s sons tried to rape her. In early 1938, Grace sent Marilyn to her other aunt, Ana Atchinson Lower, who lived in West Los Angeles. Marilyn started attending Emerson Junior High School during this period of life. Soon, she returned to the Goddard family because of Ana’s health issues.

Here, the girl enrolled at the Van Nuys High School. Monroe met James “Jim” Dougherty during her school days, who would play a significant role in her near future. In early 1942, Erwin Goddard had to move to West Virginia because of his work, and according to California’s State laws, Goddard could not take Marilyn Monroe out of the state. When Monroe realized she could be sent to the orphanage again, she found an alternative solution and decided to marry 21-year-old James Dougherty.

Marilyn Monroe attended Van Nuys High School (VNHS), a public high school in the Van Nuys district of Los Angeles, California.

On June 19, 1942, Marilyn Monroe married James Dougherty and moved to his house at 16. After the wedding, Monroe had to drop high school. She took care of the house and became a housewife, which she did not like. Later, Marilyn Monroe would say, “Marriage didn’t make me sad, but it didn’t make me happy, either. My husband and I hardly spoke to each other. This was not because we were angry. We had nothing to say. I was dying from boredom.” A year later, James entered the service in the Merchant Marine. At first, James and Marilyn lived on Santa Catalina Island. Then, in April 1944, James had to go to the Pacific, and Marilyn moved in with his parents. After Dougherty had left home, Marilyn started to work at the Radioplane Munitions Factory.


In June 1945, when Marilyn Monroe was working at the factory, Ronald Reagan sent a photographer, David Conover, to the factory to take propaganda pictures of women working in munitions factories. Conover liked the young and beautiful Monroe and offered her to pose for $5 per hour, and she agreed. Soon, Monroe left the factory job to start her modeling career.

On August 02, 1945, nineteen-year-old Monroe consulted in Blue Book Modeling Agency, run by Emmeline Snively (1909 – 1975), at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. At that time, Marilyn started working on her future appearance, which people still know and love. Initially, Marilyn Monroe had curly brunette hair, and after signing the contract with Blue Book Modeling Agency, she straightened it and dyed her hair blonde. According to Snively’s words, she was one of the most ambitious and hard-working models in the agency. In the spring of 1946, the young Norma Jeane appeared on the covers of 33 magazines after only half a year in the modeling industry.

Early Career: First Film Roles

Monroe started to attract more and more attention, and many people fueled interest in her after her first success in her modeling career and her appearance in various magazines.

Emmeline Snively, the owner of the Blue Book Modeling Agency, remarked on the potential of the young model and her popularity among readers of magazines. Snively was confident in Monroe’s future success and, in June 1946, arranged a contract with an acting agency. This contract was another critical point on the way to Marilyn Monroe’s success. At this time, Monroe met Ben Lyon (February 6, 1901 – March 22, 1979), a studio executive at 20th Century Fox, who would soon give her a push in the world of cinematography.

In August 1946, she was offered to conclude a contract with 20th Century Fox. Together with Ben Lyon, they created a character of the famous “blonde girl.” At first, Norma Jeane was offered several options, including Marilyn Miller, Claire Norman, and Carol Lind. However, Norma decided to use her mother’s maiden name. That is how the famous Marilyn Monroe was born.

Ben Lyon got acquainted with a young actress named Norma Jeane Dougherty on July 17, 1946. He organized a color screen test for her, renamed her to Marylin Monroe, and helped her to sign her first studio contract.

There is an exciting fact that Marilyn had several plastic surgeries: she changed the shape of her nose and chin, contrary to the fact that she had always stood for natural beauty.

Despite the aspiring actress’s starting success and rapidly growing popularity, the fame had the other side of the coin. Monroe’s career brought discord into the relationship with her first husband, James Dougherty, and destroyed their marriage. In September 1946, Marilyn Monroe and James Dougherty divorced. Their marriage lasted only four years.

At the beginning of her acting career, Marilyn Monroe starred in supporting roles where she did not have any lines. However, it did not last long because it was hard not to notice the charming Marilyn. The interest in Marilyn Monroe grew increasingly after the film Dangerous Years (1947), directed by Arthur Pearson, where the actress starred as Evie, a waitress. Also, it is worth noting that her name did not even appear in the titers of the movie.

If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything. – Marilyn Monroe Click To Tweet

Under the contract with 20th Century Fox, Marilyn appeared in one more film called Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! in 1948. After acting in two films with minor roles, her contract was not renewed, and then Monroe dedicated her time to modeling and learning acting techniques at the Actors’ Laboratory Theatre. In October 1947, she also appeared in the play Glamour Preferred at the Bliss-Hayden Theatre.

The next stage of her success story was a contract with Columbia Pictures in March 1948. Here, she found her future mentor and acting coach, Natasha Lytess (May 16, 1911 – May 12, 1963). During the cooperation with Columbia Pictures, Monroe went through the electrolysis procedure and made her hair lighter. In October 1948, the studio released a low-budget musical, Ladies of the Chorus (1948). Marilyn Monroe had an episodic role where she sang and had some lines in this romantic musical drama. However, the picture did not gain popularity, and Columbia Pictures did not prolong the contract with Monroe. In September 1948, Monroe left the studio.

Soon, another lucky break gave Marilyn new opportunities. Johnny Hyde, Vice President of the William Morris Agency (WMA), noticed and sympathized with the attractive young actress. Shortly, Monroe and Hyde developed relationships, and with Johnny’s help, Marilyn advanced in her career. He paid for her plastic surgeries and arranged a small role in the movie Love Happy, released in 1950. Besides acting, Monroe did not stop modeling, and in 1949, she was nude posing for Tom Kelley.

Conquering Cinematography

1950 was one of the most productive years in Monroe’s career. During this year, Marilyn got roles in several films. A Ticket to Tomahawk (1950) is a Western musical comedy film released by 20th Century Fox studio and directed by Richard Sale, where Marilyn appeared as Clara. Right Cross is a 1950 drama film released by MGM Film Studio, directed by John Sturges, in which Monroe had an uncredited role of Dusky Ledoux. Also, Monroe starred as Polly in a sports drama film, The Fireball (1950), created by 20th Century Fox and directed by Tay Garnett. Additionally, Monroe got the role of Miss Casswell in a drama film, All About Eve (1950), with Joseph L. Mankiewicz as the director and Darryl F. Zanuck as the producer, filmed by 20th Century Fox.

In 1950, along with the roles, Norma Jeane was offered a 7-year contract with 20th Century Fox and a part in the film The Asphalt Jungle (1950) as Angela Phinlay. Although Monroe’s role in this movie was minor, when it was released on VHS and DVD, her image graced the cover as if she were the leading character of it. The public’s interest grew after Monroe’s appearance on the big screen. Critics also paid attention to the young and ambitious Marilyn Monroe.

In 1951, Marilyn Monroe starred in the movie Home Town Story (1951) by MGM Studio, directed by Arthur Pierson. Monroe played Iris Martin in this drama film. Next, FOX studio released three comedies: As Young As You Feel (1951) with Norma Jeane as Harriet, directed by Harmon Jones; Love Nest (1951) by Joseph Newman, where the actress played Roberta Stevens; Let’s Make it Legal (1951), directed by Richard Sale, where Monroe appeared as Joyce Mannering.

Marilyn Monroe became a much-demanded actress after her appearance in the image of a “dumb blonde” in a series of comedy films. In 1952, Monroe’s career promptly went uphill. The same year, Marilyn appeared as Peggy in the drama film Clash by Night from RKO studio and film director Fritz Lang.

During the subsequent five years, Marilyn Monroe starred only in the 20th Century Fox production films. The romantic comedy film We’re Not Married! (1952) was the first to be released, directed by Edmund Goulding. Marilyn starred as Annabel Jones Norris in it. Soon, the premiere of a film noir thriller, Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), directed by Roy Ward Baker, followed. Monroe got her first leading role in this picture, and her character was Nell Forbes.

In 1952, the world saw two more films featuring Marilyn Monroe. The first one was an anthology film, O. Henry’s Full House, where she appeared as a prostitute in the first of five episodes called The Cop and the Anthem, directed by Henry Koster; and the second one was Monkey Business, a screwball comedy film, directed by Howard Hawks. Here, she played Lois Laurel.

The Triumph of Monroe’s Career

The year 1953 was genuinely starry for Marilyn Monroe. A 1953 film noir thriller, Niagara, elevated Monroe to superstar status. The director of this movie was Henry Hathaway, and Monroe played the role of Rose Loomis.

In 1953, Marilyn Monroe starred in the films Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Howard Hawks and How to Marry a Millionaire by Jean Negulesco. Both of these pictures were shot in the comedy genre.

In 1953, Hugh Hefner licensed the photograph of Marilyn Monroe for $500 from Tom Kelley to appear on the cover of the first issue of Playboy magazine, which sold 50,000 copies. Thus, it only strengthened the popularity of the star.

Marilyn appeared as a singer Kay Weston in River of No Return, a 1954 American Western film directed by Otto Preminger. An interesting fact is that three pairs of jeans, in which Monroe starred in this movie, were later purchased at auction at Christie’s Auction House for $42,550 by Tommy Hilfiger.

Marilyn Monroe shone in the rays of glory. The dazzling blonde won the hearts of the public. Men expressed a keen interest in Marilyn, dreaming of spending a pastime with her. Joe DiMaggio, a baseball player and influential person in the movie industry, was among these men. He was lucky enough to get close to her, and soon, Marilyn and Joe’s romance twisted.

In January 1954, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio. Marilyn was very popular among men; many influential people were trying to care for her, and sometimes she accepted their courtship. Later, it turned out that DiMaggio was very jealous and often raised a hand at her. In October 1954, they divorced because of his jealousy. However, Joe loved Marilyn and was the only one of all her lovers who came to her funeral. DiMaggio supported and helped Monroe in her career in the subsequent years.

Shortly after her marriage to DiMaggio, the 20th Century Fox studio offered Monroe the role of Vicki Parker in the musical-comedy-drama There’s No Business Like Show Business. The director of this film was Walter Lang. In February 1954, after returning to Hollywood, she was awarded Photoplay’s “Most Popular Female Star” prize.

The year 1955 was a fabulous year for the actress as well. This year, Marilyn Monroe appeared in the film The Seven Year Itch by Billy Wilder. We all know a famous scene where Marilyn Monroe’s white dress flutters in the wind, which became her calling card. In 1956, Monroe was nominated for the BAFTA Film Award for Best Foreign Actress for the role in The Seven Year Itch.

In January 1955, Marilyn founded a private corporation, Marilyn Monroe Productions. She invested almost all her savings in this company and became the head of it. This company allowed Monroe to recruit agents and conclude contracts with the film studios through her production company.

In 1956, Monroe won a Golden Globe for Best Actress nomination in the genre for her performance in an American romantic comedy film, Bus Stop (1956), shot by 20th Century Fox and directed by Joshua Logan.

In 1957, Marilyn Monroe Productions released its first and only film, The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), where Norma Jeane played charming Elsie Marina. This picture won David di Donatello’s Best Film award and nominated Monroe for a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress.

Some Like It Hot (1959) was one of the most popular romantic comedy films featuring Marilyn Monroe. The actress played the ukulele player and singer Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk. In 1960, Monroe was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Actress – Comedy or Musical and won Top Female Comedy Performance (Laurel Award, 2nd place) for her performance in this motion picture.

In 1960, 20th Century Fox studio released a musical comedy film, Let’s Make Love. On March 08, 1960, Marilyn Monroe was awarded a Hollywood Walk of Fame star.

The last complete movie with Marilyn Monroe was released in 1961. UA film studio shot a drama movie, The Misfits (1961), and Roslyn Tabor became the last role for Norma Jeane.

Love Affairs

Secrets have constantly surrounded the personal life of Marilyn Monroe. Many of her contemporaries claimed that Marilyn could give controversial information in different interviews. There were many scandals around the film star due to her numerous romances.

Since her childhood, Marilyn Monroe lacked family and care. She met her first husband, James Dougherty, at Van Nuys High School and married him in 1942. Monroe was only 16 years old at that moment. However, as was mentioned before, it was a suitable match for Marilyn, as at that time, she faced a difficult choice: return to the orphanage or get married. When Marilyn Monroe started her career, she could not balance between an intense pace of her business and a quiet and regular family life. Therefore, Marilyn and James divorced in 1946.

A woman knows by intuition, or instinct, what is best for herself. – Marilyn Monroe Click To Tweet

Marilyn Monroe frequently appeared at secular receptions with different men. She is credited with a considerable number of romances and intrigues. And this is not surprising because, not without reason, Marilyn Monroe is called one of the most iconic sex symbols of the 20th century.

Marilyn got married a second time only in 1954. She chose a baseball player, Joe DiMaggio, as her husband. Joe was getting insanely jealous of every man that Monroe met and began to beat her. Marilyn lost her patience after nine months of their marriage, and in the same year, the couple divorced. Nevertheless, the love of DiMaggio was so strong that he continued to take care of her until the end of her days.

In 1950, Marilyn Monroe met her third husband, famous dramatist Arthur Miller. In 1955, they met for the second time, and both were single. Marilyn liked Arthur. He helped her eliminate the compound of ignorance, which Marilyn found very embarrassing. The couple got married in 1956.

However, this marriage could not be called a happy one either. Arthur saw Marilyn as too erratic. Once, he wrote in his diary, “Marilyn recalls a little child, I hate her.” Later, Monroe found that note, and the old love was over. In 1961, Arthur and Marilyn divorced, which became a reason for the prolonged depressive condition of the actress.

In 1961, Marilyn met the future president of the United States, John Kennedy, and his brother Robert. There is no documentary evidence to prove Marilyn Monroe’s romance with the president or his brother, but now and then, rumors about their relationships leaked to the press.

Marilyn Monroe was rarely alone, but she was always lonely. She loved every one of her men, but they used her like a toy and threw her out of their lives when they got bored.

Perhaps a series of undivided love and relationships was the cause of her suicide. However, this will remain a mystery like anything connected with Marilyn Monroe.

The Death of the Icon

This tragic news stirred up the whole world. Marilyn Monroe was found dead with a telephone in her hand during the night from August 04 to 05, 1962. She was found dead at her house in Los Angeles. Police officers found an empty pack of sleeping pills near the bed, and there were another fourteen open medicine packs on the nightstand. The actress did not leave any notes or letters before her death. Dr. Tsunetomi Noguchi performed an autopsy on Monroe’s body, after which he stated that the cause of death was acute barbiturate poisoning. Her blood contained 8 mg of chloral hydrate and 4.5 mg of pentobarbital (Nembutal), and a further 13 mg of pentobarbital was found in her liver.

Doctors and police officers considered other possible causes of Monroe’s death, such as murder. However, they could not find any evidence, and the version of suicide became official.

We should all start to live before we get too old. – Marilyn Monroe Click To Tweet

Right after Marilyn Monroe’s death, the American press started to discuss the version of suicide that caused the so-called Werther effect. As a result, hundreds of Americans have followed her example and committed suicide by poisoning.

Marilyn Monroe was buried on August 08, 1962, at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

People have not forgotten Marilyn, and they never will. She remains one of the most famous women in Hollywood. Secrets and mysteries will constantly be swirling around her name.

Even now, people can still enjoy excellent movies with her participation, even half a century after her death. She will live forever in the hearts of lovers of good cinema. After all, she is not just an actress – she is Marilyn Monroe.


Marilyn Monroe left behind an enormous legacy: movies, songs, and countless photos that let us contemplate her beauty and grandeur.

More than 300 biographies, articles, and reports are devoted to her. However, only one biography of Monroe was written and published during her lifetime by a biographer, Maurice Zolotow, in 1960. Many famous authors wrote memoirs about the iconic actress. Some of them are Marilyn Monroe (1993) by Donald Spoto, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (2009) by Randy Taraborrelli, Symbol (1967) by Alvah Bessie, and many others.

Decades later, the secret of her charm and appeal remains unrevealed. The appearance of Norma Jeane did not fit the standards of that time. Nevertheless, when people hear a collocation, “the sex symbol,” the first thing that comes to mind is her image and name.

Marilyn Monroe was a great singer. She performed many songs and appeared in lots of musicals. However, few people know that Marilyn was terrible at remembering lyrics and lines, which annoyed film directors and the whole crew.

Let us come back to the music. The most famous song of Marilyn Monroe was I Wanna Be Loved By You, which was performed in the legendary movie Some Like It Hot in 1959.

This song’s simple lyrics came to the audience’s liking right away, and the catchy rhythm made it memorable. Of course, the way Marilyn performed it also significantly impacted the future popularity of the song.

Even today, many famous writers, actors, and singers devote their creations to Monroe. Many modern songs are dedicated to the memory of Marilyn, such as Government Hooker and Dance in the Dark by Lady Gaga, The Wind Cries (Who Killed Norma Jean) by Blue System, Marilyn Monroe by Lana Del Ray, and many more.

On June 19, 2011, Marylin Monroe’s legendary white “subway” dress, known from the film The Seven Year Itch, was sold for more than $5.6 million at the auction house Profiles in History in Beverly Hills, California. On June 15, 2011, an 8-meter-tall sculpture of Marilyn Monroe from an episode of the same movie opened in Chicago. The statue created by Seward Johnson was called Forever Marilyn, and it depicts the instant that a blast of airlifts up Monroe’s white dress.

On November 23, 2011, the world saw the movie My Week With Marilyn, which tells a story about the time that Laurence Olivier spent with the actress on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). American actress Michelle Williams played the role of Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe’s death made her even more recognizable and beloved. On November 16, 2012, the House of Chanel released an advertising video of Chanel No.5 perfume featuring Marilyn Monroe. The video is based on the story of her romantic relationship with photographer Douglas Kirkland.

Many women have been trying to emulate Marilyn Monroe’s look for decades. Even today, some cosmetics manufacturers are exploiting women’s desire to be “like Marilyn” and give her name to their products: light hair dye, glossy red lipstick, and red nail polish. Modern movie stars and models are advertising them, made up and combed like Monroe.

We face an undeniable truth: this attempts to copy Monroe’s style – just to prove how unique she was. Marilyn Monroe’s life story was challenging and unpredictable. She gained a dazzling success and then lost everything at once. She was one of her kind, sexy, charming, beautiful, passionate, and sensual, and there cannot be a second Marilyn Monroe. We hope you have enjoyed exploring Marylin Monroe’s biography and her success story, inspiring you to new discoveries.

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