She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926 that was soon changed to Baker. She was the third child born to Gladys Pearl Baker. Her birth certificate lists her father as Martin Edward Mortenson (address unknown). Her mother changed it to Baker (the surname of her first husband) that made her birth as confusing as her death. Her mother was mentally unstable and was unable to care for her infant daughter. She placed Norma with a foster family where she lived until the age of 7. Her mother tried to force her foster parents to return Norma and when they refused, Gladys stuffed Norma into a military duffel bag and tried to walk out of the foster parent's home and a scuffle took place that caused Norma to fall out of the bag. Eventually, Norma Jeane would reside with her biological mother until her mother's extreme mental episodes would force Norma to become a ward of the state. Norma Jeane's entire childhood was filled with confusion, abuse and instability. During high school, Norma would meet a neighbor's son, James Dougherty and began a relationship with him and soon the two would marry. Dougherty enlisted in the Merchant Marines and the two were stationed in Avalon, California. When Dougherty was transferred out, Marilyn moved in with his mother but the marriage would dissolve. James eventually became a police officer.
Norma Jeane began working in a Radioplane Factor where she had the job of spraying planes with a fire retardant and inspecting parachutes for the military. A photographer came to the factory to shoot photographs and Norma, a brunette, found out they were looking for blondes with lighter hair to model for the pictures. Norma died her hair blonde and that's how Marilyn Monroe's modeling career began.
She became one of Blue Book's most successful models and drew the attention of a 20th Century Fox executive who arranged a screen test for her. Century Fox had trouble accepting the name of Norma Jeane and chose the name of "Carole Lind" but eventually realized that the name was not a good choice. She decided to choose her mother's maiden name (Monroe) and the rep of Century Fox chose the name Marilyn for her first name after Marilyn Miller ( a popular Broadway star).
Marilyn's acting career started without speaking parts. She appeared as an extra in films. She would eventually take a bit part as "Betty" in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!
Her breakthrough came in 1948, when she signed a contract with Columbia Pictures. She made a couple of films that were only moderately successful and it was suggested to her by a photographer named Tom Kelley that she pose nude and was paid $50 for the pictures.
The nude photographs became highly talked about in the entertainment industry. One of the photographs was published in the first issue of Playboy magazine in December, 1953. She was the first Playmate of the Month and was responsible for the early success of Playboy magazine. She would also appear in Life Magazine. Stories of her upbringing gave Marilyn much sympathy. Also, during this time, she began to date a future baseball legend, Joe DiMaggio and the publicity between the two became headlines for virtually every newspaper and magazine in the country. Her film career also took off with her roles in "Some Like It Hot" "The Seven Year Itch" "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" At the same time, her married life with DiMaggio ended as well as a marriage to Arthur Miller dissolved. She also became involved with other entertainers and well known political figures. During this same time, she became increasingly addicted to prescription drugs. Her last two films flopped and Marilyn became more and more dependent on the medications.
On the evening of August 5, 1962, Marilyn's housekeeper Eunice Murray discovered Marilyn unconscious in bed and was soon pronounced dead at the age of 36. Her death was ruled a suicide from the ingestion of nearly 50 Nembutal sleeping pills, however, rumors continue over the cause of her death. Some speculate that she was murdered but nothing was ever proved.
|Marilyn's funeral folder and list of attendees|
Marilyn was dressed in her favorite green Emilio Pucci dress and placed in a solid bronze casket (pictured) Placed in her hands was a small bouquet of pink teacup roses and for the next 20 years, red roses sent by Joe were placed in a vase attached to Marilyn's crypt in a mausoleum at Westwood (photographed).
An annual memorial service is held at Westwood every year. The fiftieth annual memorial service was held this past year (program pictured)
Note: An empty crypt lies to the left of Marilyn's that will eventually receive Playboy Hugh Hefner. He affirmed that the initial success of his magazine is directly attributed to Monroe.