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Marilyn Monroe was 36 when she died in a mysterious and suspicious way. It happened on August 4, 1962. Had she lived, the actress would have been in her mid-nineties now. Read the secrets and intrigues of the star's life in the following slides.
The platinum blonde that made Marilyn Monroe famous was not her natural colour. They say she had either brown, dark blonde, or even reddish hair.
It's a frivolous debate, that of her hair colour, but it reveals how mysterious the actress has always remained. In addition, it shows the kind of things people focus on when talking about the legendary actress - a woman who always had to cope with the hostility of Hollywood's hetero-patriarchy.
On June 1, 1926, Norma Jeane Mortenson Baker was born in Los Angeles, California. Her mother, Gladys Baker, never revealed her father's name to the girl. She gave Norma Jeane the surname of her stepfather, Mortenson.
Norma's mother had limited financial resources and psychological problems. She chose to give her baby to Ida and Albert Bolender, a friendly couple who took care of the girl until she was 7 years old. By then, her mum had a house and had Norma Jeane live with her again. Sadly, the family did not stay together for long, because mother had another breakdown and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Her daughter came under the care of the State.
Norma Jeane was housed in up to 11 foster homes. She ended up returning to the Hollygrove orphanage in Los Angeles that took her in first, and she got her first job there as a kitchen aid.
The girl's experiences were not good at this time. Marilyn Monroe herself revealed that she suffered the abuse of a man at age 8 in one of the foster homes. Her adoptive mother said Norma Jeane was to blame for what had happened.
The death of her dog Tippy was yet another tragic event that would mark the young girl for life. The pet was cruelly murdered, which caused the shocked Norma Jeane to lose her ability to speak. Although she recovered her speech over time, the woman was left with a stutter that he could never quite overcome.
In 1937, Norma Jeane was adopted by her mother's best friend, Grace McKee. Her husband, Ervin Silliman, repeatedly abused the tween. She left the house but eventually returned and met her first husband there: the family friend Jim Dougherty. They married when she was only 16 years old. He was 20.
Interestingly, the marriage would be Marilyn's key to fame. After marrying her in 1942, Jim Dougherty joined the Merchant Navy in 1944. His young wife had to go and work at the Radioplane munitions factory.
By chance, photographer David Conover took a photograph of Norma Jeane for an article about women working during World War II. Her photo appeared in the magazine Yank.
The photographer recommended to the young Norma Jeane that she try and sign up with the Blue Book modelling agency. She was successful and they gave her an exclusive contract. Soon enough, the young woman was a famous model in Los Angeles. In 1945, a year after arriving at the agency, she had already appeared in 30 publications.
In 1946, Norma Jeane made four changes that would make her a legend. The first was to dye her hair blonde. The second was to take on the name Marilyn Monroe (Monroe being her grandmother's last name). The third change was to get an agent, Harry Lipton. And the fourth? Traveling to Las Vegas to get a divorce from poor Jim Dougherty.
Her ex-husband did not fare very well after the divorce. He later revealed that his second wife was so jealous that she prohibited him from seeing a single Marilyn Monroe movie and burned all the letters the actress had sent him while he was in the Navy. It's hard not to think of the money he lost by having these historic documents destroyed.
At the age of 20, with a divorce, a new look, and a new name, Marilyn Monroe got her first part with text in a Hollywood movie. It was called 'Dangerous Years'. Curiously, Twentieth-Century Fox did not renew her contract in 1947, which forced Marilyn to sign with Lucille Ryman and John Carroll at the end of the year.
The year 1948 began with Marilyn Monroe becoming the Miss California Artichoke beauty queen. She did several movies, appeared at the right parties, and had conversations with the right people until Life magazine finally decided to interview Marilyn in 1949 as an aspiring Hollywood star. Still, actual Hollywood fame did not come.
It wasn't easy to make one's way into Hollywood. So much so that Marilyn Monroe found herself compelled to pose without clothes for the well-known photographer Tom Kelley. She was 22, needed money as long as fame didn't come, and she called herself Mona Monroe for the photos.
The shoot would end up being the most famous of her career. Mona Monroe's photos appeared in the famous 1952 'Golden Dream' calendar. Over time, the images (of debatable artistic quality) would become a legendary treasure.
Marilyn had to wait until 1952 to get her first leading role in the movie 'Don't Bother to Knock.' Then, soon enough, a string of other productions came her way. With 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' (1953, photo),' How to Marry a Millionaire' (1953) and 'The Seven Year Itch' (1955) she consolidated her status as a national and even global star.
'The Seven Year Itch' would give the world an iconic scene of Marilyn Monroe in her white dress, standing on top of an air vent.
(Image: still from 'The Seven Year Itch')
In 1952, Marilyn Monroe had fallen in love with baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. They got married in 1954, in what many called the 'Marriage of the Decade.'
The famous couple divorced after only nine months. DiMaggio was twelve years older than Monroe, and there was jealousy, abuse, and aggression all around. He wanted her to stop acting and become a housewife, while she wanted to continue growing as a Hollywood star. Their marriage did not stand a chance.
With 'Bus Stop' (1956) and above all, 'Some Like it Hot' (1959, photo) Marilyn Monroe demonstrated her acting talent. She even won a Golden Globe for Best Actress.
An unexpected personal event was the actress' marriage with playwright Arthur Miller in 1956. They would be together for five years.
Some people familiar with the couple say that he was the first man who understood the actress, her desires, and her regrets. He was allegedly the one who tried to make her see the talent she had until she finally believed it herself. According to these sources, they were the perfect marriage. However, like many things in Marilyn Monroe's life, it turned bad.
The couple had serious problems while filming 'The Misfits,' a movie he wrote and in which she starred.
In those days, the actress found one of Miller's notebooks and read bitter phrases about herself in it. Miller referred to his wife as a "poor, abandoned, dependent and unpredictable child." He also wrote that he regretted having married her. It seemed that the misfits were Miller and Monroe.
The marriage went awry in 1960, right before the premiere of 'The Misfits'. As if that weren't enough, Marilyn Monroe found out that she was pregnant after the divorce, then had a miscarriage and lost the baby.
It was not the only miscarriage she had in her life. Marilyn Monroe suffered from endometriosis, making it difficult to have a child, but she wanted to be a mother so badly that she refused to have her ovaries removed. To alleviate the severe pains from her illness, the actress began to take heavy narcotics.
Between the physical pain and her troubled emotional life, the actress's health began to deteriorate alarmingly in 1960. It happened just after signing a seven-film deal with Twentieth Century Fox.
Marilyn's diet came to consist of drugs, alcohol, and ill-advised substances. She took them to be able to fall asleep at night and to concentrate during the day.
In August 1960, the actress was admitted to the emergency room in Los Angeles and many journalists believed she was dead.
In 1962, her sinusitis and bronchitis became chronic and complicated. Yet, she managed to sing the legendary 'happy birthday' to President John F. Kennedy, a performance that became television history. It would be the last meeting of the actress and the president, who had been secretly seeing each other for several months.
Marilyn Monroe died in her home on August 5, 1962, supposedly from an overdose of barbiturates, although theories suggest that someone was involved in her death.
On that day, the actress left but the legend arrived.
In 2011, the city of Chicago honoured Marilyn Monroe with a statue of more than 26 feet. It recreates the famous scene from 'The Seven Year Itch.' The movie legend continues to live through her films and in all the iconic images she left to popular culture. They are testimony to the life of a woman who fought throughout her life and always had the desire to be free.