Marilyn Monroe biography

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Actress Marilyn Monroe overcame a difficult childhood to become of the world's biggest and most enduring sex symbols. She died of a drug overdose in 1962.

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Actress Marilyn Monroe was born as Norma Jeane Mortensen on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California. During her all-too-brief life, Marilyn Monroe overcame a difficult childhood to become of the world's biggest and most enduring sex symbols. During her career, Monroe's films grossed more than $200 million. Monroe died of a drug overdose on August 5, 1962, at only 36 years old.


"Being a sex symbol is a heavy load to carry, especially when one is tired, hurt and bewildered."

– Marilyn Monroe

"I don't want to make money, I just want to be wonderful."

– Marilyn Monroe

"A career is wonderful, but you can't curl up with it on a cold night."

– Marilyn Monroe

"Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a $1,000 for a kiss and 50¢ for your soul."

– Marilyn Monroe

"If I close my eyes and think of Hollywood, all I see is one big varicose vein."

– Marilyn Monroe

Early Life

Marilyn Monroe was born as Norma Jeane Mortensen (later baptized as Norma Jeane Baker) on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, California. During her all-too-brief life, Marilyn Monroe overcame a difficult childhood to become of the world's biggest and most enduring sex symbols. She never knew her father, and once thought Clark Gable to be her father—a story repeated often enough for a version of it to gain some currency. However, there's no evidence that Gable ever met or knew Monroe's mother, Gladys, who developed psychiatric problems and was eventually placed in a mental institution. As an adult, Monroe would maintain that one of her earliest memories was of her mother trying to smother her in her crib with a pillow. Monroe had a half-sister, to whom she was not close; they met only a half-dozen times.

Growing up, Monroe spent much of her time in foster care and in an orphanage. In 1937, a family friend and her husband, Grace and Doc Goddard, took care of Monroe for a few years. The Goddards were paid $25 weekly by Monroe's mother to raise her. The couple was deeply religious and followed fundamentalist doctrines; among other prohibited activities, Monroe was not allowed to go to the movies. But when Doc's job was transferred in 1942 to the East Coast, the couple could not afford to bring Monroe with them.

At 7 years old, Monroe returned to a life in foster homes, where she was on several occasions sexually assaulted; she later said that she had been raped when she was 11 years old. But she had one way out—get married. She wed her boyfriend Jimmy Dougherty on June 19, 1942, at the age of 16. By that time, Monroe had dropped out of high school (age 15). A merchant marine, Dougherty was later sent to the South Pacific. Monroe went to work in a munitions factory in Burbank, California, where she was discovered by a photographer. By the time Dougherty returned in 1946, Monroe had a successful career as a model, and had changed her name to Marilyn Monroe in preparation for an acting career. She dreamt of becoming an actress like Jean Harlow and Lana Turner.

Famed Career

Monroe's marriage to Dougherty fizzled out as she focused more on her career. The couple divorced in 1946—the same year that Monroe signed her first movie contract. With the movie contract came a new name and image; she began calling herself "Marilyn Monroe" and dyed her hair blonde. But her acting career didn't really take off until the 1950s. Her small part in John Huston's crime drama The Asphalt Jungle (1950) garnered her a lot of attention. That same year, she impressed audiences and critics alike with her performance as Claudia Caswell in All About Eve, starring Bette Davis.



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