Who Was Marilyn Monroe?

It’s all too often that whenever I tell someone I’m a Marilyn Monroe fan, I get an array of the following questions:

  1. How do you think she died?
  2. Didn’t she get murdered? 
  3. Wasn’t she killed by that CIA guy?
  4. Wasn’t she the one who was an alcoholic/had drug problems?
  5. What do you think about her affair with JFK?

FACTS

These are all very good questions if you have little knowledge about Marilyn Monroe. But all too often people see them facts as opposed to rumours. Here are my answers to those questions right here:

  1. I have written my thoughts based on my own and others research into Marilyn’s death here. It’s a long one but if you’re really interested then it’s worth a read. Please note this does get updated when I find further information on her death.
  2. If you read the above link you will see there is a 1% chance she would’ve been killed because in honesty there was NO reason to kill her.
  3. This story that has been going around the web is indeed a fake.
  4. Marilyn Monroe, like many other celebrities such as Michael Jackson, was addicted to her prescription medication which was to control anxiety, depression and insomnia. As for her drinking, she did indeed enjoy champagne but to say she was addicted to alcohol is probably a little too far.
  5.  Ahhh, the old Marilyn Monroe and JFK story. Marilyn may have slept with John F Kennedy once. And if you know anything about JFK, you will know he slept with a lot of stars (and women in general).

So without the conspiracy and the drama, what is left of Marilyn? Well, if you rely on the internet not much. Which is why I am trying my best with my Marilyn Tumblr and this blog post. Just to give a little insight.


BEGINNINGS

A GIRL WITH NO NAME

Norma Jeane Mortenson, later known as Marilyn Monroe, was born in Los Angeles, California on the 1st June 1926. Her mother, Gladys Monroe (later Baker and Mortensen) was unsure of the real father of her newborn baby and was unsure of what surname to list her under. Ultimately, she named her Norma Jeane Mortenson (after her husband Edward Mortenson who was seeking a divorce). Her surname regularly changed from Mortenson, Mortensen and Baker.

THE SUITCASE KID

Gladys’s mother (Della Monroe) arranged for Gladys and Norma Jeane to be moved in with a Christian family called the Bolenders, who would look after the child whilst Gladys worked.

Over time Gladys became increasingly ill and suffered from what appeared to be hereditary mental illness (although this is false). She had random outbursts of anger and was eventually institutionalised.

As a result, Norma Jeane was moved from foster home to foster home. She mentions in My Story as well as to friend and photographer George Barris, that she was sexually assaulted in one of these homes. She also spent some time in an orphanage after her mother’s friend , although it supposedly wasn’t as bad as she had made out. In her eyes, it may have been awful as she felt unloved and unwanted.

A YOUNG BRIDE

Just before she turned sixteen, Grace Goddard (a friend of her mother and previous foster carer) encouraged Norma Jeane to marry a young man named James Dougherty. Reluctantly, they married ensuring she would not be sent back to the orphanage. However, she soon fell in love with him.

James aka Jimmy was later sent off to help in the war effort. Alone and needing money, she started to work packing parachutes. This is how she was recognised by an army photographer who asked to take more photos of her at a later date. This was an exciting opportunity for Norma Jeane and she agreed.

Photographed by David Conover, 1945.
Photographed by David Conover, 1945.

After being published in various magazines Norma Jeane felt the thrill of modelling and decided that this was her path rather than being a lonely housewife. She divorced Jim and in 1946 took on the name and hair colour of Marilyn Monroe (after Marilyn Miller and her mother’s maiden name).

STARLET

Photographed by Andre de Dienes, 1949.
Photographed by Andre de Dienes, 1949.

As a little girl, Marilyn had loved the movies so to her,  getting small parts in films was an exciting opportunity. However, they didn’t pay the bills. Again, she was moving from place to place renting out various rooms. But this made Marilyn work harder than ever. But not in the way people assume.

The young starlet refused handouts in exchange for sexual pleasures. Marilyn stated her in her ghost-written book My Story, to Ben Hecht:

“I was determined, no one was going to use me or my body—even if he could help my career. I’ve never gone out with a man I didn’t want to. No one, not even the studio, could force me to date, someone. The one thing I hate more than anything else is being used. I’ve always worked hard for the sake of someday becoming a talented actress. I knew I would make it someday if I only kept at it and worked hard without lowering my principles and pride in myself.”

It took Marilyn years approximately five years before she would get a leading role displaying her determination to get into film. She studied dance, acting, singing and elocution (to assist her stutter) and worked harder than many young actresses of the day.

NUDE CALENDAR

In 1949, depending on who is telling the story, Marilyn’s car was needing to be paid for. Some say she crashed it and it needed repairing and some say it was impounded. Either way, she needed the car to go to auditions and was in desperate need of money.

She recalled that a photographer, by the name of Tom Kelley, had asked for Marilyn to pose nude. Now, this wasn’t something Marilyn had been afraid of before. She had posed nude for pinup artist Earl Moran between 1947 and 1949. However, she had said no to Kelley. This time, she decided to make a deal. She would only pose if his wife was present. It was then set. Marilyn Monroe draped her milky nude body, over red silk whilst Tom Kelley snapped some of the most famous images of her ever.

She signed the contract for $50 under a false name and Kelley later sold the pictures to Mr Hugh Hefner for the first ever Playboy magazine shoot. Hefner has always been thankful and admirable to Marilyn as she was his first Playboy cover star.


 FAME

Promotional photograph for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Promotional photograph for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

After being on the cover of hundreds of magazines and starring as a sexy blonde, it wasn’t long before Marilyn’s fame elevated. With starring roles in Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry A Millionaire, she fought for her right to be taken seriously. But this sexy, blonde bombshell was constantly being seen as someone who was dumb despite her huge book collection and love for arts and culture.

In 1954, the Hollywood movie star married Joe DiMaggio. A serious man, who insisted Marilyn settle down. The relationship failed after just nine months, however, they remained friends. and then to Arthur Miller (intellectual and play write).

THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL

Promotional photograph for The Prince and the Showgirl.
Promotional photograph for The Prince and the Showgirl.

Two years after the divorce from Joe DiMaggio and a year after the release of The Seven Year Itch, Marilyn Monroe married playwright Arthur Miller. Unfortunately, the marriage to Arthur was no paradise. Shortly after they were married Marilyn found a notebook with scribbles Arthur had left open discussing his new wife. He explained how ashamed he was and how Marilyn was an embarrassment. This shook Marilyn’s confidence sinking her into depression, causing plenty of difficulty on the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl. This anxiety, panic and sadness caused a lot of friction on set, especially with co-star and Director Laurence Olivier.

Despite the book and film My Week With Marilyn, Marilyn did not sneak off for a week-long affair with a third assistant director (not one person ever saw them together and she was with Paula Strasberg, her acting coach for the majority of the time).

MMP & BUS STOP

On the set of Bus Stop, 1956.
On the set of Bus Stop, 1956.

In 1956, Marilyn Monroe and photographer Milton Greene had set up their own production company to ensure Marilyn was getting a wider range of roles. Her first movie, although uncredited, with MMP was Bus Stop. This film allowed her to explore a different kind of character to her usual dumb, sex goddess personas and with more creative control.

HEARTBREAK

Marilyn and Arthur made things work as much as possible, however only a year after their marriage Marilyn suffered an ectopic pregnancy.  It is said she attempted suicide after losing her baby but recovered and continued to be America’s star.


FINAL YEARS

SOME LIKE IT HOT

A pregnant Marilyn poses with her baby bump on the set of Some Like It Hot.
A pregnant Marilyn poses with her baby bump on the set of Some Like It Hot.

In 1958 Marilyn went to film Some Like It Hot starring Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. This was a tough time for Marilyn. She was becoming more and more dependent on her medication, making her forgetful and drowsy causing countless retakes of scenes. This had the cast and crew increasingly frustrated, leaving Marilyn to feel more and more self-conscious and anxious and the film incredibly difficult to make. It would, however, come to be one of the biggest comedy movies of all time.

LET’S MAKE LOVE

Marilyn and Yves Montands in Let's Make Love.
Marilyn and Yves Montands in Let’s Make Love.

In 1960, with things still rocky with Arthur,Marilyn Monroe starred in  Let’s Make Love with French actor Yves Montand. Both Yves and Marilyn were feeling incredibly alone during the making of this film, which neither of them particularly enjoyed, resulting in a brief affair. Despite this Marilyn and Arthur stayed together. Yves and his wife Simone Signoret also remained married until her death in 1985.

Despite this Marilyn and Arthur stayed together. Yves and his wife Simone Signoret also remained married until her death in 1985.

THIS MISFITS

During the film of The Misfits, taken by Inge Morath.

Exhausted, Marilyn and Arthur flew to Reno, Nevada to shoot The Misfits.

The screenplay was written by Arthur as a gift for Marilyn. However, the couple were drifting further and further apart. There were also constant changes to the script, something Marilyn found difficult to deal with. She was tired and felt the film was an insult to her.

In addition, the director John Huston gambled away a large sum of the movie funds and sent Marilyn to the hospital, blaming her stress for the delay despite it being because there was no money to pay the cast and crew.

THE FINAL STRAW

Marilyn and Clark Gable in a promotional photograph for The Misfits by Elliot Erwitt.
Marilyn and Clark Gable in a promotional photograph for The Misfits by Elliot Erwitt.

After the release of The Misfits,Marilyn’s co-star and father figure, Clark Gable had a heart attack. It was rumoured that this was due to the stress Marilyn caused on set.

This was the final blow for Marilyn.

She was separated from Arthur and now a man whom she felt was like a father figure (based on how much he looked like Stanley Gifford, the man Marilyn believed to be her Dad) died “because of her.” What Marilyn and everyone else forgot to consider was that this 59-year-old man chain smoked and did his own stunts in the movie. For example, he insisted on being dragged around by a horse instead of using a stunt double.

That same year she divorced Arthur. He remarried Inge Morath, a photographer from the set of The Misfits and had a child with her.

LOCKED AWAY

Due to her talks of suicide and depression, Marilyn was sent by her psychoanalyst to a hospital which turned out to be Payne Whitney asylum. Marilyn was locked in a padded cell and treated like she was a dangerous patient. Eventually, she managed to contact Joe DiMaggio who made his way to New York demanding they release his wife (although they were divorced). He threatened, “I will tear this place down brick by brick.” He then took her to a hospital where she could rest and recover. The friends then had a vacation in Florida.

SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE

During screen tests for Something's Got To Give

In 1961 and 1962 Marilyn and Joe spent a lot of time together. She was hired to film her last contracted movie with Fox named Something’s Got To Give and bought a house in Brentwood, LA. Things were looking up. However, during the filming of Something’s Got To Give, Marilyn fell ill with sinusitis and was in need of medication and rest. This made it almost impossible for her to film which frustrated the almost bankrupt studio.

Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor was in the process of being filmed and was haemorrhaging funds, giving Taylor a million dollars for her work whereas Marilyn received only $100,000. These were the only two movies being filmed at the time.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR PRESIDENT

Marilyn singing to President John F. Kennedy

Marilyn was soon fired for her absences and taking the time to perform at John F Kennedy’s birthday gala. Marilyn took her ex-father in law, Isadore Miller as her guest and sang Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy, who she had met a few times at other public events (with the except of Bing Crosby’s home where she may have slept with him).

There is only one photograph of Marilyn with the Kennedy brothers and that is at the after party of the gala. She returned home that evening, on her own.

Marilyn with Robert and John F. Kennedy at the gala after party.

BACK TO IT

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After being fired, Marilyn picked herself up and worked on promoting her image once more. She posed for photographer and friend George Barris and even discussed writing a book with him (later released as Marilyn Monroe: Her Life in Her Own Words).

Not long after, Marilyn was rehired by the studio who offered her $1 million for her role in SGTG. Despite this good news and great prospects for the 36-year-old, Marilyn was still suffering from anxiety, depression and insomnia meaning a constant dose of medication. It is said that she was slowly coming off her medication and removing bad influences in her life (such as Doctor Greenson whom was a controlling man and overstepped his duties as a doctor).

‘I’M STILL WARM’

It was on the night that she spoke to Joe DiMaggio’s son, Joe Jr., about how happy she was that she overdosed and sadly died.

Joe DiMaggio took care of her funeral arrangements. He stayed with her body the night before the funeral, ensuring that her makeup artist and friend Allan Snyder would perform a duty he said he would. And that was to do her make up “while I’m still warm.”

Joe put roses on her grave 3 times a week for twenty years. Before he died he said, “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”


CONCLUSION

Who was there the night Marilyn died, who administered her with what (if anyone but herself did) will remain a mystery? But what I do know is that Marilyn Monroe tried her whole life to become something. To overcome being just someone’s “mistake”. To be more than someone’s news story or money-making machine.

This is why Marilyn fans are so disgusted by ABG who use Marilyn’s image (sometimes photoshopped from two different photos, ugh) and unsourced quotes as a way to make money.

MY LOVE FOR MARILYN

1954:  Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962), the Hollywood film actress.
Marilyn photographed by Ted Baron, 1954

I admire Marilyn because of everything she went through, everything she suffered through and everything she managed to achieve.  Marilyn has taught me a lot of lessons from her mistakes and her achievements. She is a role model and a great actress. And not because of this internet quotes (if it’s not sourced, she didn’t say it) but because of what she really believed.  This was a woman who loved to learn, who strived to be better. If that’s not an inspiration, I don’t know what is.

For more information on Marilyn Monroe please visit Our Marilyn Monroe and check out my FAQ. If you have any questions please feel free to send me a message.

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Owner of this little blog! A lover of coffee, Disney and old stuff, blogging about my loves, passions and opinions.

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