Los Angeles General Hospital, Gladys Pearl Monroe Baker gave birth to a little girl destined to become an icon, she was christened Norma Jeane. Gladys Bakers unstable mental condition meant she was frequently institutionalized and the young Norma Jean had a fractured and unsettled home life.
September 1935 – June 1937
Eventually, On January 15, 1935, Gladys was declared insane and committed to the state institution at Norwalk. The nine year old Norma Jeane was sent to live in an orphanage in Los Angeles. When asked about her childhood Marilyn once said “No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they are pretty, even if they aren't.”
The family Norma Jeane was living with left Los Angeles and were unable to take her with them; it was either go back to the or get married. At only 16, she married James Dougherty 21, the son of a neighbour and former football star at Van Nuys High School.
Jim joined the merchant marines and was sent overseas. Norma Jeane was employed by the Radioplane Company. Fate intervened and a photograph of the attractive Mrs Doughty was used as as a propaganda piece on women in the war effort. By the time Jim returned Norma Jean had a fledgling career as a model.
This was a year of momentous change for Norma Jean. She signed a contract with Twentieth Century-Fox, bleached her brown wavy hair blonde, divorced Jim and, perhaps most significantly, changed her name to Marilyn Monroe (Monroe was a family name and Marilyn after the actress Marilyn Miller).
In 1947 she was dropped from her contract with Twentieth Century-Fox. She was then briefly signed to Columbia Pictures, who released her after one picture, the musical 'Ladies of the Chorus' in which she had gave a small singing role. A turning point came in December 1948 when she met Johnny Hyde, a William Morris agent, at a New Year's party. Hyde fell for Marilyn's charms and it was thanks to him that she was cast in two, small but pivotal film roles, 'The Asphal Jungle' and the Oscar winning 'All About Eve'
At this time she was just another struggling actress and money was tight. Marilyn agreed to pose for a calender, nude. Hugh Heffner was launching a new magazine 'Playboy' and in December 1953 Marilyn Monroe was its first centrefold. (Hugh Heffner has secured his final resting place, the vault next to Marilyns.)
Marilyn is spotted posing at a photo shoot by baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. An ambitious actress, Marilyn was impressed by how much attention Joe received and recognized that dating him would be good for her career.
This was a busy time for Marilyn Monroe. In April '52 she graced the cover of 'Life' magazine. In January '53 her breakthrough performance of Rose, the sultry, murderous wife of George Loomis (Joseph Cotton) in the movie 'Niagara' premieres. However, it was later that year with the release of 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' that Marilyn was established as a star. Her perfect comic timing and now legendary performance of 'Diamond's are a Girls Best Friend' endeared her to the critics and public alike. Her reputation grew with the release of the hit movie ' How To Marry A Millionaire' in November '53.
In January 1954 Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio got married, an event the press christened 'The Marriage of the Century'. DiMaggio was invited to Japan to demonstrate his baseball skills. Deciding to combine business with pleasure they took a last minute honeymoon in Asia. DiMaggio was not amused when an US General asked Marilyn to visit the troops in Korea, but Marilyn later quipped “I'll never forget my Honeymoon with the 45th Division!”
By September of '54 Joe and Marilyn were not getting along. Joe was a furious witness to the infamous scene in a 'Seven Year Itch', where she stands over a subway vent and her dress billows in a blast of wind. Shortly after Marilyn filed for divorce and by October, just nine short months after their wedding they were divorced.
It had been a very difficult few months for Marilyn Monroe, culminating in her performance in 'There's no Business Like Show Business' being panned by the critics. She left L.A for Connecticut and the home of her business advisor and confidant, photographer Milton Greene. Marilyn is keen to break her contract and get more freedom to choose more serious acting roles. In February 1955 she enrolled in Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio. Impressed with her natural acting talent he gave her private lessons in preparation for joining his regular classes.
One week in New York, culminates with a triumphant Marilyn riding a pink elephant. Officially announcing the formation of her production company Marilyn Monroe Productions.
The premier of 'The Seven Year Itch' opens to great acclaim and is the hit of the Summer.
In June Marilyn converts to Judaism and marries Arthur Miller the playwright. The press nicknamed the 'The Egghead and The Hour glass'.
On 31st August the movie 'Bus Stop' is released. Marilyn's portrayal of the emotional Cherie receives critical acclaim.
Marilyn Monroe returns to Hollywood to star in one of her most famous films, the comedy “Some Like it Hot' However, her constant lateness, frequent scene retakes and inability to remember lines caused a lot of on set tension. Nevertheless, she turned in a remarkable performance. Winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.
In July 1960 filming started for 'The Misfits' a script written as a present for Marilyn Monroe by Miller. However their marriage was not to last and in January 1961 they divorce.
Marilyn's fragile emotional state deteriorated and in February '61 she checked in to a New York psychiatric clinic.
March 5th Marilyn wins World Film Favourite at the Golden Globe Awards.
In April she starts shooting 'Somethings Got to Give' her last, unfinished film.
May 19 “Happy Birthday Mr President” Sewn into a see-through sequined gown Marilyn sings this seductive, breathy rendition to President John F Kennedy at New York's Madison Square Gardens. Speculation of an affair is rife.
Marilyn is found dead at her home, from an apparent barbiturate overdose. August 8th 1962
A grieving Joe DiMaggio arranged Marilyn's small funeral at the Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. DiMaggio arranged for red roses to grace the marble crypt where she lay, three times a week for the next twenty years; only ceasing upon his death in 1999.