Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson; June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962) was an American actress, model, and singer, who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950s and early 1960s.
After spending much of her childhood in foster homes, Monroe began a career as a model, which led to a film contract in 1946 with Twentieth Century-Fox. Her early film appearances were minor, but her performances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (both 1950) drew attention. By 1952 she had her first leading role in Don't Bother to Knock and 1953 brought a lead in Niagara, a melodramatic film noir that dwelt on her seductiveness.
Her "dumb blonde" persona was used to comic effect in subsequent films such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and The Seven Year Itch (1955). Limited by typecasting, Monroe studied at the Actors Studio to broaden her range. Her dramatic performance in Bus Stop (1956) was hailed by critics and garnered a Golden Globe nomination. Her production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, released The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), for which she received a BAFTA Award nomination and won a David di Donatello award.
She received a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Some Like It Hot (1959). Monroe's last completed film was The Misfits (1961), co-starring Clark Gable, with a screenplay written by her then-husband, Arthur Miller. The final years of Monroe's life were marked by illness, personal problems, and a reputation for unreliability and being difficult to work with. In 1999, Monroe was ranked as the sixth-greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. In the decades following her death, she has often been cited as both a pop and a cultural icon as well as the quintessential American sex symbol.
In 2009, TV Guide Network named her No. 1 in Film's Sexiest Women of All Time. Monroe had three marriages, all of which ended in divorce. The first, soon after she turned 16, was to James Dougherty, a sheet-metal worker five years her senior. They married in June 1942, six-months after the U.S. entered World War II. He chose to enlist the following year, becoming a Marine trainer, which left Monroe home alone and bored. They divorced after he returned from serving in Asia in 1946.
She later blamed her legal guardian, Grace McKee, for encouraging her to marry him while she was still very young. Her second marriage was to Joe DiMaggio, a baseball star with the New York Yankees, and took place on January 14, 1954. Arguments related to jealousy and fame ended their marriage later that same year. Monroe later commented: "He was jealous of me because I was more famous than he was. That is what ended our marriage." Other biographers also noted that DiMaggio's jealousy resulted from his possessiveness and his worries about Monroe's possible marital infidelity.
In June 1956 she married playwright and screenwriter Arthur Miller, who would later write two of her film's screenplays. They first met in 1950 during the filming of Bus Stop, and began seeing one another a year after her divorce from DiMaggio. Months later, Miller was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee to explain his supposed communist affiliations. Monroe was urged by studio executives to abandon Miller rather than risk her career, but she refused, calling them "born cowards". When they married, one headline announced, "Egghead Weds Hourglass."
Monroe had just turned 30 when they married, and never having a real family of her own, she was eager to join the family of her new husband. Monroe chose to convert to Judaism to "express her loyalty and get close to both Miller and his parents," writes biographer Jeffrey Meyers. Monroe explained to her close friend, Susan Strasberg: "I can identify with the Jews. Everybody's always out to get them, no matter what they do, like me." After she became Jewish, Egypt retaliated by banning all her movies. They divorced five years later after they completed The Misfits (1961), which Miller wrote and Monroe starred in, due to ongoing personality conflicts.
Director Billy Wilder, who described Monroe as "Cinderella without the happy ending," tried to sum up her marriage problems. He directed her in The Seven Year Itch, when she was married to DiMaggio, and in Some Like It Hot, when she was married to Miller: Her marriages didn't work out because Joe DiMaggio found out she was Marilyn Monroe, and Arthur Miller found out she wasn't Marilyn Monroe. Monroe's other relationships have garnered much press. The extent of a relationship between President Kennedy and Monroe will never be known, although the White House switchboard did note calls from her during 1962.
In the opinion of one writer, Monroe was in love with President Kennedy and wanted to marry him, and when their affair ended, she turned to Robert Kennedy, who reportedly visited Monroe in Los Angeles the day that she died. Monroe had a long experience with psychoanalysis. She was in analysis with Margaret Herz Hohenberg, Anna Freud, Marianne Rie Kris, Ralph Greenson (who found Monroe dead), and Milton Wexler.
On August 5, 1962, at 4:25 a.m., LAPD sergeant Jack Clemmons received a call from Dr. Ralph Greenson, Monroe's psychiatrist, saying that Monroe was found dead at her home at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California. She was 36 years old. At the subsequent autopsy, eight mg/dL of chloral hydrate and 4.5 mg/dL of Nembutal were found in her system, and Dr. Thomas Noguchi (known as the "coroner to the stars") of the Los Angeles County Coroners office recorded cause of death as "acute barbiturate poisoning", resulting from a "probable suicide".
Many theories, including murder, circulated about the circumstances of her death and the timeline after the body was found. Some conspiracy theories involved John and Robert Kennedy, while other theories suggested CIA or Mafia complicity. It was reported that President Kennedy was the last person Monroe called.
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