Marilyn Monroe

Goodbye Norma Jean

Though I never knew you at all

You had the grace to hold yourself

While those around you crawled

They crawled out of the woodwork

And they whispered into your brain

They set you on the treadmill

And they made you change your name

These are Bernie Taupin's lyrics for the song Candle In The Wind that debuted on Elton John's album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in 1973.

Marilyn Monroe was the working name of the actress Norma Jeane Mortenson. She was born on the 1st of June 1926, and died on the 5th of August 1962.

In her childhood she lived in various foster homes. In her teens she worked as a model, and in 1946 she got contracted to 20th Century Fox to act in films. Initially her roles were minor, but she got noticed for her performances in the 1950's films The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve.

Her first starring role was in the 1952 film Don't Bother To Knock. In 1953 she took the lead role in Niagara. By this time she was beginning to be associated with the screen persona of a 'dumb blonde' - physically very attractive, but not very bright.

She played this role in the very successful films Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), and The Seven Year Itch (1955).

Monroe felt rather stereotyped and limited by the perception of her, so she enrolled at the Actors Studio to develop her acting ability. Subsequently she was critically acclaimed for her performance in Bus Stop (1956), for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.

She set up her own production company, called Marilyn Monroe Productions, and through it she released The Prince and the Showgirl in 1957. For this she was nominated for a BAFTA Award, and she won a David di Donatello Award.

For her performance in Some Like It Hot (1959) she received a Golden Globe Award.

The last film in which she appeared was The Misfits (1961). The screenplay was written by her husband Arthur Miller. Her co-star in the film was Clark Gable.

Towards the end of her life, Monroe suffered from illness. Her personal life was complicated. She gained a reputation for being unreliable and for not being easy to work with.

She died from an overdose of barbiturates. Officially her death was attributed to 'probable suicide'. Rumors abounded, however, then and since, that she was murdered because of her sexual relations with the American president John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert.

In 1999 the American Film Institute rated her the sixth-greatest female star of all time. In 2009 the TV Guide Network rated her the number one sexiest woman of all time in film.

In More Detail

Norma Jeane Mortenson was born in the Los Angeles County Hospital. Shortly afterwards, her surname was changed to Baker. She was the third child born to Gladys Pearl Baker, whose maiden name had been Monroe. Gladys lived from the 27th May 1902 to the 11th of March 1984.

On Marilyn Monroe's birth certificate, her father is named as Martin Edward Mortensen, address unknown. Monroe's surname on the certificate is Mortenson, but her mother quickly had it changed to Baker, which was the surname of her first husband, and the surname that she herself continued to use. Martin's surname - Mortensen - was incorrectly spelled as Mortenson on Monroe's birth certificate.

Marilyn's mother Gladys Baker had married Martin Edward Mortensen in 1924, but they separated before Marilyn's birth. By putting her estranged husband's surname down as Marilyn's on the birth certificate - albeit incorrectly - Gladys would have made Marilyn seem entirely legitimate.

Martin Mortensen died when he was eighty-five, and that was when Monroe's birth certificate and her parents' marriage and divorce certificates were found. Mortensen filed for divorce from Gladys on the 5th of March 1927. The divorce was made absolute on the 15th of October 1928.

Marilyn Monroe always denied that Mortensen was her father. She said that her father was Charles Stanley Gifford, and that her mother had shown her a photo of this man when she was a child and told her that this was who her father was. Apparently he had somewhat resembled Clark Gable, with one of those very thin mustaches.

Gladys couldn't afford to look after Marilyn, and she also had mental health issues, so she placed her with foster parents. These were Albert and Ida Bolender. They lived in Hawthorne, California, and Marilyn lived with them until she was seven years old.

One day Gladys went to the Bolenders and told them to give her daughter back to her. Ida Bolender refused. Gladys took Ida out into the yard, and then ran into the Bolenders' house and locked herself inside. A few minutes later she walked out again with her daughter stuffed into one of Albert Bolender's military duffel bags. Marilyn was screaming. Ida was able to wrest the bag away from Gladys, release Marilyn, and take her back into the house.

In 1933 Gladys was able to buy a house and she brought Marilyn back to live there with her. However, after several months, Gladys was forcibly taken to Norwalk State Hospital.

Marilyn (obviously then still called Norma Jeane Baker) was made a ward of the state. A friend of Gladys's called Grace McKee became her guardian.

McKee was obsessed with the movie star Jean Harlow. She told Marilyn that she, Marilyn, would one day become a movie star. Grace let Marilyn get her hair curled and wear make-up. Often they would go together to the movies. All this led to Marilyn becoming obsessed with the world of film.

When Marilyn was nine years old, in 1935, her guardian married Ervin Silliman Goddard, known as 'Doc'. The couple then sent Marilyn to the Los Angeles Orphans Home, which was later renamed Hollygrove. After that, Marilyn was moved to a succession of foster homes.

When Marilyn was at Hollygrove, several couples expressed interest in adopting her, but her mother would not sign the necessary adoption papers.

In 1937 Marilyn went back to live with Grace and 'Doc'. Also there was Doc's daughter from an earlier marriage. Apparently Doc regularly attempted to sexually abuse Marilyn, so Grace sent her to live with her great-aunt Olive Brunings in Compton in California.

This stay came to an end when one of Olive's sons tried to sexually assault Marilyn.

These early sexual involvements may at least in part explain Marilyn's later sexual behavior and promiscuity.

Grace sent Marilyn to live with another aunt, Ana Lower, in 1938. Ana lived in Van Nuys in Los Angeles County. This apparently was a good time for Marilyn. Unfortunately Ana soon began to develop serious health problems.

Marilyn moved back in with Grace and Doc in 1942. There she went to Van Nuys High School, where she met a neighbor's son called James (Jim) Dougherty. She started a relationship with him.

After a few months Grace and Doc moved to Virginia, where Doc had been offered a job. However, they did not take Marilyn with them. Instead they went to Dougherty's mother, suggested that Jim marry Marilyn, and that the two teenagers should then be responsible for themselves.

Jim and Marilyn got married.

Jim enlisted in the Merchant Marine in 1943. Obviously at this time the Second World war was raging. Initially he was stationed on Santa Catalina Island. This is just off California's west coast. Marilyn lived there with him in the town of Avalon. After a few months, however, he was sent off to the Pacific.

Marilyn moved back in with her husband's mother.

With Jim away, Marilyn began working in the Radioplane Munitions Factory. Her job was to spray airplane parts with fire retardant. She also inspected parachutes. The Radioplane Munitions Factory was owned by the movie star Reginald Denney.

David Conover from the U.S. Army Air Force's 1st Motion Picture Unit got sent to the factory to shoot photos for Yank magazine of young women helping the war effort. Yank magazine was produced weekly and distributed to the American army. The man who sent Conover was Captain Ronald Reagan, a future American President. Conover spotted Marilyn and took photos of her, but none of these appeared in Yank. However, he suggested she get in touch with The Blue Book Modeling Agency. She did as he suggested and got signed up by the agency. The agency wanted blondes, so Marilyn dyed her naturally brunette hair blonde.

Marilyn became one of Blue Book's most successful models, appearing on many magazine covers. She then got noticed by a 20th Century Fox executive called Ben Lyon. He arranged for her to have a screen test. He was impressed. Apparently he said, “It's Jean Harlow all over again.”

Marilyn got offered a six-month contract, which was standard for 'newbies' at the time. Her initial salary was $125 a week - much more than most ordinary people earned.

Lyon disliked Marilyn's real name, Norma Jeane Baker, so he got her to call herself Carole Lind, the two names being taken from Carole Lombard and Jenny Lind. Then he decided he did not like that name either. During a weekend with Lyon and his wife Bebe Daniels at their home, Marilyn suggested she use her mother's maiden name, Monroe. Jean Harlow had done the same thing. Initially the name Jeane Monroe was chosen, but then Lyon suggested the name Marilyn. Apparently this was because he thought Marilyn reminded him of Marilyn Miller. Marilyn was initially reluctant, but Lyon persuaded her.

During her first months with 20th Century Fox Marilyn didn't have any speaking roles, but she was able to improve her skills by taking dancing, singing and acting classes. In some movies she appeared as an unaccredited extra. She got a bit part in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! Playing the role of Betty, she walks down the steps of a church and says, “Hi, Rad,” to the leading character June Haver. Haver then says to Marilyn, “Hi, Betty.” In another shot Marilyn appears with another woman paddling a canoe.

From this it would have been difficult to envisage what a superstar Monroe would become.


20th Century Fox released Marilyn form her contract in 1947. She met Hollywood pin-up photographer Bruno Bernard and he took some shots of her at the Racquet Club in Palm Springs. It was here that she met the Hollywood talent agent Johnny Hyde. With his help she signed a six-month contract with Columbia Pictures in 1948. At Columbia she met the studio's head drama coach, Natasha Lytess. Lytess coached Marilyn for several years.

In 1948 Marilyn got a lead role in a cheaply-made musical film called Ladies Of The Chorus. Not hugely successful, it nonetheless helped get her noticed.

Around this time the studio had dentistry work done on Marilyn to get rid of an overbite she had (top set of teeth protruding forward over the lower set of teeth).

Ladies Of The Chorus got bad reviews. Marilyn found film work difficult to come by, so she went back to modeling. Photographer Tom Kelley snapped her in 1949 and he got her to pose nude. She got paid $50 for the shoot. The model release form was signed Mona Monroe.

Marilyn got a minor role in the Marx Brothers film Love Happy, which was made in 1949. The producers sent her to New York to promote the film.

Marilyn signed on with Johnny Hyde and got minor roles in three films - Right Cross, A Ticket to Tomahawk, and The Fireball. All three films came out in 1950. They didn't do well. Hyde then got her to audition for John Huston, and he cast her in The Asphalt Jungle, made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She played the role of the young mistress of a much older criminal. For this role she got great reviews.

Subsequently she was interviewed by writer and director Joseph Mankiewicz. He cast her in a minor role in All About Eve as the character Miss Caswell, who was an aspiring actress.

After this, Hyde got her a seven year contract with 20th Century Fox. Shortly after doing this, he died, but before doing so, he had Marilyn's nose altered to make it finer shaped. This accounts for the difference in her appearance pre-1950 and post-1950.

In 1951 Marilyn enrolled at the University of California in Los Angeles to study literature and art appreciation. She continued to act, but only in minor roles in the films Home Town Story, As Young as You Feel, Love Nest, and Let's Make It Legal.

She presented the 23rd Academy Awards ceremony in March 1951.

During 1952 she featured on the cover of Look magazine wearing a tight sweater.

The Two Famous Calendars And Playboy Magazine

A couple of nude photos of Marilyn got used on calendars in 1952. Initially the press couldn't identify her, but then they realized who she was. Her studio considered it a problem, but Marilyn suggested they simply be open about it and make the most of it, stressing that she had only done the shoot because she needed the money. She then gave an interview describing her poverty at the time of the shoot.

The public responded with sympathy.

In December 1953 Hugh Heffner started publishing Playboy magazine, and in the first issue he used pictures of Marilyn naked, making her the very first Playmate of the Month. The main picture from the spread was used in a calendar. This helped make the new Playboy magazine a success and it made Marilyn more famous.

Life Magazine

In April 1952 Marilyn made her first appearance on the cover of Life magazine. They labeled her 'The Talk of Hollywood'.

Next year she was photographed by the well-known photographer from Life magazine, Alfred Eisenstaedt. He filmed Monroe on the terrace of her Hollywood home.

With her unsettled and disturbed upbringing, she was viewed in a sympathetic light. On the cover of the May 1952 edition of True Experiences magazine she looked sweet and appealing. The cover page caption was 'Do I look happy? I should, for I was a child nobody wanted. A lonely girl with a dream, who awakened to find that dream come true. I am Marilyn Monroe. Read my Cinderella story.'

She now began dating the baseball superstar Joe DiMaggio. They were photographed together at the 20th Century Fox studios. The photos were printed in newspapers all over America, and this garnered publicity for her. There were stories of a romance developing between Monroe and DiMaggio.

In 1952 Monroe appeared in four films. 20th Century Fox lent her out to RKO Studios so that she could appear in a supporting role in the film Clash by Night, which starred Barbara Stanwyck. It was directed by Fritz Lang and came out in June of 1952. It was successful, and part of that was down to people's interest in Monroe. She got some good reviews for her performance.

Next came the films We're Not Married! and Don't Bother to Knock. They came out in July 1952. In We're Not Married! Monroe appeared as a contestant in a beauty pageant. The film was regarded as lightweight, and it was felt by critics that Monroe was being exploited for her voluptuous body. In the other film, Don't Bother to Knock, she had the starring role. She played a babysitter who says she will attack the child she is supposed to be looking after. The film got bad reviews. Monroe's acting, however, was fairly well regarded.

She appeared in 20th Century Fox's film Full House, by O. Henry, which came out in the August of 1952. In it, Monroe had a single scene lasting one-minute with Charles Laughton. Despite this she got top billing with him and other stars, who included Richard Widmark, Anne Baxter, Jean Peters and Farley Granger.

Next Monroe appeared in the film Monkey Business. This was a well-reviewed comedy starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers, directed by Howard Hawks. It came out in September 1952. In it, Monroe appeared for the first time with platinum blonde hair.

Darryl F. Zanuck was impressed by Monroe', so he cast her in his film Niagara. She played the role of a femme fatale who wants to murder her husband. The role of the husband was played by Joseph Cotten. Apparently during filming Monroe suffered from 'stage fright'. This was commented on by her make-up artist Whitey Snyder. Consequently Zanuck got Snyder to try to get Monroe to relax when she was getting ready for filming.

Reviewers said that Monroe wasn't a great acting talent, but she had sex appeal. In one scene she was seen from behind walking toward Niagara Falls. Constance Bennett commented, “There's a broad with her future behind her.”

Whitey Snyder said that during this film he and Monroe perfected her look that would be repeatedly used in subsequent films.

Although Niagara proved a success and Monroe garnered good reviews for her performance, she got criticized for her behavior while promoting the film. At the Photoplay awards dinner she wore a skin-tight gold lamé dress that was regarded as vulgar. Joan Crawford said it was 'unbecoming for an actress and a lady'.

Before this, Monroe had been criticized for wearing a dress in which the neckline was slashed down almost to her navel. This was when in the September of 1952 she acted as the Grand Marshall at that year's Miss America Parade. A photograph of her in this dress at the Parade was used on the cover of the first issue of Playboy magazine when it came out in December 1953.

Next Monroe acted in the musical film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She replaced Betty Grable. The film also starred Jane Russell. The film was directed by Howard Hawks and came out in 1953. Monroe played a gold-digging showgirl called Lorelei Lee. She had to sing and dance. During filming, Monroe and Russell became friends. The latter described Monroe as 'far more intelligent than people gave her credit for'. Monroe would rehearse her dance routines after most of the crew had left each evening. However, she would also routinely be late arriving on set in the morning. Russell realized that this was because Monroe was suffering from 'stage fright', so Russell would go and fetch her from her dressing room and bring her on set.

When Gentlemen Prefer Blondes premiered in Los Angeles, Russell and Monroe got to leave their footprints and handprints in cement in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theater. Monroe herself became indelibly linked with the song 'Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend' because of her sexy rendition of it in the film.

For Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Monroe was dressed by William Travilla. In total he dressed her in eight of her films. The others were Don't Bother to Knock, Bus Stop, How to Marry a Millionaire, There's No Business Like Show Business, River Of No Return, Monkey Business, and The Seven Year Itch.

In the film How to Marry a Millionaire, Monroe co-starred with Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall. The film was a comedy about three models who were trying to get themselves wealthy husbands. It was directed by Jean Negulesco. The scriptwriter and producer was Nunnally Johnson. What made the film special was that Monroe didn't overplay her sexual attractiveness, but instead played her role with some demureness.

During this time she was still cast as 'the dumb blonde', but as such she became ever more popular.

In both 1953 and 1954 she got listed in the Quigley's annual Poll Of The Top Ten Money Making Stars. This got compiled according to votes from movie exhibitors around the US. It showed how much money actors and actresses had generated for their studios.

Monroe began to feel that she would like to be taken as a 'serious actress', rather than a 'sex bomb'. She wanted people to be interested in her soul, rather than her body.

That was never likely to happen.

She wanted to appear in Zanuck's film The Egyptian, but he refused to screen test her. Instead her studio put her in the western movie River Of No Return. Her co-star was Robert Mitchum, and the director was Otto Preminger. Preminger disliked Monroe's dependence on Natasha Lytess. At the end of each scene in which Monroe appeared, Lytess would voice her opinion on how well the scene had gone. This annoyed Preminger, and in reaction Monroe stopped talking to Preminger. Mitchum had to step in and mediate.

Monroe felt she deserved better roles than acting in 'a grade Z cowboy movie'.

Towards the end of 1953 Monroe was due to start filming The Girl in Pink Tights with Frank Sinatra, but she failed to turn up, so 20th Century Fox suspended her.

Married Again

Monroe and Joe DiMaggio got married on the 14th of January 1954 in San Francisco. The couple honeymooned in Japan, combining it with a business trip that DiMaggio had already arranged. Monroe played second fiddle to the baseball superstar as he got on with his business. She said to a reporter, “Marriage is my main career from now on.”

Afterwards Monroe went without DiMaggio to Korea. There she performed for troops - 13,000 American Marines - for three days. Apparently this experience of performing live in front of a crowd temporarily helped her deal with her stage fright.

In March of 1954 Monroe went back to Hollywood and sorted out her differences with 20th Century Fox. She then appeared in the film musical There's No Business Like Show Business, but this was a money-loser, getting bad reviews. Time magazine said she wasn't as good as her co-star Ethel Merman. Ed Sullivan disliked the way she sang 'Heat Wave', saying it was one of the most flagrant violations of good taste he had witnessed. In The New York Times, Bosley Crowther said Monroe was 'embarrassing to behold'.

Monroe also thought the film second-rate, but the reason she had done it was so that in return she could have the starring role in the film adaptation of the Broadway stage play success The Seven Year Itch.

In September of 1954 Monroe did a promo shoot for The Seven Year Itch, in which she starred as The Girl, in the famous 'wind blowing up her dress from a ventilation shaft' pose. This was done in New York at the junction of Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street. In it she stands with her co-star, Tom Ewell, while the air from a subway grating blows her dress up and she laughingly tries to hold it down . Her underwear is revealed. A large crowd watched as director Billy Wilder ordered the scene to be filmed again and again. Monroe's husband Joe DiMaggio was there and was annoyed by his wife exposing herself in this way. He and Monroe argued.

After the photo shoot, DiMaggio and Monroe went back to California. There they kept themselves away from the press. But after two weeks, Monroe announced that she and DiMaggio had separated.

In most versions of this picture of Monroe, Tom Ewell is cut out, and people often think that Monroe was photographed alone.

DiMaggio and Monroe divorced in November 1954.

Filming of The Seven Year Itch got completed at the beginning of 1955. On its release it became hugely popular, and Monroe got good reviews for her performance. Because of this she was able to negotiate with 20th Century Fox a new contract which stipulated that Monroe make four films for the studio over a seven-year period. Monroe set up her own company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, and through it the studio would pay her $100,000 for each film, plus a share of each film's profits. Monroe could also work for other studios. Also she could turn down any director, cinematographer or script that she did not like.

Milton Greene

Milton Greene first met Monroe in 1953. He had been assigned to photograph her for Look magazine. Greene tried to make her look less overtly sexy than other photographers did. He and Monroe became friends, and she told him about her frustration with 20th Century Fox and the roles they offered her.

She revealed that the money she got paid for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was $18,000. Her co-star, Jane Russell, who was not tied to a studio, got paid over $100,000. Greene suggested she break with 20th Century Fox so she could earn more money.

In 1954 Greene quit his job, mortgaged his home, and used the money to be able to afford to let Monroe live with him and his family while he tried to take control of, and promote, her career.

On the 8th of April 1955 Greene, his wife Amy, and Monroe were interviewed by Edward R. Murrow. This took place at the Greene's home in Connecticut and was broadcast live on CBS on the Person to Person program.

Later Monroe got introduced to Constance Collier by the writer Truman Capote. Collier gave Monroe acting lessons. Collier rightly detected that Monroe wasn't a strong enough performer for stage work, but that her subtlety was well suited to film work. Unfortunately after a few weeks of giving Monroe lessons, Collier died.

Earlier, on the set of There's No Business Like Show Business, Monroe had met Lee Strasberg's wife Paula and their daughter Susan, and Monroe had said that she wanted to study acting under Lee, who taught at the Actors Studio. In March of 1955 Monroe met Cheryl Crawford, who was one of the founders of the Actors Studio, and asked if she could meet Lee. Lee Strasberg agreed. He interviewed her the next day and agreed to take her on as a student.

In May of that year, Monroe started dating the playwright Arthur Miller. The first time they had met had been in 1950, in Hollywood. This time Miller was in New York and, finding out that Monroe was there too, he got a mutual friend to arrange a meeting.

On the 1st of June of that year, Monroe's 29th birthday, she and Joe DiMaggio went to the premiere of The Seven Year Itch. This was in New York. Afterwards DiMaggio threw a party for Monroe, but Monroe and DiMaggio ended up quarreling, and Monroe walked out. After that they remained apart.

Monroe continued studying at the Actors Studio for the remainder of that year and tried to deal with her stage fright. She became friends with fellow actors Eli Wallach and Kevin McCarthy. In classes she would sit quietly at the back.

Lee Strasberg decided Monroe was ready to perform in front of the other students, and Monroe, with Maureen Stapleton, decided to do the opening scene of Anna Christie by Eugene O'Neill. She performed well, and didn't fluff or forget her lines. The other students applauded, even though this was normally forbidden.

While Monroe was at the Actors Studio, Lee Strasberg said that out of the many hundreds of students he had worked with, only two had stood out. One was Marlon Brando. The other was Marilyn Monroe.

Next, instead of appearing in another comedy, Monroe played the role of Cherie in the film Bus Stop. She portrayed a saloon singer who had little talent. The film came out in 1956 and co-starred Don Murray. It was directed by Joshua Logan. In the film, Monroe falls in love with the character played by Murray - Beauregard 'Bo' Decker.

Logan had studied under Constantin Stanislavski and he was in favor of 'method acting' (essentially where you believe you are the person you are portraying and therefore naturally come to think and behave like them even when on stage or in front of a camera). Consequently he was 'pro' Monroe, who had also gone down this route.

In 1956 Monroe was photographed with Victor Mature in Life magazine meeting the British Queen.

On June the 29th 1956 Monroe married Arthur Miller.

Monroe broke off the relationship with her previous acting coach Natasha Lytess and now worked only with Paula Strasberg. The latter would always be with Monroe when she worked on her films from this point onwards.

Monroe's performance in the film Bus Stop gained plaudits. Bosley Crowther, writing in The New York Times, said, “Marilyn Monroe has finally proved herself an actress.” Logan, in his autobiography Movie Stars, Real People and Me, said, “I found Marilyn to be one of the great talents of all time.” He also said she was 'a much brighter person than I had ever imagined'. He also added, “That was the first time I learned that intelligence and, yes, brilliance have nothing to do with education.”

Monroe got a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.

Next Monroe acted in the film The Prince And The Showgirl with Laurence Olivier. It came out in 1957. Olivier was also the director of the film.

Olivier disliked Monroe always having to have her acting coach with her. He thought Paula Strasberg was 'a fraud', and that she exploited Monroe's lack of self-confidence. However, ultimately he said of Monroe, “Marilyn was quite wonderful.”

Monroe's performance got good reviews from film critics. She won a David di Donatello Award, which is the Italian equivalent of America's Academy Award. She also got a French Crystal Star Award. She also got nominated for the British BAFTA Award.

Monroe had a miscarriage on the 1st of August 1957.

A year passed before Monroe started on her next film. During that time she spent the summer with Miller in Amagansett in New York. Miller encouraged Monroe to go back to Hollywood, which she did in August 1958 so that she could star in the film Some Like It Hot. Her co-stars were Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The film was directed by Billy Wilder.

Wilder had already experience Monroe's inability to appear on set on time, and her stage fright and forgetting of lines, in The Seven Year Itch. Now, however, he found her more aggressive, and given to outbursts of swearing and occasional point blank refusals to perform. She would refuse his direction. She would also insist on doing retakes of simple scenes that had already been adequately shot. In short, she had become a 'diva'.

Monroe got on well with Jack Lemmon, but she fell out with Tony Curtis when she was told that he had said that, in their love scenes, kissing her was 'like kissing Hitler'.

While filming Some Like It Hot, Monroe discovered she was pregnant, but again she suffered a miscarriage. This was in December 1958 towards the end of filming.

Some Like it Hot was a huge success. It got nominated for six Academy Awards, and Monroe won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in the Motion Picture Musical or Comedy section. It was also the biggest commercial and critical success that Wilder had ever directed. But he openly stated how difficult Monroe was to work with. Pointedly he said that instead of studying method acting she should have studied how to turn up for work on time.

Under her four-picture contract with 20th Century Fox, Monroe had so far completed one film - Bus Stop - so she now agreed to act in Fox's film Let's Make Love. The director was George Cukor. Monroe said she didn't like the script, and so Arthur Miller did a rewrite of it. Originally Gregory Peck had been cast to star opposite Monroe, but he backed out when the script was rewritten. Other actors - Yul Brynner, Charlton Heston, Cary Grant and Rock Hudson - also turned down the role. It then got offered to Yves Montand. Miller and Monroe went to see Montand and his wife, the actress Simone Signoret, and Montand agreed to take on the role.

Initially everything proceeded well, but then Miller had to go to Europe for work. Monroe began to be difficult, leaving filming early, and sometimes not turning up for shoots at all.

Montand had a word with her. After that, her behavior improved. Monroe and Montand had a brief affair. He refused to leave his wife, however, and the affair ended.

Let's Make Love did not go down well either with critics or at the box office.

Health Issues

It was around this time that Monroe's health began to worsen both physically and mentally. She consulted a Los Angeles psychiatrist called Dr. Ralph Greenson. Apparently she had problems sleeping. She was also getting prescription drugs from various doctors. Greenson felt Monroe was becoming addicted, and yet Monroe was also able to keep off the drugs for extended periods of time. Greenson said Monroe's and Miller's marriage was difficult.

The Misfits

Miller had lived for a short time in Nevada in 1956 and there he had written a short story about some of the local people he had met. These included several old cowboys and a divorced woman. This short story got developed into a film script, completed in 1960. He felt there was a role for Monroe to play if it was made into a film.

The Misfits was to be the last film that Monroe completed.

The film was directed by John Huston and starred Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach, Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable. They began shooting in July 1960 in the Northern Nevada desert.

Without Greenson on hand, Monroe began to resort to drugs and alcohol again. Susan Strasberg visited the set and said Monroe was 'mortally injured in some way'.

In August, Monroe got taken to hospital in Los Angeles. She was there for ten days. The columnist Louella Parsons wrote that Monroe was 'very sick … much sicker than at first believed'. She also revealed that Monroe was being treated by a psychiatrist.

Monroe returned to the film set and completed the film, but she began increasingly to argue and fall out with her husband, often in public. Filming had also been marred by Montgomery Clift being ill and sometimes being unable to turn up to act. Thelma Ritter had to go into hospital suffering from exhaustion. Clark Gable also felt unwell and left the set after shooting was complete but before the final 'wrap' party.

Monroe and Miller flew back to New York separately.

Within ten days of getting back to New York, Monroe announced that she and Miller had separated. Within that time, Clark Gable had died of a heart attack. His widow said that in part the cause of Gable's heart attack had been constantly having to wait on set. She refrained from saying that it was Monroe that Gable had to wait for, but with Monroe's reputation, this was understood to be the case. Reporters subsequently asked Monroe if she felt some responsibility for Gable's death, but she refused to answer. Privately, however, Monroe did feel some guilt. Gable's widow Kay forgave Monroe, however, and Monroe was invited to the christening of the Gables' son John.

The Misfits wasn't a box office or critical success, but Gable, Clift and Monroe are now regarded as having put in good performances. Gable, when he had seen the rough cuts, was pleased with his performance.

In March 1962 Monroe got a Golden Globe Award for being a 'World Film Favorite'. Huston got nominated as best director by the Directors Guild of America. He said that in the film, Monroe had not so much acted as simply been herself.

After filming, Monroe's drug and drink addiction got worse. Her health deteriorated.

Divorce from Arthur Miller was finalized in January 1961. The grounds given by Monroe were 'incompatibility of character'.

In February 1961 she booked herself into the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic. From there she phoned Joe DiMaggio, who immediately travelled from Florida to New York and got her transferred to the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. Monroe stayed there for three weeks. In May of that year she had surgery on a blockage in her Fallopian tubes. In June she had surgery done on her gall bladder.

To recover, she went back to California, where she rented an apartment.


In 1962 Monroe started filming Something's Got To Give. She still owed 20th Century Fox two films from her four-film contract, so she did this as one of them. The director was to be George Cukor. Co-stars were Cyd Charisse and Dean Martin.

Ill health plagued Monroe during the filming. Her stage fright also appeared to worsen. Producer Henry Weinstein said Monroe suffered 'sheer primal terror'.

On the 19th of May 1962 Monroe went to the birthday celebration of President John F. Kennedy (held before his actual birthday, which was the following day) at Madison Square Garden. She had been invited there by the actor Peter Lawford, who was the President's brother-in-law. There Monroe performed the song 'Happy Birthday', altered to suit the occasion. It was an overtly sexy rendition. Afterwards Kennedy said, “Thank you. I can now retire from politics after having had 'Happy Birthday' sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”

Monroe had to go back to the set of Something's Got To Give and film a scene where she was naked in a swimming pool. Saying that she wanted to 'push Liz Taylor off the magazine covers', she allowed some semi-nude shots of herself to appear in Life magazine.

Monroe's attendance record on set had been abysmal. She had turned up for work on only twelve occasions. 20th Century Fox dismissed her and filed a lawsuit against her for half a million dollars. Fox's vice president, Peter Levathes, said, “The star system has gotten way out of hand. We've let the inmates run the asylum, and they've practically destroyed it.”

Lee Remick was substituted for Monroe, but Dean Martin said he wouldn't work with any actress other than Monroe, so Fox threatened him with a lawsuit to make him back down.

In an interview Monroe said, “I now live in my work and in a few relationships with the few people I can really count on. Fame will go by, and, so long! I've had you, fame. If it goes by, I've always known it was fickle. So at least it's something I experienced, but that's not where I live.”

The Final Weeks

As she unwittingly approached the end of her life, Monroe got involved in discussions about future film projects. Arrangements were made to continue negotiating on the film Something's Got To Give. Another project discussed was a bio-pic of Jean Harlow. It got made two years later with Carroll Baker starring in it, but it was not a success. Roles in What A Way To Go! and Irma La Douce were also discussed. Shirley MacLaine would eventually play the starring roles in these films. Another film was Kiss Me, Stupid. Kim Novak replaced Monroe in this one. Another film discussed was A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, but this was never made.

Monroe sorted out her differences with 20th Century Fox and got a new contract paying her $1,000,000 to make two films. Something's Got To Give was scheduled to start shooting again in the autumn of 1962. Marilyn handled her own negotiations as the President of Marilyn Monroe Productions, having fired MCA and her own agent the previous year.

Another deal put to her was one from Italy offering to pay her to make four films. In this deal she would have had approval of the scripts, directors and co-stars.

Monroe was actually quite up-beat towards the end of her life.


LAPD sergeant Jack Clemmons got a call from Dr. Ralph Greenson at 04.25 on the 5th of August 1962. Greenson said that Monroe had been found dead at her home in Brentwood, Los Angeles.

The subsequent autopsy revealed that 4.5 milligrams of Nembutal per deciliter of blood and 8 milligrams of chloral hydrate per deciliter of blood had been found in her body. Dr. Thomas Noguchi of the Los Angeles County Coroner's office attributed Monroe's death to 'acute barbiturate poisoning', caused by 'a probable suicide'.

Monroe was buried in a crypt at Corridor of Memories No. 24 at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles on the 8th of August 1962. Her ex-husband Joe DiMaggio organized everything. There were thirty-one friends and family there. Lee Strasberg read out the eulogy. Police were there to keep the media away.

For the next twenty years, Joe DiMaggio regularly ordered red roses to be placed in a vase attached to Monroe's crypt.


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