Home > Categories > Art and Entertainment > Actors > Marilyn Monroe's Biography

Marilyn Monroe's Biography

Browse biogs A-Z
Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jean Mortensen in Los Angeles on 1 June 1926.

Most of Marilyn Monroe's childhood was spent in foster homes because of the mental illness of her mother. Monroe became a photographer's model in 1946. After several small parts she started to land more significant roles from 1952 onwards.

In 1952, Marilyn Monroe appeared in Clash by Night. The director, Fritz Lang said of her: "She was a very peculiar mixture of shyness and uncertainty and - I wouldn't say 'star allure' - but ... she knew exactly her impact on men".

Amongst Marilyn Monroe's other significant roles were those as a sexy dumb blonde in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).

Marilyn Monroe also starred in two excellent Billy Wilder comedies, The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like It Hot (1959), as well as Joshua Logan's Bus Stop (1956) and Huston's The Misfits (1961), which was scripted by her husband Arthur Miller.

She was fired from her last project, Something's Got to Give directed by George Cukor for persistent lateness.

Shortly after, Marilyn Monroe committed suicide, by an overdose of sleeping pills, on 4 August 1962.

Arthur Miller, in his autobiography Timebends, describes his feelings on hearing of Marilyn Monroe's death:

"For some reason what I had said to her long ago kept returning - 'You're the saddest girl I've ever known.' And she replied, 'Nobody ever said that to me!' and laughed with an inward-looking surprise that reminded me of my own as a boy when the salesman with the artificial leg suddenly remarked: 'You've gotten serious,' and made me see myself differently. It was so strange that she had never really had the right to her own sadness."

Then, Miller writes about the media's behaviour towards Marilyn Monroe:

"And now, naturally, the press gathered to chorus its laments, the same press that had sneered at her for so long, whose praise and condescension, if not contempt for her as an actress, she had taken too seriously. To have survived, she would have had to be either more cynical or even further from reality than she was. Instead she was a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes.

"Coming out of the forties and fifties, she was proof that sexuality and seriousness could not coexist in America's psyche, were hostile, mutually rejecting opposites, in fact. At the end she had to give way and go back to swimming naked in a pool in order to make a picture.

After that, Arthur Miller critiques Norman Mailer's approach To Marilyn Monroe:

"Years later, her life would be taken up by a writer whose stock-in-trade was the joining of sexuality and the serious, but avowedly desperate for money to pay his several alimonies, he could only describe what was fundamentally a merry young whore given to surprising bursts of classy wit. If one looked closely, she was himself in drag, acting out his own Hollywood fantasies of fame and sex unlimited and power. Pain of any kind would have unnecessarily soiled the picture even though he was describing a woman on the knife edge of self-destruction all her adult life.

"I had to wonder if her fate at the great author's hands would have been better had she agreed back in the fifties to my suggestion that we invite him for dinner some evening ... Reading his volume, with its grinning vengefulness toward both of us - skilfully hidden under a magisterial aplomb - I wondered if it would have existed at all had we fed him one evening and allowed him time to confront her humanity, not merely her publicity ... "

David Thomson's New Biographical Dictionary of Film in an interesting biographical entry on Marilyn Monroe states:

"Consider the huge social and intellectual journey of an orphan, married at sixteen to a small-town policeman, in her twenties to Joe DiMaggio, national baseball hero, and in her thirties to Arthur Miller, epitome of American radical intellect. Not that any marriage lasted, or that there were not other liaisons, some entered into with an attempt of Lorelei Lee in Gentleman Prefer Blondes (53, Howard Hawks), and others with the battered romanticism of Sugar in Some Like It Hot (59, Gene Wilder)."

Back to Top

Latest User CommentsAdd your comment
Add your comment
To ensure you are a real person and not a computer please enter the following characters shown below: