Norma Jeane Mortenson was born on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, CA. She spent most of her childhood in foster care because her mother was mentally unstable. Later, when Norma Jeane’s mother made an unsuccessful attempt to care for her, she was sent to live with her mother’s best friend, Grace McKee. It was Grace who inspired Norma Jeane’s love of theatre and desire to become a movie star through her fascination with Jean Harlow. When Grace got married she sent Norma Jeane back to foster care. Many of her guardians wanted to adopt her, but this was impossible because her mother refused to sign the adoption papers. In 1942 she requested to marry Grace’s neighbor Jim Dougherty so she would not have to return to an orphanage. They were married and Jim enlisted in the Merchant Marines. During this time Monroe began work in the Radioplane Munitions Factory. It was there that David Conover took some pictures of her for an article in Yank, the Army Weekly magazine about young women helping the war effort. Although her pictures never actually appeared in the magazine, he encouraged her to apply to The Blue Book Modeling Agency. She later became one of their most successful models. Her pictures were brought to the attention of Ben Lyon from 20th Century Fox who then offered her a contract. He encouraged her to change her name for the stage and this was when she became Marilyn Monroe.
Monroe got divorced from Dougherty in 1946. She played a few minor roles for Fox before she signed a contract with Columbia Pictures in 1948 where she played a major role in the musical Ladies of the Chorus. Once her contract was up in 1949 she returned to modeling and posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley for $50. This was the only time she was ever paid to pose nude. Shortly thereafter she renewed her contract with Fox and began her successful career. She enrolled at the University of California, Los Angles in 1951 and studied art appreciation and literature there while playing minor roles for Fox on the side. In 1952 she appeared on the cover of Life magazine for the first time. Around that time she began dating baseball player Joe DiMaggio whom she later married in January 1954. They were divorced that November. In the early 50’s she appeared in some of her most famous films including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes which co-stared Jane Russell, Bus Stop, There’s no Business like Show Business, and The Seven Year Itch.
In June 1956 she married Arthur Miller and soon after began filming The Prince and the Showgirl. In 1958 she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for the movie Some Like it Hot. In 1960 she completed her last film, The Misfits, which was written by her husband. They were later divorced in 1961. During this time Monroe’s mental health deteriorated. She then became physically ill during the filming of Something’s Got to Give in 1962, a movie she never completed because she got fired after failing to show up for work too many times. In May of that year she sang her famous “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden. She then posed in a series of photographs for Vogue which were published after her death and are now known as “The Last Sitting.”
Marilyn Monroe was found dead at her home in LA on August 5, 1962. She was 36. Although many theories surround the circumstances of her death, it was concluded that she had committed suicide.