In 1926 a girl was born in the charity ward at the Los Angeles County Hospital who would become one of the most celebrated and enduring icons of all time – Marilyn Monroe. Norma Jeane Mortenson’s childhood was volatile as she was passed from family members to family friends and frequently stayed in orphanages as a result of her mother’s mental health. To avoid another orphanage stay a family friend orchestrated a marriage proposal when she was sixteen years old. When her husband was sent to the Pacific with the merchant marine, Norma Jeane began working on an assembly line at an aeronautical plant.
In 1945 a photographer took a snapshot of the stunning brunette while at the factory and within months she became a successful model securing dozens of magazine covers and a screen test with 20th Century Fox. Studio executives, directors and photographers immediately recognized her ability to capture and hold the attention of anyone on the opposite end of a camera lens. By the end of 1946 her hair had become a platinum shade of blonde and her name was changed to Marilyn Monroe.
Over a little more than a decade Monroe captivated audiences through a multitude of comedic and dramatic roles. Audiences loved her breathy, blonde bombshell appeal combined with her light comedic approach in How To Marry A Millionaire, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven-Year Itch and Some Like It Hot. She was serious about her craft and delivered believable, flawed characters in Don’t Bother To Knock and Niagara. She worked closely with Lee Strasberg at The Actor’s Studio who referred to her as one of the two students out of “hundreds and hundreds” that stood out above the rest. The other was Marlon Brando. In 1956 the New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther reported on her breakthrough role, “HOLD onto your chairs, everybody, and get set for a rattling surprise. Marilyn Monroe has finally proved herself an actress in Bus Stop. She and the picture are swell!” Although it didn’t get good reviews The Misfits is one of Monroe’s most staggering and indelible performances. She received a Golden Globe award for her performance in Some Like It Hot and a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Bus Stop.
In 1962 Marilyn Monroe bought her first home in Brentwood and began decorating it with purchases from a trip she had made to Mexico. She died that same year in her new home under controversial circumstances. Regardless, Marilyn Monroe’s personal history, achievements and contributions have made her one of the world’s greatest icons. She inspired musicians, writers and artists like Madonna, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Joyce Carol Oates and Andy Warhol to name just a few with her timeless glamour and extraordinary character. More relevant today than ever Marilyn Monroe lived a life and left a legacy that continues to excite fans all over the world.
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Photographed by Milton H Greene © 2011 Joshua Greene