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Biography Of Marilyn Monroe



June 1, 1926 Marilyn Monroe is born in Los Angeles General Hospital, the third child of Gladys Pearl Baker, née Monroe (May 25, 1900-March 11, 1984). She is named “Norma Jeane” (later Marilyn often left off the e in Jeane.) The father remains unknown. The name “Edward Mortensen” is given on her birth certificate, since Gladys was married to a man of this name two years before the birth. Although Marilyn often uses this name for official documents, in numerous private conversations she denies that he was her real father. In one interview Marilyn mentions that her real father lived in the same apartment building as her mother did and that he left her during the pregnancy. This reference led to a man named Stanley Gifford, who worked for Consolidated Film Industries, where Marilyn’s mother was employed as a cutter. Rumors have it that Gifford was Gladys’s lover when her second marriage with Mortenson broke up. In 1962, the year of her death, Marilyn gives the name of her father as “unknown” on an official questionnaire.

January 1935 Norma Jeane’s mother goes into a deep depression and is sent to Los Angeles General Hospital; diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, she is later committed to Norwalk State Asylum. Gladys’s best friend, Grace McKee, is declared Norma Jeane’s guardian. Gladys, who lives alone, on September 9, 1935, takes the young Norma Jeane to the orphanage of the Los Angeles Orphans Home Society.

June 26, 1937 Grace McKee marries “Doc” Goddard and time and again takes in Norma Jeane. In the following years Norma Jeane lives with many different foster families (who urgently need the five-dollar-a-week government allowance), spends two years in an orphanage, afterward is again in foster care, and finally lives for four years alone under an officially appointed guardian.

June 19, 1942 On a Friday, Norma Jeane Baker marries Jim Dougherty. The marriage was arranged by Grace Goddard because she and her husband were moving east and didn’t want to take Norma Jeane with them. Jim Dougherty, a neighbor’s son, is taken completely by surprise when he hears that he is to marry the pretty Norma Jeane. A talented football player, he decided not to go to college and first worked as an embalmer in a mortuary, later as a mechanic for Lockheed Aviation. The marriage is scheduled for June, after Norma Jeane’s sixteenth birthday. No honeymoon is possible: Monday morning Jim returns to work at the airplane factory. In fall 1943 Jim joins the Merchant Marine and spends most of his marriage as a soldier abroad.

June 26, 1945 David Conover, an army photographer for a military film unit, takes pictures of Norma Jeane for Yank, an army magazine. His task, which his commanding officer, later U. S. President Ronald Reagan, had given him, was to take “morally uplifting snapshots of pretty girls” working on jobs vital to the war effort. At this time Norma Jeane is earning twenty dollars a week at Radio Plane Corporation for ten hours’ work a day. The offer to earn five dollars an hour as a model comes at just the right time, and she continues to work as a freelance model. David Conover offers some of her photos to the model agency Blue Book, 4nd recommends her to them.

August 2, 1945 The name “Norma Jeane Dougherty” is placed in the files of the Blue Book Modelling Agency; this marks the beginning of Norma Jeane’s phenomenal career as a cover girl and sex symbol. From now on she can talk only about her meteoric success, and this estranges her husband, who is at home only for a few weeks at a time. The well-known photographer Andre de Dienes courts the lonely young woman and wants to marry her. Although she poses for him extensively and goes on a photo excursion with him, which ends in an affair, she withdraws and turns her attention to other men. Her work with other famous Hollywood photographers such as Lazio Willinger, Richard C. Miller, Earl Moran, Bruno Bernard, George Hurrel, and others begins to flourish. Her pictures soon appear on the covers of various magazines. This publicity leads to her first contact with the film world.

July 17 1946 Marilyn has her first audition with Ben Lyon, her “discoverer,” at 20th Century-Fox.

July 19, 1946 On the recommendation of Ben Lyon Norma Jeane is given her first film test at the 20th Century-Fox studios. His encounter with her convinces him of her talent and charisma, and he wants to put her under contract in spite of the reservations of Darryl Zanuck, head of 20th Century-Fox.

July 29, 1946 For the first time Norma Jeane Dougherty is mentioned in a Los Angeles Times gossip column.

August 24, 1946 Norma Jeane obtains her first studio contract with 20th Century-Fox. Ben Lyon finds the name “Norma Jeane Dougherty” completely inappropriate and calls her at first “Carole Lind” and then “Marilyn Miller.” Finally, Norma Jeane recalls the name of her grandmother, and she and Lyon agree to the pleasing alliteration of “Marilyn Monroe.” Years later, having achieved stardom, Marilyn sends Lyon a photo portrait with the dedication “You found me, named me and believed in me when no one else did. My love and thanks forever.” September 13, 1946 Marilyn divorces James Dougherty.

Early 1947 At twenty-one, Marilyn is an unnamed extra in the film Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! Her appearance ends up largely in the cutting-room wastebasket, but one scrap of dialogue survives, the word “hello,” and a brief long shot where she can be seen paddling around in a canoe. Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! is the first film she appears in; it is shown in 1948, after the release of her second film. Dangerous Years, which premieres on December 8, 1947. In Dangerous Years she plays the minor role of Eve, a waitress in a bar. On her first year Marilyn remarks: “Most of what I did while I was at Fox that first time was pose for stills. Publicity made up a story about how I was a baby-sitter for a casting director. . . . You’d think they would have had me at least [be] a daddy-sitter.” (M.M. to Pete Martin, Will Acting Spoil Marilyn Monroe, Doubleday, 1956)

August 25, 1947 After Marilyn has been with 20th Century-Fox for a year, Darryl Zanuck decides not to extend the contract of the blonde femme fatale, owing to “unsatisfactory dramatic performance.” Marilyn and her mentor, Ben Lyon, are speechless.

March 9, 1948 Marilyn signs a half-year contract with Columbia Studios, which guarantees her $125 a week. Natasha Lytess, head drama coach at Columbia, gives her drama lessons for several months. The first movie in which M.M. is allowed to talk, sing, and dance is a low-budget production entitled Ladies of the Chorus. A passionate affair begins with Fred Karger, the studio’s vocal coach. “A new life began for me. . . . I had always thought of myself as someone unloved. Now I know there had been something worse than that in my life. It had been my own unloving heart. . . . When he said ‘I love you’ to me, it was better than a thousand critics calling me a great star.” (M.M. to Ben Hecht) When her contract with Columbia expires in September 1948, it too is not extended.

Early 1949 Marilyn is unemployed and penniless again, and about to leave Fred Karger, the first man she really gave her heart to, as she often confesses. But that spring Groucho Marx gets her a small role in the Mary Pickford production of Love Happy. She was chosen from three actresses auditioning for a small gag in the film. Groucho, a private detective, is approached by her, a young, curvaceous beauty: Marilyn: “Mr. Grunion. I want you to help me . . . Some men are following me.” Groucho: “Really? I can’t understand why.” In the credits to the movie, which premiered in 1950, her name is listed separately: “Introducing Marilyn Monroe.”

May 27 1949 In Tom Kelley’s studio, the first nude photographs are taken. Their publication in a calendar leads to a “scandal” three years later.

July 24, 1949 Marilyn has her first interview with the gossip columnist Earl Wilson in connection with a promotion tour for Love Happy in the New York Sherry Netherland Hotel. Wilson writes: “Over the years Hollywood has given us its ‘It Girl,’ its ‘Oomph Girl,’ its ‘Sweater Girl,’ and even ‘The Body.’ Now we get the ‘Mmmmmmm Girl.’ ” During this tour the famous photo series by Andre de Dienes on Tobey Beach, Long Island, is taken.

August 15, 1949 The filming begins for A Ticket to Tomahawk, a trivial, not-so-entertaining western of limited dramatic quality in which Marilyn plays the role of Clara, a chorus girl. At the Racquet Club, an exclusive Palm Springs Tennis Club, Marilyn Monroe meets Johnny Hyde, a representative of the William Morris Agency, one of Hollywood’s most influential theatrical agencies. Hyde is one of America’s most successful talent scouts, fifty-three years old—thirty years older than Marilyn—very rich and with a heart condition. He promises to make Marilyn a star. During the day he extols Marilyn’s talent; in the evenings he accompanies her to the houses of the famous, rich, and powerful. Marilyn turns down his proposal of marriage.


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