On June 1, 1926, Norma Jeane Mortenson was born in Los Angeles, California. Soon after, her mother would have her last name changed to Baker. When she was 7, her mother had a nervous breakdown and Norma became a ward of the state. Over the next several years she would move through various foster homes and an orphanage.
When she was 16, she would marry James Dougherty. When he joined the Merchant Marine in 1943, Norma began working at the Radioplane Munitions Factory. It was there that she met photographer David Conover, who convinced her to quit and start modeling.
As a model, she worked under the name Jean Norman, began straightening her curly hair, and dying it blonde. This look would become her signature for the rest of her life. Between August of 1945 and June of 1946, she would be on various magazine covers 33 times.
In June of 1946, she was picked up by 20th Century Fox as an actress. She divorced Dougherty, who was against her having a career, and began using the name, Marilyn Monroe.
During the first months of her contract, Marilyn did not receive any roles, but she spent that time taking acting classes, dance lessons, and singing lessons. In February of 1947, she finally gained her first acting spot, but her contract was not renewed in August.
Without a contract, Marilyn returned to modeling and took some roles on the theater stage. She also began showing up at movie producer’s offices, to ensure they all knew who she was. This led to her receiving a contract with Columbia Pictures, in March 1948. However, she would only receive one role while there, and again was without a contract come September.
In 1950, Monroe was able to gain roles in several films, enough to get a new contract from Fox, this time for seven years. Over the next few years, she gained more and more notice, for her acting, her relationships, and her sex appeal. During 1953 she became a major star due to her roles in Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Marry a Millionaire. It was also then that she became considered Hollywood’s top sex symbol.
On January 4, 1954, she was suspended by Fox for refusing to take a role. Marilyn had been trying to avoid being further typecast and wanted more serious roles. Ten days later, she married baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, whom she had been dating on and off again since 1952. Their relationship was called the “All-American love story”, but it was apparently doomed to fail. The two divorced in October, mostly due to DiMaggio’s being uncomfortable with her being such a sex image. However, the two would remain friends until her death.
By March 1954, Fox was desperate to have her back and so she began making movies for them again. However, in January of 1955, Marilyn Monroe open her own film studio, in order to ensure that she could play more serious roles. By the end of the year, Monroe and Fox had worked out their differences and she signed a new seven-year contract with the company. In March 1956, she had her name legally changed to Marilyn Monroe. Then on June 29, she married playwright, Arthur Miller.
Over the next several years she would give some of her best film performances, especially in 1959 with Some Like It Hot. However, medical problems led to increasing emotional and mental issues. This led to her divorce from Miller in January of 1961 as well as two hospital stays for psychiatric evaluation. Her illness took an increasing toll, leading to her being let go by Fox, in June of 1962. The studio cited repeated and extended absences from the set.
On August 5, 1962, Marilyn was found dead in her home. The autopsy revealed an overdose on multiple prescription drugs.