American actress, singer, and model Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926; passed away on August 4, 1962). Her humorous portrayals of “blonde bombshells” made her a cultural icon of the sexual revolution of the 1950s and 1960s. For ten years before her untimely demise in 1962, she was one of Hollywood’s highest-paid stars, with her films earning $200 million (about $2 billion in today’s dollars). Monroe has remained a cultural figure long after her death.
Monroe, who was born in Los Angeles and reared in a series of foster homes and an orphanage before getting married at age 16, lived there for most of her youth. She met a photographer from the First Motion Picture Unit while she was working in a factory during World War II, and she went on to have a successful pin-up modeling career that landed her brief film contracts with 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures.
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Marilyn Monroe’s Career
At Los Angeles County Hospital on June 1, 1926, Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson. Gladys Pearl Baker (née Monroe) was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico to a low-income family from the Midwest that had relocated to California at the turn of the century.
Gladys wed her abusive husband John Newton Baker when she was just 15 years old. Robert (1917–1933) and Berniece (1920–) were their children (1919–2014). In 1923, she was able to obtain a divorce and sole custody, but Baker promptly abducted the kids and took them back to Kentucky.
Monroe didn’t find out until she was 12 that she had a sister, and the two didn’t meet until she was 17 or 18. Soon after her separation from her husband, Gladys found work as a film negative cutter at CFI. She wed Martin Edward Mortensen in 1924, but the marriage didn’t last; they filed for divorce in 1928. DNA testing in 2022 revealed that Monroe’s biological father was Gladys’ coworker and lover from 1925, Charles Stanley Gifford.
Monroe had a secure and pleasant early upbringing despite his mother’s mental and financial unreadiness for a child. In the little hamlet of Hawthorne, Gladys decided to place her daughter with evangelical Christian foster parents, Albert and Ida Bolender. She did, too, for the first six months before finding herself compelled to return to the city in search of work.
She then made weekend trips to see her daughter. Gladys and Monroe, then seven years old, moved into a little house in Hollywood that summer of 1933 that she had purchased with a loan from the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation.
The Atkinson family (George and Maude and their daughter Nellie) were their lodgers at the time. Gladys suffered a mental collapse in January 1934 and was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
She spent a few months in a nursing home before being committed to Metropolitan State Hospital. She remained institutionalized for the rest of her life and saw Monroe just sometimes. The state took Monroe in as a ward, and Grace Goddard, a close friend of Monroe’s mother, was appointed guardian.
How Did Marilyn Monroe Die?
Barbiturates, sometimes known as sleeping pills, were found at a toxic level in her system during the postmortem. Eunice Murray, Monroe’s housekeeper, had spent the night at her Brentwood, Los Angeles, home with Monroe the night she died.
Allegedly, Monroe’s housekeeper sensed something was amiss at 3 a.m. and, upon seeing a light on in Monroe’s bedroom, attempted to enter, only to find the door either closed or locked.
Hollywood psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson was contacted by Murray and forced his way into Monroe’s room through a window after finding her unresponsive in bed. Monroe was pronounced dead at the scene at 3:50 a.m. when her doctor arrived. Monroe’s mental health had deteriorated in the months preceding her death.
Let’s Make Love and The Misfits were both commercial failures, and it appeared that her affair with President John F. Kennedy was gone, as evidenced by his cold treatment of her. Monroe was convinced to check into the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in New York City in 1960 by her psychiatrist, Dr. Marianne Kris.
Monroe initially thought she was being restrained so she could safely withdraw from booze and sleeping drugs, but she soon realized that she was being held in a maximum-security ward because she was considered “self-destructive.” The phone call she had been waiting for finally came through.
Monroe reached out to her ex-husband, baseball legend John DiMaggio, who arranged for her to be transferred to a hospital where she would be treated normally and where she could begin the detox process.
Despite this, speculation abounds that Monroe’s death wasn’t a suicide but rather a murder by an unknown perpetrator. Authors Douglas Thompson and M. Rothmiller of the bombshell book Bombshell: The Night Bobby Kennedy Murdered Marilyn Monroe claimed that Robert “Bobby” Kennedy was directly responsible for her death in a conspiracy to silence her and safeguard his and his brother’s political career. Bobby Kennedy and the Kennedy family have always denied this.
After Monroe’s death, many in Hollywood were sad and angry at the industry and the pressures of stardom. Director Josh Logan said of her, “She was one of the most unappreciated people in the world,” and Sir Laurence Olivier called her “the perfect victim of ballyhoo and sensation.”
Her burial was held on August 8, 1962, and only her closest friends were invited. Her ex-husband DiMaggio planned the event. For the next two decades, he made sure Monroe’s crypt in the Hall of Memories was always adorned with a bouquet of six roses.
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