After spending much of her childhood in foster homes, Norma Jeane Baker began a career as a model, which led to a film contract in 1946. Her early roles were minor, but her performances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (both 1950) were well received, and as her career progressed she became known as a sex symbol. She was praised for her comedic ability in such films as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire and The Seven Year Itch, and became one of Hollywood's most popular performers.
The typecasting of Monroe's "dumb blonde" persona limited her career prospects, and she broadened her range. Her marriage to baseball player Joe DiMaggio failed. While married to playwright Arthur Miller, she studied at the Actors Studio and formed Marilyn Monroe Productions. Her dramatic performance in William Inge's Bus Stop was hailed by critics, and she won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Some Like it Hot.
The final years of Monroe's life were marked by illness, personal problems and a reputation for being unreliable and difficult to work with. The circumstances of her death, from an overdose of barbiturates, have been the subject of conjecture. Though officially classified as a "probable suicide," the possibility of an accidental overdose has not been ruled out, while conspiracy theorists argue that she was murdered.
Monroe was born in the Los Angeles County Hospital, the third child born to Gladys Pearl Monroe (1902-1984).
The identity of her biological father is unknown. Monroe's birth certificate names the father as Edward Mortensen, with his residence stated as "unknown," Gladys Monroe had married a Martin E. Mortensen in 1924, but they had separated before Gladys' pregnancy. Several of Monroe's biographers suggest that Gladys Monroe used his name to avoid the stigma of illegitimacy. Mortenson filed for divorce from Gladys on March 5, 1927 and the case was finalized on October 15, 1928. When Mortensen died, at the age of 85, Monroe's birth certificate together with her parents' marriage and divorce documents were discovered that proved that she was born legitimate.
Throughout her life, Marilyn Monroe denied that Mortensen was her father. She said that when she was a child, she had been shown a photograph of a man that Gladys Monroe identified as her father. She remembered that he had a thin moustache and somewhat resembled Clark Gable, and that she had amused herself by pretending that Gable was her father, but never determined her father's true identity.
Mentally unstable and financially unable to care for Norma Jeane, Gladys placed her with foster parents Albert and Ida Bolender of Hawthorne, California, where she lived until she was seven. In her autobiography My Story (co-authored with screenwriter and novelist Ben Hecht,) Monroe stated she believed that the Bolenders were her parents until Ida corrected her. After that Norma Jeane referred to them as Aunt & Uncle.
During one of her weekly visits, Gladys told Norma Jeane that she had bought a house for them, and Norma Jeane was allowed to move in with her mother. A few months after moving in, Gladys suffered a breakdown. In My Story, Monroe recalls her mother "screaming and laughing," as she was forcibly removed to the State Hospital in Norwalk. Monroe was declared a ward of the state, and Gladys's best friend, Grace McKee, became her guardian. It was Grace that had told Monroe that someday she would become "...an important woman... a movie star." Grace was captivated by Jean Harlow, and would let Norma Jeane wear makeup and take her out to get her hair curled. They would go to the movies together, forming the basis for Norma Jeane's fascination with the cinema and the stars on screen.
After Grace McKee married Ervin Silliman Goddard in 1935, the 9 year-old Monroe was sent to the Los Angeles Orphans Home, (later renamed Hollygrove), and then to a succession of foster homes. Two years later Grace took Norma Jeane back to live with herself, Goddard and one of Goddard's daughters from a previous marriage. When Goddard tried to molest Norma Jeane, Grace sent her to live with her great aunt, Olive Brunings. Norma Jeane was assaulted by one of Olive's sons at the age of 12 and then went on to live with Grace's aunt, Ana Lower. When Ana developed health problems, Norma Jeane went back to live with Grace & Ervin Goddard, where she met a neighbor's son, Jim Dougherty, and soon began a relationship with him.
Grace and her husband were about to move East and could not take Norma Jeane. Another family wanted to adopt Norma Jeane, but Gladys would not allow it. Grace then approached a neighbor suggesting that her son, James Dougherty, could marry Norma Jeane so that she would not have to return to an orphanage or foster care, and in June 1942, they were married. Monroe would state in her autobiography that she did not feel like a wife; she enjoyed playing with the neighborhood children until her husband would call her home. The marriage lasted until 1946 when Monroe decided to pursue her career.
While Dougherty was in the Merchant Marine during World War II, Monroe moved in with her mother-in-law, and found employment in the Radioplane Munitions Factory. She sprayed airplane parts with fire retardant and inspected parachutes. During this time, Army photographer David Conover snapped a photograph of her for a Yank magazine article. He encouraged her to apply to The Blue Book modeling agency. She signed with the agency and began researching the work of Jean Harlow and Lana Turner. She enrolled in drama and singing classes and had her hair cut, straightened and lightened to golden blonde.
Norma Jeane Dougherty became one of Blue Book's most successful models, appearing on dozens of magazine covers. In 1946, she came to the attention of Ben Lyon, a 20th Century Fox executive, who arranged a screen test for her. Lyon was impressed and commented, "It's Jean Harlow all over again." She was offered a standard six-month contract with a starting salary of $125 per week.
It was agreed that she would change her name. Lyon told her that she reminded him of the actress Marilyn Miller and she took her grandmother's name of Monroe as her surname. She appeared in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! and Dangerous Years (both 1947), but when her contract was not renewed, she returned to modeling. She attempted to find opportunities for film work, and while unemployed she posed for nude photographs.
In 1948 Monroe signed a six-month contract with Columbia Pictures, and was introduced to the studio's head drama coach, Natasha Lytess, who became her acting coach for several years. She starred in the low-budget musical, Ladies of the Chorus, but the film was not a success, and her contract was not renewed. She appeared in a small role in the Marx Brothers film Love Happy (1949) and impressed the producers, who sent her to New York to feature in the film's promotional campaign.
Love Happy brought Monroe to the attention of the agent, Johnny Hyde, who agreed to represent her. He arranged for her to audition for John Huston, who cast her in the drama The Asphalt Jungle, as the young mistress of an aging criminal. Her performance brought strong reviews, and was seen by the writer and director, Herman Mankiewicz. He accepted Hyde's suggestion of Monroe for a small comedic role in All About Eve, as Miss Caswell, an aspiring actress, described by another character as a student of "The Copacabana School of Dramatic Art." Mankiewicz later commented that he had seen an innocence in her that he found appealing, and that this had confirmed his belief in her suitability for the role. Following Monroe's success in these roles, Hyde negotiated a seven-year contract for her with 20th Century Fox, shortly before his death in December 1950.
Monroe enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles studying literature and art appreciation, and appeared in several minor films playing opposite such long-established performers as Mickey Rooney, Constance Bennett, June Allyson, Dick Powell and Claudette Colbert. In March 1951 she appeared as a presenter at the 23rd Academy Awards ceremony.
In March 1952, Monroe faced a possible scandal when one of her nude photographs from 1949 was featured in a calendar. The press speculated about the identity of the anonymous model and commented that she closely resembled Monroe. As the studio discussed how to deal with the problem, Monroe suggested that she should simply admit that she had posed for the photograph but that she should emphasize that she had done so only because she had no money to pay her rent. She gave an interview in which she discussed the circumstances that led to her posing for the photographs, and the resulting publicity elicited a degree of sympathy for her plight as a struggling actress.
She made her first appearance on the cover of Life in April 1952, where she was described as "The Talk of Hollywood." Stories of her childhood and upbringing portrayed her in a sympathetic light; a cover story for the May 1952 edition of True Experiences magazine showed a smiling and wholesome Monroe beside a caption that read, "Do I look happy? I should — for I was a child nobody wanted. A lonely girl with a dream — who awakened to find that dream come true. I am Marilyn Monroe. Read my Cinderella story." It was also during this time that she began dating the baseball player, Joe Di Maggio. A photograph of Di Maggio visiting Monroe at the 20th Century Fox studio, was printed in newspapers throughout the United States, and reports of a developing romance between them generated further interest in Monroe.
Over the following months, four films in which Monroe featured were released. She had been loaned to RKO Studios to appear in a supporting role in Clash by Night, a Barbara Stanwyck drama, directed by Fritz Lang. Released in June 1952, the film was popular with audiences, with much of its success credited to curiosity about Monroe, who received generally favorable reviews from critics. This was followed by two films released in July, the comedy We're Not Married, and the drama Don't Bother to Knock; We're Not Married featured Monroe as a beauty pageant contestant, and while Variety described the film as "lightweight," its reviewer commented that Monroe was featured to full advantage in a bathing suit, but that some of her scenes suggested a degree of exploitation. In "Don't Bother to Knock," she played a starring role, as a babysitter who threatens to attack the child in her care. The downbeat melodrama was poorly reviewed, although Monroe commented that it contained some of her strongest dramatic acting. Monkey Business, a Howard Hawks directed comedy, costarring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers, was released in September, and achieved good ticket sales despite weak reviews.
Darryl F. Zanuck considered that Monroe's film potential was worth developing, and cast her in "Niagara," as a femme fatale scheming to murder her husband, played by Joseph Cotten. During filming, Monroe's make-up artist, Whitey Snyder noticed the stage fright that was to mark her behavior on film sets throughout her career, and was assigned by the director to spend hours gently coaxing and comforting Monroe as she prepared to film her scenes.
Much of the critical comment following the release of the film was in relation to Monroe's overtly sexual performance, and a scene which shows Monroe from the back, making a long walk towards Niagara Falls was frequently referred to in reviews. After seeing the film, Constance Bennett reportedly quipped, "There's a broad with her future behind her." Whitey Snyder also commented that it was during preparation for this film, after much experimentation, that Monroe achieved "the look, and we used that look for several pictures in a row... the look was established."
While the film was a success, and Monroe's performance was reviewed positively, her conduct at promotional events sometimes drew negative comments. Her appearance at the Photoplay awards dinner in a skin-tight gold lamé dress was criticized. Joan Crawford was quoted in Louella Parsons' newspaper column, discussing Monroe's "vulgarity" and describing her behavior as "unbecoming an actress and a lady". She had previously received criticism for wearing a dress with a neckline cut almost to her navel, when she acted as Grand Marshall at the Miss America Parade in September 1952. A photograph from this event was used on the cover of the first edition of Playboy Magazine in December 1953, with a nude photograph of Monroe, taken in 1949, inside the magazine.
Her next film was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) co-starring Jane Russell and directed by Howard Hawks. Playing Lorelei Lee, a gold-digging showgirl, she was required to sing and dance. The two stars became friends, with Russell describing Monroe as "very shy and very sweet and far more intelligent than people gave her credit for." She later recalled that Monroe showed her dedication by rehearsing her dance routines each evening after most of the crew had left, but was habitually late on set for filming. Realizing that Monroe remained in her dressing room due to stage fright, and that Hawks was growing impatient with her tardiness, Russell started escorting her to the set.
At the Los Angeles premiere of the film, Monroe and Russell pressed their hand- and foot prints in the cement in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Monroe received positive reviews and the film grossed more than double its production costs. Her rendition of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" became associated with her.
How to Marry a Millionaire, a comedy about three models scheming to attract a wealthy husband, teamed Monroe with Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall, directed by Jean Negulesco. The producer and scriptwriter, Nunnally Johnson, said that it was the first film in which audiences "liked Marilyn for herself [and that] she diagnosed the reason very shrewdly. She said that it was the only picture she'd been in, in which she had a measure of modesty... about her own attractiveness."
Monroe's films of this period established her "dumb blonde" persona and contributed to her popularity. In 1953 and 1954, she was listed in the annual "Quigley Poll of the Top Ten Money Making Stars," which was compiled from the votes of movie exhibitors throughout the United States for the stars that had generated the most revenue in their theaters over the previous year.
During this time, Monroe discussed her acting ambitions, telling the New York Times, "I want to grow and develop and play serious dramatic parts. My dramatic coach, Natasha Lytess, tells everybody that I have a great soul, but so far nobody's interested in it." She saw a possibility in 20th Century Fox's upcoming film, The Egyptian, but was rebuffed by Darryl F. Zanuck who refused to screen test her.
Instead, she was assigned to the western River of No Return, opposite Robert Mitchum. It was directed by Otto Preminger who resented Monroe's reliance on Natasha Lytess, who coached her and gave her verdict at the end of each scene. Eventually Monroe refused to speak to Preminger, and Mitchum was required to mediate. On the finished product, she commented, "I think I deserve a better deal than a grade Z cowboy movie in which the acting finished second to the scenery and the CinemaScope process."
In late 1953, Monroe was scheduled to begin filming The Girl in Pink Tights with Frank Sinatra, and when she failed to appear for work, she was suspended by 20th Century Fox. She and DiMaggio were married in San Francisco on January 14, 1954 and travelled to Japan soon after, combining a honeymoon with a business trip previously arranged by DiMaggio. For two weeks she took a secondary role to DiMaggio as he conducted his business, and said to a reporter, "Marriage is my main career from now on." She then travelled alone to Korea where she performed for 13,000 American marines over a three-day period, and later commented that the experience had helped her overcome a fear of performing in front of large crowds.
Returning to Hollywood in March 1954, Monroe settled her disagreement with 20th Century Fox and appeared in There's No Business Like Show Business, a musical which failed to recover its production costs. The film was received poorly; Ed Sullivan described Monroe's performance of the song "Heat Wave" as "one of the most flagrant violations of good taste" he had witnessed, Time compared her unfavourably to co-star Ethel Merman, while Bosley Crowther for The New York Times said that Mitzi Gaynor had surpassed Monroe's "embarrassing to behold" performance. The reviews echoed Monroe's opinion of the film, which she had made reluctantly, with the assurance that she would be given the starring role in the film adaption of the Broadway hit The Seven Year Itch.
In September 1954, Monroe filmed one of the key scenes for The Seven Year Itch in New York City. In it, she stands with her co-star, Tom Ewell, while the air from a subway grating blows her skirt over her head. A large crowd watched as director Billy Wilder ordered the scene to be refilmed many times. Among the crowd was Joe DiMaggio, who was reported to have been infuriated by the spectacle. After a quarrel, witnessed by journalist Walter Winchell, the couple returned to California where they avoided the press for two weeks, until Monroe announced that they had separated. Their divorce was granted in November, 1954. The filming was completed in early 1955, and after refusing what Monroe considered to be inferior parts in The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing and How to Be Very, Very Popular, she decided to leave Hollywood, at the advice of Milton Greene.
Truman Capote introduced Monroe to Constance Collier, who gave her acting lessons. She felt that Monroe was not suited to stage acting, but possessed a "lovely talent" that was "so fragile and subtle, it can only be caught by the camera." After only a few weeks of lessons, Collier died. Monroe had met Paula Strasberg and her daughter Susan on the set of There's No Business Like Show Business, and had previously said that she would like to study with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. In March 1955, Monroe met with Cheryl Crawford, one of the founders of the Actors Studio, and convinced her to introduce her to Lee Strasberg, who interviewed her the following day, and agreed to accept her as a student.
In May 1955 Monroe started dating the playwright, Arthur Miller; they had met in Hollywood in 1950 and when Miller discovered she was in New York, he arranged for a mutual friend to reintroduce them. On June 1, 1955, Monroe's birthday, Joe DiMaggio accompanied Monroe to the premiere of The Seven Year Itch in New York City. He later hosted a birthday party for her, but the evening ended with a public quarrel, and Monroe left the party without him. A lengthy period of estrangement followed.
Throughout 1955, Monroe studied with the Actors Studio, and found that one of her biggest obstacles was her severe stage fright. She was befriended by the actors, Kevin McCarthy and Eli Wallach who each recalled her as studious and sincere in her approach to her studies, and noted that she tried to avoid attention by sitting quietly in the back of the class. When Strasberg felt Monroe was ready to give a performance in front of her peers, Monroe and Maureen Stapleton chose the opening scene from Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie, and although she had faltered during each rehearsal, she was able to complete the performance without forgetting her lines. Kim Stanley later recalled that students were discouraged from applauding, but that Monroe's performance had resulted in spontaneous applause from the audience. While Monroe was a student, Lee Strasberg commented, "I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of actors and actresses, and there are only two that stand out way above the rest. Number one is Marlon Brando, and the second is Marilyn Monroe."
The Seven Year Itch was released and became a success, earning an estimated $8 million. Monroe received positive reviews for her performance, and was in a strong position to negotiate with 20th Century Fox.On New Year's Eve 1955, they signed a new contract which required Monroe to make four films over a seven-year period. The newly formed Marilyn Monroe Productions would be paid $100,000 plus a share of profits for each film. In addition to being able to work for other studios, Monroe had the right to reject any script, director or cinematographer she did not approve of.
The first film to be made under the contract and production company was Bus Stop directed by Joshua Logan. Logan had studied under Konstantin Stanislavsky, approved of method acting, and was supportive of Monroe. Monroe severed contact with her drama coach, Natasha Lytess, replacing her with Paula Strasberg, who became a constant presence during the filming of Monroe's subsequent films.
In Bus Stop Monroe played Chérie, a saloon bar singer with little talent, who falls in love with a cowboy. Her costumes, make-up and hair reflected a character who lacked sophistication, and Monroe provided deliberately mediocre singing and dancing. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times proclaimed: "Hold on to your chairs, everybody, and get set for a rattling surprise. Marilyn Monroe has finally proved herself an actress." In his autobiography, Movie Stars, Real People and Me, director Logan wrote: "I found Marilyn to be one of the great talents of all time... she struck me as being a much brighter person than I had ever imagined, and I think that was the first time I learned that intelligence and, yes, brilliance have nothing to do with education." Logan championed Monroe for an Academy Award nomination and complimented her professionalism until the end of his life. Though not nominated for an Academy Award, she received a Golden Globe nomination.
During this time, the relationship between Monroe and Miller had developed, and although the couple were able to maintain their privacy for almost a year, the press began to write about them as a couple, often referred to as "The Egghead and The Hourglass." The reports of their romance were soon overtaken by news that Miller had been called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee to explain his supposed communist affiliations. Called upon to identify communists he was acquainted with, Miller refused and was charged with contempt of Congress. He was acquitted on appeal. During the investigation, Monroe was urged by film executives to abandon Miller, rather than risk her career but she refused, later branding them as "born cowards." The press began to discuss an impending marriage, but Monroe and Miller refused to confirm the rumor. In June 1956 a reporter was following them by car, and as they attempted to elude him, the reporter's car crashed, killing a female passenger. Monroe became hysterical upon hearing the news, and their engagement was announced, partly in the expectation that it would reduce the excessive media interest they were being subjected to.They were married on June 29, 1956.
Bus Stop was followed by The Prince and the Showgirl directed by Laurence Olivier, who also co-starred. Prior to filming, Olivier praised Monroe as "a brilliant comedienne, which to me means she is also an extremely skilled actress." During filming he resented Monroe's dependence on her drama coach, Paula Strasberg, regarding Strasberg as a fraud whose only talent was the ability to "butter Marilyn up." He recalled his attempts at explaining a scene to Monroe, only to hear Strasberg interject, "Honey - just think of Coca-Cola and Frank Sinatra."
Despite Monroe and Olivier clashing, Olivier later commented that in the film "Marilyn was quite wonderful, the best of all." Monroe's performance was hailed by critics, especially in Europe, where she won the David di Donatello, the Italian equivalent of the Academy Award, as well as the French Crystal Star Award. She was also nominated for a BAFTA.
The film became a resounding success, and was nominated for five Academy Awards. Monroe was acclaimed for her performance and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Wilder commented that the film was the biggest success he had ever been associated with. He discussed the problems he encountered during filming, saying "Marilyn was so difficult because she was totally unpredictable. I never knew what kind of day we were going to have... would she be cooperative or obstructive?" He had little patience with her method acting technique and said that instead of going to the Actors Studio "she should have gone to a train-engineer's school ... to learn something about arriving on schedule." Wilder had become ill during filming, and explained, "We were in mid-flight – and there was a nut on the plane." In hindsight, he discussed Monroe's "certain indefinable magic" and "absolute genius as a comic actress," and after Some Like it Hot was completed, he discussed other projects with her, including Irma La Douce which he later filmed with Shirley MacLaine.
By this time, Monroe had only completed one film, Bus Stop, under her four picture contract with 20th Century Fox. She agreed to appear in Let's Make Love, which was to be directed by George Cukor, but she was not satisfied with the script, and Arthur Miller rewrote it. Gregory Peck was originally cast in the male lead role, but he refused the role after Miller's rewrite; Cary Grant, Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Rock Hudson also refused the role before it was offered to Yves Montand. Monroe and Miller befriended Montand, and his wife, the actress, Simone Signoret and filming progressed well until Miller was required to travel to Europe on business. Monroe began to leave the film set early and on several occasions failed to attend, but her attitude improved after Montand confronted her. Signoret returned to Europe to make a film, and Monroe and Montand began a brief affair that ended when Montand refused to leave Signoret. The film was not a critical or commercial success.
Monroe's health deteriorated during this period, and she began to see a Los Angeles psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson. He later recalled that during this time she frequently complained of insomnia, and told Greenson that she visited several medical doctors to obtain what Greenson considered an excessive variety of drugs. He concluded that she was progressing to the point of addiction, but also noted that she could give up the drugs for extended periods, without suffering any withdrawal symptoms. According to Greenson, the marriage between Miller and Monroe was strained; he said that Miller appeared to genuinely care for Monroe and was willing to help her, but that Monroe rebuffed while also expressing resentment towards him for not doing more to help her. Greenson stated that his main objective at the time was to enforce a drastic reduction in Monroe's drug intake.
In 1956 Arthur Miller had lived briefly in Nevada and wrote a short story about some of the local people he had become acquainted with, a divorced woman and some aging cowboys. By 1960 he had developed the short story into a screenplay, and envisioned it as a suitable role for Monroe. It became her last completed film, The Misfits, directed by John Huston and costarring Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift and Thelma Ritter. Filming commenced in July 1960, with most of it taking place in the hot Northern Nevada Black Rock Desert. Monroe was frequently ill and unable to perform, and away from the influence of Dr. Greenson, had resumed her consumption of sleeping pills and alcohol. A visitor to the set, Susan Strasberg later described Monroe as "mortally injured in some way," and in August Monroe was rushed to Los Angeles where she was hospitalized for ten days. Newspapers reported that she had been near death, although the nature of her illness was not disclosed. Louella Parsons wrote in her newspaper column that Monroe was "a very sick girl, much sicker than at first believed," and disclosed that she was being treated by a psychiatrist.
Monroe returned to Nevada and completed the film, but she became hostile towards Arthur Miller, and public arguments were reported by the press. Making the film had proved to be an arduous experience for the actors; in addition to Monroe's distress, Montgomery Clift had frequently been unable to perform due to illness, and by the final day of shooting, Thelma Ritter was in hospital suffering from exhaustion. Gable, commenting that he felt unwell, left the set without attending the party that marked the end of filming. Monroe and Miller returned to New York on separate flights.
Within ten days Monroe had announced her separation from Miller, and Gable had died from a heart attack. Gable's widow, Kay, commented to Louella Parsons that it had been the "eternal waiting" on the set of The Misfits that had contributed to his death, though she did not name Monroe. When reporters asked Monroe if she felt guilty about Gable's death, she refused to answer, but the journalist, Sidney Skolsky, recalled that privately she expressed regret for her poor treatment of Gable during filming and described her as being in "a dark pit of despair." Monroe later attended the christening of the Gables' son, at the invitation of Kay Gable.
The Misfits was the subject of mediocre reviews, and was not a commercial success, though some praised the performances of Monroe and Gable.Huston later commented that Monroe's performance was not acting in the true sense, and that she had drawn from her own experiences to show herself, rather than a character. "She had no techniques. It was all the truth. It was only Marilyn."
During the following months, Monroe's dependence on alcohol and prescription medications began to take a toll on her health, and friends such as Susan Strasberg later spoke of her illness. Her divorce from Arthur Miller was finalized in January 1961, with Monroe citing "incompatibility of character," and in February she voluntarily entered the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic. Later describing the experience as a "nightmare," she was able to phone Joe Di Maggio from the clinic, and he immediately traveled from Florida to New York to facilitate her transfer to the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, where she remained for three weeks. Illness prevented her from working for the remainder of the year; she underwent surgery to correct a blockage in her Fallopian tubes in May, and the following month underwent gall bladder surgery. She returned to California and lived in a rented apartment as she convalesced.
In 1962 Monroe began filming Something's Got to Give, which was to be the third film of her four-film contract with 20th Century Fox. It was to be directed by George Cukor, and co-starred Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse. She was ill with a virus as filming commenced, and suffered from high temperatures and recurrent sinusitis. On one occasion she refused to perform with Martin as he had a cold, and the producer Henry Weinstein recalled seeing her on several occasions being physically ill as she prepared to film her scenes, and attributed it to her dread of performing. He commented, "Very few people experience terror. We all experience anxiety, unhappiness, heartbreaks, but that was sheer primal terror."
On May 9, 1962 she attended the birthday celebration of President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden, at the suggestion of Kennedy's brother-in-law, actor Peter Lawford. Monroe performed "Happy Birthday" along with a specially written verse based on Bob Hope's "Thanks for the Memory." Kennedy responded to her performance with the remark, "Thank you. I can now retire from politics after having had "Happy Birthday" sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way."
Monroe returned to the set of Something's Got to Give, and filmed a sequence in which she appeared nude in a swimming pool. Commenting that she wanted to "push Liz Taylor off the magazine covers," she gave permission for several partially nude photographs to be published by Life. Having only reported for work on twelve occasions out of a total of 35 days of production , Monroe was dismissed. 20th Century Fox filed a lawsuit against her for half a million dollars, and the studio's vice president, Peter Levathes, issued a statement saying "The star system has gotten way out of hand. We've let the inmates run the asylum, and they've practically destroyed it." Monroe was replaced by Lee Remick, and when Dean Martin refused to work with any other actress, he was also threatened with a lawsuit.
Following her dismissal, Monroe engaged in several high-profile publicity ventures. She gave an interview to Cosmopolitan and was photographed at Peter Lawford's beach house sipping champagne and walking on the beach. She next posed for Bert Stern for Vogue in a series of photographs that included several nudes. Published after her death, they became known as The Last Sitting. Richard Meryman interviewed her for Life, in which Monroe reflected upon her relationship with her fans and her uncertainties in identifying herself as a "star" and a "sex symbol." She referred to the events surrounding Arthur Miller's appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956, and her studio's warning that she would be "finished" if she showed public support for him, and commented, "You have to start all over again. But I believe you're always as good as your potential. I now live in my work and in a few relationships with the few people I can really count on. Fame will go by, and, so long, I've had you fame. If it goes by, I've always known it was fickle. So at least it's something I experienced, but that's not where I live."
In the final weeks of her life, Monroe engaged in discussions about future film projects, and firm arrangements were made to continue negotiations. Among the projects was a biography of Jean Harlow. Starring roles in Billy Wilder's Irma La Douce and What a Way to Go! were also discussed; Shirley MacLaine eventually played her role in both films. Kim Novak replaced her in Kiss Me, Stupid, a comedy in which she was to star opposite Dean Martin. A film version of the Broadway musical, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, and an unnamed World War 1 themed musical co-starring Gene Kelly were also discussed, but the projects did not eventuate. Her dispute with 20th Century Fox was resolved, and her contract renewed, and filming of Something's Got to Give was scheduled to resume before the end of the year. Allan "Whitey" Snyder who saw her during the last week of her life, said Monroe was pleased by the opportunities available to her, and that she "never looked better [and] was in great spirits."
The official cause of Monroe's death was classified, by Dr. Thomas Noguchi of the Los Angeles County Coroners office, as "acute barbiturate poisoning," which he recorded as a "probable suicide." Eight milligram percent of chloral hydrate and 4.5 milligram percent of Nembutal were found in her system after the autopsy. Her death was classified as "probable suicide," but because of a lack of evidence, investigators could not classify her death as suicide or homicide. Also, some conspiracy theories involve John and Robert Kennedy with her death, while other theories suggest CIA or mafia complicity. As a side note, toxicology tests revealed that Monroe also had a slight iron deficiency in her blood.
Dougherty's actions seem to contradict these claims: he remarried months after Monroe divorced him; his sister told the December 1952 Modern Screen Magazine that he left Monroe because she wanted to pursue modeling, after he initially gave her permission to do so; he confirmed Monroe's version of the beginning of their relationship in an A&E Network Monroe documentary that his mother had asked him to marry her so that she would not be returned to an orphanage. Most telling, on August 6, 1962 The New York Times reported that, on being informed of her death, Dougherty replied "I'm sorry," and continued his LAPD patrol. He did not attend Monroe's funeral.
In 1951, Joe DiMaggio saw a picture of Monroe with two Chicago White Sox players, but did not ask the man who arranged the stunt to set up a date until 1952. Monroe wrote in My Story that she did not want to meet him, fearing a stereotypical jock. They eloped on January 14, 1954. During their honeymoon in Japan, she was asked to visit Korea. She performed ten shows over four days for over 100,000 servicemen. Biographers have noted that DiMaggio, who stayed in Japan, was not pleased with his wife's decision during what he wanted to be an intimate trip.
DiMaggio biographer Maury Allen quoted New York Yankees PR man Arthur Richman that Joe told him everything went wrong from the trip to Japan on. On September 14, 1954, Monroe filmed the skirt-blowing scene for The Seven Year Itch in front of New York's Trans-Lux Theater. Bill Kobrin, then Fox's east coast correspondent, told the Palm Springs Desert Sun in 2006 that it was Billy Wilder's idea to turn the shoot into a media circus, and that the couple had a "yelling battle" in the theater lobby. She filed for divorce on grounds of mental cruelty 274 days after the wedding.
In February 1961, Monroe was admitted to the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic. She contacted DiMaggio, who secured her release. She later joined him in Florida, where he was serving as a batting coach at the New York Yankees' training camp. Bob Hope jokingly dedicating Best Song nominee The Second Time Around to them at the 1961 Academy Awards.
According to Allen, on August 1, 1962, DiMaggio alarmed by how Monroe had fallen in with people he considered detrimental to her well-being quit his job with a PX supplier to ask her to remarry him.
After Monroe's death, DiMaggio claimed her body and arranged her funeral. For 20 years, he had a half-dozen red roses delivered to her crypt three times a week. Unlike her other two husbands or those who claimed to have been her lovers, he never talked about her publicly or otherwise exploited their relationship.
In 2006, DiMaggio's adopted granddaughters auctioned the bulk of his estate, which featured two letters Monroe penned to him and a photograph signed "I love you, Joe.
Miller's screenplay for The Misfits, a story about a despairing divorcée, was meant to be a Valentine gift for his wife, but by the time filming started in 1960 their marriage was beyond repair. A Mexican divorce was granted on January 24, 1961. On February 17, 1962, Miller married Inge Morath, one of the Magnum photographers recording the making of The Misfits.
In January 1964, Miller's play After The Fall opened, featuring a beautiful and devouring shrew named Maggie. Simone Signoret noted in her autobiography the morbidity of Miller and Elia Kazan resuming their professional association "over a casket." In interviews and in his autobiography, Miller insisted that Maggie was not based on Monroe. However, he never pretended that his last Broadway-bound work, Finishing the Picture, was not based on the making of The Misfits. He appeared in the documentary The Century of the Self, lamenting the psychological work being done on her before her death.
Strasberg willed his portion to his widow, Anna. She declared she would never sell Monroe's personal items after successfully suing Odyssey Auctions in 1994 to prevent the sale of items, which were withheld by Monroe's former business manager, Inez Melson. However, in October 1999, Christie's auctioned the bulk of the items Monroe willed to Strasberg, netting US $13,405,785.
Anna and her son David Strasberg sued the children of four photographers to determine rights of publicity, which permits the licensing of images of deceased personages for commercial purposes. The decision as to whether Monroe was a resident of California, where she died, or New York, where her will was probated, was worth millions.
On May 4, 2007, a judge in New York ruled that Monroe's rights of publicity ended upon her death, thus allowing the family of photographer Sam Shaw to sell photos of Monroe.
On March 17, 2008, a federal judge issued a decision in favor of two photo archives in the tangled, long-running legal battle over who controls the likeness of Monroe.
A judge found that CMG and Marilyn Monroe LLC had been inconsistent in their arguments that Monroe was domiciled in California when she died. U.S. District judge Margaret M. Morrow applied a concept called judicial estoppel, which is designed to prevent parties from changing positions when it suits their legal advantage. Based on the fact that in the first 20 years after her death in 1962 the estate filed suits and legally took the position that she was domiciled in New York.
The Greene, Kelley and Harold Lloyd archives now license photographs of Monroe and other celebrities for commercial use through a new company called http://www.legendslicensing.com with a division called Marilyn Monroe Licensing Group. As of June 2008 legends has been healing the years of abuse and bad blood that has been created by the MMLLC & CMG.
On September 2, 2008, the right to exploit Marilyn Monroe photographic images was upheld by the United States District Court of New York. Re-affirming a California decision in favor of Tom Kelley Studios and Milton H. Greene Archives, the court held Marilyn Monroe LLC (MMLLC) and CMG Worldwide, Inc. (CMG) do not have the right to license Marilyn Monroe name, image, likeness or signature.
Judge Margaret M. Morrow ruled that CMG and MMLLC could not now claim Monroe was domiciled in California, after having asserted for nearly 40 years that she was domiciled in New York, to avoid paying California estate taxes.
The New York court's 32-page decision on September 2, 2008, in a separate but related case involving The Shaw Family Archives, Ltd., refused to allow MMLLC and CMG to reargue the California ruling. Both the California and New York courts agreed, as Judge Morrow stated in her ruling, that CMG and MMLLC had been "playing fast and loose with the courts" simply to benefit from a recently passed California law granting rights of publicity to a celebrity's estate.
These rulings free the way for licensees to work directly with the owners of these iconic image libraries, who have gathered together under the Marilyn Monroe Licensing Group banner at Legends Licensing.
In effect, the ruling tossed ownership rights to the public, said Jonathan Polak, who leads the intellectual property group at Sommer Barnard. “Marilyn Monroe is one of the heavyweight celebrities in the licensing business and she has generated significant licensing revenues, but the court has essentially unleashed the right of publicity for Marilyn to the public domain,” Polak said.
|1947||The Shocking Miss Pilgrim||Telephone Operator (uncredited)||George Seaton|
|1947||Dangerous Years||Evie||Arthur Pierson|
|1948||You Were Meant for Me||Flapper (uncredited)||Lloyd Bacon|
|1948||Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!||Betty (uncredited)||Hugh Herbert|
|1948||Green Grass of Wyoming||Square Dancer (uncredited)||Louis King|
|1948||Ladies of the Chorus||Peggy Martin||Phil Karfson|
|1949||Love Happy||Grunion's Client (uncredited)||David Miller|
|1950||A Ticket to Tomahawk||Clara (uncredited)||Richard Sale|
|1950||Right Cross||Dusky Ledoux (uncredited)||John Sturges|
|1950||''The Fireball'||Polly||Tay Garnett|
|1950||The Asphalt Jungle||Angela Phinlay||John Huston|
|1950||All About Eve||Miss Claudia Caswell||Joseph L. Mankiewicz|
|1951||Love Nest||Roberta Stevens||Joseph M. Newman|
|1951||Let's Make It Legal||Joyce Mannering||Richard Sale|
|1951||Home Town Story||Iris Martin||Arthur Pierson|
|1951||As Young as You Feel||Harriet||Harman Jones|
|1952||O. Henry's Full House||Streetwalker||Henry Koster|
|1952||Monkey Business||Lois Laurel||Howard Hawks|
|1952||Clash by Night||Peggy||Fritz Lang|
|1952||We're Not Married!||Anabel Norris||Edmund Goulding|
|1952||Don't Bother to Knock||Nell Forbes||Roy Baker|
|1953||Niagara||Rose Loomis||Henry Hathaway|
|1953||Gentlemen Prefer Blondes||Lorelei Lee||Howard Hawks|
|1953||How to Marry a Millionaire||Pola Debevoise||Jean Negulesco|
|1954||River of No Return||Kay Weston||Otto Preminger|
|1954||There's No Business Like Show Business||Vicky||Walter Lang|
|1955||The Seven Year Itch||The Girl||Billy Wilder|
|1956||Bus Stop||Cherie||Joshua Logan|
|1957||The Prince and the Showgirl||Elsie Marina||Laurence Oliver|
|1959||Some Like It Hot||Sugar Kane Kowalczyk||Billy Wilder|
|1960||Let's Make Love||Amanda Dell||George Cukor|
|1961||The Misfits||Roslyn Taber||John Huston|
|1962||Something's Got To Give (Unfinished)||Ellen Wagstaff Arden||George Cukor|