Monday, March 18, 2019

Women's History Month Honor Series - Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jean Mortenson on June 1, 1926.  She was the third child of Gladys Pearl Baker, but grew up in a series of foster homes and orphanages following her mother's mental breakdown.  To this day, history has no record of who Monroe's biological father was, as The Maury Povich Show was still decades away.

At age 16, Monroe married a neighbor, James Dougherty, five years her senior.  It was a marriage of convenience.  For Monroe, it allowed her to stay in California, rather than relocate with her foster family to West Virginia.  For Dougherty, he got to marry Marilyn Monroe.  Win-win!  But as with most Hollywood marriages, it wouldn't last long.

In 1944, Monroe pitched in to help Uncle Sam by working in a radioplane factory (early drones).  While there, she met a photographer and began her career as a pin-up model.  An instant success, it wasn't long before Hollywood noticed, and she was cast in a number of films, including As Young as You Feel.  You can watch the film in its entirety here.  Or here's the trailer.

By 1953, Monroe had become the most marketable woman in Hollywood, leading to bigger roles.  That year alone, she had starring roles in films such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire and Niagara.  Her biggest hit would come two years later, when she starred in The Seven Year Itch. Click on the titles to see their original trailers.

Monroe married Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, and was romantically linked to at least two of the Kennedys.  To learn more about her personal life, take a voyage to your public library.  It's all in books.

By 1962, Monroe was single again, and living at a home in Brentwood.  On the evening of August 5th, her housekeeper stopped by to check in on her. 

Finding the door to her bedroom locked, the housekeeper called Monroe's psychiatrist, as you do.  He broke in to the room, where he found Monroe dead in her bed.  Toxicology reports would later indicate that she had died of acute barbiturate poisoning.

Monroe's psychiatrist later stated that the star was "prone to severe factors and frequent depressions with abrupt and unpredictable mood changes."  Sounds like every woman I've ever dated.  He also added that she had overdosed on several prior occasions, believing many of them to be intentional.  Based on his conclusions and the lack of any signs of foul play, Monroe's death was declared a probable suicide.

All of Hollywood turned out for Monroe's funeral.  Watch some news footage of it here.  She was interred at Pierce Brothers Memorial Park in Westwood Village, hands down the coolest cemetery in LA.  Today, her neighbors include Carroll O'Connor, Florence Henderson, Zsa Zsa Gabor and a host of other luminaries.  But her most noteworthy neighbor is none other than Hugh Hefner, who began his Playboy empire with a little help from Monroe, who appeared in the very first issue.  Hef bought the space directly next to Monroe, but it would take him another 53 years to join her in it.

Here's a picture from one of my recent visits.

And here's a close-up from another occasion.

Goodbye, Norma Jean.  Hey, so that's what that song means!