She is a legend. Even after being dead for 46 years, her mystical aura lingers on. Her persona still manages to captivate and charm people. Her extraordinary life and inexplicable death intrigues one and all.
Norma Jean Baker a.k.a Marilyn Monroe, the blond bombshell, has left a lasting impact on the world.
Hers was not an ordinary life; she was not born to sweet delights. She had a tragic childhood, oblivious to a normal life. She never had a loving family she could bank on, her father never cradled her in his arms. Infact, she did not even have a place she could call home.She spent her life shuttling in and out of foster homes. She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926. Her mother, Gladys Baker was a film cutter at R.K.O. Widowed and senile, she entrusted her daughter to the ‘care’ of foster homes. As the identity of her father was undetermined, she was baptized Norma Jeane Baker. This young child was almost smothered at the age of two and nearly raped when she was an innocent six year old.
At the age of nine, the L.A Orphans Home took her under its wing. Here, she was paid a nickel a month for kitchen work. She did not know the meaning of luxury and she was alien to love and tender care that parents bestow upon their children. Hardly an easy life!
Throughout her life, she was akin to a nomad, getting in and out of relationships, suffering long bouts of lonliness. She searched for solace which always eluded her. So instead, she found a confidant in alcohol and drugs.
In 1937, life decided to bequeath some kindness on her and she moved in with family friend Grace McKee Goddard. But life’s kindness was shortlived. In 1942 when Grace’s husband was transferred to the east coast, they couldn’t afford to take 16 year old Norma Jeane with them. Only two options remained open for her: getting married or worse returning to the orphanage.
On June 19, 1942, she wedded her neighbor Jimmy Dougherty. She loved Jimmy and the couple reveled in matrimonial bliss till Jimmy joined the Merchant Marines and was transferred to the south Pacific in 1944.
She took up a job on the assembly line at the Radio Plane Munitions factory in Burbank, California. This was where photographer David Conover spotted her while taking photographs of women contributing to war efforts. She became Conover’s muse for that project, and Conover started sending modeling assignments her way. The wheels of fate slowly started turning for her. The darkness that she was enveloped in, started dissolving slowly, her horizons started becoming broader. Within two years, she became a renowned face in the modeling world.
She dreamt, and dreamt big. Her eyes twinkled with the dreams of stardom and she enrolled herself for drama lessons. She dreamt of Hollywood and the associated glamour. Little did she know that soon she would be the reigning queen of the reel world.
In 1946, Jimmy’s return brought her face to face with another dillema, this time it was a choice between marital bliss or a career. She opted for a career divorcing Jimmy in June 1946.
This was how the legend was born, this was the beginning of life for Marilyn Monoroe, Norma Jeane was just a shadow of the past.
Her acting carear began with an insignificant role in The Shocking Miss Pilgrim which hit the theatres in 1947.What followed were numerous forgettable roles till she worked her magic in All about Eve. After that movies such as Let’s Make It Legal, As Young As You Feel, Monkey Business, Don’t Bother To Knock followed. Niagara was the movie which enlisted her in the Hollywood A-list in 1953. From then on, she was on a roll. There was no stopping her.
After Niagara, she was offered lead roles. She did Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How To Marry A Millionaire. At 27, she was Hollywood’s dream girl.
On January 14, 1954, she married baseball superstar Joe DiMaggio. But her celebrity status and her sexual image lead to their union falling apart. The two year old relationship ended on October 27, 1954.
In 1955, she was suspended by Fox studios for not reporting for How To Be Very, Very Popular. She started acting pricey and throwing her weight around – not something her fellow workers approved much of. She would report late to sets and refused to cooperate with her producers, directors and fellow actors.
In Bus Stop (1956), Marilyn again set the record straight. She silenced her critics who blamed for only playing bimbo roles. She tried her luck at matrimony again by marrying Arthur Miller in 1956. Four years later, this relationship was also on the rocks.
Movies like The Prince And The Showgirl did not make much of an impression. Nevertheless, Some Like It Hot was a smash hit which followed. She worked in a few other movies which are seldom remembered like Lets Make Love.
Her starry tantrums, unprofessional attitude, and a very disturbed personal life did not assist her slowly sinking carrier. It seemed to be the end of the road for her. Her attitude, misreable and lonely personal life and a disease (real or a figment of her imagination)were her undoing.
Her last film happened to be The Misfits (1961). opposite Clark Gable At 36, her carrier came to a grinding halt.She was chosen to star in Something’s Got To Give but her absenteeism from the sets caused delay after delay resulting in her being fired.
On the early morning of August 5, 1962, 36-year-old Marylin breathed her last. She died in her sleep mysteriously. Her body was found curled up in a fetal position with the phone in her hand. While it is cited that she committed suicide (drug overdose), many assert foul play, hinting at the involvement of some big shot politicians. Her proximity to political honchos was an open secret. Her death is still as unexplained today as it was all those years ago.
She made only 30 films during her brief stint in Hollywood but her aura, her sensuality accompanied with childlike innocence captured the hearts of millions worldwide and till this day, her fascinating story enthralls millions in every corner of the world. Her rags to riches story will continue to inspire all those who dream of silver screen quotations.
Elton John originally recorded the song “Candle In The Wind” as a tribute to her (later on it was updated in the memory of princess Diana). And as the song goes – “The candle burnt out long before the legend ever did…”
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