Born Norma Jean Mortenson on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California to a single mother — Gladys Baker struggling with mental illness and a travelling salesman who would not claim her, Marilyn Monroe was baptised Norma Jean Baker.
She later dominated the world of movie stars and become the most famous woman of the 20th century. Traded in and out of orphanages and foster homes, Monroe’s early childhood was defined by emotional neglect and sexual abuse at the age of eight.
As many other film stars from the studio system era in Hollywood would report, movie-going cultivated in Monroe a driving desire to join the privileged, shining faces, and outsized personalities of the silver screen. More than a 1950s sex goddess, Monroe personified Hollywood glamour, but always felt unfulfilled as an actress.
‘My illusions didn’t have anything to do with being a fine actress. I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But, my God, how I wanted to learn, to change, to improve!’ she is quoted to have said.
Brief roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (1950) led to stardom in many films, notably, The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like It Hot (1959). She never won, nor was nominated for an Oscar.
She married the baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and later the playwright Arthur Miller, who wrote her last film, The Misfits (1960). After she had divorced Arthur Miller, she was madly in love with John F Kennedy, a love that ‘probably’ cost her life.
In 1962, at age 36, and after completing only 29 films, Marilyn Monroe died in the bedroom of her Brentwood, California, home from an overdose of barbiturates, leaving a legacy as one of the most recognizable movie stars and powerful cultural images in film history.
Candle in the Wind, a song with music by Elton John and lyrics by Bernie Taupin, could be listened up once again on her birthday.