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Fame, fortune, and glamour, three little words that beseech every American. Marilyn Monroe was no exception to the American conquest to become a common household name. Her legacy, love life, and charming good looks will forever be a part of American cultural history. Marilyn Monroe, a major social influence on American Society, lived a short, but amazing life, and effected modern day culture in numerous ways, both positive and negative.
On June 1st, 1926 t Norma Jean Baker was born to Gladys Baker, an ill woman who couldn’t provide stability for her child (Lifetime 1), in Los Angeles California. Norma Baker, also, did not have a biological father that she knew of, but she still made the best of what she had. “Her mother was a film-cutter at RKO Studios, who abandoned (Norma) to a sequence of foster homes” (IMBD 1). During her time in the foster homes, she was nearly smothered at two and raped at six (Alverson 15). During her teenage years, “Monroe dropped out of school at the age of 15 (American National 4). Norma quickly found a way out of the foster homes, marriage.
Eventually, at the young age of 16, Norma married a man named James Dougherty who was 21 years old. “She married her first husband in Las Vegas, Nevada” (IMBD 1). The differences in their ages caused many problems for the two, especially the factor of jealousy. Dougherty and Baker also had many issues concerning the fact that Baker yearned to become a mother. “Dougherty went off to World War I and Baker was left at home, before he left she tried to convince him to get her pregnant, she was afraid he would die, but he refused because she was too young” (Hiskey 52). Eventually their differences caused them to finalize a divorce. Their marriage was short lived and only lasted from 1942 – 1946 (Grahn 20). Her marriage to him was truly her first taste of freedom, excitement, and of what her life could be like, even though the marriage ultimately failed (MTV 1).
Fame has never been given without effort and Norma Jean Baker was no exception. Though her life was difficult, little did Norma Jean Baker know; her life, and career, was about to take off. Near the end of her marriage to Dougherty, “In 1944, a U.S. photographer, named Otto Ose, took pictures of Norma Jean, thus the start of her career as a pin up model” (Hall). As an erotic female object, Marilyn Monroe’s celebrity image represented “pure” femininity and “immoral female sexuality for Post –War American Culture” (Scheibel). The pinup pictures were the ticket that skyrocketed her career. In 1946, 20th Century Fox gave her a contract but let it lapse a year later. In 1948, Columbia gave her a six-month contract, and featured her in the B movie Ladies of the Chorus (1948) in which she sang three numbers: “Every Baby Needs a Da Da Daddy”, “Anyone Can Tell I Love You” and “The Ladies of the Chorus.” In 1960, she had a small part in The Asphalt Jungle and later in All About Eve resulting in 20th Century re-signing her to a seven-year contract (IMBD 1). During her contract with 20th Century Fox, she stared in Niagara (1953) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), which launched her as a sex symbol superstar (bio.com). In 1956, Norma Jean Baker decided to change the views on her childhood and transitioned into who she wanted to be, staring with the change of her name from Norma Jean Baker to Marilyn Monroe.
The Blonde Bombshell, Marilyn Monroe, was an elegant woman. She, despite being the epitome of class, was a human like everyone else and of course went through many tribulations in order to keep her looks up to the standard of society. Briefly after her the short-lived second marriage, to Joe Dimaggio, Marilyn decided to concoct a mixture of Clorox and Ammonia, which changed her hair from a dark brown to, the well known, platinum blonde. ”Marilyn suffered from such nerves that she would throw up before each scene, and her skin would break out” (Donnelly). Her break outs also proved that Marilyn was always very aware that she should take care of her skin, her first husband Jim claimed that after washing her face she would splash it 15 times to ensure that her face with completely void of oil, dirt, soap or make-up. She is said to have smeared Vaseline on her face as a moisturizer/primer. It has also been claimed that she would take ice baths to keep her skin firm and use olive oil as a natural moisturizer (Henrikson). Her weight, often fluctuated, her weight was so inconsistent during some of her filming’s that her costume designer had to create different sizes (The Sydney Morning Harold). “She also took time for glamour with her perfume Chanel No.5” (Lifetime 1). Her immaculate care for her looks also played a major factor in the roles she would play in film.
Marilyn Monroe was featured in 33 films. Her first to be was Scudda-Hoo Scudda-Hay (bio.com). She would be best known for the following films: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to marry a millionaire, and The Seven Year Itch. In each of the films she would be portrayed as the uneducated dumb blonde. Marilyn Monroe did not care for these roles too well in fact she hated this stereotype. She was also well sought after by many authors, for example: ”Monroe was Truman Capote’s first choice for Audrey Hepburn’s role of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (The National 32). Although she hated the roles she played, they would lead her to successful nobility via numerous awards. In 1954, she won The World Film Favorite-Female Henrietta award, and on March 8, 1960 Marilyn Monroe also received a Golden Globe for best comedy actress (Grahn). Although acting was her primary interest, she had numerous other activities/causes she enjoyed/rallied for.
Abraham Lincoln was one of Marilyn Monroe’s most well know influences; “she often carried around the book, The Biography of Abraham Lincoln” (Stephan, 35). ”Due to her fascination, Monroe became an activist in The Civil Rights Movement” (Home). Outside of her political actives, she also enjoyed reading and doing yoga. Marilyn was, and still remains, a role model for women. She proved that even as a size 18 not all woman have to be a size 2 to be considered beautiful. Even though she was the most beautiful woman of the twentieth century, Monroe also had imperfections and demons of her own.
Marilyn Monroe, the world’s most important and sought after sex symbol, knew no limits. Many men swooned over her, including the President of the United States: John F. Kennedy. At what would be her final appearance at John F. Kennedy’s birthday celebration in New York City, she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President Kennedy “while she was there she was fired from the production of Something’s Got to Give (Guillory 1-3). The tabloids believed that Monroe, allegedly, was having an affair with the President of the United States. Unfortunately on August 5, 1962, at the young age of 36, in Los Angeles CA, Marilyn Monroe was found in her Hotel with a pill bottle in hand, laying face down in her bed. The medication more than likely would be for her sleeping troubles (ANB). However, many believe that she did not over-dose.
Many conspiracies exist, most claiming that the Kennedys targeted her and hired the mafia to kill her. While many other sources believe that her death was an unintentional suicide. Marilyn Monroe is buried at Westwood Memorial Cemetery in California. During her career, “Monroe’s films grossed more than $200 million” (ANB). Hugh Heffner bought the burial vault next to Marilyn in 1992, for $77,000 (The Sydney Morning Harold). If Monroe had lived she would have been 85 years old. “Her mother died on March 11, 1984 of a heart failure in Gainesville Florida. She was 81” (Donnelley).
Marilyn Monroe’s legacy still lives to the present day; she was not only a positive figure for women, but also for American civil rights. Her figure still inspires women who don’t fit into the mold that society currently has and regardless of whether or not it is considered “politically correct,” she is still the most recognizable sex symbol of American culture. In modern times, its hard to believe that Marilyn Monroe hasn’t always been a idol and it’s even harder to believe that she isn’t still alive. Although her death was tragic, her legend will survive long after the 21st century.
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