On this day, 86 years ago, one of the most the iconic beauties ever to grace silver screens around the world was born in Los Angeles. Let’s take a look back at the life and work of the blonde bombshell of Hollywood in this installment of Today in History!
On June 1, 1926, Norma Jeane Mortensen Baker, who would be later known as Hollywood’s blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe, was born in Los Angeles County Hospital, the third child of Gladys Pearl Monroe Baker. However, the identity of her father (said to be Martin Edward Mortensen) has been confused, as his name was misspelled on her birth certificate. Many biographers have suggested that Gladys Baker used Mortensen’s name despite their divorce before her pregnancy to avoid the dishonor of her daughter being an illegitimate child.
The young Norma Jeane had a turbulent childhood which stemmed from her mother’s mental instability and financial incapacity to raise her. She moved from one guardian, orphanage, and foster home after another, until a family friend arranged for her to get married at sixteen, to James “Jim” Dougherty, a neighbor’s son with whom she began a relationship with. Jim was hesitant at first, but he eventually agreed.
Around 1945, while Jim was serving in the Merchant Marine in the Pacific, Norma Jeane started working as an assembly line employee in an aeronautical factory. It was during this time that she was spotted by David Conover of the US Army Forces’ 1st Motion Picture Unit and took several photos of her. Later on, taking Conover’s suggestion, she applied to The Blue Book Modeling Agency, with success. She signed with the modeling agency and began studying the work of screen sirens at the time, such as Jean Harlow and Lana Turner. Also, she bleached her brunette locks to golden blonde after the agency told her that they were after models with lighter hair.
Soon, Norma Jeane was on her way to stardom, becoming one of the agency’s best models. She eventually caught the eyes of 20th Century Fox executive Ben Lyon, who called for her screen test. Impressed, Lyons said, “It’s Jean Harlow all over again.” However, the executive wanted the Norma Jeane to use a new name. After several suggestions and variations, she decided to use “Monroe,” her mother’s maiden name , and Lyon motioned for “Marilyn,” as he found her reminiscent of of Marilyn Miller. With it, a star was born.
In 1947, Monroe appeared in her first movie stint as a telephone operator in The Shocking Miss Pilgrim. She slowly eased her way into stardom, starring in various films and landing notable roles in Niagara (the film which earned her a superstar status), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, River of No Return, The Seven Year Itch, Some Like It Hot, and The Misfits.
Now, let’s take a look at Marilyn Monroe at her most stunning, and greet her a happy birthday! She would have turned 86 today!
Here at Lomography, we’ve been constantly showing some Monroe-love, so we’d like to share with you some related articles:
- Influential Photographs: Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, 1954 by George Zimbel
- Rare Photos of Marilyn Monroe with a Rolleiflex
- Last But Not the Least: Marilyn Monroe's Last Photo
- Two Weeks with Marilyn: The 65th Cannes Film Festival