Movie Legends: Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

She was born in Los Angeles on June 1, 1926.

All these decades later, she’s still with us, still a part of Americana.

Her career started as many young women’s careers did in those days – posing for pinups and glamour photos.

Ben Lyon of 20th Century-Fox saw the pictures and signed Norma Jean Baker to a contract. He signed her to a one-year contract at $125 a week and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. (Howard Hughes was not pleased: he’d wanted to give Norma Jean a screen test for RKO, but Ben Lyon moved faster.)

A year later, 20th Century-Fox let her contract expire – they had no idea of the star power Marilyn would soon exhibit. Marilyn faced some hard times, but never gave up. In 1950, when Darryl F. Zanuck saw her work in ALL ABOUT EVE, he immediately signed her to a brand-new seven year contract with 20th Century-Fox starting at $500 a week.

Her star was on the rise. DON’T BOTHER TO KNOCK opened in bad weater in New York, but still grossed $26,000 in a single week – people would brave anything for a glimpse of Marilyn Monroe.

In 1953, in the movie NIAGARA, Marilyn took a long, seductive walk in a tight red dress right into the conciousness of America. Not long after that, American film distributors voted her the top star of the year

Marilyn was frequently cast as a dumb blonde, but her intelligence and comedic timing were always in evidence. In 1956, she took steps to take control of her career. “I want to expand,” Marilyn explained, “to get into other fields, to broaden my scope.” She formed Marilyn Monroe Productions and produced BUS STOP, and then went on to star with Laurence Olivier in THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL.

But in the end, the pressure on her was too great. Her marriages to Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller ended unhappily. She suffered from a series of physical problems. On August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood, California home of an overdose of sleeping pills.

In her all-too-brief lifetime, Marilyn skyrocketed from struggling actress, to star, to screen legend. But for film fans, the best part of Marilyn is still with us. Her charm, her humor, her innocent sexuality will live forever in the legacy of film performances she left behind.

We still love Marilyn. And we always will.

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