Historical Figures: Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson, on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles. Her mother suffered from mental illness and she was shuffled between different foster parents throughout much of her childhood.

Marily Monroe

After a career as a model, Monroe began to pursue work as a film actress. During the 1950s, she established a fervent following among movie-goers who responded to her unique blend of natural beauty, fragility, comic timing and raw sex appeal. By the late 1950s, Monroe was at the height of her powers and, in 1960, she won a Golden Globe for her performance as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk in the classic comedy, Some Like It Hot.

Once, twice, three times a lady

In 1954, she married baseball superstar Joe DiMaggio. The glittering couple seemed made for each other but the marriage was over in less than a year. In 1956, she married the playwright Arthur Miller. Once again, the marriage was short-lived but Miller did write her a great part, as the idealistic man-magnet Roslyn Taber, in The Misfits.

Her performing talents are not in question. But the circumstances of her death have been the subject of intense controversy for more than 40 years. Early on August 5, 1962, Monroe was found dead at her house in Brentwood, California. The official cause of death was probable suicide, due to an overdose of sleeping pills. Monroe suffered from depression and had been unwell during filming of her last, uncompleted movie, Something's Got to Give.

From cover girl to cover up?

But some observers have challenged the official version, suggesting that there was a cover-up to protect senior figures in the American political establishment. There were rumours that Monroe had a sexual relationship with U.S. President John F Kennedy. Biographers have even suggested that Monroe was dating Robert Kennedy, too. Certainly, Monroe knew JFK well enough to sing him an infamously sultry version of Happy Birthday at a Madison Square Gardens gala in May 1962.

Less than three months later, her tragically early death helped secure her position as one of the great Hollywood icons.