The Life of Actress Marilyn Monroe

by Shirley Williams
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Actress Marilyn Monroe gained acclaim as a Hollywood star during the 1950s and early 1960s. Linked to two famous husbands and many prominent paramours, she appeared in a number of films. Directors often cast her as a shapely blonde “sex symbol”. Fans around the world still mourn her tragic death.


Baptized as “Norma Jean Baker”, the future Marilyn Monroe endured a difficult childhood. Her parents divorced two years after her birth. Her mother, Gladys, worked for a film studio in a technical department. She suffered from mental illness. Marilyn would spend much of her childhood residing in an orphanage or in the homes of family friends.

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She attended Van Nuys High School and demonstrated an aptitude for literature and writing. However, shortly after turning 16, she dropped out to marry James Dougherty, a 21-year old neighbor. He enlisted in the Merchant Marine the following year. Her husband departed on an extended tour of duty in the Pacific in the spring of 1944.

A Struggling Model And Actress

The young woman reportedly dreamed of launching a career in the glamorous motion picture industry. During her husband’s absence, she began accepting modeling assignments. In an effort to enhance her career, she dyed her brunette hair blonde and maintained an hourglass figure. By 1946, 20th Century-Fox signed her as a contract player; she adopted the stage name “Marilyn Monroe”. Her first marriage ended in divorce in September 1946.

During the latter part of the 1940s, Marilyn Monroe struggled to succeed in Hollywood as a performer and a model. She attended classes in acting, singing, and dancing. She secured small parts in two movies, but the studio declined to renew her contract. In 1947, she briefly appeared on stage in Glamour Preferred. Columbia Pictures offered her a short-term contract in 1948 and cast her in Ladies of the Chorus, her first starring role.

A Major Star

Marilyn Monroe’s efforts to advance her acting career finally succeeded during the early 1950s. The media linked her romantically to a number of actors, directors, and studio executives. She won a number of supporting roles and secured a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox. Her fan base increased.

In 1954, she married baseball star Joe DiMaggio. They divorced the following year, and in 1956 she married Arthur Miller, a well-known screenwriter. Marilyn Monroe began receiving leading roles in Hollywood films. Directors frequently cast her as a love interest or as “the other woman”. Some of her films included: Niagara (1953); Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1954); Bus Stop (1956); Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Misfits (1961).

Personal Problems

Unfortunately, by 1956, she contended with serious substance abuse problems. Media gossip linked her to adulterous affairs. Her third marriage ended in 1961. Her career faltered. She apparently committed suicide by drug overdose in 1962.

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