Good-bye, Norma Jean

Well, you know what they say – “Your candle burned out long before your legend ever did.

1962 Marilyn Monroe dies

On this day in 1962, Marilyn Monroe dies from an overdose of barbiturates. Her death was widely presumed to be suicide.

Monroe, born Norma Jean Mortensen and also known as Norma Jean Baker, had a tragic childhood. Her mother, a negative cutter at several film studios, was mentally unstable and was institutionalized when Norma Jean was five. Afterward, the little girl lived in a series of foster homes, where she suffered from neglect and abuse, and later lived in an orphanage. At 16, she quit high school and married a 21-year-old aircraft plant worker named Joe Dougherty.

In 1944, her husband was sent overseas with the military, and Monroe went to work as a paint sprayer in a defense plant. A photographer spotted her there, and she soon became a popular pin-up girl. She began working as a model and divorced her husband two years later. In 1946, 20th Century Fox signed her for $125 a week but dropped her after one film, from which her scenes were cut. Columbia signed her but also dropped her after one film. Unemployed, she posed nude for a calendar for $50; the calendar sold a million copies and made $750,000.

Monroe played a series of small film roles until 1950, when Fox signed her again. This time, they touted her as a star and began giving her leading roles in 1952 with films like Don’t Bother to Knock and Monkey Business. Her star continued to rise during the next few years with hits like Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1953) and Some Like It Hot (1959). Her tremendous sex appeal and little-girl mannerisms made her enormously popular. In 1954, she married baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, but they divorced only nine months later.

After the divorce, Monroe searched for more serious roles and announced she would found her own studio. She began studying acting with the famous Lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio in New York. She gave an impressive comic performance in Bus Stop in 1955. The following year, she married intellectual playwright Arthur Miller. Miller wrote a screenplay for her, The Misfits (1961), which was her last picture. She divorced him a week before the film opened. She attempted one more film, Something’s Got to Give, but was fired for her frequent illnesses and absences from the set, which many believed to be related to drug addiction. In August 1962, she died of an overdose of sleeping pills at the age of 36. Since her death, her popularity and mystique have lingered, with numerous biographies published after her death. Her ex-husband Joe DiMaggio continued to send flowers to her grave every day for the rest of his life.

[tags]Norma Jean Mortensen, Marilyn Monroe, Today in History[/tags]