“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” – Marilyn Monroe
Monroe, photographed by Gene Kornman, circa 1962.
Marilyn Monroe (1926 – 1962) born in Los Angeles as Norma Jeane Mortenson, but baptized and raised as Norma Jeane Baker was an American actress, singer, model and showgirl who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950′s.
With a change of name—and hair color—Norma Jeane Mortensen, orphan, became Marilyn Monroe, the Icon. Here she is in her former incarnation, in 1945.
After spending much of her childhood in foster homes, Monroe began a career as a model, which led to a film contract in 1946. Her early film appearances were minor, but her performances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (both 1950) drew attention to her—by now her hair was dyed blonde.
Wearing an off-the-shoulder dress for an alluring shot taken on the set of film Asphalt Jungle, August 1950.
Reclining seductively for the camera in a strapless dress, 1950.
Dressed in Perspex high heels and a black all-in-one for a behind-the-scenes studio picture, 1950.
In character for the film All About Eve, where she starred alongside Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, January 1950.
Caught off-guard in a studio shot, in a red ruched dress adorned with jewelling, January 1950.
Looking relaxed and happy in an early modelling shot, working a Fifties beach look, 1951.
Leaving her handprints in cement at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. She was joined by her Gentlemen Prefer Blondes co-star Jane Russell, July 1952.
A portrait taken in 1952 at the 20th Century Fox Gallery Studio. That year, Marilyn starred in five films.
An early head shot, wearing little more than the bright lipstick that became one of her signatures, January 1953.
By 1953, Monroe had progressed to a leading role in Niagara (1953). Her “dumb blonde” persona was used to comic effect in subsequent films as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and The Seven Year Itch (1955).
Striking a pose in glamorous sequins with Jane Russell during Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, January 1953.
Showcasing her famous curves in River of No Return, where she played a saloon entertainer, April 1954.
One of film’s most iconic images, Monroe is caught by a draft of wind blowing up from a New York subway as she stands over a grate, while promoting film The Seven Year Itch in September 1954. The white dress, described by its designer Billy Travilla as “that silly little dress”, was sold in June 2011 for £2.8 million.
Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe wedding, January 14, 1954.
In an off-the-shoulder white dress, a fur stole and peep-toe heels, she attended a preview of The Seven Year Itch in New York with her then husband Joe DiMaggio, June 1955.
Limited by typecasting, Monroe studied at the Actors Studio to broaden her range. Her dramatic performance in Bus Stop (1956) was hailed by critics, and she received a Golden Globe nomination.
Wearing a cream, fitted dress Monroe and Miller arrive in London, ready to start shooting Lawrence Olivier’s new film The Prince And The Showgirl in July 1956 – the subject of which has now been turned into a film, entitled My Week With Marilyn starring Michelle Williams.
A contact sheet from a shoot with Cecil Beaton in 1956. Ed Pfizenmaier, who shot with Beaton that day, comments, “It was different in those days. We were at the Ambassador Hotel in New York. Marilyn knocked on the door. She was alone and she brought her clothes and did her own makeup…It was like the king photographing the queen. Beaton mesmerized Marilyn.”
Her production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, released The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), for which she received a BAFTA Award nomination and won a David di Donatello award. She received a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Some Like It Hot (1959).
Marilyn Monroe with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, in Some Like It Hot (1959).
In a costume from the iconic film Some Like It Hot – a show-stopping, strapless, fitted dress with a fur stole – in which Monroe starred with Tony Curtis, March 1959.
Monroe’s final completed film was The Misfits, co-starring Clark Gable with the screenplay written by her then-husband, Arthur Miller.
Monroe and husband number three, Arthur Miller, on the set of The Misfits (1960).
The final years of Monroe’s life were marked by illness, personal problems, and a reputation for being unreliable and difficult to work with. The circumstances of her death, from an overdose of barbiturates, have been the subject of conjecture. Though officially classified as a “probable suicide”, the possibility of an accidental overdose, as well as the possibility of homicide, have not been ruled out.
Dressed in a bikini to reveal her hourglass figure in a scene for comedy Something’s Got to Give, from which Monroe was fired from in June 1962 following a constant flow of unreliable and troubled behaviour. The film was never completed.
In 1999, Monroe was ranked as the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. In the years and decades following her death, Monroe has often been cited as both a pop and a cultural icon as well as the quintessential American female sex symbol.
Marilyn Monroe was the December 1953 “sweetheart” and the first Playboy cover girl. She must have made a lasting impression, because Hugh Hefner reserved the crypt next to hers.
Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, in a dress she was sewn into.
Marilyn Monroe photographed by Bert Stern, September 1962.
“This life is what you make it. Not matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, somg go. The ones that stay with you through everything – they’re your true best friends. Don’t let go of them. Also remember, sisters make the best friends in the world. As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too. And babve, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up becuase if you give up, you’ll never find your soul mate. You’ll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything. Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” – Marilyn Monroe
Andy Warhol’s 1964 Orange Marilyn, based on a 1952 publicity still, was part of his Death Series. In 1998 it sold for $17.3 million, the highest price ever paid for a work by Warhol.
More “ICONS” stories: