It’s 49 years since the death of Hollywood’s ultimate sex symbol, goddess, icon, misunderstood muse, comic genius, whatever you choose to call her – Marilyn Monroe. To mark the occasion, I’ve compiled 49 facts and quotes about Monroe and her life.
1. Visitors to Chicago can get snapped at the 26ft Forever Marilyn statue (right) which presents Marilyn as ‘the Girl’ from The Seven Year Itch, grappling with her skirt over a subway grate. If you ask me, the statue is pretty tacky and just invites perves to gawp up her skirt. It just feeds into the notion that Marilyn was a sex object and that was it. She wasn’t. Like all good things in Americana, there was much more to Marilyn than appearance.
2. On the dole? So was Marilyn at one point. When she was dropped by Fox in 1947, Marilyn claimed unemployment benefit in California.
3. Last month, $5.6 million was paid at auction for the dress Monroe wore in the subway grate scene. The winning bid was $4.6 million, plus a $1 million commission for the auction house. Wowzers.
4. Marilyn was five foot five and a half inches tall.
5. Need a new username? How about Zelda Zonk? Marilyn used this imaginative pseudonym for some anonymity when checking into hotels and travelling.
6. Born 1st June 1926. Died 5th August 1962.
8. Monroe’s dress scene in The Seven Year Itch has been parodied to death, but some film buffs consider her scene to be a parody of the 1901 film What Happened on Twenty-Third Street, New York City. In this short, Florence Georgie’s dress is blown up above her knees, similar to Monroe’s more than 50 years later. Similarities: the dress she wears is white, the woman is accompanied by a man and it occurs above a grate in the sidewalk. Coincidental? I think not.
9. In 1999, Marilyn was named the Number One Sex Star of the 20th Century by Playboy magazine. Back in December 1953, she was the first Playboy “Sweetheart” of the Month, later renamed Playmate of the Month. In 1947 Marilyn Monroe did a nude photoshoot and in 1953 the rights to the photos were purchased for $500 by Hugh Hefner for his first edition of Playboy.
10. Marilyn was passionate about art and became a collector later in life. Her favorite artists were Goya, Picasso, and El Greco.
11. For 20 years after her death Joe DiMaggio had a dozen red roses delivered to her crypt three times a week. He never remarried. It is claimed that Joe’s last words were: “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”
13. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953, How to Marry a Millionaire, 1953 and There’s No Business Like Show Business, 1954 were all named One of the Ten Worst Films of the Year, from the Harvard Lampoon proving that critics aren’t always right.
14. You can visit Marilyn’s star at 6774 Hollywood Boulevard, right in front of McDonald’s. The star was placed here on February 9, 1960.
15. In 1947 she was crowned Miss California Artichoke Queen.
17. Most poorly paid star ever? For her first contract with Fox in 1945, Monroe was paid a measly $75 per week. For River of No Return, There’s No Business Like Show Business, and The Seven Year Itch, 1954 – 1955, her wage was $1500 per week. For Something’s Got To Give, her last and unfinished picture in 1962, Marilyn would’ve received $100,000 had she finished it. (Compare this to Elizabeth Taylor’s whopper salary for Cleopatra or what Julia Roberts pockets today.)
19. In 1946, she began using the stage name Marilyn Monroe, but did not legally change her name until February 23, 1956.
20. The FBI compiled a 34 page file on Marilyn Monroe, much of which hints that she was a communist sympathiser. Included are a visa application to visit the USSR as well as her relationships with people that the FBI believed were communist sympathisers.
21. Her death was ruled to be “acute barbiturate poisoning” by Dr. Thomas Noguchi of the Los Angeles County Coroners office and listed as “probably suicide”, but because of a lack of evidence, her death was not classified as “suicide”. Jack Clemmons was the first police officer to arrive on the scene. He reported, “Marilyn was lying face down in what I call the soldier’s position. Her hands were by her side and her legs were stretched out perfectly straight. It was the most obviously staged death scene I have ever seen. The pill bottles on her bedside table had been arranged in neat order and the body deliberately positioned. It all looked too tidy.”
22. Marilyn’s beauty regime is well documented. On the set of River of No Return she used to smear Vaseline on her skin and frighten the locals off set. First husband James Dougherty said she would rinse her face 15 times each time she washed it. She told photographer Bert Stern in 1962 that she swore by Nivea.
24. Way before the jogging craze of the Eighties, Marilyn would jog LA’s back streets. She also took to practising yoga in 1962 and stayed out of the sun as much as possible.
25. Marilyn’s hair was originally a mousy-reddish brown and believe it or not she was reluctant to go blonde when an agent advised her to hit the bleach. Marilyn later had her hair bleached once a week by the same colorist who had bleached Jean Harlow’s hair.
26. Husbands: James Dougherty (married June 19, 1942; divorced September 13, 1946)
Joe DiMaggio (married January 14, 1954; divorced October 27, 1954)
It is alleged that Bob Slatzer was married to her for a few days in Mexico in October 1952.
27. Marilyn’s favourite singers were Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.
28. Norma Jeane’s first solo magazine cover was the April 26th 1946 issue of Family Circle.
29. Contrary to her image, Marilyn was a shy person who allegedly broke out in hives when meeting new people. “She seemed very shy, and I remember that when the studio workers would whistle at her, it seemed to embarrass her” said Cary Grant, Marilyn’s co-star in Monkey Business.
30. The secret of Marilyn’s timeless appeal? “She was beautiful and untouched, it was as though she were just beginning.” Bert Stern, photographer.
31. Marilyn’s maternal ancestry was Irish and Scottish.
33. Marilyn appeared as an Oscar presenter at the Academy Awards, March 29,1951.
34. Yes, Hef again. Hugh Hefner owns the burial vault next to Marilyn Monroe at Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California and intends to be buried there.
35. Prior to the shooting of Ladies of the Chorus, (1948) Dr. Walter Taylor, an orthodontist specializing in cosmetic surgery, fixed her front teeth, which protruded slightly. In 1950, Johnny Hyde arranged for her to have her nose and chin surgically perfected.
36. First studio contract with 20th Century Fox, August 26, 1946. Signs contract with Columbia Pictures, March 9, 1948. Signs contract with MGM, August 15, 1949
37. For many years it was believed that Gladys’s second husband Martin Edward Mortenson was Marilyn’s father and name is even listed on her birth certificate. However Marilyn herself believed a salesman named Charles Stanley Gifford was her father.
38. According to Norman Mailer, in his book, “Marilyn,” he says that Milton Greene told him that Marilyn had some abortions. Mailer claims she had at least 12 abortions by the time she was 29!
40. During her marriage to Arthur Miller, Marilyn converted to Judaism.
41. Received Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy “Some Like It Hot”, March 8, 1960.
42. Marilyn had a half-sister, Berniece Baker Miracle. The girls did not learn of each other until Berniece was 19 and Norma Jeane 12. But once each did discover the existence of the other, they stayed in close contact–both before and after Norma Jeane became Marilyn. Bernice wrote a biography called “My Sister Marilyn” which was published in 1994 to critical acclaim. Marilyn left $10,000 to Bernice in her will.
43. Most successful movie was “Some Like It Hot”, 1959.
44. Marilyn was a voracious reader and her first credit card was for Martindale’s bookstore.
45. Her last completed movie was John Huston’s The Misfits, written by Arthur Miller as a “gift” to his wife or an attempt to save their marriage by giving her the meaty acting part she craved. It spookily enough was also the last movie by her co-stars Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift.
46. Shelley Winters on Marilyn: “If she’d been dumber, she’d have been happier.”
47. On 16th Feb 1954 Marilyn began a ten venue tour of the troops in Korea, an experience she later stated was a career high.
48. On New Year’s Eve, Marilyn formed Marilyn Monroe Productions with friend and photographer Milton Greene, and went into self-imposed exile to New York, effectively telling the studios she was tired of being their puppet. It was a move for which she was never fully forgiven but the days of the studio system were numbered.
49. Some quotes from the lady herself: “My illusions didn’t have anything to do with being a fine actress. I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But, my God, how I wanted to learn, to change, to improve!”
“If I’d observed all the rules, I’d never have got anywhere.”
“It’s all make believe, isn’t it?”
Really sweet interview with Marilyn (if you get past the poor sound):