48 Photos Of Norma Jeane Mortenson Before She Became Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson; June 1, 1926 – August 4, 1962) was an American actress, model and singer. Famous for playing comedic “blonde bombshell” characters, she became one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s and early 1960s and was emblematic of the era’s sexual revolution. She was a top-billed actress for only a decade, but her films grossed $200 million (equivalent to $2 billion in 2020) by the time of her death in 1962. Long after her death, Monroe remains a major icon of pop culture. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked her sixth on their list of the greatest female screen legends from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Monroe spent most of her childhood in foster homes and an orphanage; she married at age sixteen. She was working in a factory during World War II when she met a photographer from the First Motion Picture Unit and began a successful pin-up modeling career, which led to short-lived film contracts with 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures. After a series of minor film roles, she signed a new contract with Fox in late 1950. Over the next two years, she became a popular actress with roles in several comedies, including As Young as You Feel and Monkey Business, and in the dramas Clash by Night and Don’t Bother to Knock. She faced a scandal when it was revealed that she had posed for nude photographs prior to becoming a star, but the story did not damage her career and instead resulted in increased interest in her films.

By 1953, Monroe was one of the most marketable Hollywood stars; she had leading roles in the film noir Niagara, which overtly relied on her sex appeal, and the comedies Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, which established her star image as a “dumb blonde”. The same year, her nude images were used as the centerfold and on the cover of the first issue of Playboy. She played a significant role in the creation and management of her public image throughout her career, but she was disappointed when she was typecast and underpaid by the studio. She was briefly suspended in early 1954 for refusing a film project but returned to star in The Seven Year Itch (1955), one of the biggest box office successes of her career.

When the studio was still reluctant to change Monroe’s contract, she founded her own film production company in 1954. She dedicated 1955 to building the company and began studying method acting under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Later that year, Fox awarded her a new contract, which gave her more control and a larger salary. Her subsequent roles included a critically acclaimed performance in Bus Stop (1956) and her first independent production in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). She won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her role in Some Like It Hot (1959), a critical and commercial success. Her last completed film was the drama The Misfits (1961).

Monroe’s troubled private life received much attention. She struggled with addiction and mood disorders. Her marriages to retired baseball star Joe DiMaggio and to playwright Arthur Miller were highly publicized, and both ended in divorce. On August 4, 1962, she died at age 36 from an overdose of barbiturates at her Los Angeles home. Her death was ruled a probable suicide. (Wikipedia)

The future American actress Marilyn Monroe smiling as a 10-months old baby, April 1927
A young Norma Jeane Mortenson with her mother, Gladys Baker, 1929
Norma Jeane Mortenson at five years old, 1931
An adolescent Norma Jeane Mortenson staying at her Aunt Ana’s place. Aunt Ana’s was one of the many homes she would live in through her difficult childhood as an orphan, 1938
Norma Jeane Mortenson at 14 years old. After her Aunt Ana got sick, Norma Jeane had to move in with the Goddard family. She had lived there before, but left their home when she was 11 when her legal guardian, Erwin Goddard, molested her (1940)
A teenaged Norma Jeane Mortenson (center) at an outdoor fete with a group of friends, 1941
A teenaged Norma Jeane Mortenson (center) and her friends in a rowboat, 1941
Norma Jeane Mortenson poses for a photo with a friend and her baby, 1941
Norma Jeane Mortenson at the zoo, with a hornbill on her arm, 1941
Young Norma Jeane Mortenson plays with penguins at the zoo, 1941
Norma Jeane Mortenson as a 15-year-old beauty queen. This would be her last year as a single woman, 1941
At the age of 16, Norma Jeane Mortenson married James Dougherty (June 19, 1942)
Norma Jeane Dougherty, Bridal portrait, Age 16, 1942
Newlywed Norma Jeane Dougherty goes out for Chinese food with her family, 1942
Norma Jeane Mortenson with her husband, James Dougherty. When the pair met, he was her neighbor and five years her senior. The two had little in common. She would later say that they hardly spoke because “we had nothing to say.” 1943
James Dougherty, now a Merchant Marine, poses with his wife outside of boot camp. After he joined the Merchant Marines, the couple became increasingly distant. In 1944, he would be sent off to the Pacific. From then on, they would rarely see one another. 1943
Norma Jeane Dougherty alone, with her husband’s boot camp in the distance 1943
Norma Jeane Dougherty working at the Radioplane Munitions Factory. While working at the factory, Norma Jeane was spotted by an Army propaganda officer.
He took this photo of her working at her post. It was the first modelling job of her life, 1945
Shortly after her photoshoot in the factory, she quit her job and tried modelling full time, 1945
One of her first modeling shots, 1945
Early Portrait of Norma Jeane, 1945
Norma Jeane posing in the gardens of the Ambassador Hotel holding the Blue Book Models life ring, 1945
An early Blue Book Modeling Agency picture of Marilyn Monroe in a white bikini, 1945
Norma Jean at the beginning of her modeling career, 1945
Skiing down a sand dune at a photoshoot, 1945
Posing during a Blue Book modeling shoot, 1945
Norma Jeane Dougherty gets intimately close to another model to film an ad for hair products. James Dougherty strongly disapproved of his wife’s new career. Less than a year after this photo was taken, their marriage would fall apart and the pair would get divorced (1945)
Norma Jeane becomes a “Sweater Girl.” 1945
The Blue Book Modelling Years, 1945
Norma Jeane sitting with her legs out, wearing bikini, 1945
Douglas Airview magazine employed models to advertise its American Airlines flights. Here, Norma Jeane shows great interest in the stewardess handing milk, 1945
Norma Jeane at the pool, 1945
Norma Jeane poses in a swimsuit, 1945
A young Marilyn Monroe is a picture of joy in a white one-piece bathing suit, 1945
Norma Jeane’s first national magazine cover, in 1946 for The Family Circle, was incredibly sweet, wholesome and innocent
Posing for a postcard by the sea, 1946
The Romantic negative of Norma Jeane, 1946
Norma Jeane with yellow skirt, 1946
Yellow Skirt, Gene Hansen’s Sycamore, March 1946
Norma Jeane in a hunting with binoculars, 1946
Posing with a puppy on a bicycle, 1946
In red sweater, Gene Hansen’s Sycamore, 1946
Norma Jeane in a red bathing suit, 1946
Floating in a pool, 1946
Norma Joane wearing a white bathing suit by a swimming pool, 1946
Sitting on a towel, hugging her knees, 1946
Norma Jeane posing in Malibu. Her lover and photographer behind the photo said “She was twenty and had never experienced the intoxication of success, yet already there was a shadow over her radiance, in her laughter” (1946)

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