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Marilyn Monroe: Biography of an icon

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Marilyn Monroe is an American actress, model and singer who marked her era… Back to the one who is still a true icon today.

Marilyn Monroe, whose real name is Norma Jean Mortensen, was born on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles (United States) and died on August 5, 1962 in Los Angeles (United States). She is remembered for her roles as a brainless blonde, the interpretation of her songs, her physique and the relationship attributed to her with Kennedy. 

Marilyn’s youth

Marilyn Monroe has a difficult childhood, between a mentally ill mother and a father she has never met. Yet the young girl quickly sets a single goal: to become a star, and this, whatever the cost. She marries very young James Dougherty, a soldier, in order to escape the family slump. Convinced that this one will not however have the solid enough shoulders to allow him to achieve his dreams, Marilyn Monroe, who adopts at this time her famous blond hair, divorces at the age of 20 and learns comedy at the ‘University of California. At the same time, she takes a few photos, sometimes daring, to earn a living at first.

Mythical first films

The Columbia studio decides to give him a chance with a six-month contract, which unfortunately will not be enough for the apprentice star to get noticed. Disappointed, Marilyn Monroe returns to the model business for a while. But her career took a new turn thanks to When The City Sleeps (1950) by John Huston, where she was spotted by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, a famous director who asked her to play opposite Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in Eve (1950) . Marilyn Monroe then signs a seven-year contract with the Twentieth Century Fox studio for which she continues the projects, but which nevertheless confines her to the roles of brainless blondes.

Meteoric rise and consecration

Public recognition and the birth of the Monroe myth can be credited to the film Niagara (1953), in which she held the lead role for the first time in her career. Her popularity grew further with the announcement of her marriage to the famous baseball player Joe DiMaggio and the success of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), which gave her her stripes as a sex symbol. Legend has it that the filming of the comedy Seven Years of Reflection (1955), where we see Marilyn’s dress lifted by a subway vent, would be the cause of her divorce from DiMaggio, a union that did not only lasted eight months. But this information has not been confirmed. 

During the shooting of this film, Marilyn Monroe is capricious, often sick or late, and her couple problems quickly take precedence over her work. But these difficulties did not prevent her from having fun with her image of a femme fatale, as evidenced by her concerts in Korea for the American troops on duty, which at the time made her the favorite pin-up of the Americans. In addition, her glamorous escapades did not prevent her from taking her role as an actress very seriously, following the now famous lessons of Lee Strasberg.

The success of her songs

In many films, we find Marilyn Monroe performing songs that have most become famous. There are for example Bye Bye Baby, Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, I Wanna Be Loved By You, My Heart Belongs To Daddy.

Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, is the most covered song, as well as its staging.


She married the playwright Arthur Miller in 1956 and became pregnant the same year. But her pregnancy, declared ectopic, must be terminated as soon as possible and causes her a serious nervous breakdown. Now filming little, at the rate of one film a year, Marilyn is hailed for her performance in Some Like It Hot, which nevertheless turned out to be an apocalyptic shoot: the young woman, often distracted, does not retain her text and provokes annoyance of the team and budget overruns. Tony Curtis will say of her, in a joking tone: “It was worse than kissing Hitler!”.

In 1961, she divorced Arthur Miller, after having had an affair with Yves Montand on the set of The Billionaire (1960). Although she met with great success thanks to Les Désaxés (1961), we hear more often about Marilyn the provocative than about Marilyn the actress. Depressed, she is thanked for the set of her last film, Something’s gotta give, which will remain forever unfinished.

Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy

In the 1960s, rumors circulated about her relationship with John. F Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy. Her performance, terribly glamorous, at Madison Square Garden in May 1962, where she sang, wavering, “Happy Birthday, Mr President” to John F. Kennedy, further fueled rumors about a supposed affair between the actress and the President. Without confirmation of their living beings, the rumors were revived by the publication of two books: The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe by Frank Cappell in 1970 and by another mistress of Kennedy, Judith Campbell, in her autobiography in 1977.

Mystery around her death

Marilyn Monroe was found dead on the night of August 4 to 5, 1962, a telephone in her hand, the victim of an overdose of barbiturates. The police quickly concluded to a suicide, but the inconsistencies of the investigation will give free rein to speculation, erecting Marilyn Monroe to the rank of myth.

Andy Warhol represents Marilyn Monroe

Birth of a legend

Following his death, an icon was created, in particular thanks to the numerous representations made by artists such as, for example, one of the most famous, Andy Warhol. Marilyn Monroe is considered one of America’s greatest actresses today and, by some, a beauty icon. She intrigues, fascinates and the tributes multiply, becoming a major icon of pop culture. 

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