Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson, but baptized Norma Jeane Baker, was an American actress, singer and model. 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 were well received. By 1953, Monroe had progressed to leading roles. Her “dumb blonde” persona was used to comedic effect in such films as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire and The Seven Year Itch. Limited by typecasting, Monroe studied at the Actors Studio to broaden her range, and her dramatic performance in Bus Stop was hailed by critics. Her production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, released The Prince and the Showgirl, for which she received a BAFTA Award nomination, and she received a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Some Like It Hot. 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. 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 a pop and cultural icon.
Monroe was born in the Los Angeles County Hospital on June 1, 1926, as Norma Jeane Mortenson, the third child born to Gladys Pearl Baker, née Monroe. Monroe’s birth certificate names the father as Martin Edward Mortensen with his residence stated as “unknown”. The name Mortenson is listed as her surname on the birth certificate, although Gladys immediately had it changed to Baker, the surname of her first husband and which she still used. Martin’s surname was misspelled on the birth certificate leading to more confusion on who her actual father was. Gladys Baker had married a Martin E. Mortensen in 1924, but they had separated before Gladys’ pregnancy. Several of Monroe’s biographers suggest that Gladys Baker used his name to avoid the stigma of illegitimacy. Mortensen died at the age of 85, and Monroe’s birth certificate, together with her parents’ marriage and divorce documents, were discovered. The documents showed that Mortensen filed for divorce from Gladys on March 5, 1927, and it was finalized on October 15, 1928.