Marilyn Monroe

(1926—1962) American actress

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US film star and sex symbol.

An unhappy childhood in Los Angeles orphanages and foster homes, her mother's mental illness, an unknown father, a short broken teenage marriage, and early struggles as a photographer's model form the background to a Hollywood saga that ended, predictably, in a drug overdose. Monroe made her debut in a small part in Scudda-Hoo! Scudda-Hay! and subsequently appeared in a better part in the B-picture Ladies of the Chorus (both 1948). She first attracted attention in John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and her first starring role came in the minor thriller Don't Bother to Knock (1952). The disclosure, at this crucial point in her career, that she had posed nude for a calendar photograph in her modelling days, and her protestation that she had done so because she was hungry, was skilfully used by Hollywood to convert the emerging starlet into a world-class sex symbol. The studios cashed in and during 1953 she made three highly successful films – Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Marry a Millionaire. She also married the baseball player Joe DiMaggio, but this second marriage lasted less than a year.

In spite of a steadily deteriorating personal life, Monroe then became the darling of the critics, who decided that sexy and beautiful as she was, she was also an accomplished actress with an unusual talent for comedy. The ensuing series of films, The Seven Year Itch (1955), Bus Stop (1956), The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), in which some thought she outshone her co-star (Laurence Olivier), Some Like it Hot (1959), and Let's Make Love (1960), were all highly acclaimed. In this period she married Arthur Miller, the intellectual playwright. Before this odd misalliance ended in divorce (1960), Miller wrote for her the screenplay of her last film, the appropriately named The Misfits (1961).

Subjects: Music — History.

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