She’s iconic. She’s legendary. She’s immortal. She’s a class act. We may think we know our Marilyn Monroe trivia, but we really don’t know the first thing about her.
Marilyn is a goddess worshiped through classic images and collectible memorabilia. Yet, it’s fascinating, that someone that is such a huge part of American culture is so misunderstood. Nearly everything we hear about her is likely misrepresented, exaggerated, or a flat-out lie. For instance, she was never considered “plus-sized”. Her supposed “size 16” was allegedly in UK sizing, making her a size 8- at her heaviest. Oh, and she was a dumb blonde, right? Please. She was exceptionally well-read and had a huge collection of literary works. The “dumb blonde” getup was a carefully fabricated image.
Her Mother Was Diagnosed as Paranoid Schizophrenic
There’s not much information to be known about Marilyn’s mother, Gladys Baker, and the reason is quite simple. Her agent didn’t want much exposed. Coinciding with her big Hollywood break, Marilyn was told not to speak of her institutionalized mother because it would cast her in a bad light. Instead, if questions were asked about her mother, she was coached to say she was dead. In her memoir, Marilyn says she remembers her mother “screaming and laughing” as the police came and took her to yet another mental hospital. She was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and committed, indefinitely, at age 32. She spent most of her life institutionalized, and Marilyn would spend most of her life desperately craving the approval from a mother who couldn’t even recognize her own daughter.
She Struggled With “Daddy Issues”
We’re still not 100% sure who her father is. Gladys, as we said, was never very mentally stable. It’s likely she didn’t know who fathered her baby so she put Martin Mortensen (her ex-husband) on Norma Jeane’s birth certificate but they had separated long before Gladys ever became pregnant.
Gladys once showed Norma Jeane a photo of a man with a mustache, telling her his name was Charles Stanley Gifford, and said that he was her real father. (Gifford’s family impetuously denies these claims to this day.) A young Norma Jeane thought he resembled Clark Gable and began to fantasize that HE was her dad. Now for the sad part. In 1960, Marilyn filmed her final completed movie “The Misfits” and co-starred with none other than Clark Gable, himself. This was also one of the more tumultuous points in Marilyn’s life. She was sick a lot and notoriously late, making the cast and crew stressed out. The film DID end up getting finished, but 10 days after shooting wrapped Clark Gable had a massive heart attack and died. To make matters worse, Gable’s widow said that the “eternal waiting” during the film was what killed him. She didn’t specifically name Marilyn, but it was obvious who she was referring to. So not only did Marilyn never know who her real father was, she believed herself responsible for the death of the one man she had considered a father figure. So sad.
That Iconic Scene Cost Her Marriage to Joe DiMaggio
While playing “The Girl” in Billy Wilder’s “The Seven Year Itch”, Marilyn was shooting a scene on location in New York City. Five thousand onlookers watched, hooted, and applauded as the crew filmed at 52nd and Lexington. One of those onlookers was Marilyn’s husband, baseball great Joe DiMaggio. He was not pleased. The baseball legend stood by, livid, while powerful movie lights shone right through TWO pairs of panties Marilyn had worn for modesty. He was infuriated. After the scene was shot, DiMaggio and Marilyn went back to the St. Regis Hotel and what followed was a fight so intense that hotel guests alerted management, worried that “someone was getting badly hurt”. The next day, Marilyn was reported to have bruises on her shoulders and back that the studio hairdresser covered with makeup. Less than a month later, Marilyn filed for divorce. In a cruel twist of fate, the footage filmed that caused DiMaggio so much outrage was deemed “unusable” due to the noise of the crowd. It had to be reshot off-location on a soundstage in LA.
“Marilyn Monroe” Was A Character Portrayed By An Actress
Despite what her life may have looked like on the outside, “Norma Jeane” was a profoundly sad person. The most desired woman in the world couldn’t find happiness with a man. Incredibly famous, but unknown and unaccepted by her own mother. Desperate to have a family, but unable to maintain a pregnancy. The public had no idea about how Marilyn was struggling because one of the most important parts of her image was maintaining that happy, sexy starlet facade. “Norma Jeane Baker” considered “Marilyn Monroe” to be another person. A good friend of hers, Truman Capote, once told a story of a lunch where Marilyn disappeared to the bathroom and was gone so long he went to look for her. He found her in the ladies room staring in the mirror. When he asked her what she was doing, she responds, “Looking at her.”
Susan Strasberg remembers a time when she and Marilyn were walking through New York City. They had gone relatively unnoticed most of the day; no one seemed particularly aware of the blonde bombshell, which Susan recollects as being quite odd. Suddenly, Marilyn turned to Susan and says, “Do you want to see me be her?” Susan recalls, “She seemed to make some inner adjustment, something ‘turned on’ inside her, and suddenly — there she was — not the simple girl I’d been strolling with, but ‘Marilyn Monroe’. Now heads turned. People crowded around us.”
Just a few of the oddities surrounding Marilyn’s death include:
- She was discovered by her housekeeper Eunice Murray, who was never able to keep her story straight. Murray changed the timeline the night of Marilyn’s death multiple times and was found washing sheets at 4am when the police arrived.
- Despite the 40 pills in her stomach, police noted there was no water glass on the nightstand next to her pill bottles. Marilyn was known to gag even when swallowing pills WITH water. Later, a glass was discovered on the floor near the bed — police claim it wasn’t there when they arrived.
- Hours before her death, she spoke with Joe DiMaggio Jr., who noted she sounded “cheerful and upbeat”.
- The pathologist who performed her initial autopsy wanted to do further testing, to see exactly how the pills entered Marilyn’s system. When he requested her organs, he was told the toxicologist had already destroyed them. The pathologist then asked to see slides of the organs and photos showing the unusual bruising on her body and was told they had “disappeared”.
There are several theories surrounding Marilyn’s death. Many details remain part of the mystery.
Marilyn’s Death Rocked The World
The day she died, Marilyn was the front-page story all over the globe. Fans around the world couldn’t believe someone so beautiful, successful, and seemingly happy would kill themselves. It was reported in the New York Times that suicides spiked in the week following her death, hitting a record high of 12 in one day in New York City alone. A note from one person who committed suicide in the wake of Marilyn’s passing read, “If the most wonderful, beautiful thing in the world has nothing to live for, then neither must I.”
Marlon Brando noted that in the days following the announcement of her death, Hollywood felt slow and sad. He’s quoted as saying, “Everybody stopped work, and you could see all that day the same expressions on their faces, the same thought: ‘How can a girl with success, fame, youth, money, beauty… how could she kill herself?’ Nobody could understand it because those are the things that everybody wants, and they can’t believe that life wasn’t important to Marilyn Monroe, or that her life was elsewhere.” After the divorce, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn remained friends. She famously made him promise that if she died before he did, to bring her flowers. Keeping his word, DiMaggio had roses delivered to her grave three times a week for 20 years. His last words when he himself passed away in 1999 were:
“I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”
Are you a Marilyn Monroe fan? Tell us about it in the comments!