Starry-eyed as a teen, Norma Jeane Dougherty dreamed of fame when she bleached her brunette hair blonde and signed with L.A.’s Blue Book Modeling Agency in 1945. After appearing on dozens of magazine covers (including the first ever edition of Play Boy) she attracted the attention of 20th Century Fox executive Ben Lyon, who arranged a screen shot and declared: “It’s Jean Harlow all over again.” Soon she was lighting up the big screen. She adopted her mother’s maiden name, Monroe, and changed her first name to Marilyn to sound sexier. Finally, a star was born.
Let’s take a look at some of the great films she was in:
Love Happy – You may not know this, but Groucho Marx had a hand in launching Marilyn Monroe’s film career. It is said that he chose Marilyn to appear alongside him after being wowed by her sexy walk at a casting call.
All About Eve – Poor Marilyn! Being new to film, a fearsome Bette Davis made a nervous Marilyn vomit with her onset rants.
Right Cross – Marilyn played her part well as a seductress.
The Asphalt Jungle – As a young actress, Marilyn earned herself plaudits for her role as the girlfriend of a crooked lawyer.
Home Town Story – Marilyn played a sexy office secretary in this tale of small town politics.
As Young As You Feel – Playing a curvaceous secretary, Marilyn is propositioned by her married boss.
Love Nest – In this film, Marilyn is a seductive ex-WAC who became the “other woman,” in one of her funniest early films.
We’re Not Married – A star-studded cast included Ginger Rogers and Zsa Zsa Gabor, but Marilyn was coming into her prime in this film. She stole the show in a skimpy swimsuit when she won a “Mrs. Mississippi” contest.
Monkey Business – Marilyn sizzled on-screen, but Cary Grant later said of his co-star: “She seemed very shy, and I remember that when the studio workers would whistle at her, it seemed to embarrass her.”
Clash By Night – Shy off stage maybe, but cuddling with her co-star Keith Andes, Marilyn turned on all her sexy charms in this flick, prompting “The New York Post” to describe her as “a real acting threat to the season’s blondes.”
Don’t Bother To Knock – In a rare opportunity to shed her ditzy image, Marilyn played a mentally unbalanced baby sitter in this disturbing thriller.
Monroe as Pola, Grable as Loco, and Bacall as Schatze
How to Marry a Millionaire – Before filming the first movie ever shot in CinemaScope widescreen, Marilyn was so worried about looking fat alongside co-stars Betty Grable and Lauren Becall, she was desperate to lose weight.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – Marilyn only got this choice role alongside Jane Russell, because the studios first choice, Betty Grable, was too expensive. While she sang most of “Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend,” a pro singer’s voice was dubbed in for the high notes.
River of No Return – Marilyn really hated this film. She described it as a “Z cowboy movie in which the acting finished third to the scenery and the CinemaScope.” Still, the movie was a standout for Marilyn’s hair extensions and showgirl outfits.
There’s No Business Like Show Business – Marilyn is said to have lamented that she felt her baby-faced co-star, Donald O’Connor. looked to young to be her leading man even though he was a year older than she. Lacking chemistry between them, she had been reluctant to do the movie, but was promised the starring role in “The Seven Year Itch” if she did.
The Seven Year Itch – Oh, the drama created by this film in her own marriage to Joe DiMaggio. Her revealing outfits and sizzling performance drove her hubby wild with jealousy – especially when he turned up on set and caught crew members leering at her. The pose that made Marilyn famous over the NYC grate is what made Joe seethe as the scene was filmed over and over again.
Bus Stop – In this film, Marilyn’s skin was deliberately chalked to make her features even more delicate. She is said to have been heartbroken when she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for her performance.
The Prince and The Showgirl – Marilyn went to England to film alongside legendary actor Laurence Olivier. Away from the set, she caused quite a stir when she wore a plunging neckline to meet the queen.
A little known note: The production of this film served as the backdrop for the 2011 film “My Week with Marilyn.”
Some Like It Hot – Tony Curtis claimed he got Marilyn pregnant while filming. Tragically, Marilyn who was married to Arthur Miller at the time, miscarried after filming ended. Miller is said to have known about it and asked Tony to leave them alone, promising to never see Marilyn again.
Let’s Make Love – A pole-dancing Marilyn got up close and personal with co-star Yves Montand while filming. This prompted his actress wife Simone Signoret to declare: “It shows she has good taste.”
The Misfits – Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller broke down as she filmed with the man she fantasized about being her father, Clark Gable. She suffered a breakdown during the shoot of what was to be her last completed film.
Something’s Got To Give – This was her last film, and sadly, she didn’t live long enough to finish it. The legend skinny-dipped for this film, and the still shots of her on the side of the pool have circled the globe at least a thousand times.
Thanks for reminiscing with us and enjoying all over again the magic that Marilyn Monroe created when she was on film.
K.R. and T.L.