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20 Things You Never Knew about Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe was the definitive Blonde Bombshell of the 1950’s, giving way for many Hollywood starlets to find their way into starring roles with major motion picture studios. More than a few of her pictures have become iconic and represent the Hollywood culture of the 1950’s. Yet more people are aware of her movies and photographs than the many interesting things about her real life. For those who want to connect with a cultural icon of the 50’s, or people who just want to know more about the story behind the woman, here are 20 things you never knew about Marilyn Monroe.

1. She was first married at age 16.

Despite the current culture mentality about “babies having babies” teenagers getting married at 16 or 17 was not considered to be anything unusual. For one thing, the life expectancy for men and women 60 years ago was considerably shorter. Another consideration was that women were generally expected to have their children before age 30 and enjoy their later years (45 and beyond) enjoying life with their husbands sans children. After she achieved celebrity status and moved on from husband #1, her ex’s second wife was said to ban him from watching any of Monroe’s movies.

2. Her actual father is not known.

This is a weirdness that even back in the 50’s was not easily accepted. As the story goes, two men claimed they were Monroe’s father at the time of the deaths. Neither admission could be proven, and the genealogies don’t help much in tracing her family history. That leaves us with probably never being able to identify the connections between Monroe and her actual family tree. This, combined with other items in the list, makes her one really mysterious person.

3. She was passed around between foster homes and orphanages for most of her childhood.

Add to the fact that her father remains unknown, the problem that her mother was institutionalized makes making any ancestral tree virtually impossible. Before being set free she was pushed through at least 11 sets of foster parents and a number of orphanages. Remember that in the 1930’s and 40’s such records were either not kept up to date or never even existed. Given this information it is no surprise she married at 16.

4. There were at least eight different names she used during her lifetime.

Marilyn Monroe’s most familiar non-stage name was Norma Jean Baker. That is her presumed baptized name, but then there is her birth certificate with the name Norma Jean Mortensen. We have to go with the birth certificate, thinking that the baptismal name was one of her foster parents. When she began modeling she went by Norma Jean Monroe or Mona Monroe. In speaking with people she would refer to herself as Jean Adair from time to time, and when signing into hotels (many times no ID was required back in the day) she used the name Zelda Zonk. Finally, it was revealed she once signed in to see a psychiatrist under the name of Faye. Keep in mind these are only the names she used that have been uncovered.

5. Before her acting and modeling careers began she was a Christian Scientist.

There is no apparent connection to movie star taking up Christian Science in the 50’s the same way Scientology became a fad for Hollywood stars in the new millennium. But it was generally known that Monroe was a spiritual person most of her life, perhaps influenced by the many foster homes she lived in. She would also look into Judaism for spiritual guidance, stepping back into the Old Testament for further spiritual direction.

6. She went to great lengths to make the most of her youthful blonde appearance.

Monroe was the blonde icon of Hollywood, and in order to set herself apart from the rest of Hollywood’s competition she whitened the skin on her face. This made her blonde hair appear lighter when it fell on the side of her face. It is not known whether this was her own idea or the recommendation of a Hollywood professional, but it shows that someone knew exactly what it took to continue marketing her persona and personality.

7. Despite her lack of a stable home upbringing, her kitchen skills were unmatched.

Whether Monroe felt the need to be the traditional American housewife or she simply had a natural talent for it, she was said to have an abundance of domestic talents in addition to her sensational looks. Some people called her a Domestic Goddess, though that might be a stretch. One story says that she had created a recipe for stuffing, offering reporters the opportunity to duplicate it. They did, but it took more than two hours from start to finish. No word whether there were any women among the reporters.

8. Monroe was chosen to be the first Playboy Sweetheart of the Month.

This award preceded what would later become popularly known as Playmate of the Month. Sweetheart of the Month was more focused on Hollywood starlets rather than nudie beauties. Truth is, there are not a whole lot of Marilyn Monroe nude pictures floating around. This definitely was a different time in Hollywood and America.

9. Her career soon connected modeling with advertising.

The year was 1953, and it was the time that Monroe rightfully earned the title of “Most Advertised Girl in the World.” She had managed deals with American Airlines, Pabst (Blue Ribbon) Beer, Tan Tan Suntan Lotion, and Royal Triton Oil, a motor oil for your car. Interestingly, the Royal Triton brand continues to be considered one of the best motor oils for your car and you can find Monroe’s old Triton television ads online.

10. People wondered whether she would be more comfortable in a nudist colony.

The reason for this thought is that it was well-known she wasn’t a big fan of clothes – any kind. She was reported to walk around the movie set completely naked when there were no men around. Whether this was a sign of narcissism or just preferring to go au natural is not clear, but this rumor has more than a few eyewitnesses to back it up. This is another thing about her that is very mysterious.

11. She had a definite interest in history and President Abraham Lincoln.

There are some previous items in the list that point to Monroe being more than just the dumb blonde that is so stereotypical of fair haired women. For this item, Lincoln was more than just a historical interest but someone who was actually her hero. She said that he was the only person she knew of that she could completely relate to, dispelling the idea she was all beauty and no brains. She regularly did something fewer and fewer Americans today are doing – reading.

12. Speaking of men, she had a thing for actor Clark Gable.

Though there are no confirmed reports of a Gable-Monroe dalliance, Clark Gable was undoubtedly one of her long time romantic crushes. Given the acting talent and charm of Gable, you can hardly fault Marilyn for it. Is it possible that Gable had some of the same qualities as Lincoln, or is this just a coincidence?

13. Diamonds were not this girl’s best friend.

Although she got quite a bit of attention for her role in the movie, Marilyn Monroe was simply not all that big on jewelry - diamonds or any other kind. The diamonds she did own were the result of gifts given to her, with some assorted pieces coming from the costumes she wore. She had no interest in having the title of Material Girl being bestowed upon her, and this might be directly connected to her long history of viewing life from a spiritual perspective.

14. She had more than a passing interest in art, especially the classic painters.

Adding to the mystery of the Blonde Bombshell was the fact that she would spend time talking with some of the world’s greatest thinkers. It was this inner and often unspoken beauty of Monroe that made her one of the most interesting Hollywood personalities ever. While she saw Lincoln as a hero and “soulmate” she saw the Spanish painter Goya as someone with whom she shared the same dreams. Given the themes of Goya’s paintings, it can be said she was looking for things to improve in the country or perhaps the Hollywood culture.

15. Monroe died without ever receiving a single nomination for an Academy Award.

Whether this says more about the Oscar selection process or Monroe’s acting talents is up for dispute. However, this fact really shouldn’t surprise anyone as Oscars are given to those actors who appear in films that the committee considers to be culturally relevant. It seems out of place to see Monroe quoting Shakespeare, but then it is unlikely her fans ever wanted to see her reciting Shakespeare. She was a Hollywood star in the same vein as Schwarzenegger or Stallone – you don’t go to hear them vocalizing The Bard.

16. Memorizing lines was not her strong suit.

Before using this fact to make the case Monroe was all beauty and no brains, keep in mind the fact that the main actors of The Godfather found unique ways to say their lines, such as taping a sign on the actor to whom they were speaking. Today we live in a world of “take 57” and editing out actor bloopers as digital technology has made this immensely easier. It is true that one of her more infamous script recital moments she took a mysterious full minute to say the line, “It’s me sugar” when doing the movie Some Like It Hot. But when you consider the other items on this list, it seems that memorization is not a prerequisite for an actor.

17. Budgets and box office receipts both grew considerably in Monroe’s films.

The key word to consider with this fact is “millions.” Marilyn’s erratic upbringing developed into a woman with erratic behavior on the movie studio sets. This is no secret, and something studio executives were willing to accept given her star power. In one movie she was said to have cost the studio more than $1 million in production overruns and expenses. But when the true test of star power came – at the box office – her erratic episodes were soon forgotten.

18. The fact that Marilyn Monroe was grossly underpaid is unconscionable.

This is illustrated in one of her most famous movies, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Starring with actress Jane Russell, who had her own considerable set of assets, Russell was pain 10 times more than Monroe for doing the film. This leaves the question of whether the aforementioned grumbling by directors and movie moguls about Monroe’s “erratic behavior” was just a way to keep her underpaid. It isn’t clear whether the whole money thing every really bothered Monroe, but given what has appeared on this list, it is safe to say money wasn’t a major consideration for her.

19. Even after her death, she continued receiving roses.

Though there are likely many people who pay homage to Monroe after her death, ex-husband and Major League Baseball player Joe DiMaggio sent roses to her burial site three times every week for a period of 20 years. The unexpected death of a loved one affects different people different ways, but one has to think her death affected Di Maggio the most of all.

20. The unexpected death of Marilyn Monroe affected some people even more than it affected Di Maggio.

Looking back at the data, the number of suicides reported immediately after the death of Monroe increased to more than 12 above the normal number of suicides. Back in the 50’s, suicides were far less common than today, and there are historians who suggest a connection between the increase in suicides and her death.

There are few women that are more mysterious than Marilyn Monroe. There are many questions that will be left unanswered. Was she far more than a beautiful blonde? What is the real story behind her parents? However you see Marilyn Monroe she is someone who will always be remembered for the cultural impact she made inside Hollywood and outside of the studio set among those who were her fans.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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