Marilyn Monroe, 1926-1962: America's Most Famous Sex Symbol
She wanted to be an actress. And she succeeded. She appeared in a number of Hollywood movies. Millions of people went to see them. By the time Norma Jean had reached the age of 26, her beautiful face and body earned her a place as one of America's leading movie stars.
People born long after she died are watching her movies on television. Objects that belonged to her bring huge prices at public sales. The Warner Brothers museum in Hollywood has the white dress she wore in one of her movies, "The Prince and the Showgirl. "
Why is the public still so interested in a woman who died so many years ago? A number of reasons. Her exciting but tragic life. Her connections with well-known people. And her image as an especially desirable woman.
Into this atmosphere burst Marilyn Monroe. As one critic said, her body was round in all the right places. She wore her clothes like skin. When she walked, she moved her lower body in a way that few other actresses had done. Her voice was soft and breathy. She soon became America's golden girl.
The story of Marilyn Monroe begins on June first, 1936. Norma Jean was born that day in the West Coast city of Los Angeles, California. Her birthplace was not far from the Hollywood movie studios where she would someday be a star.
The actress later would describe her stays with these foster families as sometimes very unhappy. During the worst experiences, she would go to a movie theater. There the young Norma Jean escaped into the make-believe world of movies.
By the time she was 17, Marilyn was trying very hard to be a movie actress. She finally was able to get an actors' agent to help her. He got Twentieth Century Fox Company to give Marilyn parts in some movies it produced.
Marilyn continued to change the way she had looked as Norma Jean. She had an operation to improve the appearance of her nose. Her eyes were made to appear larger. She began using a great deal of bright red lipstick on her mouth.
Marilyn may have worked more to improve her appearance than to improve her performance in acting classes. Some people at Twentieth Century Fox said she did not like to work at all. She appeared in only one movie. And she had only one line to speak in that. The Fox movie company dismissed her.
Soon, however, her agent got her a job at Columbia Pictures. She appeared in a movie called "Ladies of the Chorus. " She sang two songs. Several critics praised her performance. But Columbia dismissed her.
Marilyn did not stop struggling. She next won a small part in a movie called "Love Happy." It was a comedy starring the famous Marx Brothers. Critics said it was not one of their better efforts. Marilyn, though, earned praise for simply taking a short walk in the movie.
The movie called for her to say, "Some men are following me. " Groucho Marx answered that he did not understand why. As he said that, he watched Marilyn walk her famous walk. His eyes opened very wide.
Huston said her performance as a criminal's girlfriend was good. It gained Marilyn her dream of a long-term agreement with Twentieth Century Fox, the company that had dismissed her earlier. Now its officials gave her a part in "All About Eve." The movie, released in 1950, was about a movie star. She played a golden-haired woman who did not have much intelligence — "a dumb blonde."
She also failed in her attempts at marriage. She admitted that she got married the first time only to escape from being forced to live in a group home for children without parents. In 1954 she married again. Her husband was the famous New York Yankee baseball player, Joe Di Maggio. They were together for only a few months.
On August 4, 1962, Marilyn Monroe died alone in her home. She was thirty-six years old. Reports said taking too many drugs killed her. But people who knew her said failed marriages, and the failure of her latest movie also led to her death.
This Special English program was written by Jeri Watson and directed by Marilyn Christiano. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.