Marilyn Monroe Facts
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10 Fascinating Facts About Marilyn Monroe You Probably Didn’t Know

From that iconic flying skirt to her sultry singing, Marilyn Monroe defined 1950s glamor. Her tragic death at 36 still haunts pop culture, cementing her status as a legend.

But beyond the blonde bombshell persona, who was the real Marilyn? She was far more complex than her publicity let on. Behind the bubbly movie star mystique lay a fiercely ambitious artist and intellectual. Marilyn blazed her own trail to go from orphan child to global phenom. Though gone too soon, she lived an extraordinary life full of intrigue.

Here are 10 fascinating facts about Marilyn’s career, loves, quirks and demons that you’ve probably never heard before. Get ready to see Marilyn in a whole new light.

Photography: Alfred Eisenstaedt/The Life/Getty

1. She Had a Tough Childhood

Born Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926, Marilyn’s early life was marked by hardship. Her mother Gladys struggled with mental illness and Marilyn never knew her father. She lived in foster homes and an orphanage as a child. This unstable upbringing had lifelong impacts on Marilyn. Though she exuded a glamorous confidence on screen, she battled anxiety and low self-esteem in her personal life.

2. Her Breathy Voice Was Learned to Overcome Her Stutter

Marilyn’s signature breathy, raspy voice is instantly recognizable. But that vocal style was carefully cultivated as an adaptation to help overcome her childhood stutter.

As a child, Marilyn struggled with a significant stuttering problem. This could have hindered her ambition to act and perform. Through speech therapy, she learned to use a lower, breathier tone of speaking. This controlled, throaty voice minimized her stuttering.

What started as a technique ultimately defined Marilyn’s public persona. Her seductive, whispered voice became her trademark. Though originally unnatural for her, the breathy tone gave Marilyn the voice she needed to succeed in the spotlight. Her vocal training exemplified her drive to overcome any obstacle.

3. She Was a Natural Brunette

It may be hard to believe, but Marilyn Monroe was not a natural blonde. She was born with light brown hair that she dyed platinum blonde early in her career. Maintaining that look was no easy feat. Marilyn reportedly touched up her roots every couple weeks and completely bleached her hair every six weeks. It was a high maintenance style, but it became her signature.

Photography by David Conover, the man who discovered Marilyn

I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.

Marilyn Monroe
Photography by David Conover

4. She Studied Method Acting

Marilyn is often underestimated as just a blonde bombshell, but she did work hard to develop her acting skills. She studied Method acting under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York City. This highly regarded training ground shaped Marilyn Monroe’s abilities.

Marilyn at the Actors Studio in 1955 / Photography: Radio TV Mirror Magazine; Wikimedia Commons

Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn soaked up lessons on using memories and sense memories to inform a performance. She also had the help of Lee Strasberg’s wife, Paula Strasberg, who served as her personal method acting coach and dramaturge. Paula worked closely with Marilyn on finding emotional truth in her acting.

With the Strasbergs’ guidance, Monroe accessed painful memories of her childhood to evoke vulnerability on camera. Her method training transformed Marilyn from a model to a serious actress. She credited this intensive study for enabling her to inhabit deeper characters beyond just her looks.

5. She Loved Literature

Marilyn was an avid reader, surprising those who assumed she was just a pretty face. She amassed an extensive personal book collection numbering over 400 volumes. Her library spanned classics, poetry, philosophy, art, and photography books.

Photography: Getty/Hutton Archive

Marilyn counted famed authors among her close friends, including husband Arthur Miller. She adored immersing herself in works by Dostoyevsky, Joyce, Milton, Whitman, and Rilke. Marilyn Monroe was even working on her own book of poetry at the time of her death.

Photographs taken inside her home show books prominently displayed on her shelves, desk, and nightstands. Reading was clearly a cherished pastime for Marilyn and helped her continue educating herself. For all her glamorous fame, she identified most as a bookworm at heart.

Marilyn in her apartment, 1952 / Photography: Philippe Halsman/Magnum

6. She Converted to Judaism

Marilyn converted to Judaism in 1956 before marrying Miller. She had been raised Christian Scientist, but she willingly embraced Judaism. Even after divorcing Miller, she identified as Jewish for the rest of her life. Marilyn found solace in converting to her third husband’s faith during a challenging personal time.

Photograph by Richard Avedon

7. She Had Her Sights Set on Einstein

According to actress Shelley Winters, she and Marilyn made a cheeky list when they were roommates of men they fantasized about intimately. Winters dished to reporters after Marilyn Monroe’s death that the list included famed physicist Albert Einstein.

While it’s unknown if Marilyn Monroe ever connected with the Nobel laureate, she clearly set her sights high. Winters spotted a framed signed photo of Einstein displayed prominently on Marilyn’s piano.

8. She Had Stage Fright

It’s hard to believe an actress as renowned as Marilyn Monroe ever struggled with stage fright. But she did. Before live performances, Marilyn reportedly suffered from nervous stomach, shaking hands, and even vomiting. Using alcohol and sedatives to calm herself became a bad habit. Her crippling anxiety led to her reputation for being late and unprofessional on set.

Marilyn Monroe performs for American troops in South Korea in February 1954 / Photography: Getty/Bettmann

I’m selfish, impatient, and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I’m out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.

Marilyn Monroe

9. Her First Big Break Came While Working in a WWII Munitions Factory

Before she was Marilyn Monroe, Norma Jeane Mortenson spent her early career days working at the Radioplane munitions factory in Los Angeles during WWII. The factory produced the first mass-produced military drones used in the war effort.

It was Norma Jeane’s WWII factory job that unexpectedly kickstarted her modeling and film career. In late 1944, photographer David Conover was sent by Ronald Reagan to the factory to shoot morale-boosting photos of female workers.

When Conover saw Norma Jeane, he was instantly struck by her photogenic quality. He convinced the unaware 19-year-old to pose for him on her lunch break. Those candid shots led to further “sweater girl” photos outside the factory.

Photography by David Conover

Conover then urged Norma Jeane to leave Radioplane and embark on a modeling career. Within months, she signed with the Blue Book Modeling Agency using her soon-to-be famous pseudonym. Her success quickly grew.

Without her humble beginnings working in a munitions factory, Marilyn Monroe may never have been discovered. That wartime job opportunity and encounter with Conover unexpectedly kickstarted her iconic career.

10. She Left a Quarter of Her Fortune to Her Psychiatrist

Marilyn Monroe started seeing prominent New York psychiatrist Dr. Marianne Kris in 1957. They developed an extremely close therapeutic relationship. Marilyn spent more time in analysis with Kris than any other mental health professional.

This devotion was evident even in her will. After Marilyn Monroe’s sudden death in 1962, it was revealed she had left 25% of her estate to Kris. The provision stated the bequest should support Kris’s psychiatric work. After Kris passed away, the money was donated to the pioneering Anna Freud Centre in London per her wishes.

Marilyn Monroe in 1954 / Photography: Baron/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

We are all of us stars, and we deserve to twinkle.

Marilyn Monroe

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