Although Norma Jeane Mortenson, better known as Marilyn Monroe, passed away in 1962, she’s still considered one of the most iconic Hollywood stars of all time. Her charisma onscreen is electrifying, and let’s face it, no one can belt out “Happy Birthday” quite like her. Re-watching a few of her classic movies, such as The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot, helps us to remember her in all her vivacious, blonde glory.
Her carefree spirit, laid back personality and effortlessly cool demeanor ooze out from each and every photo she posed for. Glancing at one of her photoshoots, and you can’t help but get lost in her seductive, vampy gaze. Photographers around the world didn’t have to do much to capture Monroe from a flattering angle. She could literally be sleeping on a sofa and still be able to work the camera like a pro.
In these series of rare photos, you may be mesmerized by her timeless beauty, her perfect physique, and her feminine charm. But keep in mind that underneath it all, she was just a little girl from Los Angeles who had a troubled upbringing and an even more tumultuous adulthood. Her life may have seemed idealistic from the outside looking in, but in the end, it was her own personal demons that rendered her helpless and took her away from the one thing she loved the most: Her career. Follow along as we take a look at 15 rare photos of the Hollywood star.
15. Take a Sip
Famed photographer Bert Stern was one of the last photographers to capture photos of Monroe. Just six weeks after taking this photograph, she was found dead of a drug overdose. Looking at this picture, Monroe looks so happy and so full of life. She’s practically glowing. But what people didn’t realize is she had been suffering from depression and mood swings, had briefly been hospitalized in a psychiatric ward, and had possibly attempted to take her own life on multiple occasions.
This photo was taken at the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Over a session of three days, Stern took photos of Monroe which were titled, The Last Sitting. Stern really captured Monroe’s true essence in this photograph. This is the Hollywood star that people knew and loved, and this is the way her fans choose to remember her.
According to morticians who prepared Monroe for her burial, the iconic sex symbol looked nothing like what was seen in this photograph. At the time of her death, she had false teeth and “purple blotches all over her face.”
14. ‘Something’s Got To Give’
This photo was taken by photographer Lawrence Schiller on the set of the unfinished film, Something’s Got to Give. Schiller first shot Monroe in 1960 on the set of Let’s Make Love. The results of the first shoot propelled his career, and Monroe and her people were so happy with the results, they hired him once again. Before he picked up his camera, Schiller told the star, “You’re already famous, now you’re going to make me famous.” He didn’t even realize he was foreshadowing his entire career. But Monroe wasn’t just going to hand him over the winning shot just to make him happy. She was going to make him work for it. Schiller says her response was, “Don’t be so cocky, photographers can be easily replaced.” Ouch.
To commemorate his work with the actress, Schiller released a book entitled Marilyn & Me, detailing his experience with the Hollywood legend. The book comes complete with this photo, as well as 130 additional color and black and white pictures of the star.
13. Pumping Iron
Monroe is known for her physique, and she definitely helped to put curvy girls on the map. In this photo, she shows off her physical prowess as she squeezes in a workout. And believe it or not, but Monroe actually took pride in her diet and fitness regimen. In a 1952 interview with the now-defunct Pageant Magazine, Monroe gave the low down on how she kept herself in tip-top shape at all times.
Monroe grew up poor, and she was always concerned with getting enough food to eat. As her career blossomed, and the checks started rolling in, the star said she became worried about “getting too much to eat.” So she put herself on a strict diet that she created herself. But keep in mind, Monroe was told many times that her eating habits were “bizarre,” so please don’t try this at home:
In the morning, she would eat two raw eggs in a glass of warm milk, followed by a multi-vitamin. She typically skipped lunch and then she would have a protein-heavy dinner. Before heading home for the night, she would pick up a steak, lamb chops or liver, and she would broil it in her electric oven. She would then have a side of “four or five raw carrots, and that is all.”
12. Sleeping Beauty
I don’t know about you, but I look like a hot, slobbery mess when I’m asleep. Monroe, on the other hand, looks like the real-life version of Sleeping Beauty. Captured once again by photographer Bert Stern, Monroe was caught catching some sleep in this iconic photo from the Last Sitting session that took place at the Bel Air Hotel. During the session, Stern took 2,5000 photographs in total. Some of the pictures Monroe posed for and others were candid moments of her just living her life. This photo, in particular, went up for sale at Heritage Auctions, and it captures Monroe in peace and solitude. A bit of her bare shoulder is peeking out, and it’s quite possible Monroe was nude in the photo. Who can forget her legendary quote when she was asked what she wore to bed? Her answer was “Chanel No. 5 perfume”… and nothing else, of course.
11. Life’s a Beach
As a California girl, it’s no wonder Monroe loved the beach. In fact, many of her most memorable photoshoots were taken on the sand and in front of the crashing waves. In 1945, during her modeling days, Monroe met photographer Andre De Dienes. She was just nineteen years old at the time, and she was going by the name of Norma Jean Baker. She was booking gigs under Emmeline Snively’s Blue Book Model Agency, and when she met Dienes, she completely captured his heart. She seemed to have this same effect over everyone she met. What was it about her that was so alluring? No one seems to know. In fact, many who encountered her in real life said she was quite “average” in terms of her appearance, but she had a je nais se quoi that was unmatched.
In his memoir, Denies recants the day he met Monroe. He said it was as if a “miracle” had happened to him. He described her as an “angel,” and said, “I could hardly believe it for a few moments. An earthly, sexy-looking angel! Sent expressly for me!” She does look quite angelic in this photo, don’t you agree?
10. Baby Norma
Monroe looked like quite the happy baby, didn’t she? Her earlier childhood was stable and loving, but it wasn’t until later when things took a drastic turn.
She was the third child of Gladys Pearl Baker. Gladys was a flapper and worked in the entertainment industry as a film negative cutter. When Gladys was just 15-years-old, she married 24-year-old John Newton Baker. They had two children together, but John ran off with the kids and took them to Kentucky.
Gladys married her second husband, Martin Edward Mortensen, in 1924, but they went their separate ways before Gladys became pregnant by a third man who was Monroe’s father, but his identity is unknown. Monroe was born on June 1, 1926 at the Los Angeles County Hospital. She was unaware she had half-siblings in Kentucky until she turned 12-years-old. Monroe was raised by foster parents until the age of seven. In 1933, her mom bought a house, and Monroe went to live with her. But it wasn’t long before Gladys had a mental crisis, and Monroe became a ward of the state.
9. Darker Days
Although Monroe is known for her bouncy blonde hair, her natural hair color was actually much darker. By the age of 15, her hair had naturally darkened – as can be seen in this photo.
Monroe’s teenage years were less than ideal. Her mother Gladys’ best friend, Grace, had been appointed Monroe’s legal guardian after Gladys had gone through a mental crisis. But when Grace got married, she sent Monroe to a Los Angeles Orphans Home. Many families were interested in adopting Monroe, but Gladys refused to sign off on the adoption papers. Instead, Monroe bounced around through various foster homes until she returned to live with Grace and her new husband, “Doc.”
In Grace’s home is where “Doc” allegedly attempted to sexually assault her. Grace was then forced to move Monroe to live with her great-aunt, Olive. Monroe was again a victim of sexual abuse – this time by the hands of Olive’s son. Monroe was then moved to live with another aunt, Ana Lower, but when Ana’s health declined, Monroe was sent back to Grace and Doc’s home. In reminiscing about her childhood, Monroe says she was never told she was pretty. She stated, “I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they’re pretty, even if they aren’t.”
8. Animal Lover
In this photo, Monroe gets cozy with a puppy during a photoshoot. It looks like even animals were in love with the Hollywood starlet, which is no surprise considering Monroe was an animal lover, too. In 1950, Frank Sinatra gifted her a tiny white poodle that he purchased from Natalie Wood’s mother. Marilyn named the dog Maf, as a way to poke fun at Sinatra’s alleged connection to the mafia.
Once Monroe embraced Maf and brought him into her home, she treated him like a king. The dog would sleep on an expensive white beaver coat every single night. Now that’s what we call living the good life! But Maf wasn’t Monroe’s only pet. She had many animals growing up as a child. Around the age of five, she had a dog named Tippy who would accompany her to school. During recess, she would play with the dog on the playground. In 1932, Tippy was shot by a neighbor who said the dog was rolling around in her garden.
Around 1940, she had a spaniel named Ruffles. Later, she became the proud owner of a collie named Muggsie who was given to her by her first husband, James Dougherty, in the late 1940s. She had an intense love for Muggsie, but once her career as an actress and model began to take off, she didn’t have enough time to devote to him. According to Dougherty, the dog later died of a “broken heart.”
7. She Always Wanted To Be A Mother
Although she didn’t have any children of her own, Monroe loved children, and she always had a desire to have a baby. While she never was able to make her dream come to fruition, she became a very loving mother figure to her stepchildren from previous relationships with Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller.
It was later revealed Monroe had been pregnant several times, but she miscarried due to a long battle with endometriosis and ectopic pregnancies. Knowing what she went through makes this photo much more touching. The look on her face as she feeds the baby says it all. She adored spending time with children – which could be directly related to the struggles she faced in her own childhood. She wanted to be able to give children everything she was never able to experience herself.
On set, Monroe would spend a lot of time with her child co-stars. She would even take them off-set and be their babysitter for the afternoon. Author Dale Corvin told a story about Monroe being his mother’s babysitter for the day. She took her to an amusement park in San Francisco, and Monroe went incognito with a scarf over her head. When the wind blew, her scarf fell off, and Monroe was mobbed by fans. Their time at the amusement park was cut short, but Monroe was gracious enough to be kind to all the young fans who asked her for her autograph.
6. An Intellectual
Many people like to assume Monroe was a “dumb blonde,” but that was far from the truth. Although she did play the ditzy role quite well, it wasn’t anything like her true persona. Even though Monroe was unable to complete her high school education, that didn’t stop her passion for learning. She had an extensive library full of books and she spent most of her free time soaking up all the knowledge.
Before she became a household name, a studio worker remembered Monroe as a woman who was always walking around carrying books. In 1999, many of her books from her private collection were sold at auction.
5. Hitting the Streets of NYC
Even though she grew up in California, Monroe fell in love with New York City in 1955. She visited the city numerous times after she left Hollywood in 1954, and at the time of her death, she had practically become a resident of NYC. She had a spacious apartment on East 57th Street near Sutton Place, and the only time she would leave NYC was when she had to return to California for work. She kept her California residence so she wouldn’t have to shack up in a hotel, but her heart was definitely in NYC. In an interview, Monroe spoke about her plans to retire in the city of Brooklyn. She loved exploring all of the little shops, she loved eating at the local restaurants and cafes, and she was even a fan of the street vendors.
4. Let Them Eat Cake
In this photo, Monroe stands between two servicemen as she enjoys a slice of cake. It’s unclear if she actually baked the cake herself, but she was definitely a fan of baking and cooking for the ones she loved. Among many of the books that were sold at auction following her death were numerous cookbooks. The auction house even sold her pots and pans for a whopping $25,000.
Monroe’s first marriage took place when she was just 16-years-old, so she was definitely still learning her way around the kitchen. She reportedly made carrots and peas most nights because she loved the way the colors of the veggies clashed together. Before she was making the big bucks, she couldn’t afford a lot of food, so she would prepare very light dishes and fill herself up with black coffee. When she married Joe DiMaggio, she was able to splurge on grocery items, so she would frequently grill steaks, prepare matzah ball soup, gefilte fish, and stuffed cabbage was once of her specialties.
3. Wine & Champagne Lover
Monroe had a very hearty appetite, and she would frequently indulge in foods to her heart’s content. A few of her favorite foods included hot dogs with sauerkraut, burgers, ice cream, and ribs. She never thought twice about her diet, and she craved New York deli food, steak, and lamb. It wasn’t until 1961 when she had her gall bladder removed that she started to change the way she ate. Monroe admitted that she kept alcohol stocked in her home, and many of her favorite foods were washed down with a glass of champagne.
In this photo, Monroe can be seen with a glass of wine as she engages in conversation. She looks absolutely stunning in her cocktail dress, and whoever was on the receiving end of the conversation was likely mesmerized by her. Just take a look at the look in her eyes. She’s definitely working her Marilyn magic on someone!
2. Her Secret Trick Revealed
In many photos, there’s one common element that’s hard to take our eyes off of: Monroe’s bust. Either she was perpetually standing under an air conditioner, or she was potentially making her girls stand at attention in other ways. The actress later admitted her secret trick to make her bosom look perfect… and pointy.
With the terror of losing “her look” embedded deep within her mind, Monroe would sleep with a bra on every night to prevent her breasts from sagging. To give her boobs an even perkier appearance, she resorted to sewing marbles into her bras. If she didn’t have marbles available, she would sew a few buttons into the pads of her bras to give the same effect. This is why in many photos, like the one above, Monroe’s bust is at attention. It was just a little trick she liked to do to keep her appeal, and it definitely worked.
1. Her Teenage Wedding Photo
During the time Monroe lived with Grace and Doc, she began a relationship with their neighbor’s son, Jim Dougherty. With the threat of being sent back to foster care after Grace and Doc had plans to relocate to another state, Monroe and 21-year-old Dougherty decided to get married. She was 16-years-old at the time, and her new husband was a Merchant Marine who spent a lot of his time overseas during World War II.
After getting married, Monroe dropped out of high school to become a housewife. She later said, “marriage didn’t make me sad, but it didn’t make me happy, either. My husband and I hardly spoke to each other. This wasn’t because we were angry. We had nothing to say. I was dying of boredom.” She later moved in with his parents and began her modeling and acting career. By the time she turned 20, their marriage was over.
Monroe went on to marry two more times. She tied the knot with Joe DiMaggio in 1954, and they divorced a year later. Then, in 1956, she married Arthur Miller, and their marriage came to an end in 1961.