A turbulent acting career, high-profile romances, and complete loneliness – we already know a lot of intimate details about Marilyn Monroe and her tragic life, but there are still a few secrets hidden with her childhood friends and possessions.
Born Norma Jeane Baker to a single mother, Gladys Baker, Marilyn Monroe would transform herself in name and shape from the humble girl next door into a blonde bombshell. Marilyn gained popularity with her early films Ladies of the Chorus and All About Eve but it was her personal life during the late 1950s that really grabbed audiences around the world. From the pet dog gifted to her by Frank Sinatra to her spontaneous jet-set flight to New York to wish JFK a happy birthday, Marilyn Monroe’s life became more appealing to audiences than her on-screen characters. After her sudden and controversial death, her private life was further exposed to the public as media and fans tried to understand what had happened to the starlet.
Within this turmoil a few of Marilyn’s secrets remained hidden with her old acquaintances and Hollywood colleagues or tucked away in her personal archives of letters, receipts, and diary entries. The secrets unearthed about Marilyn in the past few years show that she was a clever and spirited, yet troubled woman with more to share than she was able.
10 Marilyn’s mother tried to kill her
Throughout her life, Marilyn stated that her first memory was of her mother trying to kill her. She remembers laying in her crib with her mother standing over her, attempting to smother her with a pillow. It is unclear what caused Mrs. Baker to stop, or whether Marilyn’s memory is real. However, Marilyn was later removed from her mother’s care and placed in the foster system.
Marilyn always feared that she would inherit her mother’s mental illness and be placed into a psychiatric institution as well. At one time Marilyn did voluntarily check herself into a facility, but it was a traumatic experience and ended up re-enforcing her anxieties.
9 Marilyn was a factory worker
Before she was a Hollywood actress and household name, Marilyn was a simple girl with no family and no fortune. Moving between orphanages and foster homes, she dropped out of high school at age 15 to marry her sweetheart, Jimmy Dougherty, in hopes of a better life. Jimmy was soon stationed overseas and Marilyn did her part as well to support the war effort by working in a munitions factory. It was not the comfortable married life that the young bride had imagined.
This was her stroke of luck though, because while working at the factory she was discovered by a photographer who featured her in his “moral booster photos” and took her straight to Hollywood. By the time Jimmy returned from the War, his wife was already a starlet called Marilyn.
8 Marilyn had cosmetic surgery, twice
Studios executives wanted everyone to believe that Marilyn was a natural, all-American beauty; and she was up until about 1950. Around this time, Marilyn underwent two cosmetic procedures that reshaped her nose and chin. This was done to achieve a certain marketable look that executives had devised for Marilyn: the dumb blonde bombshell. Combined with the correction to her overbite, professional styling, and personal beauty routine, Marilyn was able to achieve “the look” by the time she filmed Niagara in 1953.
Cosmetic surgery wasn’t the norm that it is today in Hollywood and Marilyn often checked into clinics under fake names to keep her visits secret. Throughout her life she was plagued by anxieties and battled low self-esteem, often locking herself in her dressing room for hours or skipping work entirely, yet she never went under the knife again.
7 Marilyn sewed marbles into her bras
One of Marilyn’s enduring legacies is her voluptuous figure, and she went to great lengths to support her heaving bosom in particular. Afraid to loose “her look”, Marilyn wore a bra to bed every night to prevent her breasts from sagging overnight. Desiring an even perkier look, she then began to sew marbles into her bras. Sometimes, if there were no marbles on hand, she would sew together a couple of buttons to achieve the same effect.
6 Marilyn had a peach-fuzz beard
Marilyn’s daily beauty routine involved an assortment of creams and powders designed to enhance her appearance on the camera – and as her colleagues have testified, it worked. Her trick was to apply thick layers of Vaseline and hormone cream to her face multiple times a day. The hormone cream caused a soft facial hair, like peach-fuzz, to grow on her face which Marilyn claimed caught the glow of the lights perfectly. Unlike other actresses, photographers did not need to use special lens or light filters when working with Marilyn because of the way her face radiated light.
Despite being begged to shave her peach-fuzz beard, Marilyn refused and boasted that she had the “heaviest beard…of any actress in Hollywood”
5 Marilyn owned over 400 books
An avid reader, Marilyn was far from the dumb blonde that she was portrayed to be. Her personal library contained over 400 volumes ranging from fiction novels to biographies to personal diaries. Spending nights awake with insomnia, Marilyn found books to be a comforting escape and her diaries of verses an outlet for her tangled emotions. Books on her shelf included all three volumes of The Life and Works of Sigmund Freud and Ulysses by James Joyce.
4 Marilyn’s iconic scene spurred her divorce
When Marilyn was filming her iconic scene with the white dress over the New York City sewer grate, no one would have thought it would lead to her divorce. Her second husband and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio was watching the filming of The Seven Year Itch and quickly became angry at how the many times the director wanted to film that scene. He didn’t enjoy seeing his wife and her underwear flashed to the world for multiple takes and began to have conflicts with her career and lifestyle.
3 Marilyn had three miscarriages
Having had no stable home of her own, Marilyn desperately wanted to raise children and start a family. Despite marrying three times and having three miscarriages with her last husband, playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn was never able to have children of her own. She was able to play the role of mother to Arthur’s children, Bobby and Jane, often writing letters to the siblings in the guise of family pets and offering them her wisdoms.
2 Marilyn had trouble remembering lines
Many actors and colleagues have commented that Marilyn was devoted to her trade and took her job quite seriously, not even giggling and telling jokes between scenes with the other actors. Considering how well read and clever she was as well, it seems surprising that Marilyn had a hard time remembering her lines. Yet, it sometimes took 60 takes before a scene was completed as directed due to Marilyn forgetting words or jumbling sentences together.
1 Marilyn once showed up to work naked
On the set of her last film, Something’s Gotta Give, Marilyn was supposed to swim in a pool wearing a flesh-coloured bathing suit but opted to do without. Having slowed down film production with her lateness, which cost the studio thousands, Marilyn decided to gain the movie free publicity by appearing in the nude. To ensure that word would reach the public, Marilyn invited journalists and photographers to the set while the film was scheduled to shoot.
Marilyn was trying to prove herself not only as a fit and healthy woman but as a high-calibre woman – someone who could catch an audience and keep them. At this time Elizabeth Taylor was working for the same studio filming Cleopatra and receiving ten times Marilyn’s salary; Marilyn knew that she could rival Liz.