In the pantheon of old Hollywood glitz and glamour, few names and faces are as famous as Marilyn Monroe’s. The original blonde bombshell, she was known as much for her films as for her status as one of pop culture’s biggest celebrities.
Tragically, in 1962, Marilyn’s life was cut short. Still, her relatively brief time in the spotlight was undoubtedly brimming with fascinating stories that helped build her reputation as a Hollywood icon.
Here are some of the most compelling facts about her that even her biggest fans may not know. They truly show why she was one of history’s most captivating stars!
1. Though she was one of Hollywood’s biggest actresses, Marilyn Monroe often found it difficult to memorize her lines. In one instance, it took her more than 60 tries to nail the line, “It’s me, sugar,” from Some Like It Hot.
2. Despite being a huge star, Marilyn Monroe was typically underpaid for her work. She was paid about $100,000 for her unfinished performance in Something’s Got To Give, while Elizabeth Taylor was paid $1 million for her role in Cleopatra around the same time.
3. That being said, just four days before she was found dead, she signed a two-picture deal with Fox that would have been worth $1 million. It would have been the biggest payday of her career.
4. The white baby grand piano that Marilyn had in her home when she was found dead was eventually auctioned off in 1999 for $662,500. Singer Mariah Carey was the bidder.
5. During the filming of The Prince and The Showgirl, Marilyn’s weight fluctuated wildly. So much so, in fact, that her costume designer, Beatrice Dawson, had to make several copies of the same dress in different sizes. “I have two ulcers from this film,” Dawson said, “and they’re both monogrammed MM.”
6. Marilyn used a hormone cream to whiten her skin. A side effect was that it caused her to grow blonde peach fuzz on her face. She actually liked the fuzz, however, believing it gave her face a soft glow on screen.
7. When she died in 1962, Marilyn had an estate valued at $1.6 million. She gave most of it to her acting coach, Lee Strasberg, and another large portion to Dr. Marianne Kris, her psychoanalyst. She also left a trust fund to her mother that offered about $5,000 per year.
8. Ahead of her time in many ways, Marilyn was an early convert to yoga. She even took lessons from Swedish-Russian Bollywood film star Indra Devi, who also taught Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson.
9. Marilyn was a big fan of being naked. She was notorious for walking around wardrobe mistresses, hairdressers, and make-up artists in the nude, as well as leaving the house with nothing under the mink coat Joe DiMaggio bought her.
10. Though she had made a sizable chunk of cash throughout her career, Marilyn only ever owned one home: the one at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, California—which is where she was found dead.
11. Just before her death in 1962, Marilyn was in the process of reading two books: Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Leo Rosten’s Captain Newman MD, which was based on the life of Marilyn’s psychiatrist, Ralph Greenson.
13. Marilyn Monroe’s death was ruled a “probable suicide.” However, toxicology reports were only ever done on her liver. When the other organs were requested by the deputy coroner, he was told they’d already been destroyed.
14. There were many conspiracy theories surrounding Marilyn’s death. One of the more popular ones is that she was murdered in order to prevent her from going public about her supposed affairs with President John F. Kennedy.
15. The circumstances surrounding Marilyn’s death did seem slightly fishy, however. Supposedly, there was no sign of alcohol nearby—and some claim she showed signs of having been injected with a needle.
16. Actress Veronica Hamel, who purchased Marilyn’s home in 1972—10 years after Marilyn’s death—claimed that she had discovered a number of FBI wiretaps inside the home.
17. All that being said, the Los Angeles District County Attorney decided to reopen the case in 1982. He did not, however, find any evidence to support the conspiracy theories, and the case was again closed.
18. Marilyn believed that she was the descendent of President James Monroe. This, however, was not supported by any evidence that anyone could discover, so it was likely untrue.
19. Many believe that Marilyn’s second husband, author Arthur Miller, wrote the play After The Fall about their marriage. The character of Maggie is believed to be based on her.
20. The identity of Marilyn’s father was never fully determined. Both she and her mother believed him to be C. Stanley Gifford, but Edward Mortensen, who was married to her mother when she was born, was the father listed on her birth certificate.
21. Marilyn was a big fan of the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, going so far as to call him her hero. “I used to read everything I could find about him,” she claimed in her ghostwritten autobiography.
22. She also had a slight fixation with her costar in The Misfits, Clark Gable, whom she saw as a father figure. When he passed away, she claimed to have cried for two days straight.
23. When Ella Fitzgerald was banned from performing in 1950s Los Angeles, Marilyn worked to get her a gig. She eventually convinced a venue to host her as long as Marilyn sat in the front row for each show.
24. Marilyn was a big fan of dogs. The last dog she owned was a Maltese terrier given to her by the one and only Frank Sinatra, whom she named Maf (short for “Mafia Honey”).
25. In 1950, her agent, Johnny Hyde, paid for her to have a couple of plastic surgeries. First was a tip rhinoplasty, which reshaped the cartilage on the end of her nose, and the second was a chin implant.
26. Before becoming famous, Marilyn married James Dougherty when she was just 16 years old. He later became a detective with the LAPD, and was forbidden by his second wife from seeing any of her films.
27. The dress that she wore during the famous “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” performance for President Kennedy was sold in 1999 for about $1.03 million.
28. Surprising to some, Marilyn Monroe had an open-casket funeral. She had to be laid to rest while wearing a blonde wig, though, because her head had been partially shaved when the county had conducted the autopsy. (This is an image of a sculpture made to recreate the coffin’s appearance.)
29. At the time of her death, Marilyn Monroe was thought to be making plans to remarry Joe DiMaggio. He had gotten help for his alcoholism, and the two seemed to be planning to give it another go.
30. After becoming Marilyn’s acting coach during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl, Paula Strasberg was paid $25,000, which was more than some of the featured actors.
31. Though she was typecast as a unintelligent blonde, Marilyn was known to have been shrewd businesswoman and was very intelligent. One rumor suggested she had a higher IQ than Albert Einstein, though no direct evidence exists to support this.
32. Following the institutionalization of her mother, Gladys, Marilyn was eventually placed with 11 different foster parents. She spent almost a year in the Children’s Aid Society Orphanage in Los Angeles.
33. Marilyn’s name appeared as Norma Jeane Mortensen on her birth certificate. Her first stage name idea was Jean Adair, and she didn’t settle on “Marilyn Monroe” until 1956.
34. Playboy founder and millionaire Hugh Hefner actually owns the burial vault next to Marilyn’s. He purchased it for about $63,000 all the way back in 1992.
35. Hugh Hefner wasn’t the only one who was interested in spending eternity next to Marilyn. Elsie Poncher, the widow of the man buried above Marilyn’s vault, sold her husband’s space for $4.5 million.
36. Though she never had any of her own, Marilyn was known for loving children. She developed close relationships with her step-children, and always yearned for a baby of her own.
37. Perhaps confirming the rumors that she and Joe DiMaggio were planning to remarry, the baseball legend sent roses to her burial vault three times a week for 20 years.
38. While filming the movie Let’s Make Love, Marilyn was a constant no-show for her scenes. So much so that she added 28 days to the shooting schedule and cost the producers an extra $1 million in production costs.
39. Marilyn’s career actually started by accident. She was noticed by photographer David Conover while she was working on an assembly line at Radioplane, a munitions factory.
40. Not only did Marilyn’s famous “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress eventually go on to sell for the big bucks, it was so tight that it had to be sewn right onto her body!
What a fascinating and tragic life! It’s easy to see why Marilyn Monroe conjures such strong feelings from so many people. She truly was one-of-a-kind!