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Actress Marilyn Monroe overcame a difficult childhood to become of the world's biggest and most enduring sex symbols. She died of a drug overdose in 1962.
Marilyn Monroe - Childhood (1:57)
Marilyn Monroe - Death (1:45)
In 1952, Marilyn Monroe was introduced one of the biggest heroes in baseball, Joe DiMaggio. She was drawn to his quiet, conservative nature-- as well as the fact that he wasn't in show business.
On May 19th, Marilyn Monroe made history when she sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" provocatively to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.
Marilyn Monroe's mother was mentally unstable, causing Marilyn to grow up in foster homes, were she suffered abuse.
Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her home on August 5, 1962. She died of an overdose of barbiturates at the age of 36.
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She would soon become one of Hollywood's most famous actresses; though she wasn't initially considered to be star acting material, she later proved her skill by winning various honors and attracting large audiences to her films.
In 1953, Monroe made a star-making turn in Niagara,
starring as a young married woman out to kill her husband with help from her lover. The emerging sex symbol was paired with another bombshell, Jane Russell, for the musical comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). The film was a hit and Monroe continued to find success in a string of light comedic fare, such as How to Marry a Millionaire with Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall, There's No Business like Show Business (1954) with Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor, and The Seven Year Itch (1955).
With her breathy voice and hourglass figure, Monroe became a much-admired international star, despite her chronic insecurities regarding her acting abilities. Monroe suffered from preperformance anxiety that sometimes made her physically ill and was often the root cause of her legendary tardiness on films sets, which was so extreme that it often infuriated her co-stars and crew. "She would be the greatest if she ran like a watch," director Billy Wilder once said of her. "I have an aunt Minnie who's very punctual, but who would pay to see Aunt Minnie?" Throughout her career, Monroe was signed and released from several contracts with film studios.
Tired of bubbly, dumb blonde roles, Monroe moved to New York City to study acting with Lee Strasberg at the Actors' Studio. She returned to the screen in the dramatic comedy Bus Stop (1956), playing a saloon singer kidnapped by a rancher who has fallen in love with her. She received mostly praise for her performance.
In 1959, Monroe returned to familiar territory with the wildly popular comedy Some Like It Hot, with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. She played Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, a singer who hopes to marry a millionaire in this humorous film, in which Lemmon and Curtis pretend to be women. They are on the run from the mob after witnessing the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and hide out with an all-girl orchestra featuring Monroe. Her work on the film earned her the honor of "Best Actress in a Comedy" in 1959, at Golden Globe Awards.
Reunited with John Huston, Monroe starred opposite Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift in The Misfits (1961). Set in Nevada, this adventure drama features Monroe, who falls for Gable's cowboy but battles him over the fate of some wild mustangs. This was her last completed film.
In 1962, Monroe was dismissed from Something's Got to Give—also starring Dean Martin—for missing so many days of filming. According to an article in The New York Times, the actress claimed that the absences were due to illness. Martin declined to make the film without her, so the studio shelved the picture.
At the time, Monroe's professional and personal life seemed to be in turmoil. Her last two films, Let's Make Love (1960) and The Misfits (1961) were box office disappointments.
See Sam Shaw's iconic Hollywood photos in Sam Shaw by Lorie Karnath.
100 Photos by Sam Shaw for Press Freedom, published in English and French by the non-profit organization Reporters Without Borders, includes Shaw's rare behind-the-scenes movie photography as well as previously unpublished images. Sales of the book support Reporters Without Borders.
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