Marilyn Monroe: Model, actress, singer and legend

Marilyn Monroe: Model, actress, singer and legend
Marilyn Monroe as a child. Taken from

Marilyn Monroe as a child. (Credit:

Marilyn Monroe died 50 years ago on Sunday, August 5. In her short 36-year life, she achieved international stardom both on and off the big screen.

Born Norma Jeane Mortenson in Los Angeles on June 1, 1926, her surname was later changed to Baker, the family name of her mother’s first husband.

Marilyn’s birth certificate (below) lists Martin Edward Mortensen as her father.

Marilyn did not believe Martin was her father. She was once shown a photo of her father, whom she thought resembled Clark Gable. As a child, she pretended that Gable was her father.

Marilyn Monroe's birth certificate. Source: Wikipedia (click to zoom).

Marilyn Monroe's birth certificate. (Source: (click to zoom).

She adopted the stage name of Marilyn Monroe – Monroe was her mother’s maiden name.

According to the Dictionary of American Family Names (Oxford University Press, March 2003), Monroe is Scottish and a rare example of a Gaelic surname of topographic (geographic) origin. The first element of the name (Mon) may be the Gaelic “mun,” and a mutated form of bun (foot) or the British minit (hill). In Ireland, the name is sometimes used as an equivalent of O’Mellan. Other genealogists claim that the blonde actress was a descendant of Mayflower passengers.

Legally known as Norma Jeane Baker, and age 13, when the enumerator visited her home. (Click to zoom). census
Marilyn Monroe in the 1940 census (Credit: SuperSearch Legally known as Norma Jeane Baker, she was 13 when the enumerator visited her home. (Click to zoom).

Marilyn did not have a nice welcome into the world. In addition to not knowing her father, her mother was committed to a psychiatric hospital. Her early years were spent moving among abusive foster homes.

In 1951, she enrolled in the University of California where she studied art and literature.

Discovered by Hollywood via her modeling career, Marilyn soon became a world-famous actress, starring in many movies and productions.

Her several marriages and relationships did not provide the happiness or security she sought.

Marilyn Monroe was found dead at her home in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California on August 5, 1962. The autopsy showed chemicals in her body and recorded a death of poisoning as a result of probable suicide. There are many conspiracy theories as to whether it was a suicide, accidental suicide or murder. Her funeral took place on August 8, 1962, arranged by former husband, Joe DiMaggio (of baseball fame).

The beautiful ballad, Candle in the Wind (1973), written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, pays tribute to Marilyn Monroe and her life. John expressed the combination of superstardom and hardship that Marilyn faced. The song was reworked for Princess Diana’s funeral, and performed by  John.

Do most people remember her for being an actress, a model or a singer? I don’t know. However, one thing is certain – they do remember her.

Do you have memories of Marilyn Monroe to share in the comments below?


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  • Rose Emerson

    August 3, 2012

    On the birth certificate it says she was born in 1926 but in the blog it says she was born in 1936 – which one is correct?

  • Bob Strayhorn

    August 4, 2012

    The Birth Certificate clearly tells the birth date as June 1, 1926

  • Aaron

    August 5, 2012

    Thanks for spotting – it was 1926.