More than 50 years after her tragic death, everything about Marilyn Monroe’s life continues to fascinate her fans.
From her starring roles to her iconic fashion choices, everything about the star’s short life is totally memorable. But unless you’re one of Monroe’s biggest fans, you’ll learn something new about her from this list.
1. Her real name was Norma Jean Baker
While she became a glamorous movie star, Monroe’s early life was anything but charmed. She never knew her father, and her mother was institutionalized. Monroe bounced through 11 sets of foster parents, and married at age 16 to avoid being sent back to an orphanage.
Her big break came when she was working in a munitions factory. She was spotted by a photographer the Army’s motion picture unit and asked to star in a photo shoot for them. The rest is history.
2. She wore the most valuable dress over sold
The dress Monroe wore while famously wishing President Kennedy “Happy Birthday” was just as impressive as her singing. The actress had to be sewn into the skin-tight outfit, which was covered in 2,500 glittering rhinestones.
The dress sold for $4.8 million, making it the most valuable piece of clothing ever sold. Monroe actually broke her own record, beating the price for her iconic white dress from The Seven Year Itch.
3. She lived with a hidden illness
Monroe was pregnant twice, but never gave birth. Unbeknownst to her fans, she was living with endometriosis, a painful condition that caused the uterine lining to develop outside the uterus.
Monroe suffered from both a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy which had to be terminated because of the disease.
4. She made less than her makeup artist while filming Niagara
The thriller was one of Monroe’s first big parts, but she was still under contract with 20th Century Fox as a stock actor, meaning she was paid the low wages of an extra or bit part actress. Reportedly, her salary for the film actually came in lower than her makeup artist’s.
Talk about being undervalued.
5. She had plastic surgery, but it wasn’t her idea
One of Monroe’s early agents, Johnny Hyde, decided the actress needed cosmetic surgery to get an edge over her competition. He definitely paid to have her jaw re-shaped, but many believe the actress also had a nose job.
6. She helped kick-start Ella Fitzgerald’s career
The jazz legend has this to say about Monroe’s impact on her early career, when many nightclubs still refused to hire a black singer:
I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt…it was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him — and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status — that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman — a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.
7. Her most famous scene lead to one of her divorces
The scene of Monroe enjoying the breeze in The Seven Year Itch is one of Hollywood’s most famous movie scenes, but it caused a big rift between the actress and her then-husband Joe DiMaggio.
The scene was filmed in front of a crowd of extras who whistled and laughed, which upset DiMaggio. The couple got into a fight which turned serious, and Marilyn filed for divorce on the grounds of “intolerable cruelty” soon after.
Ironically, the scene had to be re-shot anyways because of all the noise the extras were making. But this time it was taped on a closed set.