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Marilyn Monroe - her Early Years in Pics and Vids

Updated on September 2, 2011
Marilyn's Wedding to Jim Dougherty, 1942
Marilyn's Wedding to Jim Dougherty, 1942

The Young Legend To Be

Norma Jeane Mortensen came from a humble and abusive background. She was almost smothered to death at two, nearly raped at six but overcame all obstacles in her path and rose to become Marilyn Monroe, the most famous and most photographed woman of the Twentieth Century. The photographs which follow were taken of her in her teens and early twenties and show her outstanding natural beauty and amazing affinity with the camera.

She was born in 1926, and, due to her mother's mental instability she spent most of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages. At sixteen, in order to avoid being placed in another foster home, she married Jim Dougherty, 5 years her senior, whom she called Daddy.

One of the original Conover photos
One of the original Conover photos

When Jim went into the military Norma Jeane took a job on the assembly line at the Radio Plane Munitions factory in Burbank, California. Several months later, photographer David Conover saw her while taking pictures of women contributing to the war effort for Yank magazine. He immediately recognised that the beautiful teenager had a unique affinity with the camera. She was a photographer's dream model and Conover persuaded her to apply to The Blue Book modeling agency.

Marilyn during her Blue Book modelling days
Marilyn during her Blue Book modelling days

1948 - Every Baby...

1948 from Ladies of the Chorus

So Norma Jeane began the modelling career which was to change her life. She quickly became one of Blue Book's most successful models, appearing on many popular magazine covers. She began studying the work of actresses Jean Harlow and Lana Turner, and enrolled in drama classes with dreams of stardom. In 1946, she came to the attention of Ben Lyon of 20th Century Fox and was offered a standard six-month contract with a starting salary of $125 per week. Norma Jeane divorced Jimmy in June of 1946, and signed her first studio contract with Twentieth Century Fox 2 months later.

It was agreed with 2oth Century Fox that she would change her name. Lyon told her that she reminded him of the actress Marilyn Miller and she took her grandmother's name of Monroe as her surname. She appeared in some minor movies, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! and Dangerous Years (both 1947), but when her contract was not renewed, she returned to modeling. She attempted to find opportunities for film work, and while unemployed she posed for the nude calendar photographs which were to become so famous later.

In 1948 Monroe signed a six-month contract with Columbia Pictures, and was introduced to the studio's head drama coach, Natasha Lytess, who became her acting coach for several years. She played a series of inconsequential characters until 1950, when John Huston's thriller The Asphalt Jungle provided her with a small but influential role. Later that year, Marilyn's performance as Claudia Caswell in All About Eve (starring Bette Davis) earned her further praise.

Marilyn enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles studying literature and art appreciation, and appeared in several minor films playing opposite such long-established performers as Mickey Rooney, Constance Bennett, June Allyson, Dick Powell and Claudette Colbert. From then on she worked steadily in movies such as: Let's Make It Legal, As Young As You Feel, Monkey Business and Don't Bother to Knock. Following her success in these roles she signed a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox. In March 1951 she appeared as a presenter at the 23rd Academy Awards ceremony. The young starlet had become a star.

1950 - Union Oil Advert

1952 - Don't Bother To Knock

1952 - Clash By Night

1953 Graumans Theatre with Jane Russell

More Reading On Marilyn



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    • KaisMom profile image

      KaisMom 5 years ago from Keizer, Oregon

      Wow! I am a big Marilyn fan. I've never seen the "Da-da-daddy" number except in a really grainy copy a hundred years ago. You have some early pictures that I have never seen! (Believe me, I've been buying books on her since I was a kid.) Thanks. Keep it coming!