Marilyn Monroe, date unknown.
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Marilyn Monroe with Jane Russell
Forecourt Ceremony held on Friday, June 26, 1953
Born: Norma Jean Mortenson, June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, California
Age at the time of the ceremony: 27
Died: August 5, 1962, in Brentwood, California, age 36
Marilyn Monroe is probably the most well-known person in the Grauman's Chinese Forecourt. A movie star, singer, sex symbol, and internationally influential cultural icon, Monroe and her work continue to fascinate each new generation.

Norma Jean was born to 24-year-old Gladys Pearl Baker, who had migrated to Los Angeles with her parents. At the time of her daughter's birth, Gladys had already married and had two children by John Newton Baker, divorcing him and losing custody of the children in 1921. In 1924, Gladys had remarried and seprated from Martin Edward Mortenson, who was not Norma Jean's father. The identity of Norma Jean's actual father has never been established.

Unprepared for motherhood, Gladys placed Norma Jean with a evangelical Christian family, the Bolenders, in Hawthorn, in 1926. Although Gladys lived in the home initially, she was forced her to live closer to work in 1927. While the Bolenders wanted to adopt the girl, Gladys rented a house for the two of them in Hollywood, which they shared with actors George and Maude Atkinson, and their daughter Nellie. In 1934, Gladys suffered a mental breakdown, and was later committed. Norma Jean rarely saw her mother after that.

Norma Jean became a Ward of the State, who placed a friend of her mother's, Grace McKee, in charge of her upbringing. She was placed with various foster families, becoming more and more withdrawn, until she was placed in the Los Angeles Orphans Home in September, 1935. The staff there granted custody of Norma Jean to Grace, and her husband, Erwin "Doc" Goddard, who sexually abused the young girl. Eventually, she resided with one of Grace's aunts, Ana Atcinson Lower in West Los Angeles. When Lower fell ill, Norma Jean returned to live with the Goddards in Van Nuys by 1940.

When "Doc" Goddard was forced by work to relocate in West Virginia, he and Grace couldn't take Norma Jean out of state. To remove her from the State's jurisdiction, she was married at age 16 to James Dougherty in 1942. Their marriage was unhappy; he enlisted in the Merchant Marine, and was shipped off to the Pacific theatre, while Norma Jean went to stay with Dougherty's parents, working in a radio factory in Van Nuys.

It was here that she was discovered by photographer David Conover, who introduced Norma Jean to several of his pin-up photographing friends. Moving out from her parents-in-law, she signed up with the Blue Book Modeling Agency in August, 1945. She was kept very busy, modeling for men's magazines. The owner of the agency got her a screen test by Ben Lyon at 20th Century-Fox, who signed her to a six-month contract in August, 1946. Lyon changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. She divorced Dougherty in September, 1946.

Monroe became an apt pupil on the Fox lot. Her first role was in Dangerous Years (released in December, 1947). At the studio, she was given acting lessons, but was dropped by Fox in August, 1947. She was signed by Columbia in March, 1948, where she was given the Rita Hayworth makeover, and starred in a "B" musical Ladies of the Chorus (released in February, 1949).

Monroe was taken on by the William Morris Agency, where she was given another makeover, then did her famous nude photos for Tom Kelly. She had a bit part in the Marx Brothers film Love Happy (released in March, 1950), then scored two great bits in the classics The Asphalt Jungle (released in June, 1950), and All About Eve (which played the Chinese in November, 1950). The result: a new seven-year contract at Fox.

Still, Monroe had to come up through the Fox ranks, making stuff like As Young As You Feel (which played the Chinese in June, 1951), but Monroe wanted to try other roles, doing Clash by Night (released in June, 1952), and Don't Bother to Knock (released in August, 1952). Success came with her starring role in Niagara (played the Chinese in January, 1953). By now, Monroe was making such a splash in the world-wide media, that she and Jane Russell were asked to make their imprints together before the release of their picture together, Gentlement Prefer Blondes (played in July, 1953).

At the end of 1953, Monroe co-starred in How to Marry a Millionaire (released in November, 1953), while her Kelly nude photo was published in the first issue of Playboy magazine. In January, 1954, Monroe married baseball player Joe DiMaggio. Refusing to appear in a film to be called The Girl in Pink Tights put her on suspension, so during February, Monroe did a USO tour in Korea.

After the release of River of No Return (which played the Chinese in May, 1954), Monroe was in the ensemble musical There's No Business Like Show Business (played the Chinese in December, 1954). This was followed by her first real starring role after her return from suspension: as The Girl in The Seven Year Itch (played in June, 1955). She would divorce DiMaggio later that year. She also moved to New York, set up her own production company, began acting studies with Lee and Paula Strasberg at the Actor's Studio, and walked out on her Fox contract.

By October, 1955, she was a serious relationship with playwright Arthur Miller, who had been under a cloud for his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Fox execs advised her to break it off; she called them "born cowards."

Despite this, a new contract with Fox was forged, allowing Monroe to pick whatever she wanted to do. After marrying Miller in June, 1956, she headed into a film of Bus Stop (which played the Chinese in August, 1956). She then went to England to make The Prince and the Showgirl (released in June, 1957) with Laurence Olivier as co-star and director, but the shoot was an acrimonious affair.

Monroe then took a long leave from pictures, concentrating on trying to have a baby, but it was not to be; she returned to the cameras to appear as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk in the famous comedy Some Like It Hot (which played the Chinese in March, 1959). Her next film was Let's Make Love (played the Chinese in August, 1960), but the film fared poorly.

Arthur Miller had been working on a script for Monroe to be in. Produced through United Artists, The Misfits (released in February, 1961) is still a double-edged sword; it is both great and whobbly at the same time. Totally spurned by audiences, it was championed ten years later (and was given a special screening at the first Filmex, held at the Chinese in November, 1971). The filming of the picture put an end to her marriage with Miller.

Now suffering from major health problems, Monroe moved back to Los Angeles, and allowed Joe DiMaggio back into her life. Shooting on Something's Got to Give in early 1962 placed her in the hospital again. She annoyed Fox execs by performing at John F. Kennedy's birthday party in New York; Fox then bungled their attempt to salvage the film; they fired Monroe from it, but no one else wanted step into Monroe's role. The film was never completed, although the footage has been released.

On August 5, 1962, Monroe was discovered dead by her housekeeper. The coroner's office listed her death as a "possible suicide" as she was killed by acute barbiturate poisoning — no one could have "accidentally" taken that much of an overdose. Since then, there have been many theories about her death at the age of 36, but none of them fully explain the mystery of Marilyn Monroe.
Caption TK
Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California. Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe Forecourt ceremony, Friday, June 26, 1953. An enourmous crowd witnessed this event, taking thousands of pictures. This one is pretty good. . .
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