Freethought of the Day

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There are 1 entries for this date: Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

On this date in 1926, Norma Jeane Mortenson (later baptized Norma Jeane Baker, who would become immortalized as Marilyn Monroe) was born in Los Angeles. Monroe never knew her father, and her mother, Gladys, practiced Christian Science and was institutionalized for psychiatric problems. Her grandmother, Della Monroe, had Monroe baptized in the Foursquare Gospel Church. She spent time in various foster care homes and orphanages, some of which were religious, but from 1937 to 1942, was mostly raised by family friends, the Goddards.

When the Goddards left Los Angeles, they didn't take Monroe, 16, with them. Faced with a return to foster care, she married her boyfriend Jimmy Dougherty. He was sent with the Merchant Marine to the South Pacific and Monroe started working as a model. After Dougherty returned in 1946, the couple divorced over disagreements about Monroe's career. That year, the 20-year-old signed her first film contract and started using her stage name. Her first critical and popular exposure occurred in 1950, for her roles in "The Asphalt Jungle" and "All About Eve." Her breakout starring role was in "Niagara" (1953), and that same year she starred in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "How to Marry a Millionaire." Also in 1953, Monroe was the cover girl and centerfold for the first issue of Playboy magazine.

In January 1954 she married baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, whom she had been dating for two years. They divorced later that same year after a fight on the set of "The Seven-Year Itch." She then studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York and started dating playwright Arthur Miller, whom she married in 1956. Monroe starred in the dramatic comedy "Bus Stop" in 1956. In 1959 she received a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy for her role in "Some Like It Hot." Monroe's last completed film, "The Misfits," was written for her by Miller. The couple had  split soon after filming finished in 1961. Monroe was fired from the film "Something's Got to Give" (1962), and on August 5 of that year was found dead of a sleeping pill overdose. The death was ruled a probable suicide.

On a call-in panel commemorating her death, her friend Jeanne Carmen said of Monroe, “I don't think she had a religion. We never talked religion.” Another panelist on the show, James Bacon — one of her purported lovers — confirmed that to his knowledge, Monroe did not attend church (CNN, Aug. 5, 2003). When she married Miller, Monroe converted to Judaism and the two were wed with both civil and religious ceremonies. The rabbi who converted her said, “She was impressed with the rationalism of Judaism — its ethical and prophetic ideals and its concept of close family life.” (Quoted in the Philadelphia Examiner, March 6, 2010.) D. 1962.

Public domain photo: Monroe in November 1953 in Modern Screen magazine.

“Jane tried to convert me [to religion] and I tried to introduce her to Freud.”

—Marilyn Monroe, on starring with Jane Russell in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," from Russell's obituary (Reuters, March 1, 2011)

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski

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