On this date in 1926, Norma Jeane Mortenson (later baptized Norma Jeane Baker, and who would later 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 young Monroe baptized in the Foursquare Gospel Church. Monroe spent time in various foster care and orphanages, some of which were religious, but, from 1937 to 1942, was mostly raised by the Goddards, family friends. When the Goddard family left Los Angeles, they did not take Monroe with them. Faced with a return to foster care, 16-year-old Monroe married her boyfriend, Jimmy Dougherty. He was sent to the South Pacific, and Monroe began 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 performing under the name “Marilyn Monroe.” 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 and centerfold for the first issue of Playboy Magazine. In January 1954, Monroe 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." In 1955, Monroe studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York City. At that time she began dating Arthur Miller, whom she married in 1956. Monroe starred in the dramatic comedy, "Bus Stop" (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 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 Monroe's death, her friend Jeanne Carmen said of Monroe, “I don't think she had a religion. We never talked religion.” Another panelist on that show, one of Monroe's lovers, James Bacon, confirmed that, to his knowledge, Monroe did not attend church (CNN, Aug. 5, 2003). When she married Arthur Miller, Monroe converted to Judaism and the two were married with both a civil and religious ceremony. 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). She reportedly renounced her “lack of faith,” rather than any former faith, in the conversion ceremony. Monroe was also involved with psychoanalysis, a method with a nonreligious outlook, throughout her career. D. 1962.
“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," in Russell's obituary in Reuters, March 1, 2011
Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski
© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.
On this date in 1937, Morgan Freeman was born in Memphis, Tenn. The now-famous actor got his start in drama at age 12, when, as a punishment for teasing a girl in class, he was forced to participate in a drama competition. He was a natural and continued to be involved in theater throughout middle school and high school. Although he loved acting and was very talented, he initially chose to enter the Air Force after school. But after a few years, he realized it wasn’t a good fit and began to pursue acting professionally, first in Los Angeles and then in New York City.
Freeman’s first big break as an actor came in 1967, when he was cast in an all-black Broadway production of “Hello, Dolly!” He continued to appear in theater productions throughout the 1960s and ’70s. He made his television debut in the children’s TV series, “The Electric Company.” It wasn’t until the late ’80s that Freeman began to appear regularly in hit movies, including “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989), “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994) and “Deep Impact” (1998). In 2005, Freeman won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Million Dollar Baby,” directed by Clint Eastwood. He teamed up with Eastwood again in 2009 to play Nelson Mandela in the movie “Invictus.” He has over 100 film credits to his name.Freeman was married twice, to Jeanette Adair Bradshaw from 1967-1979 and to Myrna Colley Lee from 1984-2010. He and Myrna Colley Lee adopted his step-granddaughter from his first marriage and raised her as their daughter.
Although Morgan Freeman portrayed “God” in the 2003 comedy,“Bruce Almighty,” he does not consider himself religious. The actor has been very open about the fact that he does not believe in a higher power: “Well here’s a scientific question: Has anybody ever seen hard evidence? What we get is theories from our earlier prophets. Now, people who think that God invented us think that the Earth can’t be more than 6,000 years old. So I guess it’s a question of belief. My belief system doesn’t support such a creator as such, as we can call God, who created us in His/Her/Its image.”(interview, The Wrap, June 2012).
“The highest power is the human mind. That’s where God came from and my belief in God is my belief in myself.”
—interview, The Daily Beast, January 2014
Compiled by Dayna Long
© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.