A Marilyn Monroe Chronology

PrintPrintEmailEmail June 1, 1926

Norma Jeane Mortensen is born at Los Angeles General Hospital, Los Angeles, to Gladys Pearl Monroe Baker. Gladys Baker will spend much of her life in and out of mental institutions.

September 1935–june 1937

Nine-year-old Norma Jeane is sent to live at a Los Angeles orphanage. Marilyn later said of her childhood, “No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they are pretty, even if they aren’t.”

June 19, 1942

At 16 Norma Jeane escapes foster-home existence and marries a neighbor, a former football jock at Van Nuys High, named James Dougherty.

Spring 1944

Jim is sent overseas. Norma Jeane begins work on an assembly line at the Radioplane Company. The winsome Mrs. Dougherty is photographed for a promotional piece on women in the war effort. This gets the attention of modeling agents.

July 23, 1946

Norma Jeane signs a contract with Twentieth Century–Fox and is rechristened Marilyn Monroe: Marilyn, after actress Marilyn Miller, and Monroe being a family name. She dyes her wavy brown hair blonde.

September 13, 1946

The Doughertys divorce.

1947

Marilyn’s contract is dropped.

March 1948

Marilyn signs with Columbia Pictures and will lend a decent singing voice to a musical, Ladies of the Chorus , only to be released after the one picture.

December 31, 1948

Marilyn meets a William Morris agent, the much-older Johnny Hyde, at a New Year’s party. Hyde falls in love with Marilyn, and his devotion will result in her landing two small but important film roles, in The Asphalt Jungle and the Academy Award– winning All About Eve . Johnny Hyde dies of a heart attack, December 18, 1950.

May 1949

Struggling to pay her bills, Marilyn poses nude for a calendar. The photos will be used in the launch of the publisher Hugh Hefner’s new magazine for men in December 1953. Marilyn Monroe is Playboy magazine’s first centerfold.

March 1952

The rising star steps out on a date with the newly retired baseball legend Joe DiMaggio.

April 7, 1952

Marilyn gets her first Life magazine cover.

January 21, 1953

Niagara premieres. Marilyn’s turn as Rose, the sultry and murderous wife of the hapless George Loomis (Joseph Cotten) is her breakthrough performance.

July 15, 1953

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes opens. Marilyn’s beguiling Lorelei Lee, the now-classic performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and perfect comedic timing establish her as a star.

November 5, 1953

The hit film How to Marry a Millionaire opens.

January 14, 1954

Marilyn marries Joe DiMaggio.

February 1954

The newlywed Marilyn entertains troops in Korea.

September 1954

An enraged Joe DiMaggio stands by as his wife films the famous skirt-blowing scene from The Seven Year Itch before hundreds of spectators in midtown Manhattan.

October 1954

Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio separate after less than a year of marriage.

December 1954

Marilyn leaves Hollywood for New York.

February 1955

Marilyn enrolls in the Actors Studio, run by Lee Strasberg. “My illusions didn’t have anything to do with being a fine actress. I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But, my God, how I wanted to learn, to change, to improve!”

June 3, 1955

The Seven Year Itch premieres and is a big summer hit.

June 29, 1956

Marilyn converts to Judaism and marries the playwright Arthur Miller, becoming Marilyn Miller.

August 31, 1956

Bus Stop is released, and Marilyn receives acclaim for her performance as the fragile Cherie.

1958

Marilyn returns to Hollywood to make the comedy Some Like It Hot . Marilyn’s tardiness, failure to recall lines, and constant scene retakes exhaust cast and crew, but she delivers a remarkable performance nonetheless.

March 29, 1959

Premiere of Some Like It Hot . Marilyn goes on to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.

July 1960

Shooting starts on The Misfits . The script was written by Arthur Miller as a present for Marilyn.