Marilyn Monroe: From Foster Child to Film Star

A young Marilyn Monroe, or Norma Jeane Mortenson, in a photo shoot on a beach.
Norma Jean working in a factory in her late teens.
Marilyn Monroe holding two telephone receivers in her hands. “20th Century Fox” (shown on a label to the right) is the name of the film studio where she worked.
Marilyn Monroe in the movie “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” from 1953, a musical comedy where she sang the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”.
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russel, co-stars in the movie “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”.
Marilyn Monroe in the famous scene where her skirt is blowing up in a New York street.

Born in 1926 as Norma Jeane Mortenson, the future actress known as Marilyn Monroe spent most of her childhood in foster homes in and around Los Angeles. The reason for this was that Norma Jeane’s father was never in the picture, and her mother had such severe mental problems that she was unable to care for her daughter. Feelings of abandonment and invisibility, therefore, not unexpectedly, would come to influence much of Marilyn Monroe’s life.


In her late teens, Norma Jeane got a job in a factory, where an unexpected opportunity presented itself. An army photographer looking for a pin-up model visited the factory and by chance found the All American Girl he was looking for in the foster home-raised blonde. As a result, Norma Jeane began working as a model, being a cover girl for war posters.

An attractive “dumb blonde”

Soon, Norma Jeane also began looking for film roles and adopted the stage name Marilyn Monroe. Before long, she was cast for roles in comedies and musicals, often playing the archetypical dumb blonde. As it then turned out, Marilyn played her parts so well and was such a master at delivering simple lines in a funny way that she attracted an enormous number of fans. This satisfied much of her unfulfilled need for attention and recognition.

Apart from being recognized as a good actor, Marilyn was admired for being beautiful and curvaceous. Moreover, she had a soft, feminine voice that could cast a spell on any man, leading people to think of her as the ultimate sex symbol. In line with this, most of Marilyn’s many acclaimed enactments doubtlessly allude to sexiness. These enactments include the scene where Marilyn’s skirt is blowing up in the middle of a New York street and her performance of the song "Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend".

Seeking complex film roles

Though Marilyn enjoyed the attention she received as a witty, blonde bombshell, she also had a desire to be appreciated for more than her looks and her funny lines. Therefore, she often requested complex film roles, which she was usually declined. This, over time, re-enforced the perception she had of herself as not being good enough. Unfortunately, as explained in the next chapter, these types of acting-related disappointments would not be the only things bringing Marilyn Monroe down throughout her relatively short life.