Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jean Baker in 1926. She would go on to become one of the most famous actresses the world would ever see. From her trademark pout and platinum blonde hair to the ups and downs of her tumultuous love life, fans couldn’t get enough of her.
There are plenty of pictures of Marilyn that have become as famous as she was since the press hounded her. But what about the lesser-known ones that show a different side to the icon? Join us as we take a look at some unseen photos of Marilyn Monroe and delve deeper into the life and times of a tragic star.
First, There Was Norma Jean
Before the glitz and glamour of Hollywood life, before the words Marilyn Monroe had ever been uttered, there was Norma Jean Baker. As a child ferried between foster homes and wed at just 16, modeling was an escape for the troubled young woman.
In 1944, she was introduced to a photographer from the First Motion Picture Unit. He helped mold her into a successful pin-up model as part of the war effort. Here, she poses on a beach in a bikini with the trademark smile that would see her catapulted to fame.
She Was An Icon On Hold
By the time 1953 rolled around, Marilyn had achieved the kind of worldwide fame that few ever do. She had played leading roles in multiple films, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
When this photograph was taken in 1954, she was getting frustrated at being typecast as the dumb blonde (although this was an image she herself had constructed). Desperate to broaden her roles, Marilyn refused a role and was suspended by the studio, Fox. Fox didn’t keep her off the bench for long, though, and once they reached a settlement in 1955 she returned.
Beach Loving With Joe DiMaggio
Marilyn was one of the most hounded celebrities on the planet. The press reported on every aspect of her life, something that she sometimes loved and other times loathed. Her marriage to Joe DiMaggio lasted only a year.
By 1961, after her third divorce, Monroe and DiMaggio had rekindled a friendship. Here, they’re lounging in a cabana on Redington Beach where Marilyn vacationed while Joe worked with the New York Yankees. After Marilyn’s tragic death the following year, Joe sent flowers to her grave twice a week for more than 20 years.
Close Friendship With Acting Coach Paula Strasberg
Like many actors, Marilyn had an acting coach, Paula Strasberg. Paula, an actress herself, was married to Lee Strasberg, the man who is credited with making method acting popular. Paula accompanied Marilyn to her film sets, usually at the disapproval of her co-stars.
Here, the pair is on the set of Marilyn’s last film, The Misfits. By this point, the 35-year-old actress was falling out of favor with critics. She was heavily addicted to barbiturates and struggled to stay focused. After filming wrapped Monroe divorced her final husband, writer Arthur Miller, during a quick hearing in Mexico.
Taking The Subway
In March 1955, Marilyn had just finished a battle with Fox over her contract which hadn’t changed since 1950. Unlike many stars of her stature, she was paid much less and had little freedom. After reaching a settlement with the studio, things were back on track — at least in her career.
Six months before this photograph was taken on the New York subway, the famous scene of Marilyn standing over an air vent was shot in public on Lexington Avenue. It made her front page news but marked the end of her marriage to Joe DiMaggio, who was furious about the stunt.
A Rare Shot At Home
During the 1950s Marilyn’s face was everywhere, on the covers of magazines and billboards to promote her latest pictures. She was always dolled up to the nines and it was rare to see a picture of her without all her finery.
This picture, taken around 1955, shows a different side to the sex symbol. Wearing checkered pants and a loose sweatshirt, Marilyn stands barefoot by the window at home. Shots like this give us an insight into the side of Marilyn seldom seen to the public. She was a star at the height of her fame, yes, but an ordinary woman first.
Marriage To Arthur Miller
In 1956, Marilyn decided to give marriage another try and wed intellectual playwright Arthur Miller. The media ridiculed what they believed was an odd match. One headline read “Egghead Marries Hourglass.”
The pair is pictured here boarding a plane the same year, looking blissfully happy. Marilyn suffered from multiple miscarriages throughout her marriage to Miller. These started two months into the marriage, during filming of The Prince and the Showgirl. The actress was frequently at odds with her co-star Laurence Olivier, and her drug use escalated as a result.
She Entertained the Troops In Korea
In 1954, before her 9-month marriage to Joe DiMaggio dissolved, Monroe took a solo tour to Korea. This was a whirlwind four-day trip around American military bases, putting on 10 shows for around 100,000 soldiers.
Although Marilyn is shielding her eyes from the flashing cameras of the over-excited servicemen, she would later state, “The trip was the best thing that ever happened to me. I never felt like a star before in my own heart. It was so wonderful to look down and see a fellow smiling at me.” The platinum beauty sang hits such as “Bye, Bye Baby” and “Do It Again.”
Filming ‘Love Happy’
All the iconic pictures of Marilyn show her with her trademark red pout and curly, bleach blonde bob. However, as a young actress making the transition from pin-up model to screen star, she had quite a different look.
Here she is pictured talking to comic star Groucho Marx on the set of one of her first films, Love Happy, where she had a small part in 1950. It was one of six movies she appeared in during the same year. But it wouldn’t be until the following year when she signed with Fox that things really started to take off for her.
This Is Hair Modeling Done Right
Before the start of her media career, Norma Jean worked at a Radioplane factory in 1944. When photographer David Conover was sent to take pictures the females working in the factory, she began modeling for him. This was against the wishes of her husband and her in-laws.
After she signed a contract with Blue Book Model Agency, Norma Jean began to appear frequently in advertisements like this one, from 1945. Norma looks fresh-faced and innocent as she poses for a hair product campaign. Not long after, she would dye her hair blonde and begin to work as a pin-up.
Striking A (Yoga) Pose
Marilyn’s work as a model was diverse, but mainly consisted of lifestyle and advertising shoots for men’s lifestyle magazines of the time. These inc, like Peep and Squint. In a series of photographs in 1948, she demonstrated different exercise poses.
Then 22 years old, the freshly-dyed blonde star was on the rise. But she had no way of knowing how her much longed-for fame would turn on her in the end. The black background lights Marilyn up in these striking exercise shots. These early pictures often get lost among the more iconic photographs of the 1950s version of Marilyn.
She Smiled When Her Heart Was Breaking
When Marilyn fell pregnant in 1957, it was her second pregnancy with husband Arthur Miller. The first ended in miscarriage just a few weeks. When she discovered she was with child the second time, the couple was joyous.
On August 1st she was rushed to hospital with terrible pain. She learned that the pregnancy was ectopic and had to be terminated with emergency surgery. Here, Marilyn’s pictured leaving the hospital in an ambulance. She has a full face of make-up as she waves to onlookers to assure them she’s okay. Marilyn insisted on walking from the elevator to the ambulance to show she was fine.
A Not-So-Secret Affair With An Actor
Let’s Make Love was one of Marilyn’s final pictures, released in 1960. The film, which was badly received, saw Marilyn co-star with French actor Yves Montad. The pair embarked on a whirlwind affair, which according to some sources resulted in pregnancy.
In this photo, Marilyn stands smiling as director George Cukor fastens a pearl necklace, given to her by the cast for her birthday, around her neck. Yves looks on. According to Marilyn’s friend and neighbor Freda Hull, the star miscarried on the set of her final film, The Misfits. The affair was a media circus, which the studio hoped would help the film’s success. It didn’t.
Norma Jean And Her Mom
Marilyn’s childhood wasn’t the smoothest of rides. She was born to Gladys Pearl Baker, but the identity of her father was never known. The surname of her mother’s second husband was most commonly used.
Gladys wasn’t in a position to raise her daughter, so young Norma Jean was placed with a foster family until she was stable enough to care for her herself. The above snapshot shows Marilyn and her mother enjoying a day at the beach, before Gladys had a mental breakdown. She would be hospitalized and in and out of institutions her whole life, leaving Marilyn to grow up in orphanages and foster homes.
Every Last Detail Was Important
Despite Marilyn often being portrayed as a victim of her dizzying fame, that was only part of the story. She may have played the ditzy blonde character well, but Monroe was a shrewd businesswoman who carefully crafted her image.
She’s pictured here in March 1955. She is at a fitting for her costume and is getting ready to ride a pink elephant at Madison Square Garden for a special circus charity event. As you can see, Marilyn worked hard to get her look right, down to the very last detail. Comfort came second to aesthetics for the starlet, who often had to squeeze into corsets for her musical numbers.
Marilyn’s First Marriage Was To James Dougherty
The early to mid-1940s was a period of turbulence for the innocent Norma Jean. Her guardians Grace and Doc Goddard were set to relocate to West Virginia but child protection laws prohibited them taking her out of state since she was still a teenager. Rather than go back to an orphanage, Marilyn married the next door neighbor, James Dougherty.
She dropped out of high school and set her mind to becoming a housewife. Here, she is pictured in 1943 arm-in-arm with her husband and a friend. By 1946 the couple separated so Norma could become one of the biggest stars of the 20th century.
The Frank Sinatra Romance
In 1954, two of the biggest stars in the world finally collided. Frank Sinatra was still married to actress Ava Gardner at the time, but by 1961 had he started a romance with Marilyn that lasted several months. Here, the two are pictured on a lazy afternoon, but the exact date of the photo is unknown.
According to Jilly Rizzo, a close confidant of Frank, the crooner asked Marilyn to marry him. He was concerned about her mental state and continuous drug use and thought he could protect her. Marilyn said no and died shortly after. Frank was denied entry to her funeral by Joe DiMaggio.
A Divorce Disaster
The pictures usually published of Marilyn showed her in all her glory. Unfortunately, photos of the icon in distress were worth more. In this picture, Marilyn covers her face as she leaves a press conference. This was outside the honeymoon cottage where she and husband Joe DiMaggio announced their divorce.
DiMaggio had left in tears moments before Marilyn emerged. He spoke only to confirm her attorney’s statement that the divorce was due to “conflicting careers.” Marilyn was on her way to work on The Seven Year Itch but was sent home, because “[s]he couldn’t see any comedy in life today.”
Leaving The Hospital
Like many famous people, Marilyn couldn’t even be ill in peace. She was hospitalized more than most, thanks to her struggles with endometriosis. The condition led to pain and the problems she had carrying children. This snap, taken as she exited a hospital in 1954, shows a relatable side of Monroe.
Many people look and feel terrible after we leave the hospital. Here, Marilyn is trying to hide her face from onlookers behind her fur coat as she emerges with unkempt hair and no make-up. A nurse looks into the camera, escorting the natural beauty off-site with a media circus surrounding them.
A Bright Smile In Brighter Times
This gorgeous portrait of Marilyn, wearing a bright green dress, shows a time in her life that was much happier than it was in the previous photo. This shot was taken in 1954 in Palm Springs, California.
Marilyn loved Palm Springs and visited frequently. Her favorite hotel there, the Riviera Palm Springs, is still operational today. Guests with deep pockets can even rent out the entire facility at a cost of $1 million per night.
Reading Was A Beloved Hobby
The actress loved to read and was truly passionate about it. In fact, one of her online fan clubs, called Everlasting Star, determined through photos, auction items, and interviews that Marilyn had more than 400 books in her personal library. Some of her favorites are said to be On the Road, Paris Blues, Tortilla Flat, The Fall, and Sister Carrie.
In this rare and candid shot, she’s reclining in pajamas at the Ambassador Hotel in March 1955 in New York City, New York. In her lap is the book To the Actor: On the Technique of Acting by author Michael Chekhov
Still Inspirational Today
Marilyn remains one of the most inspirational celebrities of all time, despite the enormous life struggles she experienced behind the scenes. One of her most famous quotes is about self-esteem and survival.
“With fame, you know, you can read about yourself, somebody else’s ideas about you, but what’s important is how you feel about yourself – for survival and living day to day with what comes up.” In this 1955 photo, she appears contemplative as she peers down from the roof of a building in New York City.
A Sultry Mood
Marilyn Monroe was a woman of many moods. From shy and demure to confident or sultry, her personality and moods came through in photographs. “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best,” she once said.
Here, she strikes a sultry pose in a scarlet red halter back outfit. In other photos from the series she appears to be feeling playful, as she certainly does on the next page.
Just Playing Around
The public rarely got a glimpse of Marilyn being quite this playful! Apparently, it is true that blondes have more fun, at least when the mood strikes. This rare photo was snapped as the movie star frolicked on the beach near her Hollywood home during a break from filming.
She once said, “I don’t mind making jokes, but I don’t want to look like one.” She certainly doesn’t appear to mind looking silly at times, as this hilarious photo proves.
A Haunting View Of Life And Aging
As Marilyn Monroe’s tragic life and early death is so well-known to us now, this quote about aging is particularly haunting. “I want to grow old without facelifts… I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I’ve made. Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know you.”
The blonde beauty would have turned 90 years old on June 1, 2016. People around the world paid tribute to her, sharing memories and photos.
Marilyn left the most valuable portion of her sizable estate ($1.6 million total) to her acting coach, Lee Strasberg. He and his wife, Paula had become extremely close to the actress, and she considered them surrogate parents. In the photo above, Marilyn and Paula are seen in between filming takes. After Paula died, Lee remarried a woman named Anna. And when he eventually died in 1982, Anna inherited the estate. She auctioned much of it off.
Marilyn had also left part of her estate to her psychoanalyst, Marianne Kris. Kris was more generous with the estate than Anna was. She willed it to the Anna Freud Centre in London, a facility that’s dedicated to helping children with mental health problems, a charity Marilyn would likely have approved of.
That Infamous Dress
As mentioned, Anna Strasberg sold off the bulk of the estate her husband had inherited from Marilyn Monroe. This even included the silver dress which the starlet had sung “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in.
The gown fetched a whopping $4.8million, making it the most expensive dress to be sold at auction. The vice president of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Edward Meyer, said, “We believe this is the most iconic piece of pop culture that there is.”
Marilyn Memorabilia Is A Hot Commodity
Besides the sequined dress, hundreds of Marilyn’s other belongings have been auctioned off over the years. There’s even a special section on eBay dedicated to the starlet’s possessions.
From her 1956 Ford Thunderbird, which brought in $490,000, to jewelry, clothing, love letters, receipts, and even her cosmetics, Marilyn memorabilia usually sells for big bucks.
She Converted To Judaism For Arthur Miller
Marilyn converted to Judaism in 1956 when she married Arthur Miller. He was of Polish-Jewish descent. Rabbi Robert Goldburg of Congregation Mishkan Israel in New Haven, Connecticut, oversaw the starlet’s conversion and also officiated at the couple’s Jewish wedding. Above, the couple is seen in a candid 1956 photo.
After her death, Goldburg wrote: “Marilyn was not an intellectual person, but she was sincere in her desire to learn. She indicated that she was impressed with the rationalism of Judaism, its ethical and prophetic ideals and its concept of close family life.” In October 2018 it was announced that Marilyn’s prayer book was being put up for auction, with a starting price of $4,600.
She Was A True Animal Lover And Once Tried To Bring A Cow Into The House
Everyone who knew Marilyn says that she loved animals. She was particularly fond of dogs and owned many throughout her life. These included a black-and-white dog named Tippy, a collie named Muggsie, and a Basset hound named Hugo.
Her first husband once recalled that during their marriage, he had to stop her from trying to bring a cow into their house to get it out of the rain. Here she is, enjoying a round of cuddling with a small dog. This moment was captured in 1960, during filming of The Misfits in the Nevada Desert.
Beauty Advice From A Bombshell
Anyone who’s famous for their beauty is likely to have a pretty extensive self-care regimen, and Marilyn was candid about hers. One of her biggest tips was to avoid tanning: “Despite its great vogue in California, I don’t think suntanned skin is any more attractive . . . or any healthier, for that matter. I’m personally opposed to a deep tan because I like to feel blonde all over.”
Here she is, applying lotion to those famous legs in a photo dated 1951.
Marilyn Still Appears In Television Commercials
Ms. Monroe and her image have been used to sell many products over the years. Makeup, perfume, men’s shoes, and garden umbrellas — her image was all over the place! The above ad was for Chanel No. 5, shot on March 24, 1955.
And she’s still appearing in commercials, thanks to modern technology. A recent ad for Dior perfume featured the blonde beauty moving and smiling with Charlize Theron. Two other deceased stars, Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich also made appearances in the ad.
How She Kept That Famous Figure
Known for her hourglass figure, Marilyn developed her own exercise routine to stay in shape. A September 1952 edition of Pageant magazine outlined her fitness regimen. Each day, the starlet performed “a simple bust-firming routine.” This consisted of lying on the floor and lifting 2kg weights above her head. “I do this 15 times, slowly,” she said. “Then, with my arms at a 45-degree angle from the floor, I move my weights in circles until I’m tired.”
“I don’t count rhythmically like the exercise people on the radio; I couldn’t stand exercise if I had to feel regimented about it.” She also had some unusual diet habits, which we’ll read about next.
The Diet Of A Movie Star
Marilyn was told that her diet was a bit odd, but she said it worked for her. “I’ve been told that my eating habits are absolutely bizarre, but I don’t think so. Before I take my morning shower, I start warming a cup of milk on the hot plate I keep in my hotel room,” she said.
She continued: “When it’s hot, I break two raw eggs into the milk, whip them up with a fork, and drink them while I’m dressing. I supplement this with a multi-vitamin pill, and I doubt if any doctor could recommend a more nourishing breakfast for a working girl in a hurry.” This photo shows Ms. Monroe eating alongside two soldiers while she toured Korea in 1954.
Arthur Miller’s Autobiography
Another of Marilyn’s exes, playwright Arthur Miller, addressed her life and death in his 1987 autobiography Timebends: A Life. Miller, who himself passed away in 2005, wrote: “To have survived, she would have had to be either more cynical or even further from reality than she was.”
“Instead, she was a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes.” He also expressed sadness that she had never been seen as much more than a sex symbol.
There Was A “Marilyn Monroe Of Burlesque”
Throughout her career, Marilyn was dogged by rumors that she’d started her career by working as a striptease, a claim she always denied. The rumor started because there was another young woman, Dixie Evans, in Hollywood who looked a lot like Monroe. She was a stripper at Los Angeles’ Mayan Theatre and was frequently mistaken for Ms. Monroe.
The two of them looked so much alike that Evans later billed herself “The Marilyn Monroe Of Burlesque” and.adapted her stage persona to mimic Marilyn’s style and mannerisms. The above photo of Monroe was taken in March of 1955.
President Reagan Made A Joke About Monroe During A Speech About Taxes
During a 1986 White House Briefing on tax reform, President Reagan relayed a story about the actress. “I must admit there were times in this process, as tax reform wended its way through the sometimes convoluted passageways of Congress, that even I had some momentary doubts.”
He continued, “I told a group last night that it was a little like the time Marilyn Monroe, the late Marilyn Monroe, met Albert Einstein. And Marilyn grabbed him by the arm and said, ‘Let’s get married.’ And Einstein looked at her and replied, ‘But, my dear, what if our children had my looks and your brains?'” Here’s a rare candid shot of Marilyn having a big laugh, taken in 1954.
Another Snapshot Of The Exes Who Remained Friends
Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio, her former husband, remained very close after their rocky nine-month marriage ended in divorce in 1954.
Here, the blonde bombshell is seen in a rare and unguarded moment with DiMaggio that was taken the year after their split. He’s hamming it up, sticking out his tongue at photographers as the former couple relaxes in a beach cabana. Marilyn is there for a brief vacation and Joe was there as a spring training coach for the New York Yankees.
The Filming Of Some Like It Hot Was Difficult For Her
The difficulties of filming Some Like It Hot have been called “legendary.” Marilyn and filmmaker Billy Wilder frequently butted heads, and she was notoriously difficult to work with. She couldn’t learn her lines and kept demanding dozens of re-takes. She intentionally ruined some scenes.
In fact, she was so tough for the rest of the cast to deal with that during a kissing scene with Tony Curtis, he said that he’d “rather be kissing Hitler” than Monroe. In the candid shot above, Monroe, Curtis (left, in dress), and Wilder (back to camera) appear to get along fine.
What Might Have Been
Marilyn’s shocking death at age 36 left us all wondering what she might have gone on to accomplish. Biographer and feminist icon Gloria Steinem summed this up in 1988’s Marilyn: Norma Jean. “A student, lawyer, teacher, artist, mother, grandmother, defender of animals, rancher, homemaker, sportswoman, rescuer of children–all these are futures we can imagine for Norma Jean,” she wrote.
“One also can imagine the whole woman who was both Norma Jeane and Marilyn becoming a serious actress and wise comedienne who would still be working in her sixties, with more productive years to come.”