Marilyn Monroe Biography

Norma Jean Mortenson, 1 June 1926, Los Angeles, California, USA, d. 5 August 1962, Brentwood, California, USA (she was baptised Norma Jean Baker according to her grandmother’s wishes). As well as being a talented comedienne and the number 1 sex symbol in movies during the 50s, Monroe proved to be an appealing interpreter of flirtatious ballads in several of her most popular films. As one of the Ladies Of The Chorus (1948), she made a promising start with Lester Lee and Allan Roberts’ ‘Every Baby Needs A Da-Da-Daddy’, which, with its reference to ‘Tiffany’s’, was a precursor to one of her most celebrated performances a few years later, when the same New York store cropped up in ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’, from Jule Styne and Leo Robin’s score for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). In that film Monroe duetted with another of Hollywood’s top glamour girls, Jane Russell, on ‘Two Little Girls From Little Rock’, ‘Bye Bye, Baby’ and a Hoagy Carmichael / Harold Adamson number, ‘When Loves Goes Wrong’. Co-starring with Robert Mitchum in River Of No Return (1954), Monroe’s role as a saloon singer conveniently gave her the opportunity to perform the title song and ‘I’m Gonna File My Claim’, among others, and, in the same year, she registered strongly with a bundle of Irving Berlin numbers in There’s No Business Like Show Business. These included ‘A Man Chases A Girl (Until She Catches Him)’ (with Donald O’Connor), ‘After You Get What You Want You Don’t Want It’, ‘Heatwave’, ‘Lazy’ and ‘You’d Be Surprised’. In 1959 she made what became her most commercially successful film - and arguably the highlight of her career. The classic Some Like It Hot, with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Joe E. Brown (utterer of the immortal closing line ‘nobody’s perfect’), featured some of Monroe’s most effective vocal performances, such as ‘I’m Through With Love’, ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ and ‘Running Wild’. She sang for the last time on screen in Let’s Make Love (1960). Apart from contributing the film’s high spot, a compelling version of ‘My Heart Belongs To Daddy’, Monroe duetted with two European heart-throbs, Yves Montand and Frankie Vaughan, on Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen’s ‘Specialization’, ‘Incurably Romantic’ and the title song.

Monroe’s final performance, a sultry rendering of ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ and ‘Thanks For The Memory’, was given in May 1962 for President John F. Kennedy’s birthday celebrations in Madison Square Garden. Just over two months later she died as the result of an overdose of barbiturates, at the age of 36 (Monroe’s death has since been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories, most of which concern her alleged affair with John F. Kennedy). One of the musical selections chosen for her funeral service was a recording of ‘Over The Rainbow’ sung by Judy Garland, another showbusiness legend who met a tragic end. Since her death, it has been estimated that over 100 Monroe biographies have been published. She was also the subject of several songs, the most famous being Elton John’s ‘Candle In the Wind’. Others included James Cunningham’s ‘Norma Jean Wants To Be A Movie Star’ and ‘Elvis And Marilyn’ by Leon Russell.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.