60 Photos of Marilyn Monroe Like You've Never Seen Her Before
By Sarah Norman | September 30, 2023
There was a disturbing side to Monroe's life that was not often seen by the public
Marilyn Monroe has long been considered an American icon, known for her captivating beauty, her sultry performances, and her magnetic personality. However, beneath the surface of her glamorous image, there were deeply dark realities that were often kept hidden from the public eye. These eerie photos, taken throughout her career and personal life, capture a side of Marilyn that is rarely seen, revealing the struggles and pain she experienced behind the scenes.
Marilyn Monroe was a true icon of Hollywood, known for her stunning performances and her captivating beauty. However, behind the bright lights and glamour of the movie set, Monroe struggled to find a sense of normalcy in her life. Despite her fame and success, Monroe often felt lonely and disconnected, as she struggled to maintain personal relationships and find a sense of purpose outside of her acting career. She had numerous struggles in her personal life and often felt like an outsider in the Hollywood scene. Marilyn also had to deal with personal demons such as addiction, mental health issues, and self-esteem problems which all contributed to her constant search for a sense of self-identity and stability.
Monroe's battle for a normal life is a poignant reminder that fame and success do not necessarily bring happiness and that even those who appear to have it all on the surface can be struggling with their inner turmoil. Her story serves as a reminder that we must never judge a person based on their public image and that we should always try to be understanding of the challenges that people may be facing in their personal lives.
As you look through these 36 eerie photos of Marilyn Monroe, you may be struck by the contrast between her radiant beauty and the pain and suffering that she endured throughout her life. Whether posed for the camera or captured candidly, these images offer a haunting glimpse into the complex and often tumultuous world of Marilyn Monroe.
Monroe faced sexual abuse as far back as 1937
While living with the Goddard family, Monroe became the target of Erwin 'Doc' McCee's constant molestation. After months of grabbing and groping Monroe told Grace about her experience in the home, which led to her being sent away to live with a new set of relatives. Upon hearing Monroe's claim, Grace Goddard allegedly said:
I can't trust anything or anyone.
Monroe underwent serious plastic surgery in 1949
While she was known for her natural beauty, it is believed that Monroe underwent several cosmetic procedures, including plastic surgery, during her lifetime.
One of the most well-known procedures that Monroe is rumored to have undergone is a rhinoplasty, or a nose job. This procedure involves reshaping the nose in order to change its appearance. It was rumored that Monroe also had a silicone prosthesis implanted in her jaw in 1949. Later in the year, she posed for cheesecake photographer Tom Kelley under the name "Mona Monroe."
Monroe's mother was institutionalized, leaving her to fend for herself at a young age
After her mother was committed to the Metropolitan State Hospital, the two were rarely in contact with one another as Baker spent the rest of her life in and out of different hospitals. This incarceration left Monroe a ward of the state, and sadly there were still worse things to come.
Marilyn and her first husband, Jimmy, 1943
Less than a year into their marriage, Marilyn's husband enlisted in the Merchant Marine where he was stationed on Catalina Island before being shipped to the Pacific and would remain for the next two years. It's during her husband's absence that Monroe began to blossom into her own person and find her way to the spotlight that was calling her name.
By 1930, Monroe's relationship with her mother was a mess
At first, Gladys lived with Monroe's foster parents, but after taking longer work shifts, she was forced to move back to the city of Los Angeles. Gladys would visit her daughter on weekends where they would go sightseeing. It wasn't a perfect setup, but it allowed Monroe to have a vague semblance of normalcy in an otherwise topsy-turvy life.
A teenaged dark-haired Norma Jeane Baker, 1941, right around when she dropped out of high school
After she graduated from Emerson Junior High, she attended the Van Nuys High School, a place where she proved to be a shy and introverted student. She struggled academically and had a difficult time fitting in with her classmates. Despite this, Monroe was described as a hardworking and determined student who was passionate about acting. She participated in school plays and talent shows, and even took acting lessons outside of school before dropping out completely.
Even as a child Monroe's life was chaotic
Even as a child, Monroe's life was a whirlwind of chaos. Monroe once said that one of her earliest memories of her mother was when she tried to smother her in her crib with a pillow.
In 1939, Monroe found a home at her school newspaper
While living with Lower, Marilyn enrolled in Emerson Junior High School where she excelled in writing while working for the school's newspaper. Her grades were nothing to write home about, but she was living somewhere stable for the first time, and it's likely if she had continued this trajectory things would have turned around for her eventually.
It's important to note that while Marilyn Monroe achieved her dreams of becoming a beloved and highly influential figure in the entertainment industry, her life was also marked by tragedy and turmoil. Despite her glamorous facade, Monroe struggled with mental health issues and was plagued by personal demons that ultimately contributed to her untimely death when she should have been in the prime of her life.
Norma Jeane Mortenson poses for a portrait in 1946 in Los Angeles, California, shortly before changing her name to Marilyn Monroe
After signing a contract with Blue Book Model Agency in late 1945, she straightened and dyed her hair blonde to became more employable. She mostly did advertisements in men's magazines, but in order to break into the world of film she had to change her name to something more marketable.
Marilyn Monroe's new name was a combination of her mother's maiden name (Monroe) and her grandfather's first name (Marilyn). She chose this name because she felt that it was more glamorous and would help her stand out.
In 1936, Monroe was made a ward of the state
After Monroe was declared a ward fo the state, she spent the next year with actors George and Maude Atkinson, and it's alleged that this is when she first experienced sexual abuse in her tenure as an orphan. Soon after, Grace McKee Goddard became her legal guardian following a stint in foster care.
Blue Book Model Norma Jeane Mortenson poses for a hair products advertisement in 1945
Monroe started taking photos for the U.S. Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit to encourage female workers working in factories. None of the pictures were used and after quitting, she began modeling for photographer David Conover. While it would be truly fascinating to see these photos in person, they were likely destroyed shortly after the war.
Marilyn Monroe with golden curls, circa 1933 or 1934
By this time Baker claimed that she was stable enough to take care of her daughter, and she even purchased a small house in Hollywood for the two of them. This should have been a brand new start for Monroe, but she was thrown back into the cycle of trauma. A few months after moving in with her mother, Baker had a mental breakdown and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
An early portrait of Monroe's modeling work, 1944
After her husband left for the Pacific in 1944, Marilyn moved in with her in laws and started working the day shift at the Radioplane Munitions Factory in Van Nuys, California, where she assembled parts for airplane and artillery shells. The factory was owned by actor Reginald Denny. Monroe was just one of many women who worked in munitions factories during the war, contributing to the war effort by producing the weapons and supplies needed for the military.
Newly signed 20th Century-Fox contract girl Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait in 1947 in Los Angeles, California.
Marilyn first two film roles were no longer than 10 line dialogues for the films Dangerous Years and Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!. Soon after she was enrolled in acting school by 20th Century Fox. Although this proved to be an important step for Monroe's career, she later claimed that she was "hooked" on improving her abilities, her instructors felt that she was too shy. 20th Century Fox dropped Monroe from her contract shortly afterwards.
Teenage Marilyn, 1940
From her tumultuous relationships to her battles with addiction and mental health, these photos offer a glimpse into a life that was marked by both triumph and tragedy. These eerie photos will make you to look at the iconic Monroe in a different way, and make you to question the idea of fame, beauty, and the price of it.
Unfortunately, Lower was an elderly woman who suffered with many health issues. She was unable to take care of her young charge for long, which meant that Monroe had to return to live in the nightmare that was the Goddard home sometime between 1940 and 1941.
Monroe's career exploded in 1950
1950 is really the year that turned things around for Monroe. After befriending - and allegedly beginning an affair - with the Vice President of the William Morris Agency, Johnny Hyde, she landed small roles in beloved films like All About Eve and The Asphalt Jungle. Her roles may have been small, but she proved to be impossible to forget.
Norma Jeane Baker on the beach at Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, circa 1943. Her first husband James Dougherty was stationed on the island's boot camp at the time
Doc Goddard and his family made plans to relocate to West Virginia, but state laws prevented them from taking the young Monroe out of state. Rather than become a ward of the state again she married her neighbor's son James 'Jim' Dougherty to avoid going back to the orphanage at age 16. Soon after, she dropped out of high school to become a housewife.
Monroe's marriage to Dougherty was reportedly arranged by her mother, who believed it would provide Monroe with a stable home life.
Monroe reaches for the sky on her tiptoes, showing photographers why she's known as "Miss Cheesecake," 1951
Marilyn gain more visibility in 1951. She was a presenter of the Academy Awards, and she had supporting roles in multiple indies and Fox Studio comedies. Audiences had an almost visceral response to Monroe, and she was especially popular with members of the armed forces. She was so popular with the troops that she was named Miss Cheesecake of 1951 by Stars and Stripes army newspaper.
Future film star Marilyn Monroe, on the beach as a toddler with her mother Gladys Baker, circa 1929
Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jeane Mortenson) was born on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles to Gladys Pearl Baker. The young Monroe's father was out of the picture long before her birth, leaving Baker to work as a film cutter at Consolidated Film Industries to make ends meet. While Baker would remain a peripheral figure in her daughter's life, she put the girl up for adoption two weeks after giving birth.
Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Baker sitting pretty as an adorable baby in 1927
Monroe was the third child of Gladys Pearl Baker and spent much of her time in orphanages and under the foster care of Wayne and Ida Bolender as her mother was unable to care for her due to her mental instability.
Baker's mental instability became so bad that Baker showed up at the Bolender home and began a tirade about wanting to take her daughter back, she even allegedly locked Ida in her backyard before trying to, quite literally, run away with her daughter.
In 1929, the young Monroe began bouncing around homes in Los Angeles
Because of Gladys' mental and financial instability, Monroe was placed with foster parents, Albert and Ida Bolender where they raised her as an Evangelical Christian. Their deeply conservative rules kept Monroe from experiencing everything from basic childhood joys to going to the movies.
Monroe knew she wanted to be a star by 1931
Even though Monroe wasn't allowed to see films in the theater, she still carried an innate desire to perform. While speaking with Life Magazine later in her career she explained:
When I was five, I think, that’s when I started wanting to be an actress. I loved to play. I didn’t like the world around me because it was kind of grim, but I loved to play house. It was like you could make your own boundaries.When I was five, I think, that’s when I started wanting to be an actress. I loved to play. I didn’t like the world around me because it was kind of grim, but I loved to play house. It was like you could make your own boundaries.
Little Norman Jean Baker she sits on a Model A Ford, proving herself to hardly be camera shy
After caring for Monroe for long enough, the Bolenders officially decided to adopt Marilyn. Not only did they enjoy having her around, but they even saw her as their own daughter. What a different road this would have been for the young starlet, but Baker was on the road to recovery and decided to give motherhood another shot.
Monroe only had a normal home life for a brief period of time
Monroe started staying with various members of Grace's family in the Los Angeles area, but she finally found a permanent home with Ana Atchinson Lower, Grace's aunt in the Sawtelle district. Monroe's time with Lower proved to be one of the most stable times in her life, but it was far too short lived.
Monroe stunning in "Ladies Of The Chorus," 1948
In March, 1948, Harry Cohn of Columbia Picture signed Monroe. After raising her hairline and bleaching her hair even lighter to platinum blond to turn her into more of a Rita Hayworth type, she stared in a low budget musical titled Ladies of the Chorus before leaving the studio in October of that year to return to modeling.
Monroe's career nearly came to a hault in 1952
All of this focus on her sex appeal led Monroe to suffer from chronic insomnia and anxiety for which she began using barbiturates and amphetamines.
Marilyn Monroe stuns, 1953
Marilyn starred in three films that were released in 1953 making her one of the most famous actresses of that year. With films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire and Niagara, she solidified her place in Hollywood. Even though she was one of the biggest stars of the moment, Monroe couldn't catch a break. In 1962, she said that she was basically treated like an indentured servant on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes:
I couldn't even get a dressing room. I said, finally—I really got to this kind of level—I said, 'Look after all, I am the blonde and its Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Because still they always kept saying, 'Remember you are not a star.'
Red is definitely Monroe's color, circa 1954
Marilyn married long time boyfriend Joe DiMaggio on January 14th. The couple's tumultuous relationship reached one of its many nadirs while on their honeymoon in Japan, when she traveled to Korea to visit over 60, 000 US marines. To say that DiMaggio was jealous would be an understatement.
Even though her personal life was a mess at best, Monroe signed a $100,000 deal with Fox and started filming The Seven Year Itch, a film which produced Marilyn's most iconic photo to date.
Monroe resting her head on a white fur coat while lying on a carpet in a red brocade evening gown and long black gloves, 1955
In 1954, Monroe's lawsuit alleged that they had breached their contract with her by failing to provide her with the roles and opportunities that they had promised. Monroe also claimed that Fox had not paid her the full amount of bonuses owed to her from the box office of The Seven Year Itch. Aside from breaking things off with Fox, she also filed for divorce from DiMaggio before she started dating playwright Arthur Miller.
Marilyn Monroe Blowing Out Candle on 30th Birthday Cake, 1956
Monroe and Miller first met in 1950 and began a relationship a few years after their initial introduction. They were married on June 29, 1956, at the home of Elia Kazan, a film and theater director. The marriage was Monroe's third and Miller's first.
Miller was a successful playwright, known for works such as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. Monroe was already a major Hollywood star at the time of their marriage, and the couple was often in the public eye.
1957, Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, directed and produced by Laurence Olivier
In 1957, Monroe's dependence on barbiturates grew out of control. Her drug dependency was only deepened following an ectopic pregnancy that year, and a miscarriage in 1958. At the same time, Monroe's career was in a brief lull following the languid performance of The Prince and the Showgirl. Even though the film failed to perform as well as Monroe hoped, her costar Dame Sybil told director and costar Lawrence Olivier:
Larry, you did well in that scene but with Marilyn up there, nobody will be watching you. Her manner and timing are just too delicious. We need her desperately. She’s really the only one of us who knows how to act in front of a camera.
Monroe's Fox headshot, 1958
Following her miscarriage in 1958, Monroe returned to Hollywood where she was cast in the Billy Wilder film Some Like It Hot. Even though the actress felt that this was another "dumb blonde" role, she took it on for 10% of the film's profits on top of her regular payday. The production was troubled in several ways. One major issue was the casting of Marilyn Monroe, who was known for her unreliable behavior on set. Monroe frequently arrived late to rehearsals and filming, and often needed multiple takes to get her lines right. This caused delays and increased the budget of the film.
In spite of the numerous interruptions and problems with the production, Wilder admitted that he was happy with Monroe's performance:
Anyone can remember lines, but it takes a real artist to come on the set and not know her lines and yet give the performance she did!
Monroe making her way down the stairs, 1959
Some Like it Hot was released in 1959 and her role earned her a Golden Globe for Best Actress and voted as one of the best movies ever made by the American Film Institute. Despite the film's success, Monroe admitted in her final Life Magazine interview that filming with co-star Tony Curtis was a low point in he career:
You’ve read there was some actor that once said about me that kissing me was like kissing Hitler? If I have to do intimate love scenes with somebody who really has these kinds of feelings toward me, then my fantasy can come into play. In other words, out with him, in with my fantasy. He was never there.
Marilyn Monroe shows off her fashion onscreen in "The Misfits," 1960
In 1960, Monroe and Miller's marriage was over, leaving her without an anchor for the first time in years. Even without Miller in her corner, Monroe's final film, The Misfits, was written for the actress by her ex-husband.
While filming The Misfits, Monroe suffered from gallstone pain and her drug addiction often interfered with filming, leaving production to work around her tempestuous schedule. In August, filming was halted due to Marilyn needing detox in a LA Hospital. Even though Monroe was dealing with numerous health and drug issues, director John Huston noted that she was stellar when she was on camera. He stated:
[She] was not pretending to an emotion. It was the real thing. She would go deep down within herself and find it and bring it up into consciousness.
Marilyn Monroe, misfit, 1961
Even though The Misfits failed at the box office, in 1961, Monroe was at the height of her fame and was considered one of the most beautiful and iconic women in the world.
Monroe's personal life was in a tailspin, and she finally moved back to Los Angeles before dating Frank Sinatra for a brief period of time. It's believed that she and Ol' Blue Eyes nearly married, but his lawyer suggested that the singer steer clear of Monroe.
One of the final photos taken of Marilyn Monroe, 1962
In the final year of Monroe's life she was deeply embroiled in conflict. Not only was she falling deeper into depression and drug abuse, but she was carrying an alleged affair with President Kennedy. After signing up for the Dean Martin film Something's Gotta Give, Monroe had to take an immediate break after being diagnosed with sinusitis.
On May 19, 1962, she popped up on stage at President John F. Kennedy's early birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden in New York to sing "Happy Birthday Mr. President," which drove audiences wild and made Fox furious.
Months later, on August 4, Monroe passed away from acute barbiturate poisoning. While conspiracy theories continue to swirl around Monroe's death, her final moments were ruled a suicide by the Los Angeles County Coroners Office.