An endo diagnosis and an FBI file: 11 things you didn't know about Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe was the biggest pop culture icon of all time.

But her life was tragically short-lived, passing away aged 36. Her career was often overshadowed by her personal life – thanks to Hollywood's obsession with the mirage of 'Marilyn Monroe' rather than the human at the centre.

The legacy of Monroe is complicated. Many reporters and scholars portray her as a victim of the time, used and abused by a misogynistic culture that didn't see her as anything other than someone to take advantage of. While that is true, another narrative is also in existence – that Monroe was a trailblazer for her time and the mastermind behind her image and success. She was also Hollywood's first major silence breaker, bringing to light the behaviours of predatory men.

For these reasons, it makes sense why our obsession with Monroe has continued decades after her death. Just look at the hype and conversations surrounding Kim Kardashian and Marilyn Monroe's dress.

And more recently, the first official trailer for Blonde has been released – a biopic on Monroe's life based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates. Monroe is going to be played by Ana de Armas, and the similarity is great. Although, the upcoming film is already receiving backlash...

Marilyn Monroe's 'Happy Birthday Mr President' song. Post continues below. 

Video via Mamamia.

With conversations around Monroe front and centre, we decided to look back on her life and career.

Here are 11 things you may not have known about the one and only Marilyn Monroe. 

1. Marilyn Monroe's birth name was Norma Jeane.

This is one of the more well-known facts about Monroe, but she was born by the name of 'Norma Jeane Mortenson'.

She was later baptised as Norma Jeane Baker, but in Monroe's first marriage, she again changed her last name to Dougherty. 

When she started in the entertainment industry, the productions execs were enamoured by her. But they felt as though 'Dougherty' didn't have a good 'ring' to it. Plus, they were concerned that viewers wouldn't be able to pronounce 'Dougherty' correctly.


So they asked her to choose a new name. 'Monroe' was a last name from her mother's side. As for the first name change, it was a studio executive who came up with 'Marilyn' after former-Broadway star Marilyn Miller. 

It would take another decade before she legally changed to her stage name, making the switch in 1956. Although throughout her movie career, she was almost exclusively known as Marilyn Monroe the entire time.

2. Marilyn Monroe was far smarter than she was perceived to be.

According to some reports, Monroe's IQ level was around 160+. For reference, an average IQ is around 100. 

It's interesting to know, considering Monroe was often portrayed as a 'blonde bimbo' in many of her films – when in actual fact it was far from the truth. 

Image: Getty. 

3. Marilyn Monroe's childhood was a challenging one, particularly due to her mother's struggles with mental health.

Monroe's mother Gladys was a single mum who had two children prior to Monroe. Throughout Monroe's childhood, there was a lot of instability – Gladys was struggling financially and mentally, placing Monroe in the care of the state.

Monroe was then bounced between different foster homes and family members, and at one point put in an orphanage. 

During this period, Gladys experienced an emotional breakdown, and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. After several months in a rest home, she was committed to the Metropolitan State Hospital, where she spent the rest of her life in and out of a psychiatric facility. She rarely had contact with Monroe from this point on. 


Monroe later said that the reason she wished to pursue acting was that she dreamt of living in another world when she was younger – a world where she was wanted and loved. 

"I didn't like the world around me because it was kind of grim ... When I heard about acting, I said that's what I want to be ... Some of my foster families used to send me to the movies to get me out of the house and there I'd sit all day and way into the night. Up in front, there with the screen so big, a little kid all alone, and I loved it."

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4. Marilyn Monroe married her first husband when she was only 16 years old.

Back when Monroe was still 'Norma Jeane', she had met and married policeman James Dougherty when she was 16, and he was around the age of 20.

Dougherty's family had lived next door to a family that Monroe had lived with periodically. And while living nearby one another, they grew close. 

At the time, Monroe's then foster mother was moving to a new city, and knew she couldn't bring Monroe with her. So the foster mother asked Dougherty if he would consider marrying Monroe so that she would be able to stay put.

"She would have gone back to an orphanage or another foster home, so her foster mother suggested I marry her. I thought she was awful young, but I took her to a dance. She was a pretty mature girl and physically she was mature, of course. We talked, and we got on pretty good," he later said. 

"We decided to get married to prevent her from going back to a foster home. But we were in love."

They were together for four years, but it was Monroe's growing celebrity status that ended the marriage.

After Dougherty received an overseas assignment, Monroe landed a job at Radioplane Co., where she initially packed and inspected the parachutes that attached to miniature, remote-controlled target planes, to help with the war effort.


After a photographer assigned to take pictures of women working as part of the war effort used her as a subject, Monroe became a sought-after model. And Hollywood soon came her way.

Dougherty was on a ship overseas when he was served with divorce papers. The marriage was officially over in September 1946.

"I never knew Marilyn Monroe, and I don't claim to have any insights to her to this day," Dougherty told United Press International in 1990. "I knew and loved Norma Jeane."

5. Marilyn Monroe's journey to becoming blonde was pretty much forced upon her.

Desperate to keep modelling opportunities coming her way – along with a stable income after divorcing Dougherty – Monroe was told she needed to change her natural brunette hair to bleach blonde. 

Emmeline Snively, the head of the Blue Book Model Agency, told her that if she wanted to work more, she would have to bleach her hair. After all, according to Snively, brunettes could only be photographed a limited number of ways, while a blonde could be anything.

"Look, darling," Snively later recalled telling her, "if you really intend to go places in this business, you've just got to bleach and straighten your hair, because now your face is a little too round and a hair job will lengthen it."

She also underwent electrolysis around her hairline to remove her widow's peak – a V-shaped point in the hairline in the centre of the forehead.

Image: Getty. 


6. Marilyn Monroe struggled with endometriosis.

Just like one in ten women around the world, Monroe was also diagnosed with endometriosis. It's believed the actress suffered from the chronic and incurable illness for most of her adult life until her death in 1962.

She had tried many times throughout her life to fall pregnant – experiencing at least two miscarriages – but had been unable to have children. 

In April of 1952, the actress was admitted to hospital where she was to have her appendix removed. It has been written that as the procedure was about to begin, doctors pulled back her gown to find a note taped to her stomach. The letter, addressed to her surgeon, Dr. Marcus Rabwin, begged him to keep her ovaries intact.

She wrote: "Cut as little as possible... I know it seems vain. The fact I'm a woman is important and means much to me. Save please (I can't ask enough) what you can – I'm in your hands. You have children and you must know what it means – please Dr Rabwin – I know somehow you will!"

In his book, They Knew Marilyn Monroe: Famous Persons in the Life of the Hollywood Icon, Les Harding wrote that above all, "Marilyn yearned for what she never had: a normal family life. She was desperate to become a mother."

Her surgeon obeyed her wishes, but Monroe's dream of becoming a mum would never be realised. In mid-1957, she had to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. Just a year later, she suffered a miscarriage.

7. Her second marriage was allegedly full of abuse.

Monroe was the star of the screen. DiMaggio was the star of the baseball field. Together they made a 'perfect' celebrity couple. But behind closed doors, it was tumultuous.

They married in 1954, and split nine months later.

In her autobiography My Story, Monroe said that when she first DiMaggio, their relationship was blissful. 

DiMaggio treated her "like something special" and she was surprised by her feelings towards him, writing: "I met this reserved guy who didn't make a pass at me right away. I had dinner with him almost every night for two weeks." 

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. Image: Getty.


As Vanity Fair reported, DiMaggio was believed to have wanted a stay-at-home wife, while Monroe was anything but.

It's widely known that the classic scene in The Seven Year Itch film was "the final straw" for DiMaggio, who was "livid" about the scene. It's the moment where Monroe's white dress flutters over a New York subway grate, showing her underwear.

In October 1954, Monroe announced to reporters that she intended to divorce DiMaggio on the grounds of 'mental cruelty'. Years later there continued to be allegations of physical and emotional abuse levelled at DiMaggio – the allegation that Monroe lived in fear while she was with him.

8. Marilyn Monroe had plastic surgery. 

This may not appear to be so groundbreaking, but for the time, plastic surgery wasn't all that common.

As mentioned before, Monroe underwent a series of electrolysis sessions on her hairline, which consisted of using a thin metal probe to "shock" the follicle and permanently remove the hair.

X-rays of Monroe later indicated she had some type of procedure to alter the cartilage around the tip of her nose. The medical records also suggested that she had a chin implant

9. The FBI had an open file on Marilyn Monroe.

In 1956, Monroe's future third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, was called to testify in relation to rumoured Communist activities. 

Miller refused to do so, which could have landed him in prison. He did deny that he ever had been "under Communist discipline." He risked a possible contempt citation by refusing to give the committee names of those he had seen at Communist-run meetings. During his testimonial, he revealed his plans to marry Monroe – it's later been believed that this fact helped him not end up in prison.

But it did make some believe Monroe was guilty by association. 

The FBI's file on Monroe was opened due to her relationship with Miller and his "un-American" activities, coupled with a request she made to visit the Soviet Union in 1955. She never ended up visiting.


10. Marilyn Monroe's iconic 'Happy Birthday Mr President' dress remains one of the most expensive pieces of pop-culture memorabilia.

It was the dress and performance that would be talked about for decades to come. 

Image: Getty.

When Monroe sang a seductive take on 'Happy Birthday' to then-President John F. Kennedy, she was wearing a bedazzled and sheer dress – the same dress that Kim Kardashian wore this year. 

The dress sold for US$1.26 million at a 1999 auction. But in 2016, it sold for $4.8 million, with Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum purchasing the item. It remains to be one of the most expensive pieces of pop-culture memorabilia of all time.

11. In her will, Monroe gave 25 per cent of her assets to further mental health support and funding. 

When Monroe died in 1962 at the age of 36, it was a shock to the world. 

In her will, Monroe left 25 per cent of her assets to her psychiatrist, Dr Marilyn Kris. She said the money should be used "for the furtherance of the work of such psychiatric institution or group as she shall elect".

And that's what Dr Kris did. The money ended up going to the Anna Freud Centre for the Psychoanalytic Study and Treatment of Children in England. Monroe was determined to ensure mental health support would become more widely available, and that the stigma surrounding mental illness be absolved.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia.