The final years of Monroe's life were marked by illness, personal problems, and a reputation for being unreliable and difficult to work with. The circumstances of her death, from an overdose of barbiturates, have been the subject of conjecture. Though officially classified as a "probable suicide", the possibility of an accidental overdose, as well as the possibility of homicide, have not been ruled out. In 1999, Monroe was ranked as the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. In the years and decades following her death, Marilyn Monroe has often been cited as both a pop and a cultural icon as well as the quintessential American female sex symbol.
Family and early life
Marilyn Monroe was born on June 1, 1926 in the Los Angeles County Hospital as Norma Jeane Mortenson (soon after changed to Baker), the third child born to Gladys Pearl Baker (née Monroe) (May 27, 1902 – March 11, 1984). Monroe's birth certificate names the father as Martin Edward Mortensen with his residence stated as "unknown". The name Mortenson is listed as her surname on the birth certificate, although Gladys immediately had it changed to Baker, the surname of her first husband and which she still used. Martin's surname was misspelled on the birth certificate leading to more confusion on who her actual father was. Gladys Baker had married a Martin E. Mortensen in 1924, but they had separated before Gladys' pregnancy. Several of Monroe's biographers suggest that Gladys Baker used his name to avoid the stigma of illegitimacy. Mortensen died at the age of 85, and Monroe's birth certificate, together with her parents' marriage and divorce documents, were discovered. The documents showed that Mortensen filed for divorce from Gladys on March 5, 1927, and it was finalized on October 15, 1928. Throughout her life, Marilyn Monroe denied that Mortensen was her father. She said that, when she was a child, she had been shown a photograph of a man that Gladys identified as her father, Charles Stanley Gifford. She remembered that he had a thin mustache and somewhat resembled Clark Gable, and that she had amused herself by pretending that Gable was her father.
Gladys was mentally unstable and financially unable to care for the young Norma Jeane, so she placed her with foster parents Albert and Ida Bolender of Hawthorne, California, where she lived until she was seven. One day, Gladys visited and demanded that the Bolenders return Norma Jeane to her. Ida refused, she knew Gladys was unstable and the situation would not benefit her young daughter. Gladys pulled Ida into the yard, then quickly ran back to the house and locked herself in. Several minutes later, she walked out with one of Albert Bolender's military duffel bags. To Ida's horror, Gladys had stuffed a screaming Norma Jeane into the bag, zipped it up, and was carrying it right out with her. Ida charged toward her, and their struggle split the bag apart, dumping out Norma Jeane, who wept loudly as Ida grabbed her and pulled her back inside the house, away from Gladys. In 1933, Gladys bought a house and brought Norma Jeane to live with her. A few months later, Gladys began a series of mental episodes that would plague her for the rest of her life. In My Story, Marilyn Monroe recalls her mother "screaming and laughing" as she was forcibly removed to the State Hospital in Norwalk.
Grace sent Marilyn Monroe to live with her great-aunt, Olive Brunings in Compton, California; this was also a brief stint ended by an assault (some reports say it was sexual)--one of Olive's sons had attacked the now middle-school-aged girl. Biographers and psychologists have questioned whether at least some of Norma Jeane's later behavior (i.e. hypersexuality, sleep disturbances, substance abuse, disturbed interpersonal relationships), was a manifestation of the effects of childhood sexual abuse in the context of her already problematic relationships with her psychiatrically ill mother and subsequent caregivers. In early 1938, Grace sent her to live with yet another one of her aunts, Ana Lower, who lived in Van Nuys, another city in Los Angeles County. Years later, she would reflect fondly about the time that she spent with Lower, whom she affectionately called "Aunt Ana." She would explain that it was one of the only times in her life when she felt truly stable. As she aged, however, Lower developed serious health problems.
In 1942, Marilyn Monroe moved back to Grace and Doc Goddard's house. While attending Van Nuys High School, she met a neighbor's son, James Dougherty (more commonly referred to as simply "Jim"), and began a relationship with him. Several months later, Grace and Doc Goddard decided to relocate to Virginia, where Doc had received a lucrative job offer. Although it was never explained why, they decided not to take Monroe with them. An offer from a neighborhood family to adopt her was proposed, but Gladys rejected the offer. With few options left, Grace approached Dougherty's mother and suggested that Jim marry her so that she would not have to return to an orphanage or foster care, as she was two years below the California legal age. Jim was initially reluctant, but he finally relented and married her in a ceremony arranged by Ana Lower. During this period, Monroe briefly supported her family as a homemaker. In 1943, during World War II, Dougherty enlisted in the Merchant Marine. He was initially stationed on Santa Catalina Island off California's west coast, and Monroe lived with him there in the town of Avalon for several months before he was shipped out to the Pacific. Frightened that he might not come back alive, Monroe begged him to try and get her pregnant before he left. Dougherty disagreed, feeling that she was too young to have a baby, but he promised that they would revisit the subject when he returned home. Subsequently, Marilyn Monroe moved in with Dougherty's mother.
On August 5, 1962, LAPD police sergeant Jack Clemmons received a call at 4:25 am from Dr. Ralph Greenson, Monroe's psychiatrist, proclaiming that Monroe was found dead at her home in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California. She was 36 years old. At the subsequent autopsy, eight milligram per cent of Chloral hydrate and 4.5 milligram percent of Nembutal were found in her system, and Dr. Thomas Noguchi of the Los Angeles County Coroners office recorded cause of death as "acute barbiturate poisoning," resulting from a "probable suicide." Many theories, including murder, circulated about the circumstances of her death and the timeline after the body was found. Some conspiracy theories involved John and Robert Kennedy, while other theories suggested CIA or Mafia complicity. It was reported that the last person Marilyn Monroe called was the President.
On August 8, 1962, Marilyn Monroe was interred in a crypt at Corridor of Memories #24, at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Lee Strasberg delivered the eulogy. Joe DiMaggio took control of the funeral arrangements which consisted of only 31 close family and friends. Police were also present to keep the press away. Her casket was solid bronze and was lined with champagne colored silk. Allan “Whitey” Snyder did her make-up which was supposedly a promise made in earlier years if she were to die before him. She was wearing her favorite green Emilio Pucci dress. In her hands was a small bouquet of pink teacup roses. For the next 20 years, red roses were placed in a vase attached to the crypt, courtesy of DiMaggio.
In August 2009, the crypt space directly above that of Marilyn Monroe was placed for auction on eBay. Elsie Poncher plans to exhume her husband and move him to an adjacent plot. She advertised the crypt, hoping "to make enough money to pay off the $1.6 million mortgage" on her Beverly Hills mansion. The winning bid was placed by an anonymous Japanese man for $4.6 million, but the winning bidder later backed out "because of the paying problem". In 1992, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, who never met Monroe, bought the crypt immediately to the left of hers at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. He affirmed that the initial success of his magazine directly correlated with Monroe.
Administration of estate
In her will, Marilyn Monroe stated she would leave Lee Strasberg her personal effects, which amounted to just over half of her residuary estate, expressing her desire that he "distribute the effects among my friends, colleagues and those to whom I am devoted". Instead, Strasberg stored them in a warehouse, and willed them to his widow, Anna, who successfully sued Los Angeles-based Odyssey Auctions in 1994 to prevent the sale of items consigned by the nephew of Monroe's business manager, Inez Melson. In October 1999, Christie's auctioned the bulk of Monroe's effects, including those recovered from Melson's nephew, netting an amount of $13,405,785. Subsequently, Strasberg sued the children of four photographers to determine rights of publicity, which permits the licensing of images of deceased personages for commercial purposes. The decision as to whether Monroe was a resident of California, where she died and where her will was probated, or New York, which she considered her primary residence, was worth millions.
In July 2010, Monroe's Brentwood home was put up for sale by Prudential California Realty. The house was sold for $3.6 million. Marilyn Monroe left to Lee Strasberg an archive of her own writing—diaries, poems, and letters, which Anna discovered in October 1999. In October 2010, the documents were published as a book, Fragments.