Marilyn Monroe – 1926-1962
Born Norma Jean Mortenson in Los Angeles, she later took her mother’s name, Baker, but became known to world by her screen name, Marilyn Monroe. She struggled in bit parts until one of these—an uncredited appearance in The Asphalt Jungle (1950)—elicited an avalanche of fan mail, and she soon climbed to top billing when studios promoted her as a “love goddess.” Monroe was more than a movie idol; she became, through some 23 movies, the central sex symbol of the 1950s and entered the pantheon of American popular culture. She died mysteriously on August 5, 1962, of an overdose of sleeping pills. The coroner’s verdict was suicide, but rumors of murder continue to circulate— including an unsubstantiated theory that she was killed at the behest of the Kennedy family (she almost certainly had a romantic affair with President John F. Kennedy and may have been involved with Robert F. Kennedy as well).