Marilyn Monroe wells up with tears of frustration in a Madison Square Garden dressing room before a charity event because her costume doesn't fit right. 1955.Ed Feingersh/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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Marilyn Monroe lays down in the back seat of a car after a long day on the set of Let's Make Love. 1960. John Bryson/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
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Marilyn Monroe relaxes during a quiet moment in a New York restaurant. 1955.Michael Ochs Archives/Stringer/Getty Images
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The cast and crew of The Misfits line up for a publicity shoot. 1960.Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images
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Marilyn Monroe laughs inside a limousine. Date unspecified.Bettmann/Getty Images
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Marilyn Monroe gets her makeup done. 1953.Ullstein Bild/Getty Images
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Marilyn Monroe cries after her divorce with Joe DiMaggio. 1954.Ullstein Bild/Getty Images
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Marilyn Monroe wears a bored expression as her playwright husband Arthur Miller shoos photographers away at the Boston Arts Center Theater. 1959.Bettmann/Getty Images
33 Candid Marilyn Monroe Photos As The Girl Next Door
Marilyn Monroe was a sex symbol, a goddess, an icon. She was beautiful, there’s no doubt about that. After all, it was her looks that got her out of her anonymous life before fame in the first place.
Monroe had spent her childhood years in foster homes and orphanages before getting married at the age of just 16. Shortly after, Monroe (then still known as Norma Jeane Mortenson) was working at an aviation factory when she was spotted by military photographer David Conover who was there to capture photos of female workers in order to boost wartime morale. Monroe's looks bedazzled Conover and she soon embarked on a successful modeling career.
Monroe’s seductive pictures landed her a number of minor film roles that eventually led to bigger roles in more popular films, and before Monroe knew it, she was a major movie star.
Unfortunately for Monroe, she was almost always typecast as the "dumb blonde." Practically all of her notable films, including The Seven Year Itch, Some Like It Hot, and Bus Stop, showcase Monroe as little more than a sex object. Monroe was devastated; she deeply wanted to play serious roles in serious films. Alas, no one took the blonde bombshell seriously.
Since it was Monroe’s appearance that turned the previously beautiful albeit anonymous woman into a movie star, she was terrified of losing her good looks. She supposedly washed her face up to five times a day to prevent breakouts, slathered her face in olive oil to keep it hydrated and sewed marbles into her bra to create the appearance of hard nipples.
Likewise, much to the annoyance of directors, Monroe spent hours in her changing room, applying makeup and doing her hair. Every element of her appearance had to be perfect before she was ready to be captured on camera. Monroe was constructing a character and she knew exactly how to act in front of the camera in order to seduce her audience.
"I worked with Marilyn Monroe. A rather dull person. But when I said 'Now!' she lit up. Suddenly, something unbelievable came across. The minute she heard the click of the camera, she was down again. It was over. I said, 'What is it between you and the camera that doesn’t show at any other time?' She said, 'It’s like being screwed by a thousand guys and you can’t get pregnant.'"
Monroe’s charm is indeed evident both in her movies and her still photos. But Cunningham was wrong: Monroe was no less charming when her charisma was turned off, when she was caught off guard, when she wasn't "on."
See for yourself in the gallery of candid Marilyn Monroe photos above.