22 Marilyn Monroe Facts That Reveal The Woman Behind The Hollywood Icon

Published June 21, 2022
Updated March 12, 2024

From her troubled childhood to her famous films to her mysterious death, discover some of the most fascinating facts about Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe is arguably one of the most recognizable Americans who ever lived. Almost everyone is familiar with her face, her silhouette, and, of course, the iconic photo of the star holding her white skirt over a New York City subway grate. But who was Marilyn Monroe?

These 22 facts about Marilyn Monroe include some of the most fascinating details about the beloved movie star, from her most famous films to her three marriages to her tragic — and mysterious — death in 1962.

Who Is Marilyn Monroe?

Marilyn Monroe was an American actress, singer, model, and sex symbol who starred in a number of films during the 1950s and 1960s. She charmed audiences with her beauty, intriguing quotes, and sensuality.

When Was Marilyn Monroe Born?

Who Is Marilyn Monroe

Silver Screen Collection/Contributor/Getty ImagesMarilyn Monroe and her mother, Gladys Pearl Baker, who suffered from mental health problems.

Marilyn Monroe was born on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, California, to a single mother named Gladys Pearl Baker. Monroe never knew her father (who DNA testing suggests was Charles Stanley Gifford and not Martin Edward Mortensen, the man listed on Monroe’s birth certificate).

Monroe spent her early life oblivious that she had two half-siblings, whom her mother’s first husband had taken to Kentucky. Though Monroe’s half-brother Robert Kermit Baker died before she could meet him, she later established a close relationship with her half-sister, Berniece Baker Miracle.

Until then, Monroe had a shaky family life. Her mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and so the future movie star spent most of her childhood bouncing between relatives and foster homes.

What Was Marilyn Monroe’s Real Name?

Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson and later baptized as Norma Jeane Baker. Her name changed again when she married her first husband James Dougherty and took his surname. But Hollywood producers eventually convinced her to change the entire thing.

According to TIME, studio executive Ben Lyon thought that there were too many ways to say “Dougherty.” He suggested Marilyn as a first name, after the Ziegfeld Follies star Marilyn Miller, and Monroe eventually decided to use her mother’s maiden name as her last name.

What Size Was Marilyn Monroe?

According to the Marilyn Monroe Collection — the largest collection of the star’s memorabilia in the world — the Blue Book Modeling Agency listed her measurements as 36-24-34 and her size as 12 in 1945.

In today’s clothing sizes, that’d likely equate to a 6 or an 8. However, it’s worth noting that many modern brands vary widely in their sizing, so she could have picked different sizes depending on which brand she was wearing. It’s also worth noting that Monroe’s weight fluctuated throughout her life, so that could’ve affected what size she’d take as well.

How Tall Was Marilyn Monroe?

Marilyn Monroe was approximately five feet and six inches tall.

How Much Did Marilyn Monroe Weigh?

Pinup Model Marilyn Monroe

Wikimedia CommonsMarilyn Monroe posing as a pinup model by the beach. Circa 1940s.

Most official documents list Marilyn Monroe as weighing between 117 and 120 pounds throughout her life. However, her weight was known to fluctuate and there were a few moments in the late 1950s when she appeared visibly heavier, with some guessing that she weighed up to 140 pounds at one point.

How Many Movies Did Marilyn Monroe Appear In?

Including bit parts, Marilyn Monroe appeared in about 30 films throughout her entire career as an actress. Some of Monroe’s best-known movies include Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Niagara (1953), The Seven Year Itch (1955), Some Like It Hot (1959), and The Misfits (1961).

But Monroe’s personal life was often watched just as much as her film roles.

Who Was Marilyn Monroe Married To?

During her life, Marilyn Monroe married three times. She wed her first husband, James Dougherty, in 1942 at the age of 16. They divorced in 1946 because Dougherty was unsupportive of Monroe’s movie star ambitions.

“My marriage didn’t make me sad, but it didn’t make me happy either,” Monroe once explained, according to the New York Daily News. “My husband and I hardly spoke to each other. This wasn’t because we were angry. We had nothing to say. I was dying of boredom.”

In 1954, Monroe married retired New York Yankees baseball star Joe DiMaggio. However, DiMaggio struggled with Monroe’s busy schedule and sex symbol status. The couple fought often, and at times, DiMaggio was physically abusive toward her. The two divorced after nine months.

She married for the third time in 1956, to playwright Arthur Miller. But this marriage didn’t last, either, and the two divorced in 1961.

Why Did Marilyn Monroe Marry Arthur Miller?

Arthur Miller

Public DomainMarilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller on their wedding day, June 29, 1956.

Of all Marilyn Monroe’s marriages, her third to Arthur Miller strikes some as the most surprising. After all, Monroe and Miller — a movie star and a playwright, respectively — came from totally different worlds. But the two had a deep, emotional connection that spanned several years. According to Biography, Monroe once said, “This is the first time I’ve been really in love.”

However, the two clashed, especially while filming The Misfits, based on a story that Miller wrote. After they divorced in 1961, Monroe mused: “I wasn’t sweet all through. He should love the monster, too. But maybe I’m too demanding. Maybe there’s no man who could put up with all of me. I put Arthur through a lot, I know. But he also put me through a lot.”

Did Marilyn Monroe Have Children?

Marilyn Monroe did not have any children. She did, however, have an ectopic pregnancy and at least two miscarriages while married to Miller.

Did Marilyn Monroe Have An Affair With JFK?

Though the exact nature of Marilyn Monroe’s relationship with President John F. Kennedy is unknown — and only knowable to Monroe and Kennedy — historians generally agree that the two had at least one intimate encounter.

According to TIME, Monroe and Kennedy met four times between October 1961 and August 1962, and likely slept together on March 24, 1962.

In May of that same year, Monroe famously — and sensuously — sang “Happy Birthday” to the president during a rally at Madison Square Garden. Afterward, Kennedy quipped: “I can now retire from politics after having had ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”

Was Marilyn Monroe Hard To Work With?

California Portrait

Baron/Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesOne of many famous photos of Marilyn Monroe. Here, she’s pictured in California in 1954.

Toward the end of her life, Marilyn Monroe was reportedly difficult to work with. According to Variety, the production of Some Like It Hot was “troubled.” Monroe was frequently late to set — if she came at all — and frequently flubbed her lines, requiring retakes. Her co-star Tony Curtis even claimed that filming a romantic scene with her was like “kissing Hitler.”

Similarly, Monroe’s personal struggles hindered the making of what would have been her last film, Something’s Got to Give. Monroe was eventually fired from the project for “spectacular absenteeism” in June 1962.

Despite all the trouble on set, the movie star was subsequently rehired. But before filming could continue, she abruptly died.

When Did Marilyn Monroe Die?

Marilyn Monroe died on August 4, 1962, mere months after she’d stunned the world by singing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy.

Marilyn Monroe Death Podcast
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Episode 46: The Death Of Marilyn Monroe
Go inside the story of Marilyn Monroe's sudden death, from her bizarre final hours to the mystery of what caused her demise that's lingered ever since.

Where Did Marilyn Monroe Die?

Marilyn Monroe died at 12305 5th Helena Drive in Los Angeles, California, the home she’d moved into just six months prior.

How Old Was Marilyn Monroe When She Died?

Marilyn Monroe was 36 years old when she died suddenly in August 1962.

What Were Marilyn Monroe’s Last Words?

As far as anyone knows, Marilyn Monroe spoke her last words to Peter Lawford, an English-born actor who was also John F. Kennedy’s brother-in-law, in a phone conversation just hours before she was found dead.

“Say goodbye to Pat [Lawford’s wife], say goodbye to Jack [John F. Kennedy], and say goodbye to yourself, because you’re a nice guy,” the movie star allegedly said before hanging up the phone for the last time.

How Did Marilyn Monroe Die?

Marilyn Monroe's Death

Getty ImagesMarilyn Monroe was found dead at home at the age of 36 on August 5, 1962. She had died the night before.

According to Marilyn Monroe’s autopsy report, the movie star died of “acute barbiturate poisoning” due to “ingestion of overdose.”

The medical examiner told reporters, “It is my conclusion that the death of Marilyn Monroe was caused by a self-administered overdose of sedative drugs and that the mode of death is probable suicide.”

She had such high levels of Nembutal and chloral hydrate in her system that the coroner suggested she’d taken the pills “in one gulp or in a few gulps over a minute or so.” But not everyone buys this story.

Was Marilyn Monroe Murdered?

Despite the coroner’s report — and another investigation in 1982 that concluded she either killed herself or accidentally overdosed — rumors that Marilyn Monroe was murdered have lingered ever since her 1962 death.

Questions have been raised about why there were no traces of pills found in Monroe’s stomach and why there was a bruise on her lower body, leading some to believe that a fatal injection was administered by a third party.

Some have claimed that Monroe’s romantic entanglements with both John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert, led the two to plot her demise. Proponents of this theory have speculated that Monroe perhaps knew too much — or that the brothers killed her to avoid any embarrassing disclosures. But investigations into Monroe’s death have turned up no concrete evidence that the movie star was purposefully killed by anyone.

Murdering the star, investigators found in 1982, would have required “a massive, inplace conspiracy.” But they “uncovered no credible evidence supporting a murder theory.” Still, many people remain suspicious.

Did Marilyn Monroe Commit Suicide?

Another dicey question is whether or not Marilyn Monroe intended to die by suicide. A “psychological autopsy” at the time of Monroe’s death found that she was probably suicidal during her final days on Earth.

It noted that: “Miss Monroe had often expressed wishes to give up, to withdraw, and even to die,” and that she had previously attempted suicide.

But many people close to Monroe couldn’t believe that she would take her own life. For one thing, Monroe had apparently recently reconciled with her second husband, Joe DiMaggio. While the two had not made plans to wed again, they were on far better terms than they were during their marriage.

“It could have been an accident, because I had just talked to her a short time before,” her half-sister, Berniece Baker Miracle noted in a rare interview. “She told me what she had planned to do, she had just bought a new house and she was working on the curtains of the windows. She had so many things to look forward to and she was so happy.”

A friend of Monroe’s, James Bacon, agreed. “She wasn’t the least bit depressed,” he said. “She was talking about going to Mexico.”

In the end, it’s unclear whether or not the star meant to overdose on drugs on that fateful night. In 1982, District Attorney John Van de Kamp explained: “Based on the evidence available to us, it appears that her death could have been a suicide or a result of an accidental drug overdose.”

Where Is Marilyn Monroe Buried?

Marilyn Monroe's Crypt

Wikimedia CommonsMarilyn Monroe’s crypt in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

Marilyn Monroe is buried in Crypt Number 24 at the Corridor of Memories at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. According to Atlas Obscura, DiMaggio had red roses delivered to her grave three times a week for 20 years as a tribute to the star.

What Was Marilyn Monroe’s Net Worth?

By the time Marilyn Monroe died, she had a net worth of about $800,000 — or $7 million today. According to Netflix, the actress left money to her half-sister, her niece, her mother, her acting coach, and her therapist.

How Old Would Marilyn Monroe Be Today?

If Marilyn Monroe were still alive today — 2022 — she would be 96 years old.

After reading through these fascinating facts about Marilyn Monroe, look through these revealing Elvis Presley facts. Then, go inside the gruesome death of Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe’s rival.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "22 Marilyn Monroe Facts That Reveal The Woman Behind The Hollywood Icon." AllThatsInteresting.com, June 21, 2022, https://allthatsinteresting.com/who-is-marilyn-monroe. Accessed June 15, 2024.