In the pantheon of actors who have entertained movie fans over the past 100 years, few have achieved the level of impact and recognition of Marilyn Monroe. In an industry overflowing with beautiful people, she stands out for her iconic look, bedroom eyes, and playful confidence. She could embody the delicate flower, the woman in charge, the silly flirt, or the femme fatale with ease and style.

Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortensen on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles. She started modeling as a teenager and quickly turned it into an acting career with her first movie contract in 1946. After adopting the name Marilyn Monroe, she dyed her hair the trademark blonde. Her career took off after she gained plenty of attention for her small part in John Huston’s crime drama The Asphalt Jungle in 1950. She proved her dramatic chops in 1953 while playing a young married woman who wanted to kill her husband with her lover in Niagara.

Next came a string of comedies and musicals that showed off her comedic talent and lovely singing voice. She and fellow sex symbol Jane Russell scored big with their musical comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She followed that up with some of her biggest hits including the romantic comedy How to Marry a Millionaire with Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall. In ’55 she drove Tom Ewell crazy playing the buxom neighbor known simply as “The Girl” in The Seven Year Itch.

In 1957, she starred opposite the great Laurence Olivier in The Prince and the Showgirl as an American showgirl who becomes entangled in political intrigue when the prince of Carpathia tries to woo her. Then she filmed the extremely popular comedy-musical Some Like It Hot with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in 1959. Monroe played Sugar Kane, a singer with aspirations to marry a millionaire. Lemmon and Curtis posed as women in her band, on the run from gangsters after they witnessed the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Monroe died on August 5, 1962, at her home in Los Angeles when she was just 36 years old. Throughout her career, she appeared in 33 films from 1947 through 1961. From bit parts in Ladies of the Chorus and The Asphalt Jungle to starring turns in The Misfits, Monroe left an indelible mark on the film industry.

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