Marilyn outside the Plaza Hotel, New York City, 1958
Photo Sam Shaw
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Marilyn Monroe (June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962), born Norma Jeane Mortenson, but baptized Norma Jeane Baker, was an American actress, singer, and model. After spending much of her childhood in foster homes, Monroe began a career as a model, which led to a film contract in 1946. Her early roles were minor, but her performances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (both 1950) were well received. Monroe was praised for her comedic ability in such films as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, Some Like It Hot and The Seven Year Itch.
The typecasting of Monroe's "dumb blonde" persona limited her career prospects, so she broadened her range. She studied at the Actors Studio and formed Marilyn Monroe Productions. Her dramatic performance in Bus Stop was hailed by critics, and she won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Some Like it Hot.
The final years of Monroe's life were marked by illness and personal problems. 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 #6 on the American Film Institute's "50 Greatest Screen Legends" list.