Marilyn Monroe died on a Saturday night. Saturdays had always been
special to her. Her mother used to visit on Saturday. Later, in the
orphanage, "Aunt Grace" used to visit on Saturday.
- - -
June 16, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ended a special
session with Congress that came to be called The Hundred Days. The end
of The Hundred Days Session brought the beginning of the New Deal. The
country -- in the heart of the depression -- was feeling confident and
Gladys Pearl Baker was the typical American.
Following the announcement of the New Deal, she made the first effort
to bring her daughter, Norma Jeane, home to live with her. On one of her
Saturday visits, Gladys had promised her daughter, "I'm, going to build a
house for you and me to live in. It's going to be painted white and have a
back yard." In August, she signed a contract with The California Title
Mortgage Company. She bought a white bungalow located at 6812 Arbol
Drive in Hollywood; sitting on the porch, she could hear music from the
nearby Hollywood Bowl. Among the skimpy furnishings were a white
Franklin Baby Grand Piano so Norma Jeane could continue her lessons and a
new radio to enjoy Mr. Roosevelt's fireside chats and learn more about this
"It's all on time, but don't worry," she told Norma Jeane, "I'm working
double shift at the studio, and I'll soon be able to pay it off." She was
working steadily at Columbia Pictures as a film cutter in the lab. It was
monotonous, long hours, sitting in a small, stuffy room, where three or
four white-gloved women, swiftly, but with careful precision, sliced the
film as marked by the editor, before passing it on to the next room of
white-gloved women to be glued back together. But it was a reliable
monotony that had paid her well for the past decade.
And what a decade it had been! Gladys Monroe Baker had experienced
more heartaches and disappointments in the first decade of her adult life
than most people experience in a lifetime. Adulthood had begun at age
fourteen -- ten days short of her fifteenth birthday -- when she married
John Newton Baker, a twenty-six year old entrepreneur, in Venice,
There are few left who remember the spring of 1917, and most of
those have chosen to forget that never to be forgotten year in Gladys
Monroe's life. Thus mystery shrouds the courtship and marriage of Gladys
Why would a mother permit her fourteen year old daughter to become
acquainted with a man eleven years her senior, much less marry him? Why
would a mother entrust her daughter to a man rather than a boy for the
first taste of being with the opposite sex?
That her mother, Della Monroe, consented and even encouraged the
affair is undeniable. She not only was a consenting witness, (signing the
marriage certificate) but encouraged her daughter to lie about her age,
stating she was eighteen. Jack Baker's financial position was possibly
one of the strongest factors influencing Della's decision; however, one
must not short change Della Monroe's ability to look out for herself either.
Della had a new suitor, Charles William Grainger. He had recently returned
from a drilling assignment in India for Shell Oil Company. Grainger was a
snappy dresser, a smooth talker, and had money. Della may have thought
her chances of remarriage would be greater if she could marry off one of
her two children, for Della Monroe's life had not been easy.
Della May Hogan had found herself the butt of local gossip when her
parents, Tilford Marion Hogan and Jennie Nance Hogan divorced in the late
1890's. (A time when divorce was socially unacceptable.) In late summer
1899, twenty-three year old Della, followed thirty-three year old, Otis
Elmer Monroe to Mexico. Her family had objected; the difference in ages
was not as disturbing as the fact that they knew nothing about Monroe or
his family. They traveled the Butterfield (Overland) Trail to Eagle Pass,
Texas, crossing the border into Ciudad Porfirio Diaz, Mexico (now Piedras
Negras). May 27, 1900, Gladys Pearl was born.
In 1903, Otis and Della moved to Los Angeles, California. They settled
into a small apartment on West 37th Street, between Western and
Vermont Avenues. Otis went to work with The Pacific Electric Railway.
In 1905, a son was born, Marion Otis Elmer Monroe. They moved from
apartment to apartment -- often with no improvement in the living
conditions. In 1907, Otis was promoted to assistant foreman and they
purchased a home at 2440 Boulder. But happiness was short lived: July 22,
1909, Otis Elmer Monroe died, leaving Della with two small children. But
a worse fate, Otis Monroe had died in the confines of the California State
Hospital for the mentally ill in San Bernardino: the diagnosis -- General
Paresis. At the time it was thought to be a mental illness, but it was
later discovered to be syphilis of the brain and could be treated with
penicillin. Too late for Otis and too late for his children -- the damaging
seed had been planted in their mind: their father had gone MAD.
By frugal ingenuity, Della took in boarders, enabling her to stay home
with the children. At thirty-six, she made the mistake of marrying
twenty-nine year old Lyle Arthur Graves, a former worker of Otis' at
Pacific Railway. The marriage lasted thirteen months. After losing the
house, she sued Graves for divorce, charging him with "failure to provide."
He had forced her "to live on the charity of friends" because he would not
work although he was in good health. She also charged him with
"dissipation and habitual intemperance." Finally she asked the court to
officially restore her name to Della M. Monroe.
Thus it seems by 1917, with Grainger interested in her, Della may have
wanted to make herself more appealing by having one less child at home.
However, one must also consider that Gladys may have been pregnant at
the time of her marriage to Baker. It is conceivable. Four years later,
when she sued for divorce, her memory was keen on all accounts of their
relationship together, except the year they were married: she moved the
date back one year. Was it a mistake or a contrivance to conceal an
illegitimate birth? A diligent search for a birth certificate for Jackie
Monroe Baker proved negative, even though births were being
systematically recorded in Los Angeles County. At the time of the birth of
their second child, Berniece, Gladys stated on the birth certificate she had
never had any children.
Whatever the circumstances that brought this unlikely pair together, at
the very least, Jack Baker got a package deal: he not only found himself
supporting a child bride, but inlaws as well. Venice, California was built
at the turn of the century as an American counterpart to Venice, Italy.
Flower laden cottages lined salt-water flooded canals in a story book
setting. Gondolas were used to taxi Venetians around the city. The Bakers
and Graingers shared one of the flower laden cottages at 1410 Coral
Canal, in the very heart of Venice. Financial success had come to Gladys
and her family through her marriage to Baker. Baker owned half interest
in a general merchandise business located in Auditorium Building and he
and Gladys had opened a concession on the Pickering Pleasure Pier.
On the surface, Gladys' marriage appeared to be good; it proved
superficial. Baker was prone to frequent bouts of temper and by the
summer of 1921, Gladys could tolerate his abuse no longer. She sued for
divorce in June, charging "he had called her vile names, beaten and kicked
her on several occasions -- even striking her in the face." She added, "this
treatment had caused her extreme mental pain and injury, while she had
been a good and loyal wife."
Nine months later, the courts decided Gladys was entitled to a divorce.
The bungalow on Coral Canal was abandoned. Della and Gladys leased a
house at 46 Rose Avenue in Venice. The interesting part of the lease is
how Della signed her name: Della Monroe. Previous documents had been
signed Della Grainger. Although she stated on her passport she and
Grainger were married November 1920, no record of the marriage has been
found. They lived together as man and wife and bought real estate as man
and wife in 1920. Grainger was evidently in and out of Della's life
throughout their relationship. Della's name fluctuated from Monroe to
Grainger just as her granddaughter, Norma Jeane's, would fluctuate from
Baker to Mortensen. At the time of Della's death, she was officially listed
as Della Monroe; however, the death certificate states she was married to
a Mr. Grainger. Della and Gladys were evicted from the address by the
courts the same year because they "never paid the first month's rent."
In May 1923, the divorce was finalized; Baker decided to place as many
miles between himself and Gladys as possible. He had become an
insurance agent since the divorce and asked his company to transfer him
to his native Kentucky. One weekend with Jackie and Berniece in his
custody, he ousted them to The Bluegrass State. Gladys spent all her
savings trying to get her children back. Finally she traced them to
Kentucky. She met with Baker, but did not ask for the children; she left
them with him, according to Marilyn, "to enjoy a better life than she could
After Gladys Baker lost her children, her life took a dramatic turn. She
and Della parted, seeing one another as rarely as possible. Della was going
under the name of Mrs. Grainger again, settled into a bungalow in
Hawthorne she had co-purchased with her on again off again husband.
Gladys' brother, Marion Monroe, had moved to Salinas, where he had found
employment as a mechanic, a new bride, and started a family. Gladys had
moved to Hollywood and found work in the film studios. Therein, she had
also found the best friend she would ever have, Grace McKee.
Consolidated Film Industries was located at the corner of Seward and
Romain; their chief function being to print and develop motion picture film
"dailies" for viewing by directors. They also provided cutting rooms for
editing, as well as projection rooms for inspection of theater prints for
all the major studios. Grace McKee was forelady and Gladys Baker was
hired under her supervision. Gladys soon became Grace McKee's most
diligent worker and shortly after their first meeting, she became her
roommate as well. The two shared an apartment at 1211 Hyperion Avenue,
about a five block walk from the studio.
It is difficult to determine just who was bolstering whom: Gladys was
in the aftermath of her divorce and Grace was on the threshold of her's. It
was inevitable the two would find consolation and support in each other.
Both were free and independent. For the first time in her life Gladys could
Olin G. Stanley, a co-worker at both CFI and Columbia remembers the
pair well. "Gladys stood about five three; she had light brown hair and
appeared to be withdrawn, reticent. She was nondescript; a real plain
Jane -- nothing outstanding. I wouldn't give her a second glance in a
crowd of three -- unless desperate."
"Now on Grace McKee, I could write a best seller," Stanley continued
pausing only to light a cigarette, "Grace was a free wheeler; she was
hardworking, fast living, and always went after what she wanted and got
it. She had bird like features and was a peroxided blonde, busybody. In
those days laboratory workers changed jobs often -- we were a small
group and known to each other. Grace McKee was into partying and booze;
she and Gladys were both rumored to live it up nights -- that was the
lifestyle, imitating the stars -- with lots of shacking up and weekend
trips to the mountains with different guys."
The female co-workers at Consolidated Film seem only to remember
Grace and Gladys as hardworking, caring women; however, the male
element seemed to know those two would put out.
The only time Grace and Gladys were ever at odds with one another was
over Martin Edward Mortensen, a meterman for the Los Angeles Gas &
Electric Company. In spite of Grace's warning, Gladys married Mortensen
in the autumn of 1924, at the home of a Presbyterian minister in North
Hollywood. It lasted seven months. Contrary to popular belief, Mortensen
did not skip out on Gladys one day. Nor was he killed in a motorcycle
accident. Nor was he the father of Norma Jeane Mortensen, although she
would legally carry his name on her birth certificate. Eddie Mortensen
may have been out of Gladys' life, but she was certainly not out of his.
Olin Stanley recalls an incident that occurred some time after the
marriage was over.
"One evening, I came to work and all the guys were standing outside the
studio door in their aprons and boots taking a smoke break -- you couldn't
smoke around the chemicals. We all started shooting the bull as men do
when one of the guys looked up at a second floor window and saw Gladys
gazing out the window with a dreamy look on her face. He made the
remark, 'I sure would like to have some of that.' Some other guy replied, 'I
hear all you gotta do is ask.' Suddenly a man I didn't recognize sprang to
his feet and grabbed the guy by the throat shouting, 'Don't ever let me hear
you say anything like that about her again.' We pulled him off and he left.
And you know who that man was? Why, it was Eddie Mortensen. He was
still crazy about that gal."
According to the details of the divorce, Mortensen sued Gladys for
divorce stating she deserted him -- before Norma Jeane was even
But Gladys Baker, as she now called herself, was no longer interested
in Mortensen. Nor was she interested in Harold Rooney, a fellow worker at
CFI. Olin Stanley continues, "Harold Rooney was an unsuccessful admirer
of Gladys Baker. He was a brown nose to Stanley Gifford when Gifford was
in charge of the day shift."
Gladys Baker had become infatuated with the man in charge of the day
shift. Charles Stanley Gifford was a robust, dark haired, dark eyed man
with a mustache. In Olin Stanley's words, "He thought himself something
of a hot shot and expected to be treated like one". The truth being, his life
was in turmoil. He had been employed by the Thomas H. Ince Studios in
Culver City, where he had a comfortable salary which he supplemented by
selling automobiles. Recently, he had lost not only his well paid position
with Ince, but his family as well. His wife, Lillian, sued him for divorce
in late 1923, charging, "he was addicted to narcotic drugs and had on
numerous occasions beaten her and cursed both she and the children." She
also charged, "He associated with women he worked with of low and
dissolute character, often boasting of his sexual conquest." Lillian
Gifford told friends, "I am going to get everything he has and tell him to go
to hell." And she did get a fair share, leaving him financially crippled. But
Stanley Gifford was made of resilient material. He came to Consolidated
Film Industries as a hypo shooter and developer, quickly working his way
up to superintendent of the night crew. His arrogant, womanizing manner
made him an instant success with the women, while creating an even
keener distrust in the men working under him.
It became common knowledge among the lab workers that Gladys Baker
and Stanley Gifford were having an affair the spring of 1925. On the
morning of May 6th, 1925, Gifford triumphantly marched into the lab a
free man; his divorce was final. Twenty days later, Gladys walked out on
Mortensen, evidently with intentions of becoming the next Mrs. Gifford. By
autumn, Gifford had tired or his latest fling. Only there was a catch:
Gladys had become pregnant. And as all the world now knows, Norma
Jeane Mortensen was born a bastard.
So Gladys had carried her bastard child to full term only to leave her
with a strange family in Hawthorne. The Bolenders were not chosen
simply for their close proximity to Della Grainger; they kept several
foster children in their home. If Gladys thought Norma Jeane would at
least be close to her grandmother, it was an ill conceived notion. For
Norma Jeane would retain only one memory of her Grandmother Monroe:
that she tried to suffocate her as a baby. She probably did make the
attempt. For within two months of Norma Jeane's first birthday, Della
Monroe Grainger was committed to Norwalk Mental Hospital, suffering
from Manic Depressive Psychosis. One of the dangers in dealing with
Manic Depressives is that they often try to kill their offspring because
they see them as evil extensions of themselves. Now, both of Gladys'
parents had gone mad.
So in October, Gladys boarded the trolley to Hawthorne; a rural town
located about fifteen miles south of Hollywood.-- just as she had almost
every Saturday since June 1926. Norma Jeane would live with the
Bolenders no more. Now, for the first time, she and Norma Jeane would
live together as a family and do all the things Gladys had promised on
those treasured Saturday visits.
The Bolender's life style was as remote from Gladys' as was Hawthorne
to Hollywood. They were middle class; she had always associated herself
with the upper middle class and her socio-economic position had
confirmed her beliefs more than once. Albert Wayne, a letter carrier, was
a lanky, droopy shouldered man with a stern face; his wife, Ida, was neat
-- if not fashionable -- and her manner provided a pleasing contrast to
that of her husband's: she constantly wore a smile, even her eyes twinkled
behind wire-rimmed glasses. The Bolenders, Gladys had observed, were
religious fundamentalist or by Gladys' standards -- religious fanatics.
Being a follower of Christian Science, she could not comprehend their
negative attitudes nor their constant fear and preaching on sin and hell.
Furthermore, she felt the sooner she could remove Norma Jeane from their
influence the better.
So thanks to Gladys' confidence in Roosevelt's New Deal coupled with
the salary from her new job, in the autumn of 1933, Norma Jeane left the
seemingly tyrannical rule of the Bolenders -- her home for her first seven
years, the formative years -- and entered into the glamour of Hollywood
If there is a single statement one could make about Gladys Baker, it
would have to be that she secured every means possible to ensure Norma
Jeane's new found home life, regardless of any pitfalls she herself might
encounter. She purchased hospitalization and life insurance and made
regular deposits into her bank account for emergencies. To further secure
the home life she had planned for her daughter, she leased the house on
Arbol Drive to an elderly English couple and their daughter; Gladys and
Norma Jeane would rent two small rooms of the house for themselves,
while sharing the living room, kitchen, and bath. Yes, Gladys Baker took
every precautionary measure to make Norma Jeane's home with her
If life with the Bolenders had been busy with the pitter-patter of little
feet, the bungalow at 6812 Arbol Drive was equally busy with the coming
and going of adults. The English family worked in pictures; the wife was a
registered dress extra, the daughter a bit player and the man of the house
had been ordained as George Arliss's stand-in. The family has been
remembered by Norma Jeane and her many biographers as a nameless
family from Britain; as our story develops, one will see why.
The movie colony in itself was a family, or more appropriately several
families within the colony. Stand-ins found themselves hanging out with
other stand-ins; dress extras and bit players, likewise, sought the
company of others within their realm of the industry. Friends were
forever dropping by for tea, especially during the lean times: those
frequent stints between jobs. Therefore, the conversation centered
around the movies, movie making, and more importantly movie stars.
Gladys may or may not have approved of this constant circus of intruders;
however, there was little she could say about how the British family
conducted themselves in their own home. Besides, Gladys understood how
they felt -- she at one time would have been among the circus parade. But
time had taught her a lesson: people and their actions were not always
what appeared on the surface; more than once, she had discovered herself
being courted for her generosity rather than her company. The simple
truth was Gladys had become reticent since Norma Jeane had entered her
life as a permanent fixture. The child was no longer a Saturday treat one
could choose to be amused with or forgo; in fact, this previous part-time
mother now found the effort a full time job.
Gladys was now seeing and confiding in one person -- Grace McKee.
Over the years, Grace had become the kind of friend one feels lucky to find
once in a lifetime. More than once, when Gladys had found herself
confused or unable to make a decision, Grace had intervened with the right
solution. After all, it had been Grace who encouraged her to buy the house
on Arbol and get Norma Jeane away from those religious fanatics. And it
was Grace who had secured Gladys her job at Columbia Pictures and thus
provided the necessary means to follow through with her plan. It had been
Grace who had taken care of Norma Jeane on weekends, when Gladys had
taken her to their Hollywood apartment only to encounter a conflict.
Gladys had long become resolved that if anything ever happened to her, she
wanted Grace to rear Norma Jeane like her own daughter. It can be said,
Grace was Gladys' idol, perhaps even her alter ego. Grace was everything
Gladys wanted to be.
Grace McKee had arrived in California in 1914, as Clara Grace
Atchinson, with aspirations of becoming a film star. Shortly after her
marriage to Reginald Evans, World War I left her widowed and she sought
employment within the lower ranks of filmdom as a darkroom laboratory
worker. By the time Gladys was employed as a negative film splicer at
Consolidated Film Industries, Grace McKee (another marriage had ensued)
had been promoted to forelady. She was a small, trim woman whose dark
blonde hair was often peroxide blonde. Gladys saw her as chic. Walking
down Highland Avenue in a new coiffure and outfit with her cocker spaniel
Susan in tow, Grace could easily have been mistaken for a movie star out
for a stroll. That is how she appeared to Gladys.
Sharing apartments together, between marriages, over the years, they
had formed a strong friendship. The two women had successfully
overcome more than a few obstacles together; therefore, Gladys did not
need to explain any of her idiosyncrasies to Grace. The only reason they
were not sharing the house on Arbol was that Grace had thought it would
be bad for Norma Jeane: Grace, one might say, was a "loose woman."
Ironically, it had been Grace who introduced Gladys to Christian Science.
But that was Grace: she had all the answers -- an expert in every field.
Gladys awakened Norma Jeane early and painstakingly dressed her in
ruffles and bows; the pin curls she had slept the night in were removed
and her hair carefully set. She had to look especially pretty the first day
in her new school. As they passed through the living room, Gladys
instructed her to stop, turn, smile, and show the British couple how pretty
she looked -- a ritual Norma Jeane repeatedly performed for her mother
Gladys walked her daughter south on Highland, showing her the way to
Selma Avenue Elementary School where she would resume her second
grade studies. She explained the walk was no further than the walk to
Washington Street School in Hawthorne; however, Norma Jeane could
already sense the difference. Hawthorne was open and one could see in
most any direction; Hollywood was claustrophobic and the school building
had a foreboding appearance. With the enrollment formalities behind,
Gladys kissed Norma Jeane and told her she would see her after school.
Film cutters free lanced. They drifted from studio to studio as the
figures of profit and loss statements dictated where they would work
next and for how long, based on a fickle public's likes or dislikes. Working
hours were sporadic: they worked day or night -- sometimes both if the
job was rush. Although Norma Jeane was living in the same house with
her mother, she still saw her, for the most part, only on weekends.
Every studio closed the month of March and shipped film out of state to
avoid a state of California tax period of one month. Convenient and legal
for the studios and sorely needed for Gladys' and Norma Jeane's strained
relationship; it gave them their first opportunity of any significant length
to become acquainted. Norma Jeane came home from school to Gladys'
waiting arms each day. Gladys was perfect in her role; she cooked and
cleaned house daily -- it was a real home. It was during this brief period
as a family, Gladys chose to introduce Norma Jeane vicariously to her
father. Marilyn remembered the eventful meeting:
"There was one object in my mother's room that always fascinated me.
It was a photograph on the wall. Whenever I visited my mother I would
stand looking at this photograph. One day she lifted me up in a chair so I
could see it better. 'That's your father.' she said. I felt so excited I
almost fell off the chair. It felt so good to have a father, to be able to
look at his picture and know I belonged to him. And what a wonderful
photograph it was. He wore a slouch hat a little gaily on the side. There
was a lively smile in his eyes and he had a thin mustache like Clark Gable.
Mother said, 'He was killed in an auto accident in New York.' I believed
everything people told me, but I didn't believe this. I asked my mother
what his name was. She wouldn't answer. Years later I found out what his
name was, and many other things about him -- how he used to live in the
same apartment building where my mother lived, how they fell in love and
how he walked out and left her while I was getting born, without ever
seeing me. The strange thing was that everything I heard about him made
me feel warmer toward him. The night I met his picture I dreamed of it
when I fell asleep. And I dreamed of it a thousand times afterward."
The month sabbatical proved to be what Gladys needed to restore her
strength -- the daily duties of caring for a child and holding down a job
were beginning to take their toll.
Just as Saturday had been special to Norma Jeane in Hawthorne -- her
mother would visit on Saturday -- Sunday was now her special day. It
began with a walk down Highland Avenue for Sunday services at the
Christian Scientist Church just off Highland on Hollywood Boulevard.
There, Norma Jeane listened to the most remarkable teachings she had
ever heard. The foundation Ida Bolender had laid of hell, fire, and
brimstone began to crumble as Norma Jeane learned heaven and hell were
states of thought -- not places. She learned that she experienced her own
heaven or hell right here on earth in proportion to her love of God. She
was taught there is no pain, no sickness, and no death. That her mind had
the power to allow suffering or to block it out. Yet, she had experienced
sickness and pain. She had been pained by a weekend mother and an absent
father. A pain that gnawed at her very gut daily: the pain of rejection. But
Mary Baker Eddy's teachings assured her it had been through her own
weakness that she had suffered pain. She became confused as Gladys
declared there is no sin, while in her mind she could see Ida Bolender
assuring her there was.
As they emerged from the chapel, all thought of sin and sickness
vanished in the sunshine as they walked east on Hollywood Boulevard to
that other make-believe diocese -- "sky-scraper mile." They would lunch
-- or brunch if "Aunt Grace" were along -- at the Hollywood Hotel (where
all the visiting actors of the day lodged) or maybe the Christie or the
Bonnie Brier. After lunch, the threesome would stroll the residential
streets, pointing out the homes of various stars, while eulogizing each as
if he were some kind of deity -- and in a sense they were deities; did their
very livelihood not depend on the success of these gods? As they
continued their stroll, they passed temples built in honor of these gods:
the Hollywood Theater, the Iris, the Appollo, the Egyptian, and the
cathedral-like Grauman's Chinese Theater. They usually saved it for the
last stop; there they would try on the footprints of the gods. Since the
spring of 1927, when the first ceremony initiated a show business
tradition still existing, the icons of filmdom have been immortalized in
specially prepared cement in the Chinese forecourt -- and all would be
icons of filmdom have dreamed of the day their own imprints would
become a part of that tradition; Norma Jeane Baker was no exception. It is
safe to assume and keeping within their character that Grace and Gladys
pointed out to Norma Jeane on each visit that the first footprints ever
immortalized were those of Norma Talmadge -- her very namesake.
A special treat included seeing the current movie on the bill. Often
featuring one of the very gods whose mansion they had just paid homage
to. If one was not sure of the deity of these gods before entering the
imposing entrance, guarded by two hugh Chinese Heaven Dogs to ward off
evil spirits, once inside the tabernacle, he became a confirmed believer.
Sid Grauman filled the interior with a king's ransom of unique and exotic
art and covered the foyer and lobby with plush, thick rugs hand woven in
colorful Oriental motif. Luxuriant bright tapestries were softened by
lights spilled from ornate glass and metal chandeliers. Tall vases and
urns (said to have adorned a mandarin's temple in centuries past) added to
the quiet majesty. One suddenly knew upon entering, he was within sacred
walls. The opulent majesty instilled a humbling reverence -- whether
warranted or not. Is it possible Norma Jeane decided it was not Mary
Baker Eddy's Christian Science that would alleviate her pain, but the gods
that ruled this magnificent kingdom called Hollywood?
June 1, 1934, Norma Jeane celebrated her eighth birthday. The
occasion was a double celebration: it was the first birthday to be spent
with her mother and it began summer vacation from school. The summer
of 1934, would hold many memories for Norma Jeane. When Marilyn
Monroe would recall happy memories as well as horror stories from her
childhood in later years, it was the summer of 1934, she remembered.
The Pacific Electric Railway radiated from Los Angeles in every
direction; the trolley cars were called "red cars," fares were cheap and
excursions were only a "red car" ride away. The threesome -- Gladys,
Grace, and Norma Jeane -- took the trolley to Santa Monica to the beach
towns of Ocean Park and Venice. Some of the routes wound through
Beverly Hills, where Grace pointed out fine shops and restaurants where
the stars shopped and dined. In late summer there were trips to West
Hollywood to see the Poinsettias being grown for the Christmas trade --
acres of brilliant red leaves. Hollywood and Santa Monica Boulevards had
trolleys, while Sunset Boulevard had double decker buses. Hawthorne was
quickly becoming a distant memory; Hollywood and the surrounding area
was pulsating with excitement. Grace and Gladys catered to Norma
Jeane's every pleasure. Grace was always telling Norma Jeane that she
was going to be a movie star when she grew up. She had dutifully
drummed this thought into her head since birth. Co-workers of Grace and
Gladys recall the same or similar story. Olin Stanley remembers:
"I first met her (Marilyn Monroe) when she was about four years old,
and in the care of oft-married Grace McKee. Miss McKee was forelady in
the "daily room" at Standard Film Laboratories and I, as a "film polisher"
worked under her close supervision. In those days we worked four hours
on Saturdays and for months Miss McKee would have someone bring a little
girl to the lab an hour or so before noontime closing. This little girl was
Norma Jeane. We workers were introduced to HER and every introduction
was the same over and over, something like, 'Baby, I want you to meet
Olin. Olin, this is Norma Jeane, isn't she pretty? Norma Jeane, shake
hands with the nice man, fine, now turn around and show the big bow on
the back of your dress.' Or, 'Norma Jeane, here comes Ella, you met her
last month. Tell Ella again, she's probably forgotten, what you are going
to be when you're all grown up. Tell her, a movie star, baby, tell her a
From Maurice Zolotow's biography, MARILYN MONROE, we read of a
similar incident remembered by Mrs. Lelia Fields, a negative cutter at RKO:
"I must tell you about Grace McKee. Grace was a wonderful person.
They broke the mold when they made Grace. She was one in a million. She
was Gladys' best friend and she loved and adored Norma Jeane. If it
weren't for Grace, there wouldn't be a Marilyn Monroe today. Grace raved
about Norma Jeane like she was her own. Grace said Norma Jeane was
going to be a movie star. She had this feeling about her. A conviction."
Charlotte Engleburg, a friend of Grace and Gladys, recalled the same on
going beat being drummed into Norma Jeane's mind. It was a fact with
Grace: Norma Jeane was going to be a movie star.
It was the summer of 1934, that Norma Jeane became intimately aware
of the movies. With school out, Gladys arranged for the British family to
look after her daughter during those hours she would be called upon to
work. It was probably Mr. George Arliss's stand-in who made the first
move to get Norma Jeane out of the house. He was in his late sixties and
very likely could tolerate only so much of a boisterous seven year old.
Apparently his level of tolerance would peak by matinee time; ticket
prices were cheaper than headaches. He showed Norma Jeane the way to
the Egyptian Theater, gave her the ten cent admission price, and bid her
good day with instructions to return home before her mother.
The Egyptian Theater (formerly one of Sid Grauman's movie palaces)
was set to the back of a deep forecourt. European gift shops lined one side
of the court with stairways leading to rooftop terraces; the other side
exhibited a sparkling fountain centered in a palm lined garden wall that
led to the tomb-like entrance. The entire courtyard was a dusty pink --
actually mausoleum pink. Egyptian hieroglyphics decorated the garden
wall. Inside the theater, two huge sphinxes flanked the screen while more
hieroglyphics climbed columns to form an arch crested by a gold phoenix.
The ceiling burst into a mosaic of Egyptian color.
A mosaic of lives paraded across the giant screen; a few were even in
color. Norma Jeane watched all the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals of the
day; RKO's KING KONG; and everybody's sultry sirens, (there were no
ratings then) but the movies that probably touched her the deepest were
the ones -- and there was a proliferation -- like RKO's WEDNESDAY'S
CHILD, about a youth, the victim of his parent's broken marriage, who is
forced to testify during the divorce action, then finds himself in military
school because neither father nor mother has room for him in their lives.
At the end, however, the father has a change of heart and takes the boy out
of school and makes a home for the two of them. Norma Jeane would leave
the theater wondering when her own father would come and rescue her and
Gladys; a lifetime of wondering about her father began that summer.
If summer had never ended, it would have been too soon for Norma
Jeane. September found her back within the gloomy walls of Selma
Avenue Elementary School and third grade; however, school would soon
become an escape just as the movie houses of summer had been.
There is one incident in the childhood of Norma Jeane dated at about
this time: the claim by Marilyn Monroe that she was raped (or molested) at
age eight and a half to nine years. Many have argued it never happened.
Certainly, it never happened while she was a member of the authoritative
-- though nonetheless safe -- Bolender household. After leaving the
Bolenders, she was with family, Grace, or in the orphanage -- except for
the fourteen months spent at 6812 Arbol Drive with Gladys and an
unidentified British couple in their mid sixties. A study of the various
foster homes where she spent her first sixteen years leaves only one
viable place where this type of situation could have happened and as a
result, points an accusing finger at the only possible perpetrator: George
Arliss's stand-in. Here is Marilyn's vivid -- if veiled -- recollection of
the most traumatic episode of her childhood:
"One day I found out about sex without asking any questions. I was
almost nine (late 1934, early 1935,) and I lived with a family that rented
a room to a man named Kimmel. He was a stern-looking man and everybody
respected and called him Mr. Kimmel."
"I was passing his room when his door opened and he said quietly,
'Please come in here, Norma.' I thought he wanted me to run an errand. He
closed the door behind me. He smiled at me and turned the key in the lock.
'Now you can't get out.' he said, as if we were playing a game."
"I stood staring at him. I was frightened, but I didn't dare yell. I knew
if I yelled, I would be sent back to the orphanage in disgrace again. Mr.
Kimmel knew this too."
"When he put his arms around me, I kicked and fought as hard as I could
but I didn't make any sound. He was stronger than I was and wouldn't let
me go. He kept whispering to me to be a good girl."
"When he unlocked the door and let me out, I ran to tell my "aunt" what
Mr. Kimmel had done."
"I want to tell you something," I stammered, "about Mr. Kimmel. He-
"My "aunt" interrupted, 'Don't you dare say anything against Mr. Kimmel.
Mr. Kimmel's a fine man. He's my star boarder.'"
"This is different," I said. "This is something I have to tell. Mr.
Kimmel-" I started stammering again and couldn't finish. Mr. Kimmel came
out of his room and handed me a nickel. 'Go buy yourself some ice cream,'
he said. I threw the nickel in Mr. Kimmel's face and ran out. I cried in bed
that night and wanted to die."
Maurice Zolotow's biography added the following:
The woman threatened to slap her face if she didn't stop, but she
continued to tell of the shameful experience. The landlady struck her
across the mouth. She cried that night in bed and hoped she would die,
although she knew that if she died she would go to hell because of what
she had done. She was obsessed by guilt. She had committed the
Did it happen or was it just another of the many stories Marilyn
fabricated? True she had lied about being an orphan, stating her mother
was dead, when in fact, she was a ward of the state of California, but if it
was a lie, why then did she feel compelled to relate the story to every
new acquaintance she made? Why was she still compelled in late July,
1962, -- mere days before her death -- to "confess" the episode to
photographer, George Barris? It was a reality to Marilyn. Psychiatrist
tell us children never ever lie about sexual abuse. Children lie for one
reason and one reason only: to get out of trouble. A lie of this type would
be counterproductive to the very nature of a child's lying.
She was for the most part, without protection. Her father was gone;
her mother was oblivious to what was happening or worse yet, chose to be
blind to any situation that might disrupt the home she had worked so hard
at making for Norma Jeane. With the sporadic work schedule handed the
occupants of 6812 Arbol Drive, surely Norma Jeane was alone with George
Arliss's stand-in on many occasions. Could this severe bruise against her
body and psyche have been inflicted under her own mother's roof? Could
the landlady who responded with a slap across the mouth have been
Gladys? It is feasible and helps one to better understand her great
distaste, even hatred for her mother as she grew older, while at the same
time she camouflaged her story sufficiently to protect her mother's
identity. George Arliss's stand-in has been attributed with giving the
actress Marilyn Monroe her grand enunciation; did he also give her
sleepless nights, insecurity, and her stammering which origins date back
to the summer of 1934?
Who was this faceless man who left such an indelible mark on her
soul? Or is he faceless? Nameless maybe, but certainly we know his
face; and through that face we learn something about his character. As
stated in so many Monroe biographies, he was George Arliss's stand-in.
Therefore, he had to look a great deal like George Arliss -- an impeccable,
tea drinking, English gentleman. A superb actor, Arliss won the academy
award for his performance as DISRAELI in 1929, and was nominated in
1930 for THE GREEN GODDESS. He played ALEXANDER HAMILTON, THE MAN
WHO PLAYED GOD, THE HOUSE OF ROTHCHILD, (he played the head of it)
CARDINAL RICHELIEU and VOLTAIRE. All these parts were supreme
egg-heads of the caliber of Einstein. He came from the upper echelon of
British theater to Hollywood during the silent days. He was the only star
ever to be billed Mr. as in Mr. George Arliss. And though we do not know
the name of George Arliss's stand-in, we do know he did not particularly
care for him. In his 1940, autobiography, Arliss commented at length on
"The stand-in for the elderly star is a pathetic figure. More often than
not he is an old actor who has played everything, but has "never had his
chance." And now he is nothing -- a shadow. And yet he feels within him a
certain sense of importance. He is dressed like the star; he believes he
looks like the star; almost unconsciously he takes on the walk, or
mannerisms of the star; he poses like him before the cameraman, and he
sees himself a star. I know what is going on in his brain as he watches me
play the part; he knows that if only he had the chance he could do it just
as well -- better. He cannot understand why I do this or that, when
obviously a much better way would be -- the way he would do it."
"Yes, to me, the stand-in seems a pathetic figure, because of all the
great crowd engaged for the picture he is the one solitary figure that is
never seen by the audience: he is dressed up, made up, placed in the center
of the stage, in the limelight -- and never photographed."
George Arliss portrays his stand-in as a man who sees society as his
enemy; he never sees his failures as coming from within -- it is always
the fault of others. His type of character would only have hatred and
disgust for society -- a bunch of people who do nothing but take; they
never give. Well, he will take from those he does have power over.
And what can one expect from this genre of man? Those menaces to
society, medicine has named pedophillics. Generally, they are not violent,
and physical injury to the child is rare. The typical pedophilic does not
attack strangers. In most cases he is a family friend, neighbor, or often a
relative of the victim. Advances usually take place in the child's own
home, where the pedophile is an invited guest. The most typical pattern is
for the pedophile to hold a young girl on his lap, to caress her, and then to
fondle her genitals. A high portion of pedophiles are impotent -- most
cases are of this fondling molestation as opposed to actual rape. More
often than not, when exposed, one will find him to be a devoutly religious
man with much respect in the community. Pedophillics are usually very
fond of their victims and truly love them -- they just have very
unorthodox ways of expressing this love.
The incident did not leave Marilyn without its share of scars -- many
of which, we may never know. It undermined her trust in those she had
learned to trust: her mother and guardians. The adult Marilyn would never
completely trust anyone -- including herself -- and religiously sought
advice from everyone in her company, from dramatic coach to make-up
man, only to follow her own instincts most of the time. A subsequent
episode would further undermine her trust. Herewith follows an excerpt
from an interview given by Marilyn to the London Observor in the late
"A week later the family, including Mr. Kimmel went to a religious
revival meeting in a tent. My "aunt" insisted I come along. The tent was
jammed. Everybody was listening to the evangelist. Suddenly he called on
all the sinners in the tent to come up and repent. I rushed up ahead of
everyone else and started to tell him about my sin. I fell on my knees and
began to tell about Mr. Kimmel and how he had molested me in his room.
But other sinners started wailing about their sins and drowned me out. I
looked back and saw Mr. Kimmel standing among the non-sinners praying
loudly and devoutly for God to forgive the sins of others."
And Norma Jeane saw the farce hypocrisy brings to religion. She was
innocent, yet had been abused and discarded like a soiled linen. Her soul
was stained and dirty, even though she had no control over the situation --
while Mr. Kimmel continued to be respected and prayed for sinners like
How devastating it must have been for Marilyn to be labeled America's
sex symbol. She had been a victim of sex in the greatest sense of the
word from her very birth. Born a bastard -- sex out of chaos. Raped at
eight and a half -- sex out of confusion. Only to be typed as the focus of
every red blooded American male's desires. As Marilyn, she could never
tolerate abuse against anything helpless -- even animals -- no doubt, she
associated her own helplessness at eight and a half against the forceful,
overpowering wishes of Mr. Kimmel, with anything being subjected to a
situation beyond its control. Marilyn did not enjoy sex; in fact, it was
something she really did not care for. The men in her adult life as well as
her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, suggest a woman who found little
satisfaction in sex. Speaking of her first husband, Jim Dougherty, Marilyn
said, "The first effect marriage had on me was to increase my lack of
interest in sex." And speaking on the Hollywood casting couch system she
let the Freudian slip, "Maybe it was the nickel Mr. Kimmel once gave
me...but men who tried to buy me with money made me sick." Yet, she
would at times reward -- if you please -- her mentors by giving them her
body -- as if it were some sacrificial gift.
There would always be a special place in her heart for children --
especially deprived and underprivileged children (those so close to her
own situation.) She left a sizable amount of her estate in the hands of her
New York psychiatrist, Dr. Marianne Kriss, to be used for the advancement
of these children.
What suppressed subconscious fantasies were trying to subliminally
surface in her adult life? Would her supreme lovers not turn out to be
supreme egg-heads: Arthur Miller, Robert Kennedy -- even the President of
the United States. Visions of George Arliss's stand-in perhaps. She would
refer to her three husbands as Jim, Joe, and Mr. Miller (as in Mr. George
Arliss.) She would always have a fixation for older, studious, egg-head
Shelly Winters remembers two stories that reveal Marilyn's sexual
preferences and add much insight:
"Robert Ryan told me about a group that Charles Laughton was forming
to work on Shakespeare, speech and the discipline and history of the
theater. He asked me if I would like to meet Mr. Laughton and audition for
the group Sunday afternoon out at Charles Laughton's house."
"That Saturday afternoon there was a celebrity baseball game for a
charity, and Marilyn Monroe and I were batgirls. I was so busy reading
KING LEAR in the dugout that I got hit on the head with a ball. While
putting ice on my head, Marilyn noticed the book, and even she thought it
was strange for me to be reading KING LEAR aloud to myself during a ball
game while being photographed by all the movie magazines. I explained to
her what I was doing the next day, and she asked if she could come with
me, saying she thought Laughton was the sexiest man she'd ever seen."
Charles Laughton was an elderly actor. He and Marilyn would make one
film together in 1952; an O'Henry short story titled THE COP AND THE
ANTHEM. Shelly continues to enlighten us as she relates the story of her
and Marilyn's list of the men they would most like to make it with:
"When I read Marilyn's choices, I dropped the huge PLAYER'S DIRECTORY.
She had listed Zero Mostel, Eli Wallach, Charles Boyer, Jean Renoir, Lee
Strasberg, Nick Ray, John Huston, Elia Kazan, Harry Belafonte, Yves
Montand, Charles Bickford, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Laughton, Clifford
Odets, Dean Jagger, Arthur Miller and Albert Einstein."
"Marilyn, there's no way you can sleep with Albert Einstein. He's the
most famous scientist of this century, and besides, he's an old man."
"That has nothing to do with it. I hear he's very healthy."
"I don't know how many of her choices she achieved, but after her death
when many of her possessions were sent to Lee Strasberg's apartment,
there on Marilyn's mother's white baby grand I saw a large framed
photograph of Albert Einstein. On it was written 'To Marilyn, with respect
and love and thanks, Albert Einstein.'"
There is little doubt that she sought in her subsequent lovers, the only
man to show her any affection as a little girl. She was not looking for her
father in her conquest for older men: she was looking for George Arliss's
To further deduce that the stand-in was the molester one only need to
stop and rationalize for a moment. Marilyn could name every family she
ever spent any length of time with -- regardless of how short a period --
but she always referred to this man as the English gentleman. Her
reasoning was simple: if she were to give the English gentleman a name,
it might be discovered that the molestation occurred while she was in the
care of her mother. One does not live with a person for two years and not
be able to recall his name; yet, know not only his occupation, but for whom
he worked. No, the incident did not leave her without its share of scars.
Gladys was concealing her irritability less each day. No doubt, Mr.
Kimmel was at the bottom of her anxiety coupled with her own
mishandling of the situation. Suddenly, she would lash out verbally at
Norma Jeane or the British couple; they could understand, Norma Jeane
could not. The hurt went deep and she accepted these unexplained rashes
of temper as rejection, but they were not nearly as unnerving to her as the
long periods of silence. During these episodes, Gladys would sit and stare
silently for days, nothing Norma Jeane did could penetrate her glassy eyed
By Thanksgiving, all the movie star talk had ceased. Gladys had become
preoccupied with Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science. She read the Bible
and Eddy's Keys To Understanding The Scriptures constantly and fiercely
quoted them. The British couple was obviously uncomfortable; Norma
Jeane was numb -- all feeling had ceased. Gladys' steady deterioration
had not gone totally unnoticed. Grace McKee and Lelia Fields had been
covering for her at work -- doing Gladys' work during her depressions to
help her hold onto her job. So when the British family phoned Grace at the
studio for help, she was not unprepared. She instructed them to call an
ambulance. Norma Jeane, twenty years later as Marilyn Monroe,
remembered the day vividly:
"One morning the English couple and I were having breakfast in the
kitchen. Suddenly, there was a terrible noise on the stairway outside the
kitchen. It was the most frightening noise I had ever heard. Bangs and
thuds kept on as if they would never stop. The Englishwoman held me from
going to see. Her husband went out and after a time came back into the
kitchen. 'I've sent for the police and an ambulance,' he said. I asked if it
was my mother. 'Yes,' he said. 'But you can't see her.' I stayed in the
kitchen and heard people come and try to take my mother away. Nobody
wanted me to see her. But I went out and looked in the hall. My mother
was on her feet. She was screaming and laughing. They took her away to
Norwalk Mental Hospital."
During the fourteen months they had shared together, very little
bonding had transpired between mother and daughter. Norma Jeane loved
her mother, but no more than she loved "Aunt Grace" or Ida Bolender. True
she was happy to be with Gladys, but she could also be happy without her.
Neither Gladys nor her daughter had ever known any stability in their
lives. Their only constant was change. Gladys Baker was diagnosed
Paranoid Schizophrenia. It would be the only legacy she would leave her
daughter. Gladys had lived her life in the shadow of madness: her father
had gone mad; her mother had gone mad; her brother had left one day to get
a newspaper and was never heard from again -- she assumed he too was
mad -- and her grandfather Hogan had committed suicide.
January 15, 1935, Grace McKee had Gladys legally declared insane and
was appointed Norma Jeane's guardian. Norma Jeane continued to live in
the white bungalow at 6812 Arbol Drive with the British family -- where
he almost certainly continued to molest her; she continued to attend
Selma Avenue Elementary School; in short she continued as if Gladys had
never been there at all. At least for a while.
As Gladys' savings became exhausted, Grace instructed the British
couple to sell the furniture to keep the rent paid and groceries bought.
Among the first items to go with her mother was the beloved white
Franklin Baby Grand. Eventually the white bungalow was sold and Gladys'
dream for Norma Jeane became another soured memory in the canon of
disappointments in the life of Norma Jeane Baker.
Easter Sunday Norma Jeane moved in with Grace's mother, Mrs. Emma
Willette Atkinson; in June, she moved into Grace's apartment on Lodi
Place. Living with "Aunt Grace" may have been an even better life than
with Gladys. According to court records, Grace spared nothing when it
came to the child's care. In addition to the necessities like doctor bills,
there were buying sprees at Broadway Department Store, a hair
permanent, and a photograph sitting.
Marilyn remembered the times, "My mother's best friend was a woman
named Grace. I called nearly everybody I knew aunt or uncle, but Aunt
Grace was a different sort of make-believe relative. She became my best
friend too. Aunt Grace worked as a film librarian in the same studio as my
mother -- Columbia Pictures. Grace had almost as rough a time as my
mother. She lost her job in the studio and had to scrape for a living.
Although she had no money, she continued to look after my mother, who
was starting to have mental spells, and to look after me."
Grace continued to tell her, "Don't worry Norma Jeane. You're going to
be a beautiful girl when you grow up. I can feel it in my bones," which
must have suggested to Marilyn that being beautiful would be a panacea
for all her problems. Marilyn continued, "When my mother was taken to
the hospital Aunt Grace became my legal guardian. Her friends argued
with her. They talked about my mother and her father and brother and
grandmother all being mental cases and said I would certainly follow in
their footsteps. But Aunt Grace adopted me, heritage and all."
All might have been well for Norma Jeane had thirty-nine year old,
Grace not met twenty nine year old, Erwin Silliman Goddard, who
everybody called Doc. Born in Holland, Texas, the son of a one time
Surgeon General of Texas, Doc, had come to Hollywood to make it as an
actor. His good looks and strong physique landed him a job as Randolf
Scott's stand-in. He and Grace had met on the Columbia lot. The courtship
was brief. Grace and Doc were married in Las Vegas in mid August and
honeymooned at Grace's Aunt Minnie Willette's house.
Grace McKee cried all morning as she packed and prepared Norma Jeane
for the move. Stopping only three blocks from her apartment in front of
the Los Angeles Orphan's Society, she explained, "This is where you will
live. I hope you'll be happy here. I'll be around to see you every Saturday
and as soon as we get a bigger house you can come back home." This was
the first time Grace had ever failed her; try as she would, Marilyn would
never completely forgive her. It was September 13, 1935, -- the
beginning of the longest thirteen months of her life.
But Grace did make good on her promise. In October 1936, Norma Jeane
left the orphanage to live with Grace and Doc and his children. For
fourteen months, she had a family: mother, father, two sisters and a
brother. For reasons unknown to us it ended. But at least she did not
return to the orphanage. Grace made arrangements for her to live with Ida
Martin. Ida was the mother-in-law of Gladys' brother, Marion. She already
had Marion's three children in her house and gladly took one more. For nine
months, Norma Jeane shared a bed with her cousin Ida Mae Monroe in the
old Lankershim district of Hollywood.
Today Ida Mae bares a striking resemblance: not to Marilyn Monroe, but
to the early pictures of Norma Jeane. She began our interview, "First, she
didn't talk like that. She sounded just like you and me. I remember she
said she was never going to marry; she wanted to be a school teacher and
have lots of dogs. We were just kids. We did things kids do. I remember
the time we decided to make wine. We had a big tub in the back yard. We
gathered grapes and piled them into the tub and tromped them with our
bare dirty feet. When my mother called, we pushed the tub under the back
porch. This went on for three or four days and the odor got so bad. It was
rotten," she laughs. "Mrs. Enright lived across the street. She had a sister
named Dorothy. Dorothy was touched. She would sit and rock. They bought
her all the movie magazines and we got her hand me downs. We liked them
all -- no favorites. Once we decided to run away from home. All I
remember is we were going to San Francisco. Maybe we were going to look
for my dad, because my uncle thought he had seen him there once. We
shared beds and I remember we always said whoever was last in bed had
to clean the room. We fought sometimes to. Yeah, she lived with us until
the San Fernando Valley flood, then we lived with Jim and Ruth Mills
during the flood. We lived together about a year."
In September 1938, Norma Jeane packed again. She would live with
Grace Goddard's aunt, Ana Lower. "Aunt Ana" was a Christian Scientist
practitioner. She began to school Norma Jeane in the Science. The two
became extremely close. On her thirteenth birthday, Norma Jeane did go to
San Francisco -- although the records state no reason, it probably was to
visit her mother in the state hospital.
Now in her teens, Norma Jeane experienced a rejection totally alien to
her. Although rejection was an old companion, she had never had trouble
with other children. She always managed to fit in and be liked. She first
experienced this ostracism at Emmerson Jr. High but the cruelest blow
came during her sophomore year at University High. In many towns across
the nation there is a division: a wrong side of the tracks. As fate would
have it, Norma Jeane was the girl from the wrong side of the tracks going
to school on the right side of the tracks. Tom Ishii remembers, "Norma
Jeane Baker was 'loud'. I guess she talked loud -- so everyone considered
her to be wild."
Sally Kuczek, another classmate from both schools, was not as kind,
"She was a tramp. No taste; she would wear plaid skirts with print
blouses. No friends -- off by herself most of the time. She was horrible
in both Jr. High and High School. She was stand offish; she didn't
associate with the others. A tramp -- even the fellows at school didn't go
off with her. She must have had fellows away from school. She thought
she was a real big shot -- better than everybody else. They had families;
she didn't. She was homely. She dressed tacky. She was plump. Norma
Jeane didn't have the brains to become Marilyn Monroe; someone had to
It sounds like Norma Jeane was the envy of Sally. In retrospect, Sally
Kuczek agreed with prompting that, "Maybe Norma Jeane was insecure and
the kids just got vibes that she was stuck up." Her sophomore picture in
the Uni-high annual shows a well dressed girl -- not unlike the others. It
appears Norma Jeane was creating the same repulsion as Marilyn Monroe
would one day create in women.
The thought of returning to the orphanage was repulsive to Norma
Jeane. At fifteen, she could not, would not go back there. The Goddards
were moving to West Virginia; Doc had been transferred. Ana Lower felt
she was too old to supervise a teenage girl totally unaided by Grace.
A marriage was arranged. The Goddards agreed; the Doughertys agreed;
Ana Lower agreed. That simple. Hard to believe, but everyone insists that
is the way it happened. Grace talking over the fence to Ethel Dougherty,
casually made the suggestion and Ethel agreed. Even more implausible Jim
Dougherty agreed. Norma Jeane would agree to anything to keep out of the
Eighteen days after her sixteenth birthday, Norma Jeane became the
wife of Jim Dougherty, a twenty-one year old Lockheed Aircraft worker.
The wedding was held at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Chester Howell, friends of
the Goddards. Grace made the arrangements before leaving for West
Virginia, selecting the Howell's because it had a winding staircase "just
like in the movies." Ana Lower gave the bride away; she was the only
representative of Norma Jeane's family at the wedding. For a supposedly
makeshift wedding, it was remarkable. Norma Jeane was dressed as the
quintessential bride. The clarity of the wedding photographs captures our
first glimpse of the pre model/movie star Norma Jeane before the lens of
a professional photographer. The wedding reception was held at the
Like Gladys' first marriage at fourteen, Norma Jeane's first marriage
also lasted four years. The year was 1946, and Norma Jeane would never
be the same again. She had been working steadily as a model since June
1945, when David Conover snapped her picture at Radioplane; that one
lucky photograph had brought her out of the closet. She had always wanted
to be an actress. She just never confided her dream to anyone. Later she
was to write in her autobiography, "I knew nothing about acting. I had
never read a book about it, or tried to do it, or discussed it with anyone. I
was ashamed to tell the few people I knew of what I was dreaming." But
in 1946, Norma Jeane was not ashamed anymore. The decision to divorce
Jim had not been difficult; after all, he was hardly there anymore. The
Goddards had returned to California from West Virginia and it was to
Grace, Norma Jeane turned for advice. In a recent interview with Jim
Dougherty, he stated, "Grace Goddard was nice enough -- if she could
benefit." In short, Grace Goddard was always willing to help -- if there
were something in it for Grace.
Grace arranged for Norma Jeane to set up residence in Las Vegas,
Nevada at her Aunt Minnie Willette's. On May 14th, she moved in with
Minnie at 604 South Third Street. September 13th, she was declared a
free woman. Grace had always told her she was going to be a movie star;
now Grace's dream was coming true.
In August, Norma Jeane brought home the coveted contract with
Twentieth Century Fox for Grace, still her legal guardian, to sign. She had
a new contract and a new name: Marilyn Monroe. She was going to be a
star. She told Grace, "It'll be different now for all of us. I'll work hard."
She never made good on her promise. Marilyn Monroe rarely saw Grace
Goddard; when she did it was accidental. The same girl who said about
Grace, "She lost her job in the studio and had to scrape for a living.
Although she had no money she continued to look after me," did not
1953 was Marilyn's year. It began in January with the opening of
NIAGARA. In March, she received the Redbook Award as Best Young Box
Office Personality, followed by the Photoplay Award as Fastest Rising
Star of 1952, the same month. In May, she reached the ceiling of her Fox
contract, topping out at $1,500.00 per week. July 15th, GENTLEMEN
PREFER BLONDES opened in New York and in August premiered at Grauman's
Chinese Theater. At that premiere, Norma Jeane Baker's prints were at
last immortalized in cement. It was the apex of all the countless
Saturdays and Sundays Gladys and Grace had faithfully stopped in the
forecourt, pointed to Norma Talmadge's footprints, and reiterated, "You
were named after a star, Norma Jeane." On September 13th, she made her
television debut on THE JACK BENNY SHOW. Norma Jeane's star had
arrived: in the form of Marilyn Monroe it was here to stay.
1953 was not a good year for Grace Goddard. She had turned fifty-nine
on New Year's Day. She still lived in the small house on Odessa Drive,
where she had planned a wedding between Jim Dougherty and Norma Jeane
Baker -- to save her from returning to the orphanage. Each day she found
her only solace in alcohol. Sunday night, September 27, she retired early
-- around eight o'clock. Around three in the morning, Doc found her body
and an empty bottle of barbiturates. The death certificate read suicide.
She was buried in Westwood Memorial Park where Ana Lower and Gladys'
third husband, John Ely, were buried.
- - -
1962 was not a good year for Marilyn Monroe. She had turned thirty-six
on June 1st. She had been fired by her studio for failure to report for
work. She lived in a small house on Fifth Helena Drive, where she had
planned to have the home she never had. Shortly after her birthday, she
had been dropped by her lover. Each day she found her only solace in
alcohol and drugs. Saturday night, August 4th, she was alone. She retired
early -- around eight o'clock. Around three in the morning, her
housekeeper, Eunice Murray, found her body and an empty bottle of
barbiturates. The death certificate read probable suicide. She was buried
in Westwood Memorial Park, where Ana Lower, Grace McKee Goddard, and
Gladys' third husband were buried.