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 Norma Jean Mortenson

An illegitimate child whose father Edward Mortenson from Haugesund had deserted her mother Gladys Baker before she was born, Norma Jean endured a childhood of poverty and misery, sexual abuse (at the age of eight) and years in foster homes and orphanages after her mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized. Escape from this cycle came at the age of sixteen with an arranged marriage to a 21 year old aircraft plant worker.

While working at the Radio Plane Company factory in Burbank, she had her picture taken by a visiting Army photographer. Norma Jean then began modeling bathing suits and, after bleaching her hair blonde, began posing for pinups and glamour photos. Howard Hughes saw some of her photographs and expressed an interest in giving her a screen test for RKO, but Ben Lyon of 20th Century-Fox beat Hughes to the punch, signing Norma Jean Baker to a contract and changing her name to Marilyn Monroe.

But to the dumb blonde stereotype, Monroe added a sense of innocence, naturalism and overt sexuality. Her sexuality was never seen as a threat, but as something harmless and benevolent. Time magazine´s sanguine response to Monroe´s Playboy centerfold summed up her appeal: "Marilyn believes in doing what comes naturally."

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