We’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t know that Marilyn Monroe was born in Los Angeles, California as Norma Jeane Mortenson (later baptized Norma Jean Baker), or about the famous men she married—James Dougherty, Joe DiMaggio, and playwright Arthur Miller.
Most people know that the American sweetheart solidified her sex-symbol status with her femme fatale role in Niagara. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with co-star Jane Russell, she flaunted her triple-threat versatility with an unforgettable performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” And, with features like How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven Year Itch, The Prince and The Showgirl, and Some Like It Hot, she popularized the “dumb blonde” stereotype—for better or for worse.
But there was much more to the bombshell than her well-known stage name, relationships, and the radical reinvention she underwent to become one of Hollywood’s most iconic (and marketable) stars.
For instance, Monroe had a challenging childhood, spent in 10 foster homes and two orphanages; her mother, Gladys, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was admitted to a mental health facility for most of her adolescence. To escape her reality, the screen siren often sought solace at the cinema, harboring dreams of one day becoming an actor.
In honor of the legendary star, here, find six things you likely didn’t know about Marilyn Monroe.
1. Monroe’s signature breathy speaking voice was actually a tactic the actress used to overcome a childhood stutter.
A speech therapist reportedly trained her to adopt the throaty style, and it ended up becoming one of her standout traits as an actress and singer. While Monroe was filming her final movie, Something’s Got to Give, her stutter returned, making it very difficult for the actress to deliver her lines. 20th Century Fox later fired her from the film.
2. Monroe was supposed to play Holly Golightly in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
“She was Truman Capote’s first choice,” Sam Wasson, author of Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman, told ABC News. “Another thing you may not know: Marilyn didn’t take the part in part because Paula Strasberg, her advisor and acting coach, said she should not be playing a lady of the evening.” Capote, author of the 1958 novella, was reportedly very disappointed that the studio went with Hepburn, saying, “Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey.”