Marilyn Monroe

The iconic Marilyn Monroe defined 1950s glamour, but behind the blonde bombshell image was an extremely intelligent, complex woman who never attended college.

9 Min Read

Marilyn Monroe is one of the most famous actresses and cultural icons in American history. With her iconic blonde curls, red pout, and breathy voice, she epitomized Hollywood glamour and sex appeal in the 1950s and early 1960s. But before she became a household name, Norma Jeane Mortenson (her birth name) had a difficult childhood and adolescence without access to formal education. So where did Marilyn Monroe go to college?

Quick Facts About Marilyn Monroe

  • Born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California
  • Spent much of childhood in foster homes and orphanages
  • Married at age 16 to avoid returning to an orphanage
  • Became a successful model before transitioning to acting
  • Appeared in over 25 films, including Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  • Married 3 times – to James Dougherty, Joe DiMaggio, and Arthur Miller
  • Died from a drug overdose on August 5, 1962 at age 36
  • Never attended college but was extremely intelligent and well-read

Who Was Marilyn Monroe?

Born in 1926 to an unmarried mother, Marilyn Monroe was given her mother’s surname of Baker at birth (she never knew who her father was). Her mother, Gladys Pearl Baker, developed paranoid schizophrenia and was periodically institutionalized, leaving Norma Jeane in foster care from infancy.

At age seven, Norma Jeane entered the Los Angeles Orphans’ Home Society, living there for two years until Gladys was able to retrieve her. But when Gladys had another breakdown in 1937, Norma Jeane became a ward of the state. She lived in various foster homes, always dreaming of a stable family life and struggling with her self-confidence.

At age 16, Norma Jeane married Jim Dougherty, her 21-year-old neighbor, to avoid having to return to the orphanage. Dougherty soon joined the Merchant Marines and shipped out to the Pacific, leaving Norma Jeane on her own. During this time, she began working at the Radioplane Company where she was discovered by a photographer and launched her modeling career.

The camera loved Norma Jeane, prompting her to dye her brunette hair platinum blonde and change her name to Marilyn Monroe. By 1946, Marilyn signed her first movie contract with Twentieth Century-Fox and made her film debut. Over the next decade, she honed her acting skills and became adored by audiences for her bubbly on-screen persona in comedies like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot.

But behind the scenes, Marilyn struggled with stage fright, depression, drug dependency, and rocky relationships with men like baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller. On August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe died of a drug overdose at age 36, ending her dramatic and glamorous life.

Where Did Marilyn Monroe Go To College?

Despite portraying a dumb blonde on screen, Marilyn Monroe was an avid reader and lifelong learner. However, her unstable childhood and early marriage prevented her from pursuing higher education. Marilyn never attended college, finishing only junior high school before dropping out at age 15.

During her teen years, Marilyn moved frequently between foster homes and did not have a stable academic environment. But she dreamed of having an intellectual life and was drawn to classic literature, poetry, and Russian playwrights.

When she signed her first film contract, Twentieth Century-Fox required Monroe to take acting, singing, and dancing lessons for up to 6 hours a day. She studied diction and voice projection with respected coaches like Natasha Lytess and Paula Strasberg. Monroe was a dedicated student, recognizing that constant improvement was critical to being a great performer.

Later in her career, Monroe enrolled in literature classes at UCLA and the University of Southern California. She attended lectures on art and immersed herself in the Los Angeles arts scene, befriending photographers, artists, and intellectuals.

Marilyn’s third husband, Arthur Miller, was one of America’s greatest playwrights. Being with him allowed Monroe to feed her craving for knowledge, history, and stimulating conversation. She also learned a great deal about acting technique from fellow actors at the Actor’s Studio in New York.

So while Marilyn Monroe never formally attended college, she sought out education through acting coaches, literature classes, the arts community, and her well-read social circle. She had a deep intellectual curiosity and love of learning that enriched her life.

Marilyn Monroe’s Activism

In addition to her entertainment career, Marilyn used her fame to support causes she believed in. She advocated for civil rights and racial equality, speaking out against segregation at a time when it was controversial for celebrities to do so. Monroe also publicly opposed nuclear weapons testing and partnered with the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy.

Her Enduring Legacy

Over 50 years after her death, Marilyn Monroe remains an American pop culture icon. She has been portrayed in films, songs, plays, and books, and her image still generates millions in licensing revenue each year. As one of the most recognizable faces in the world, her influence spans generations.

Her Complex Persona

While she often played the stereotypical “dumb blonde” on screen, Marilyn was extremely intelligent and layered in real life. She cultivated an image that was simultaneously glamorous yet vulnerable, and this duality is central to her lasting fame.

Conspiracy Theories About Her Death

The exact circumstances around Monroe’s overdose death remain unclear, leading to decades of conspiracy theories. Some speculate her death was an accidental suicide, while others believe she was murdered to protect political secrets. The ambiguity fuels ongoing intrigue.

Her Fashion and Beauty Legacy

With her signature platinum curls, red lips, and hourglass figure, Marilyn defined 1950s beauty. Her much-copied look inspired trends in hair styling, makeup, and fashion that still influence pop culture and beauty standards today.

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FAQs

What inspired Marilyn Monroe to get into acting?

A photographer discovered Norma Jeane while she was working in a munitions factory during WWII. Seeing her potential, he helped launch her modeling career which led to her first film contract.

How many times was Marilyn Monroe married?

Monroe married three times in her life – to James Dougherty, Joe DiMaggio, and Arthur Miller. All three marriages ended in divorce after less than 5 years.

What unique skills did Marilyn Monroe have as an actress?

In addition to her natural beauty on camera, Monroe had an undeniable charisma and stage presence. She also worked hard at improving her acting technique and singing ability throughout her career.

Why is Marilyn Monroe still so famous today?

Monroe’s glamorous yet vulnerable image, iconic look, mysterious death, and duality of public and private self all contribute to her lasting fame as a pop culture legend.

What mental health issues did Marilyn Monroe struggle with?

Monroe struggled with debilitating stage fright and anxiety early in her career. She later battled depression, substance abuse issues, and mood disorders that may have contributed to her death.