The Complicated, Tragic Story Behind Marilyn Monroe’s Real Name

The name Marilyn Monroe conveys a timeless image of the amazing sex symbol – but Monroe was not born as a Monroe. Indeed, the history of 1950s Hollywood image name is as stormy as her personal life, her troubled childhood, and her tumultuous rise to stardom.

Here is what we know about the complex history of Monroe’s name, as told by Monroe himself in his infinite autobiography, My story (1974), written by Ben Hecht.

Marilyn Monroe in 1956
Marilyn Monroe in 1956 | Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Monroe went with Norma Jeane as a child

Monroe Norma Jeane Mortenson was born on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, California, to her mother, Hollywood filmmaker Gladys Pearl Baker (Gladys Pearl Monroe ‘s maiden name).

according to That’s interesting, Baker had married Jasper Newton Baker, 24, when she was just 15 years old. Her far more abusive husband is said to have abducted the couple’s two children – Monroe’s sisters, whom she didn’t know until she was a preacher – and took them to Kentucky’s home state.

However, Monroe’s mother sometimes left with the last name Baker, and Monroe herself was baptized Norma Jeane Baker ( as babies. Her birth certificate, Mortenson, was not the last name of Monroe’s biological father, whose identity is unknown. Instead, it was the last name of Martin Edward Mortenson, who was still the legal husband of Monroe’s mother at the time – despite the fact that they were already separated when Monroe was born.

Monroe was replaced by Norma Jeane (to whom she often spelled Norma Jean) Baker and Norma Jean Mortenson for most of her early years. Her mother was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was placed in a mental health facility, forcing Monroe to move around to various orphanages and nursing care homes during much of her childhood.

Marilyn Monroe in 1947
Marilyn Monroe in 1947 | Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

The actress’ name changed again after her first marriage

At 16 – in part to recover from returning to the orphanage – Monroe married LAPD officer James Dougherty and changed her name to Norma Jean Dougherty. When modeling for pin magazines shortly afterwards, she used an alias, Jean Norman, which was largely a combination of the name given to her.

However, after signing a film deal with Twentieth Century Fox, cast directors told Monroe she needed a more “glamorous” name than Norma Dougherty to make it into the show business.

Fox chief executive Ben Lyon proposed the first name “Marilyn,” loosely inspired by Broadway actress Marilyn Miller, who rose to fame in the 1920s and 1930s. Monroe gave her last name, which was her mother’s maiden name.

Lyon and Monroe eventually decided to name its flagship platform in 1946. According to THE MAN, Monroe also briefly considered the names Clare Norman and Carol Lind, as well as the first name “Meredith” instead of “Marilyn. ”

A decade later – on February 23, 1956 – the statue legally changed its name to the name of its alter ego, Marilyn Monroe.

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