Norma Jeane Mortenson
Norma Jeane Baker
Marilyn Monroe (1926–1962) was born as Norma Jeane Mortenson, the third child born of Gladys Pearl Baker. Monroe's birth certificate names the father as Martin Edward Mortensen with his residence stated as ‘unknown’. The name Mortenson is listed as her surname on the birth certificate, although Gladys immediately had it changed to Baker, the surname of her first husband, which she still used. Martin's surname was misspelled on the birth certificate leading to more confusion on who her actual father was.
Throughout her life, Marilyn Monroe denied that Mortensen was her father. She said that, when she was a child, she had been shown a photograph of a man that Gladys identified as her father, Charles Stanley Gifford. She remembered that he had a thin moustache and somewhat resembled Clark Gable, and that she had amused herself by pretending that Gable was her father.
Gladys was mentally and financially unable, unable to care for the young Norma Jeane, so she placed her with foster parents Grace and Doc Goddard. In succession she was taken back by Gladys, then moved to an orphans home, followed by a succession of foster homes, back to the Goddard’s house, then was sent to live with her aunt, and then another aunt, back to the Goddard’s. It was here she met a neighbour’s son, James (Jim) Dougherty, and began a relationship with him. When the Goddard’s relocated to West Virginia, an offer from a neighbourhood family to adopt her was proposed, but Gladys rejected the offer. With few options left, Grace approached Dougherty's mother and suggested that Jim marry her so that she would not have to return to an orphanage or foster care, as she was two years below the California legal age. At age 16 she married Dougherty.
While Dougherty served in the Merchant Marine, his wife began working in the Radioplane Munitions Factory; the factory was owned by movie star Reginald Denney. Here she was noticed by a visiting photographer who snapped a series of photographs of her. He encouraged her to apply to The Blue Book Modelling Agency. She signed with the agency and began researching the work of Jean Harlow and Lana Turner. She was told that they were looking for models with lighter hair, so Norma Jeane bleached her brunette hair a golden blonde.
Norma Jeane became one of Blue Book's most successful models; she appeared on dozens of magazine covers. Her successful modelling career brought her to the attention of Ben Lyon, a 20th Century Fox executive, who arranged a screen test for her. Lyon was impressed and commented, 'It's Jean Harlow all over again.' She was offered a standard six-month contract with a starting salary of $125 per week. Lyon did not like the name Norma Jeane and chose Carole Lind as a stage name, after Carole Lombard and Jenny Lind. Monroe was invited to spend the weekend with Lyon and his wife Bebe Daniels at their home. It was there that they decided to find her a new name. Following her idol Jean Harlow, she decided to choose her mother's maiden name of Monroe. Several variations such as Norma Jeane Monroe and Norma Monroe were tried and initially Jeane Monroe was chosen. Eventually, Lyon decided Jeane and variants were too common, and he decided on a more alliterative sounding name. He suggested Marilyn, commenting that she reminded him of Marilyn Miller. Monroe was initially hesitant because Marilyn was the contraction of the name Mary Lynn, a name she did not like. Lyon, however, felt that the name Marilyn Monroe was sexy, had a 'nice flow', and would be 'lucky' due to the double 'M'.
‘Marilyn Monroe’, Wikipedia, retrieved 10 October 2013
Room, A. (1981), ‘How to Make a Name?, Naming Names, p.123
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