The legend of Marilyn Monroe flowers from one generation to the next. Most of today's fans were not even born during her lifetime, yet for some unexplainable reason they find themselves drawn to her. The combination of her beauty, vulnerability and tragic death has perpetuated a rescue fantasy for many. Men believe they could have been the soul mate that she never found. While women wonder if they could have been that one true friend that she never had. They all wish they could have been the one to save her. But Marilyn couldn't be saved. She was tormented by insecurities that we will never understand.

     Without a doubt, her childhood contributed to her insecurity and unhappiness later in life. Although Marilyn did sometimes exaggerate the horrors of her upbringing, there can be no denying that it was indeed a grim and difficult experience for her. Illegitimate at birth, little Norma Jeane Mortensen (she was baptized with the surname Baker), entered the world on June 1st, 1926. Without a father, Norma Jeane was left in the care of her mother, Gladys Baker. Unfortunately, this did not last. Gladys, whose family had a history of mental illness, had a break-down and was institutionalized. She remained this way until her death in 1984. Little Norma Jeane spent her young life being shuffled from foster home to foster home. She even spent two traumatizing years living in a Los Angeles orphanage. It is hard to believe that a goddess could rise up from such circumstances.

     Her salvation came in the form of a young man named Jim Dougherty. To avoid the orphanage, Norma Jeane's guardian Grace Goddard, arranged a marriage for her. She was only 16 and the groom 21. But for the first time in her life she felt loved and part of a family. They were married on June 19, 1942. The marriage only lasted a few years. Jim was in the merchant marines and did not see a lot of his young bride. Norma Jeane was helping the war effort by stuffing parachutes in the local factory when she caught the eye of a photographer. Convinced that she would be an excellent model, Norma Jeane began working for the Blue Book Modeling agency. Soon her ambition turned to acting and she realized that it was time to leave both Jim and Norma Jeane behind.

     Here the transformation began, with a studio contract in hand, the newly named Marilyn Monroe lightened her dark locks and the Blonde Bombshell was born. In the early 1950's Marilyn appeared in a slew of small roles as the stereotypical dumb blonde. During this timeframe a photo from her past came back to haunt her. Young Norma Jeane the model had posed nude because she desperately needed the money to get her car out of hock. Now this photo of a beautiful girl stretched out nude on red velvet was showing up in every garage in the United States. To the studio's surprise Marilyn admitted that indeed it was her in the photo and unashamed she went on to quip that she didn't have anything on but the radio. Normally, such an admission would have been the end of a career but in Marilyn's case it was only the beginning.

     In 1952, her dramatic turn in Niagara capitulated her to superstardom. Marilyn went on to sing and dance her way into our hearts in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). On January 14th, 1954 two very different worlds came together, when Marilyn wed baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. Unfortunately, the marriage only lasted 9 months. Joe was not happy with the Hollywood scene or the way his wife dressed. It is ironic that the most recognizable image of Marilyn, with her white dress billowing around her, was also the breaking point of her marriage to Joe. In later years, DiMaggio did re-enter Marilyn's life and after her death he continued to carry a torch for her by never remarrying or speaking about her in public.

     By 1955, Marilyn had grown tired of the roles the studio gave her to play. She wanted to be a serious actress. She walked out on her contract with 20th Century Fox and took up residence in New York. Here she studied at the Actor's Studio with Lee Strasberg. After a year long strike, the studio eventually gave in to her unprecedented demands including story and director approval. Her new contract allowed her an incredible amount of creative control that was considered revolutionary for an actress at that time. Her first film after her return, was Bus Stop (1956). The film won her rave reviews for her touching performance as Cherie the Chanteuse.

     While in New York, Marilyn began dating the playwright Arthur Miller. In 1956, they were married in two separate ceremonies, one civil and one Jewish. The couple tried on several occasions to have children but Marilyn miscarried. During this time, Marilyn filmed perhaps the greatest comedy of all time, Some Like It Hot (1959). Rumors of her unprofessional behaviour on this film are legendary. Take after take Marilyn had difficulty remembering even the simplest of lines.

     By the 1960's, Marilyn had resorted to a steady diet of sleeping pills and champagne. Some people blame her journey into psychoanalysis teamed with using "the method" style of acting she perfected in New York. In the method you use your own emotions to actually feel what the character is going through. Considering the traumatic childhood Marilyn endured, it should be no surprise that all this digging into her psyche made it difficult for her to function.

     Arthur Miller tried to save her. He wrote a film for her called The Misfits (1961) where she could fulfill her life-long desire to be a serious actress. He even paired her with her childhood idol Clark Gable. But it would not work. Marilyn had a break down during the filming and by the end of the shoot her marriage to Arthur was over. Even more heartbreaking is the fact that this film would be the last time either Clark Gable or Marilyn would ever appear on the screen. Clark Gable died of a heart attack shortly after shooting on the film had wrapped. Marilyn was very distraught, believing her tardiness, which left Gable waiting endlessly in the heat had killed him.

     For a time in 1962, it seemed that Marilyn had put her life back on track. She had shed 15 pounds for her role in Something's Got to Give, and when she showed up for hair and makeup tests she was as beautiful as ever. But it was only a facade. Out of 30 shooting days Marilyn only appeared on the set 13 times, claiming illness. When she left filming to appear at President Kennedy's Birthday gala, the Studio executives were appalled. In retaliation, she was fired and sued for breach of contract. Marilyn was devastated.

     When they were unsuccessful in replacing her, the studio quietly made her an offer to come back to work. She seemed real upbeat about this prospect but it would never happen. On August 5, 1962, Marilyn was found dead, nude on her bed, with a phone in her hand. It seems even in her final hours she tried reaching out for help. But now just like in her childhood there was no one there to save her.

     It is hard to believe that it has been over 40 years since Marilyn left us. Her legacy includes a library of 29 completed films from a span of only 13 years. However, that hardly explains the world's fascination with her. People who have never seen a single film call themselves fans. Perhaps even more enduring than her films are her photographs. It seems that unpublished images are being discovered and released all the time to the delight of her adoring public. By studying them we hope to establish a personal connection to who Marilyn was and that is what really draws people to her.

She was a tragic beauty whose presence is still felt today. Her likeness is everywhere. From dolls to dinnerware, she lives on. Recently, a new hybrid Rose was given the name, Marilyn Monroe. At last, a fitting tribute to our Norma Jeane since she really was a delicate flower. And although her petals have blown away, the seeds she left behind continue to grow in our hearts forever.