(born Norma Jeane Mortenson
; June 1, 1926 - August 4, 1962) was an American actress, model, and singer. Famous for playing comic "blonde bombshell
" characters, she became one of the most popular sex symbols
of the 1950s and early 1960s and was emblematic of the era's changing attitudes towards sexuality. Although she was a top-billed
actress for only a decade, her films grossed $200 million (equivalent to $2 billion in 2018) by the time of her unexpected death
in 1962. More than half a century later, she continues to be a major popular culture
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Monroe spent most of her childhood in foster homes and an orphanage and married at the age of 16. While working in the Radioplane Company in 1944 as part of the war effort during World War II, she was introduced to a photographer from the First Motion Picture Unit and began a successful pin-up modeling career. The work led to short-lived film contracts with Twentieth Century-Fox (1946-1947) and Columbia Pictures (1948). After a series of minor film roles, she signed a new contract with Fox in 1951. Over the next two years, she became a popular actress and had roles in several comedies, including As Young as You Feel and Monkey Business, and in the dramas Clash by Night and Don't Bother to Knock. Monroe faced a scandal when it was revealed that she had posed for nude photos before she became a star, but the story did not tarnish her career and instead resulted in increased interest in her films.