When Hefner issued his magazine to newsstands, the run on them took him by storm. It would have cost you 50cents to buy a copy then, but you couldn't get your hands on one today for less than $5,000. Monroe had pushed this new magazine straight in with the big boys, and Hefner had made her the girl every man in America dreamed about
Little Norma Jean Mortenson, born June 1st, 1926 in Los Angeles, was an
unlucky little girl. Her mother was in and out of mental institutions and
the poor daughter was fostered out all over the place. All the same, this
little lady would grow up to be a legend way beyond her lifetime.
What, though, could her later success owe to an equally legendary guy who dreamed of publishing the ultimate in men's magazines? More than you might guess, for both became the main topic of male conversation in December 1953, when Hugh Hefner bankrolled the printing of 70,000 copies of his first ever Playboy magazine.
What he hoped would sell them was his first centre-fold girl, a young
Hollywood starlet called Marilyn Monroe. He had bought this nude shot of
her, actually taken in 1949, from a local calendar printer, and what a
stroke of genius it proved to be, because Marilyn was getting noticed by
male film fans in a big way.
Marilyn had grown up not knowing for sure who her father really was. Her
mother, Gladys, had entered into several relationships thus confusing her
daughter about who had fathered her. It was Gladys who bestowed the name Baker on Norma Jean, and by the time she was sixteen, the girl was desperate for a real home.
In 1942, sixteen year old, Marilyn married an aircraft worker called James
Dougherty, 21, but they were divorced by 1946. She began to model
swim-suits, bleaching her hair blonde, and some pictures were seen by RKO head, Howard Hughes, who offered her a screen test. Fox Studios won the race to sign her to a contract at $125 per week for a six-month period and that was increased by $25 at the end of that time when her contract was lengthened.
She appeared in five films up to 1950, but none of them made it big with the viewing public, so she spent a lot of time pursuing her modelling career and going to acting school. She thought nothing of those 1949 calendar pictures. Just part of her routine, but things began to change very soon after.
1950 proved to be a good year. She again appeared in five films, but got
great notices for her small parts THE ASPHALT JUNGLE and ALL ABOUT EVE, and even got Oscar nominations for the latter. Movie fans were getting to know and like her dumb blonde performances, and her air of innocent sexuality that got the guys all fired up.. The public was now getting to be enthralled with her. She exuded an almost innocence air of sexuality.
1953 was a major year. She appeared in the widely acclaimed GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES as Lorelei Lee, and in the same year s began dating the baseball great, Joe DiMaggio. Marilyn was now a box-office drawing card, and her appearance as central pin-up in the Inaugural issue of Playboy, in December, only served to increase her male fan base.
When Hefner issued his magazine to newsstands, the run on them took him by storm. It would have cost you 50cents to buy a copy then, but you couldn't get your hands on one today for less than $5,000. Monroe had pushed this new magazine straight in with the big boys, and Hefner had made her the girl every man in America dreamed about.
Here were two people who peddled fantasies to an eager male public, but
niether could have dreamt how long-lasting these fantasies would become, or how legendary. Monroe began to be a difficult asset for the studios, either turning up ate or not at all, but they endured it, especially because
Marilyn had married baseball star Joe De Maggio in early 1954.
October 1954, however, saw her divorcing him after only eight months, but in 1955, she appeared in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH, with one of film's most memorable scenes above a subway grate, the wind blowing her white dress up. It was her only film that year, and her work was suffering because of her private life.
Though she did star in the delightful comedy, SOME LIKE IT HOT with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in 1958, which was a smash hit, it was the last major film success she was to enjoy. Her final film was THE MISFITS in 1961, with the legendary Clark Gable who would die later that same year of a heart attack. The film proved to be popular with critics and the public alike, but it was her epitaph.
Marilyn had been a misfit as a child, and on August 5, 1962, her housekeeper found her nude and lying face down on her bed, the victim of an overdose of sedatives. She was only 36, and had made only 30 films in her lifetime, but her legendary status and mysticism will remain a major element of film history forever.
Hefner hadn't even put a date on the cover of his first issue, because he
wasn't sure there ever be another. His money was almost used up printing
the first one, and he'd originally planned to call it 'Stag Party', until 'Stag' magazine objected. He even had to change his buck mascot logo to the rabbit, but it paid off.
He sold an incredible 54,175 copies of his first, 44-page issue of Playboy,
staggering for a new magazine with little advance publicity. Hefner wrote much of the copy himself and drew all the cartoons, but his name didn't appear at all, in case 'Playboy' was a failure. 50 years on, and thousands of issues later, Hef will always be the guy whose shoes we men would love to walk in, and Marilyn will always be the ultimate sex goddess for any fertile male imagination.. Let us hope the timeless magic that was, and is, Marilyn Monroe, never ends.