Marilyn Monroe's Love Life: Divorces And Dates With Joe Dimaggio, Arthur Miller, Kennedys, And More

1954: A wistful Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean Mortenson or Norma Jean Baker, 1926–1962). (Baron/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Norma Jeane Mortenson's life was fraught with instability that she often sought to correct through her relationships with men, especially after she became Marilyn Monroe. She had a rough go of it from the start: Her biological father's identity is unknown, and her mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and institutionalized at a California mental health facility when Norma was only eight years old. The little girl spent the next several years bouncing between various foster homes and residences of family friends, where she tragically suffered more than one instance of sexual abuse.

James Dougherty

In her teens, she finally found some semblance of security with a long-term foster family, but when the family was forced to move from California and couldn't legally take Norma with them, she decided to marry her 21-year-old neighbor, James Dougherty, rather than go back into the system. The 16-year-old dropped out of high school and devoted herself to being a wife, but after her Marine husband disembarked on a two-year overseas tour, Norma agreed to work as a model against his wishes.

It wasn’t long before Norma Jeane (then going by Jean Norman) caught the eyes of studio executives like 20th Century Fox's Darryl F. Zanuck, who signed her to a six-month contract in 1946. Within a month of her signing, she divorced her husband, with whom she had become estranged, and entered the wild world of Hollywood under her studio-chosen name, Marilyn Monroe.