The Iconic Smile that Hid Depression: Marilyn Monroe

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Hollywood? The letters H.O.L.L.Y.W.O.O.D atop Mount Lee and the star walk on Hollywood boulevard? If you’ve been a fan of the cinema since the hippie age, you will also associate Hollywood with the iconic curly haired blonde with a red pout and black mole. There we have it, Marilyn Monroe, ladies and gentlemen! Monroe, as we all know, was the sensational actress and model of the 1950s. We’ll remember her as the “blond bombshell “, but little do we know, that she also was an intellectual, a humanitarian and most importantly, someone who battled with Depression.

Source: Eve Arnold (featured in The Daily Beast)

Early life

Marilyn was placed with two sets of foster parents after her mother, Gladys, was put in an institution for schizophrenia treatment. She also spent some time in Children’s Aide Society Orphanage. She first got married at the age of sixteen and worked in a radio plane factory as a part of the war effort.

‘Marilyn Monroe’ was not her original name, and she went on by many names. She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson and modelled under the name of Jean Norman or Mona Monroe. Her idea for a screen name was Jean Adair and various different names for different purposes. But she only legally changed her name to Marilyn Monroe in March 1956, when she had already become a famous star.


Marilyn started her small modelling careerwhich consequently led to a small contract with Twentieth Century Fox and Columbia Pictures.

In 1953,the Advertising Association of the West named her “The most advertised girl in the world”.

She did many remarkable pictures and modelling assignments. Additionally, she opened her own production house named Marilyn Monroe Production (MMP)  in 1955 and became the second woman to head her own production company.

She also became the most popular sex symbol of 1950s. Though, she was more popular for playing the “dumb blond” in many movies such as The seven-year itch, Gentlemen like it blond and Some like it hot.

Photograph by Ben Ross, 1953

Marilyn Monroe’s battle with Depression

“Do you remember when Marilyn Monroe died? Everybody stopped work, and you could see all that day the same expressions on their faces, the same thought: ‘How can a girl with success, fame, youth, money, beauty … how could she kill herself?’ Nobody could understand it because those are the things that everybody wants, and they can’t believe that life wasn’t important to Marilyn Monroe, or that her life was elsewhere.” – Marlon Brando

She first faced Depression after the death of Clark Gable, who was a father figure to her. This gave Marilyn a severe blow and she underwent a dark period. She told the media that she cried for two days after this loss. With depression, she was also suffering from anxiety, low self-esteem and chronic insomnia.

Source: Getty Images

Unfortunately for her, tougher times lay ahead. Soon after, Marilyn got divorced from her third husband, Arthur Miller. Further, she also got admitted in an hospital for her weak emotional and mental health. Additionally, she experienced a variety of physical disorders. As a result, she did not work as an actress for a year. Marilyn did not have any close friends or relatives, except for her housekeeper, photographer and her psychiatrist.

There is much more than what meets the eye…

“Marilyn was the victim of the glaring lights, the severe demands, the cracking whips, the cheers and jeers and juggling in the big circus tent of the movies.” – Dagens Nyheter.

Beneath all the glitz and glamour of her career, she was a very compassionate human being. She had a library of her own and was a well read woman. Like all human beings, she too had her own set of vulnerabilities, however, she failed in front of her mental illness. She killed herself on 5th August 1962 with drug overdose. Her unstable health and mind didn’t let her live for long.

Source: The Marilyn Monroe

If she had someone beside her psychiatrist to share her turmoils with, she could’ve been saved. She didn’t get the support she needed. Further, everyone went on to treat her like a picture perfect celebrity, instead of looking at her like just another human being. The isolation and pressure were probable factors in her denying the deteriorating state of her mental health.

“I really resent the way the press has been saying I’m depressed and in a slump, as if I’m finished,” she told Meryman, adding defiantly, “Nothing’s going to sink me.”

She may have left the world in an unfortunate manner, but Marilyn did leave behind words of comfort and wisdom, to help just about anyone in tiring times:

Source: Everyday Audrey

“Always, always, always believe in yourself. Because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie?”


Edited by: Preetika Dubey

Ashi Bajpai

Content writer

19, Gallivanter, Belives in equity and not equality. Love humans, Food, Allegories and Dogs. Currently pursuing BBA from BSSS. Believe in yourself and BE YOU. The world will adjust.

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