Norma Jeane Mortensen Baker Dougherty DiMaggio Miller

Hi, Matt:

One of my favorite E. John songs is "Candle in the Wind." One question: How the hell did they make Norma Jean change her name? Was there slavery back then? Did they hold a gun to her head? Couldn't she sue to get her name back? I hope you don't say, "Well, it's all a lie. No one made her change her name." I'd hate to think that E. John is just a big liar who makes up stories for his own basic lifestyle, just to sell records.

-- Big P, Clairemont

Elton's got you pretty scorched in the shorts, doesn't he. All riled up about this name-change thing. What Elton (actually, Bernie Taupin) wrote about in 1973 was a common Hollywood practice in 1946, when Norma Jean (actually, Norma Jeane) became Marilyn. By the time she died in 1962, her full, historical name would have been something like Norma Jeane Mortenson Baker Dougherty Marilyn Monroe DiMaggio Miller. The John-Taupin lament, of course, was about the larger issue of what happened when Hollywood ate her soul. The name change was just one metaphorical example.

Marilyn began life in 1926 already behind the eight ball, namewise. Her mother (Gladys Pearl Monroe Dougherty Mortenson) gave Norma Jeane her (then divorced) husband's last name, Mortenson, which is on Marilyn's birth certificate. There was a rumor that Norma Jeane's father was really Gladys's co-worker Stanley Gifford. That might be why Marilyn's grandmother (Della Mae Hogan Monroe Baker) had her baptized Norma Jeane Baker, a name she rarely used.

Marilyn spent about ten years in and out of foster homes and an orphanage. Her foster families' names were Bolender, McKee, and Goddard. She married James Dougherty at age 16. By 1946 she'd been "discovered" by an Army photographer looking for models for a military magazine, was convinced to bleach her hair, had modeled for a year or so, and had signed a movie contract with 20th Century Fox. In addition to Norma Jeane Dougherty, she used Norma Dougherty and Jean Norman as professional names.

Fox talent scout Ben Lyon is credited with creating "Marilyn Monroe" in 1946. "Norma Jeane Dougherty" lacked the glamour the Fox publicity dogs wanted. Reportedly, Lyon thought "Carol Lind" would be a good choice. Marilyn hated it. She picked "Monroe," her grandparents' last name. Then they worked on combinations from Marilyn's own family, including Clare Norman, Norma Jean Monroe, and Jean Monroe. Marilyn liked "Jean Monroe," which preserved more of her family connections. But Lyon thought she looked like former musical-stage sensation Marilyn Miller and decided "Marilyn Monroe" had a nice ring to it. Norma Jeane would use "Marilyn Monroe" as her stage name until 1956, when she went to court to make it her legal name as she started her own production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions.

Ironic side note: Marilyn Miller's real name was Mary Ellen Reynolds, until it was changed for the stage because it wasn't glamorous enough. Double-ironic side note: Until a few years before her death, Marilyn's Monroe's married name was Marilyn (Mrs. Arthur) Miller. Want to go for three? Both Marilyns lived sad lives and came to similar ends.

It's claimed that Monroe signed a management contract in 1947 with the name Journey Evers. The original credit on her famous nude photo was Mona Monroe. Reportedly (and perhaps apocryphally), she used cover names in hotel and hospital registers and other public documents: Miss Caswell, Norma Baker, Zelda Zonk, Mrs. Leslie, Miss Faye Miller, Tony Roberts. CMG Worldwide, a gargantuan management, licensing, and promotion company, now owns "Marilyn Monroe."

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