Marilyn Monroe, the most beloved film and beauty icon of the 20th century, would have been 89 years old today. The star, who died tragically when she was only 36, appeared in nearly 30 films over the course of a career that lasted just 15 years. She was the biggest actress of her day and after her death her mystique has only grown. To celebrate Marilyn Monroe's birthday, we've created this list of her five most important films. These are all essential viewing for a true Monroe fan.
In all the hubbub over her sexy curves and dramatic personal life, people often forget that Monroe was actually an accomplished actress, who operated her own production company and even won the Golden Globe in 1960 for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. Her life wasn't all glitz and glam, however: she was raised primarily in foster care after her mother suffered multiple episodes of mental illness. From that troubled background, Monroe managed to become one of the greatest stars of the Classical Hollywood era, and her work has become a vital part of the American film cannon.
In honor of her birthday, here are the five movies that defined Marilyn Monroe's career. Happy birthday:
"All About Eve" (1950)
Though Monroe only had a small role in "All About Eve"—as a young actress, appropriately enough—the film was a jumping-off point for her. It was the first part that got her noticed by the movie industry, especially after "All About Eve" was nominated for 14 Oscars and won six, including Best Picture.
"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1953)
Three years later, Monroe was on top of the world. "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" was already a hit Broadway musical, but Marilyn and her costar Jane Russell took it to new heights in their movie version about two showgirls looking for love. "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" features the classic scene in which Monroe sings "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."
"The Seven Year Itch" (1955)
If you ask anyone what is the most iconic moment of Monroe's career, they'll probably tell you it's the scene in which her white dress is blown up by the wind from a subway grate. That scene occurs in "The Seven Year Itch" (the title refers to the desire to stray from monogamy, which psychologists at the time said usually occurred seven years into a relationship).
"Some Like It Hot" (1959)
In this fantastic cross-dressing caper, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis pretend to be female musicians so they can escape from New York after accidentally witnessing a mob hit. Yes, the plot is utterly ridiculous, but "Some Like It Hot" was a smash hit, and it earned Monroe (who plays another musician in the group) her Golden Globe win.
"The Misfits" (1961)
Monroe's final film was "The Misfits," a western written by her third and final husband, playwright Arthur Miller. It also featured performances by other classic Hollywood stars, like Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift. The production faced numerous complications, including problems that resulted from Monroe's own addiction issues, which were becoming more severe at the time. However, "The Misfits" is now considered by critics to be one of her best films.