This Month in Film History – July 16, 1946: 20th Century Fox Signs Norma Jean Baker (AKA Marilyn Monroe)

Rarely does history begin with a bang, more like a whisper.  This story of Norma Jean Baker signing a film contract with 20th Century Fox this month, July 16, 1946, was not a very big deal at the time. She was just another beautiful wannabe, who had no discernible acting experience to speak of. Little did anyone, even Ms. Baker, know the splash that contract signing would make. For on that day the 16th of 1946 not only would film history be made but the cultural history, not only the United States but the world’s, would be altered that day. 20th Century Fox found Marilyn Monroe and the girl, so desperate for an audience, found one.

It’s fascinating how Marilyn Monroe became the icon she became. A strong argument could be made that, at best, she was a moderately talented actress at best. If you asked fans to name five movies she made, a majority would probably be at a loss to do so. Yet, it is easy to see the impact Monroe had on acting.  As she grew in popularity, her “Baby Doll Vixen” style of acting, as a result of her training under Lee Strasberg and his wife Paula, began to pop up more and more. She became more Marilyn Monroe icon than actress.

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Thus, her movies became less important than her private life, which, in the end, has been the true force behind status. Sex  sells no matter the era and Monroe would, for probably the first time by an American  actress, not deny it as a form of expression. A minor scandal erupted when it  was revealed in 1952 that she had posed nude for a men’s calendar in 1949.

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According to Wikipedia:

“The studio had learned of the upcoming publication of the calendar some weeks prior, and together with Monroe decided that to avoid damaging her career it was best to admit to them while stressing that she had been broke at the time. The strategy gained her public sympathy and increased interest in her films; the following month, she was featured on the cover of Life as “The Talk of Hollywood”. Monroe added to her reputation as a new sex symbol with other publicity stunts that year.”

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The strategy was brilliant PR by the studio. Not only did they get the publicity of the pictures but Monroe avoided a backlash from the pictures at a time when that kind of thing never happened.

Yet, Monroe thrived from there. She took control of her and started her own production company.

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