Why Marilyn Monroe Once Believed A Hollywood Icon Was Her Father

About 60 years after her death, Marilyn Monroe is still one of the most recognizable stars in the world. Remembered for that iconic subway grate scene from "The Seven Year Itch," singing "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy, and playing "the dumb blonde" trope in movies like "How to Marry a Millionaire" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," she's become a source of inspiration for performers like Madonna, Mariah Carey, and Lindsay Lohan. Throughout the decades, there have been over a dozen on-screen retellings of Monroe's life, many of which claim to capture the so-called truth about the icon, documenting everything from her three turbulent marriages to her childhood.

Marilyn Monroe struggled with her public image during her lifetime, noting in her final interview with Life Magazine (later republished by The Guardian), "When you're famous you kind of run into human nature in a raw kind of way. It stirs up envy, fame does. People you run into feel that, well, who is she — who is she, who does she think she is, Marilyn Monroe?" Another part of Monroe's past that became a popular subject of speculation was the identity of her father, something which wasn't confirmed until long after the star's passing.

Marilyn Monroe hoped Clark Gable was her father

As J.I. Baker, author of "The Empty Glass," told Glamour, Marilyn Monroe thought Clark Gable, the star of movies like "Gone With the Wind" and "Run Silent, Run Deep" was her father. Allegedly, one of her mother's exes had a thin mustache just like Gable's —naturally, Monroe assumed the men were one and the same. "I used to always think of [Clark Gable] as my father. I pretended that he was my father," Monroe once explained, adding, "I never pretended anyone was my mother, I don't know why" (via YouTube). In 1961, long after the A-lister had grown out of these childhood imaginings, she and Gable co-starred (as love interests) in "The Misfits," which proved to be the final film for both of them. Gable passed away in 1960 before "The Misfits" hit theaters, and Monroe died in 1962. 

And as for the icon's real-life father? A DNA test from 2022 identified him as Charles Stanley Gifford, a foreman at the Los Angeles film processing company where her mother once worked. The actor had long suspected her absent father's identity — as is evidenced by photographs, the pair looked strikingly similar ... "Marilyn never met her father in person, though she attempted to contact him more than once," Marilyn Monroe historian Scott Fortner explained. However, Gifford refused to talk to his daughter even after she gained worldwide recognition.

Marilyn Monroe's early childhood was spent in and out of foster homes

Although Marilyn Monroe grew up to be one of the most idolized women in the world, she was once bullied for her appearance. "I was tall for my age and scrawny and my hair was short and rather thin and scraggly," the star once explained in an interview, adding that her nickname at school was "Norma Jeane, string bean" (via The Smithsonian). Her mother, Gladys Pearl Baker, struggled with her mental health, and Monroe (then Norma Jeane) grew up jumping between various foster homes and orphanages.

Eventually, she moved in with her mother's friend, Grace Goddard. "If not for Grace I would have been sent to a state or country institution where there are fewer privileges, such as being allowed to have a Christmas tree or seeing a movie sometimes," Monroe documented in her memoirs, continuing, "I lived in the orphanage only off and on. Most of the time I was placed with a family, who were given five dollars a week for keeping me."

After being photographed in a munitions factory at 18 years old during the height of World War II, Monroe became a successful pinup model and, shortly after, was signed by 20th Century Fox. It's here she began her career as a movie star, constantly working to improve her craft.