The iconic Marilyn Monroe lived an interesting and checkered life that lasted only 36 years. During that time, she hopped around hotels and rental homes, living in more than 40 such places before she finally decided to buy a beautiful house in Brentwood, California. Sadly for her, she lived here only for a few months before bringing down the curtains on her epic life.
In this article, we trace her journey from riches, fame, and stardom to the Brentwood home that she took pains to decorate and keep private. The police sealed her home, but after her death, 12305 5th Helena Drive became a sort of pilgrimage place for millions of her fans.
Marilyn Monroe Starts Her Life In 1926
Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles. The picture shows she was a bonny baby.
Gladys Baker, her mother, had mental health issues, and her father was more an in-absentia parent than a doting father. Marilyn had two half-siblings, Bernice and Robert. She didn’t learn about Bernice until was 12 years old; the two met for the first time in 1944.
Marilyn Goes into Foster Care
It is not surprising, given the state of her family, that Marilyn was eventually placed in a foster home. Her foster parents were Wayne and Ida Bolender.
Her mother put her into the care of Ida and Wayne. However, for the next seven years, Marilyn kept in touch with her mother. She stayed with her foster parents until she was 7 years old.
Marilyn Grows Up in Hawthorne in a Spacious Home
Marilyn was fortunate in that she lived with loving foster parents in a spacious 1,300-square-foot home in Hawthorne in southwestern Los Angeles. She had foster siblings for company.
Nevertheless, nothing can substitute a mother’s love, and Marilyn moved back in with Gladys in the summer of 1933. However, Gladys had a nervous breakdown in 1935. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was hospitalized.
Marilyn into Orphanage and Foster Families
This led to Marilyn being moved to the Los Angeles Orphans Home Society, where she spent two years before going on to live with family and friends in several homes across Los Angeles. She bounced from one foster home to another and was sexually abused in two of them. Marilyn developed a stutter but always nurtured dreams of becoming an actress.
That path was by no means smooth sailing since Marilyn already faced the trauma of a disturbed childhood, and the move to orphanages and various foster homes proved to unsettle her even more. The constant moves impacted her adult life in that she moved from one place to another without putting down roots.
Marilyn Marries James Dougherty In 1942
Marilyn fell in love with and married James Dougherty in 1942, just 18 days after her 16th birthday. James considered himself the luckiest guy in the world and said that they loved each other madly. They lived in a small apartment for a year before moving to another one in 1943.
However, Marilyn did not quite share Dougherty’s passion, and they hardly spoke to each other. She was bored. The Sherman Oaks block where they lived, home to just eight apartments, was the perfect starting point for the young couple. Still, they decided to move on.
Her New Marital Home Could Have Been Something like This
Sadly, there are no records of the couple’s next home in 1943. However, it was apparent that this one was also not much to their liking.
Their new apartment could have been something like the one above, just with one bedroom and one bathroom, and a small balcony overlooking the street.
Marilyn and Her Husband Move Home Once Again
It was in her stars to keep moving. Therefore, it’s not surprising that Marilyn and her husband moved again in 1945. That original home has since been reworked and looks quite different from what it may have looked like way back then.
Currently, those particular apartments have modern parquet floors, air conditioning, and well-equipped kitchens in an open plan. The couple moved to a bigger home in the San Fernando area of Los Angeles.
Marilyn and Dougherty Part Ways In 1946
Maybe moving houses was a form of her eternal quest to find solace and happiness—both of which were significantly missing during her childhood years. Maybe she hoped to find happiness with James Dougherty. Anyway, the couple decided to move again.
Marilyn and James next swapped their San Fernando housing for a home on Santa Catalina Island. James enlisted in the Merchant Marines and, in 1944, he went out to the Pacific on duty. During this time, Marilyn moved in with her in-laws.
Marilyn Separates and Moves Again, to Burbank
She worked in a factory building drone aircraft for the army to make ends meet. This is also when she was discovered by David Conover, a photographer running the Blue Book Model Agency. She posed in sensual pinups, something that infuriated her husband and led to her divorce.
They did not see eye-to-eye on her work as a model and had differences of opinion that led to a divorce in 1946. Then, Marilyn moved again. She also joined an acting school to learn singing and dancing while modeling on the side.
Marilyn Breaks into Hollywood in 1950
1950 could be deemed a landmark year for Marilyn. She finally got to act in Hollywood films, though these were small roles.
She starred in All About Eve and The Asphalt Jungle. Even at that time, she flitted from one apartment to another, living with different roommates from Hollywood.
Marilyn Lives Near Hollywood and Acts in Films
This time, she stayed for a brief while at the female-only Hollywood Studio Club before renting an apartment in Burbank from a couple who was on vacation. This was close to the Warner Brothers Studios, where she landed roles in Dangerous Years and Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! This is when she morphed from Norma Jean to Marilyn Monroe, the name that became legend.
It was the 1950s, a time when big Hollywood production houses like MGM ruled the roost, and a time when actors struggled to sign contracts with the big names. Luckily for Marilyn, she got a break when she landed small roles in All About Eve and The Asphalt Jungle.
Some Like it Hot and How to Marry a Millionaire
Her work in movies was catching the attention of directors, producers, and the general public. She starred in movies like Some Like it Hot and How to Marry a Millionaire.
How to Marry a Millionaire became the fifth-highest-grossing film of 1953, earning $8 million worldwide. The 1959 rom-com Some Like it Hot was directed by Billy Wilder and also starred Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. It went on to be acclaimed as one of the greatest films of all time, receiving six Academy Award nominations.
Monroe the Star Moves to Sunset Boulevard
Monroe attracted men the way sugar attracts flies. From Burbank, her next destination was the West Hollywood apartment of actor John Carroll, but she lived there for just five months before moving again, this time to a larger Sunset Boulevard mansion owned by Johnny Hyde.
Hyde was an American talent agent who was married but left his wife to live with Monroe. Johnny can take the credit for suggesting to Monroe that she dye her hair platinum blonde.
And Now, Beverly Hills for Beautiful Monroe
Her star was rising and so were her aspirations. Marilyn again moved to a larger home in Beverly Hills, this one spread across 5,900 square feet, similar to the one above, we presume, with five bedrooms and six bathrooms, built in 1941.
The two-story residence had a grand, sweeping staircase in the hall, a large backyard, a swimming pool, a sun terrace, and a guest house. But there was gossip surrounding her and Johnny, so she moved to the luxurious Beverly Carlton Hotel.
Marilyn Monroe Meets Joe DiMaggio and They Fall in Love
Marilyn lived for a short time with actress Natasha Lytess after she severed ties with Hyde and then moved to New York in 1952, where she met the New York Yankees baseball star.
They dated and soon fell for each other in a big way. Who could resist Marilyn? The couple decided to stay in New York, Los Angeles (where Marilyn acted), and San Francisco, where Joe was from.
Life with DiMaggio in Los Angeles Hollywood Hills
It must have been a bit strenuous living in three different places, and so the couple decided to make Los Angeles their home so they could spend more quality time with one another rather than waste it traveling from one place to another.
They rented a home in the Hollywood Hills for just $237 per month. Life must have been blissful for because they decided to get married.
Marilyn Marries DiMaggio in 1954
Marilyn and DiMaggio married in San Francisco. They went to Tokyo for their honeymoon and stayed at the Imperial Hotel before returning home.
Meanwhile, Marilyn starred in The Seven Year Itch during which time the couple alternated between the St. Regis Hotel in New York and Joe’s San Francisco home. This is the movie that has the iconic scene where Marilyn’s white dress blows up over a subway gate.
Marilyn and DiMaggio Separate After Just Nine Months
For some people marriage is a life-long affair; however, for Marilyn and Joe, it was a 9-month spring, which was unfortunate but expected since each was a star and had commitments.
In this photo, a tearful Marilyn is seen leaving her home at 508 North Palm Drive in Beverly Hills with her lawyer Jerry Giesler after the divorce. She returned to West Hollywood and lived in Granville Towers, a Normandy-style property.
Marilyn Moves Back To New York In 1954
Marilyn had previously lived in several places in New York for about seven years. Obviously, she liked that city and moved back by the end of 1954.
Even there, she continued her old ways of moving from one hotel or apartment to another.
A New Turn in Life, Marilyn Befriends Lee Strasberg and His Wife
During her stay in New York, Marilyn joined The Actors Studio to undergo training in method acting. Here, she met and befriended the director Lee Strasberg and his wife.
It became a habit for Marilyn to visit theaters. Perhaps it did her good, teaching her more about acting. She dated Marlon Brando but then, as was her wont, she found Arthur Miller more interesting and became romantically inclined toward him.
Marilyn Founds Marilyn Monroe Productions in 1954
Marilyn was quite active during this period. She often visited Los Angeles for business and stayed in rented houses and apartments.
She decided to form Marilyn Monroe Productions (MMP) with photographer Milton Greene in 1954 as a way to gain better creative control over her film projects. At the same time, she signed a contract with 20th Century Fox to star in four films through which she hoped to change her image.
Marilyn Hosts the Press and Tries to Change Her Image
A regular visitor to Los Angeles, Marilyn loved to host press conferences in her rented homes even though she maintained a foothold in New York. Meanwhile, she acted in films through which she tried to project a different image, trying to move away from that of her as a sex symbol.
Marilyn’s performance in Bus Stop earned positive reviews and even led to her nomination for a Golden Globe. Fans and critics praised her, and she gained a huge following. If she were alive today, she would have millions of followers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The Odd Pairing of Intellectual Arthur Miller and Glamour Girl Marilyn Monroe
The question of whether opposites attract is moot but there was no doubt about the chemistry between Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller.
Miller was a Pulitzer Prize-winning intellectual and Monroe a glamorous star, diametrically opposite.
Marilyn Stays with Miller in Connecticut and Announces Engagement
The romance bloomed as she admired Arthur’s intellectual side. In 1956, she decided to move to Miller’s home in Roxbury, Connecticut.
The couple announced their engagement in 1956 and held a conference outside Marilyn’s apartment in New York. However, all was not smooth sailing as Arthur was under investigation by the FBI for alleged links to communism. He also was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Marilyn Marries Miller in 1956 – Her Third Marriage
Later that same year, Marilyn married Miller at the courthouse in White Plains, New York, much to the surprise of the public. Following the marriage, Marilyn converted to Judaism since Miller was Jewish.
They lived in his Connecticut home, apparently happy and inseparable. They then went on a delayed honeymoon in Montego Bay, Jamaica, six months after the marriage. They also spent the summer in Amagansett, New York, a town in the exclusive Hamptons, living in a converted windmill.
Marilyn Works in Films, But the Marriage Breaks
Marilyn was committed to work and had to return to Los Angeles regularly, where she stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel, preferring the bungalows, particularly Bungalow 1. One can book a stay in that bungalow even today.
Marilyn’s work progressed but the marriage did not, and soon, she and Miller were divorced. Apparently, this marriage and the trauma of divorce were too much for her. She had a breakdown and spent four weeks in a New York hospital due to emotional exhaustion. She then moved to California where she made her first and only home purchase, 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, Los Angeles, in 1962.
Marilyn Monroe Stays in Palm Springs
Marilyn divorced Miller in January 1961 and then went to California to stay in Palm Springs where she rented a beautiful home.
That beautiful home was designed and built by Charles Dubois and Marilyn moved here to be away from the media and publicity around her divorce.
A Beautiful and Luxurious Home to Suit the Beautiful Star
The Palm Springs home was beautiful and luxurious, spread over 3,000 square feet. It had sleek and open living spaces with gray tiles and double-height ceilings. There were sliding doors leading to beautifully landscaped grounds.
The backyard had a large swimming pool with mountains as a backdrop. Marilyn would surely have enjoyed entertaining guests were it not for the fact that she wanted privacy and quiet after her breakup.
Marilyn Buys Her First and Only Home in Los Angeles in 1962
Heartbroken, saddened and a little wiser, she decided to put down some roots on the advice of her psychiatrist and bought a house at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles in 1962. It was a Spanish-style colonial revival house.
It was the first and the last home she purchased. Once she bought it, she took a serious interest in remodeling and decorating, even taking trips to Mexico to pick up exotic pieces.
Marilyn’s Cute and Charming Home
It is a cute Spanish-style house with eight rooms for which she paid just $650,000. In 2017, it sold for over $7 million.
The beautiful house was nestled in the cul-de-sac of an exclusive Brentwood neighborhood. She loved the home and thought of it as an extension of herself.
Finally, A Safe and Secure Haven
In her final interview with LIFE magazine, Marilyn said she was sure to get along with anybody who likes her house, and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s just so nice and quiet.
At last, Marilyn had found a home, a haven, and a place where she could have privacy, peace, and quiet. She valued these and did not permit anybody to take pictures of the interior of her house.
The Spanish-Colonial Revival Dates Back To 1929
When her eventual Spanish-Colonial revival home was built in 1929, Marilyn was still a child. It is a classic period house with a red tile roof and adobe walls.
The house was blocked by thick gates, and a curved driveway led to the front, which opened to a living room with terracotta floors. The ceiling had wooden beams, and a blue-tiled fireplace graced the living room. A sunroom led to the backyard through the left; to the right was the master bedroom with wide windows looking out at tree-filled grounds.
More About Marilyn’s First and Only True Home
A blue kidney-shaped swimming pool completed the picturesque ensemble. A sign above the front door had the inscription “Cursum Perficio,” Latin for “Here ends my journey.” Marilyn’s home has changed hands many times since her death, but the current home still retains the blue-tiled fireplace.
The kitchen has a rustic wood-beam feeling and tiled floors. The house which she hoped to turn into her home, her nest, remained only partially decorated when she took her last breath at the age of 1962.
A Beautiful and Cozy Nook for Marilyn
Outside, lush green vegetation surrounded the house. There was a small swimming pool, lawns, and a citrus orchard. It is picturesque and tranquil. Just take a look.
The image shows that Marilyn, for all her quirks, certainly had good taste. Today, the owner is social media star Jasmine Chiswell, who looks a lot like Marilyn in her heyday. Some claim that the house is haunted, and that Marilyn’s spirit still roams here.
Her Casa, Her Home, Her Fortress Bought with Her Own Money
It may not be the biggest or the grandest but for Marilyn, it was her casa, her home, her fortress, and her haven, one that she purchased with her own money and where she enjoyed herself.
She had owned homes with her previous husbands, but this was her solo effort. In her words, it was “a fortress where I can feel safe from the world.” It was the 43rd home she lived in and her last.
Marilyn No More at the Age of 36
She was just 36 at that time, in the prime of her youth and possibly at the peak of her acting career with many years ahead of her, but fate had something else in store.
She spent the first spring in her new home busy decorating as well as shooting Something’s Got to Give with Dean Martin. Just a few days after LIFE featured her on its cover, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her bedroom by a maid at 4:25 a.m. on August 5, 1962. She appeared to have overdosed on barbiturates.
Marilyn Could Not Sleep and Had Phoned Her Psychiatrist
It seems that Marilyn had phoned her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, and they talked for an hour because she could not sleep. He suggested that she go for a drive or visit the beach.
Eunice Murray, her housekeeper, watched her head into the bedroom and that was the last anyone saw her alive. At 3 a.m., Murray saw a light on in Marilyn’s bedroom and tried to enter. When she could not, she phoned Dr. Greenson, who arrived and broke a window to get in.
A Sorrowful End to a Charmed and Enchanting Life
Greenson found Marilyn face-down on the bed and an empty bottle of pills on the nightstand. Her outstretched hand gripped the telephone.
Dr. Greenson called Dr. Engelberg, who had written the prescription. He arrived and confirmed that he had written it, and then, they called the police. The house was partly furnished, and Marilyn had lived in her new abode for only six months.
Police Take Away Marilyn and Seal the House
The police arrived and took her away after the usual formalities. The housekeeper took away Moff, Marilyn’s dog, but left a stuffed tiger and lamb on the lawn.
The LAPD then sealed the house. Later, it became a landmark for her countless fans. So sad to think that her journey across more than 40 dwellings had come to an end, but not the way she or anyone else would have anticipated.
12305 5th Helena Drive is Sold Several Times
Hill Street Blues actress Veronica Hamel bought the house in the 1970s. Thereafter, director Michael Ritchie lived there. The house sold for $5.1 million in 2012 and $7.25 million in 2017.
There always was a mystique surrounding Marilyn and when Hamel remodeled the home in the 1970s, she found bugging equipment in the walls. Some guess this was done because she was allegedly involved with John F. Kennedy and/or Robert Kennedy in early 1962, but that has never been proved. Who placed it there and why is still a mystery, as was Marilyn. Outwardly she was sunny, all smiles, and full of laughter. Inside, who knew what she felt about her present life or the past and what led her to take that final step.
Parting Thoughts About the One and Only Marilyn
Dougherty, her first husband, famously said after her death that he loved Norma and that Marilyn was a different person. People often fall in love with a perceived image.
The question remains as to whether Dougherty fell in love with an image that fulfilled his inner vision or whether he failed to look deeper into Norma Jean and find the Marilyn inside. If he had, perhaps things might have turned out differently.
Norman Mailer on Marilyn Monroe
Norman Mailer, her third famous author husband who also wrote a book on her, said he did not enter her mind when he wrote the book out of respect for the intricacies of her mind. As said before, she remained an enigma.
To quote Mailer’s statement in NYMag: “What is poignant about Marilyn is that all her life she wanted to become a lady. Elegance was as elusive and fearful and attractive and as awesome to her in these somewhat sordid early years as the hidden desire to be macho can feel to a young and wimpy intellectual.”
It Was All Physical with Joe DiMaggio
The New York Post ran an article about Joe DiMaggio by Kirsten Fleming in which we get to see another side of Marilyn and her relationship with Joe.
Their marriage lasted only nine months, but Joe said that when they got together in the bedroom, it was like gods were fighting and that no man satisfied her like he did. This goes to show that even DiMaggio cared little to delve deeper into her mind.