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Family Circle (April 26, 1946)
Marilyn's first U.S. magazine cover shows her playing with a little lambie while dressed like Judy Garland's Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Outfits like this one weren't what would bring Marilyn to the attention of Hollywood producers, but she still managed to sign her first contract with Twentieth Century-Fox just four months later.
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Picture Post (March 26, 1949)
''March Winds'' is from a famous beachside session shot in 1946 by Andre de Dienes, the first great photographer to capture the magic that is Marilyn. He began photographing her in California in 1945, when she was just 18.
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Glamorous Models (August 1949)
No cover billing here for the young Marilyn, who was still just a bit player in films at, but she is featured inside in a two-page spread credited to de Dienes.
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Laff (August 1949)
Here is the rather uncommon ''Jean Norman'' cover byline for Marilyn. The photo is possibly by Laszlo Willinger, who photographed the up-and-comer in cheesecake poses quite a bit during this period.
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Hit! (September 1949)
A month later after the Laff cover, her byline reads ''Marilyn Monroe.'' The photo is again by Willinger and appears to be from the same session.
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Foto Parade (December 1949)
It's Willinger yet again for the cover shot. Inside, ''Meet Marilyn Monroe...And a New Picture Magazine,'' a piece that celebrates this launch issue, with beach shots of Marilyn from the camera of de Dienes. The piece notes that Marilyn's new movie appearance will be in the Marx Brothers' Love Happy.
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Vue (August 1952)
Another cover photo shot by the able Willinger, from a 1950 beachside session. ''One in a Million'' is the way the interior article positions Marilyn's rising status, comparing her favorably to Clara Bow and Jean Harlow for Oomph and reporting that the soldiers of Ft. Bragg had recently voted her ''Miss Everything.''
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Tempo (March 8, 1954)
The ''Marilyn vs. Moscow'' story advertised covers her four-day swing through Korea in February, entertaining the Allied troops stationed there. Marilyn was accompanied on the flight to Tokyo by then-husband Joe DiMaggio, but he stayed behind in Japan while she went on to Korea to perform in front of some 65,000 soldiers. One G.I. was reported to have yelled out to her, ''Don't sing. Don't talk. Just walk.'' The Reds never stood a chance.
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Picturegoer (August 9, 1952)
The cover offers a candid shot from the set of We're Not Married. ''The Loneliest Star in Hollywood''? Perhaps more truth in that than hyperbole, knowing what we know now...Jim Hennegan's thoughtful article captures the pre-superstar Marilyn like so: ''[Marilyn] is a baffled, frightened girl who must find herself; a sex queen by day and at night a truly lonely wandered who paces miles of pavement, shunning the gay life that is hers for the claiming....''
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Cheesecake: An American Phenomenon (1953)
Utilizing a bathing suit we've seen before — though possibly shot for this cover by Anthony Beauchamp in 1950 — this is basically a 112-page monograph on the history of the cheesecake genre, going back to the 1800s. Oddly, it offers almost nothing whatsoever about the number 1 pinup icon of the decade, Marilyn herself.
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LIFE (April 7, 1952)
With this cover, shot by Phillipe Halsman, Marilyn was anointed by LIFE — which had a weekly circulation in the millions at the time — as ''The Talk of Hollywood'' and arrived on the main stage of American Culture. And she hadn't even made any of her breakthrough films yet!
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Cosmopolitan (May 1953)
From a 1952 photo session by Ernest Bachrach, cover-slugged ''Hollywood's Most Valuable Property,'' this piece was published right on the brink of Marilyn's ascension to white-hot Hollywood queen. The extensive profile by Robert L. Heilbroner told ''The fabulous story of Hollywood's biggest build-up,'' taking readers all the way back to Marilyn's days as struggling model Norma Jean Mortenson.
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Photoplay Pinups (1953)
This photo by Frank Powolny would be taken in the last great year of Marilyn participating in pinup poses. By the time the year ended she would be far, far too important to be nothing more than eye candy.
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Screen Life (March 1953)
A classic cover shot by Powolny leads into ''What Will Marilyn Do Now?,'' an article by Connee Bates that follows Marilyn as she films The Seven Year Itch on location on the East Side of New York City, explaining in the process why Marilyn's marriage to Joe DiMaggio was fated to dissolve as it did.
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Movie World (September 1953)
And now the discussion begins: ''Is Marilyn Monroe More Than Sexy?'' The issue of her possessing an inner substance that her outer beauty masked — or not — would be of premier concern to Marilyn until her dying day. Here the question is simply posed, ''Is the secret of her success really just a madly plunging neckline, or does Marilyn have that certain indefinable something that makes a star?''
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3-D Star Pin-Ups (December 1953)
By the time this issue hit the newsstands, the 3-D craze had pretty much played out, but if any movie star was ever created with dimensions that required no special viewing glasses, it was Marilyn. In fact, the interior centerfold boasted one of the best headlines about her of all time — ''The uncrowned and unchallenged queen of dimensions.'' The snazzy cover photo may have been the work of Bert Reisfeld.
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Screen Annual (1953)
Probably on the newsstands late in 1952, this issue offers the story ''Body Beautiful,'' with the panting tagline ''Marilyn Monroe has a mind of her own in a chassis that belongs to an entire hot era'' — whatever that means. Amusingly, there is also this analysis: ''Men may think they're drooling over a few thousand ounces of flesh, but it's really the brain that makes Marilyn interesting.'' Marilyn probably would have liked that line.
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Playboy (December 1953)
This historic debut issue cover features a 1952 shot by Gene Korman that shows Marilyn in one of her most daring outfits. But the magazine's main selling point was its inclusion of the famous nude image of Marilyn in a 1952 pinup calendar, in a photograph entitled ''Golden Dreams'' taken by Tom Kelley in May of 1949. The calendar went on to sell very well, through multiple editions printed over several years, and Marilyn would appear on one more Playboy cover during the '50s (in September 1955). As for the magazine itself? It turned out pretty well.
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Movie Stars Parade (March 1954)
Marilyn here is wearing the spectacular gown that she donned for the Photoplay Awards event in 1953, in a shot credited to Powolny, though it seems to have been transmuted from its original gold to gun-metal gray. ''The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe'' by Helen Hoover Weller grapples with one of the day's burning questions: ''Admittedly in love with Joe DiMaggio, she refuses even to discuss their possible marriage. Who is the ghost who stands between them? What other secret obstacles block a wedding?'' By the time this issue hit the newsstands in February, the issue was moot.
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Movie World (May 1954)
''How the Body Built a Career,'' featuring an uncredited shot of Marilyn as wrapped up her cheesecake phase, shows the star-to-be being prepped by four makeup, hair, and wardrobe troops over the course of three hours prior to the premiere of How To Marry a Millionaire.
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Modern Screen (September 1954)
A 1953 photo by John Florea shows Marilyn in her best How To Marry a Millionaire guise. Inside: ''Marilyn Talks About Joe and Babies.'' By this point, their nine-month marriage was well on the way to its ultimate dissolution.
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Screen Stars (July 1955)
Timed for the release of Itch, this magazine features a publicity headshot taken in 1954 by Powolny. Inside, the main feature is ''Let's Stop Pushing Marilyn Around!'' — a sympathetic, eight-pager recounting of her rise from anonymous beauty to worldwide superstar.
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Modern Screen (October 1955)
That famous tousled look in the terrycloth bathrobe from The Seven Year Itch, shot during production in 1954. ''The Very Private Life of MM'' turns out be a very interesting account of Marilyn's days in New York City as she attends the Actors Studio under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg, sans makeup and gold lamé gowns. The piece is illustrated with candid shots of her hanging out with the likes of actor Jack Lord and playwright Michael Gazzo. She looks happy.
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Movie World (June 1955)
From the set of The Seven Year Itch, Broadway columnist Earl Wilson interviews Marilyn and finds that ''This was indeed a new Marilyn. The frightened kid was gone. Here was a serene and confident woman.... Deeply plunging necklines and complicated business ambitions don't seem to pair up — but they do for Marilyn.''
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Rave (August 1956)
A circa-1953 cover shot (probably by Powolny) leads into this 28-page extravaganza of entitled ''Marilyn's True Story, Complete!'' It's pretty thorough, offering up everything from Marilyn's baby pictures (at six months, she was cute but perhaps less than spectacular) to her early chessecake photo session with de Dienes to her short-lived DiMaggio marriage to her off-set dining with Sir Laurence Olivier, with whom she was filming The Prince and the Showgirl at the time.
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Sir! (October 1956)
A much-utilized shot of Marilyn in the golden gown she donned for a 1953 Photoplay Awards party — into which she had to be sewn, rumor had it — makes yet another appearance on the cover of this issue. Inside, the article ''When M.M. Was Raped'' by Sam Crown noted, ''Some believe that Marilyn is still trying to overcome the incident with 'family friend' at the age of six. At 30, La Monroe says that life is just beginning.''
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Man to Man Annual (Spring 1957)
This issue simply reprints the Sam Crown article published in Sir!, albeit with a more sensational cover headline and what appears to be a lovely candid shot of Marilyn in her bathrobe from one of the scenes in The Seven Year Itch.
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Screen Stories (February 1961)
This pensive cover shot of Marilyn was actually taken in 1955, but it seems to presage what lay ahead for her over the course of the next 16 months. The ''Secret Tragedy'' to which the cover refers concerns her recent divorce from Arthur Miller, who (writer Mike Connolly points out) left his wife and two young children to be with Marilyn. This piece is a harder-nosed look at the star and the ways in which her vast entourage has insulated her into a state of loneliness, a barrier that Marilyn herself, Connolly charges, is guilty of enabling.
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Marilyn's Life Story (1962)
No doubt rushed into publication just days after Marilyn's shocking death on August 5, this 52-page special (overseen by the staff of Modern Screen) actually did a reasonably good job of touching on all of the many high and low points that defined Marilyn's all-too-brief life. Its poignant conclusion: ''Hollywood will never have another like her.''