It's been more than 55 years since Marilyn Monroe's untimely death, but for many of us, the blonde bombshell remains one of the most iconic stars in Hollywood. While fans grew up believing that Marilyn's real name was Norma Jean Baker, it turns out her birth certificate actually says Norma Jeane Mortenson. She was later baptized with the last name Baker (the surname name of her mother's first husband — Mortenson was her mother's second husband's surname) and throughout her life, she used a variety of aliases, including Faye Miller when she checked into a psychiatric hospital. The stage name Marilyn came from her favorite actress, Marilyn Miller. Monroe was her mom's maiden name. On Feb. 23, 1956 — nine years after she began her career as an actress — the young girl from Los Angeles legally changed her name to Marilyn Monroe and put her history as Norma Jeane to rest. In honor of Marilyn's birthday — she would have turned 92 on June 1, 2018 — Wonderwall.com is digging up lesser known facts about some of the biggest stars in the history of cinema, including Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and more. Keep reading to find out what we uncovered…
Cary Grant was a Hollywood heartthrob from 1932 to the early 1960s and remained a legendary star of the silver screen long after his death in 1986. Known for films like "To Catch a Thief" and "Arsenic and Old Lace," Cary was the epitome of a dashing movie star. What few may know about him, however, is that from 1958 to 1961, in an effort to "find his true self," Cary embarked on a controversial therapy using the psychedelic drug LSD. The actor, whose film career didn't last much longer after his experimental treatment, claimed he "learned a great deal" and experienced a "rebirth" by using the drug, reportedly 100 times over the course of three years.
Audrey Hepburn was Hollywood's darling throughout the '50s and '60s. Starring in films like "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "My Fair Lady," Audrey was known as a "petite princess" for her slim figure and micro-sized 22-inch waist. What isn't widely known is why Audrey had such a slender frame. During World War II, her mother moved her children from Belgium to Holland, hoping it would not be invaded by the Nazis. But the Germans came anyway, cutting off food supplies in what was known as "The Winter of Hunger," resulting in Audrey and her family becoming malnourished. As an adult, Audrey was known to have a varied diet and eat large portions, but her son, Lucca Dotti, revealed that she'd long suffered from anemia, which seemingly influenced her weight and could have been a result of nearly starving in her youth.
James "Jimmy" Stewart first arrived on the big screen in 1935's "The Murder Man." Before long, Jimmy was the leading man in some of the biggest films in Hollywood including "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Rear Window." What modern-day fans might not know about Jimmy is that he was actually drafted into the Army in 1940 not long after WWII broke out. Unfortunately, he was disqualified because he was too slim. Since his father and grandfather had both served in the military, Jimmy took his call to duty seriously and worked with a trainer to get his weight up. It took him two more tries before he was finally allowed to enlist. He ended up becoming an Air Corps pilot and later transitioned to the newly formed Air Force, where he would eventually earn the rank of Brigadier General. Throughout much of his Hollywood career, Jimmy remained a reservist in the Air Force, ultimately retiring in 1968.
Hattie McDaniel wasn't just an iconic star of the '30s and '40s — she was also the first African American to ever win an Academy Award. She took home the Oscar for best supporting actress in 1940 for her performance as Mammy in "Gone With the Wind." While her legacy as a groundbreaking star is still celebrated today, many don't know that Hattie was the child of former slaves. Hattie's parents, Susan Holbert and Henry McDaniel, were born into slavery and in 1863, they were freed in the state of Tennessee by the Emancipation Proclamation. Hattie, the youngest of 13 children, would be born 32 years later in 1895, making her rise on the silver screen even more meaningful.
Marlon Brando began his career on the big screen in 1950, but it was his starring role in the 1951 drama "A Streetcar Named Desire" that made Hollywood really take note. Known throughout his career as one of the first major method actors (those who transform into their characters both on- and off-screen for an authentic performance), Marlon was also known to get himself into trouble. During the Broadway production of "Streetcar" in 1947, the young actor persuaded a stagehand to box with him backstage, which left Marlon with two black eyes and a broken nose. With his nose bleeding, Marlon stepped onto the stage and his co-star, Jessica Tandy, had to quickly ad-lib "You bloody fool" to hide her shock and lead the audience to think Marlon's character, Stanley, was returning home from a bar fight. Marlon decided against having his nose re-set and for the rest of his life, he had a slight bulge on his nasal bridge.
Meryl Streep has been Hollywood royalty since her first Oscar win in 1979. Known today as one of the most nominated actors in the history of cinema, Meryl has developed a reputation for strong performances, leading many to call her one of the most talented actresses alive today. What many don't know about Meryl is how dedicated she is to her craft. Not only does she deliver her all on-screen, but she also devotes herself to mastering skills in preparation for her roles. For the 1982 drama "Sophie's Choice" (for which she won an Oscar), Meryl became fluent in Polish so that on-screen, her character would sound authentic. She also spoke German in the film — and native speakers say she did so with a discernible Polish accent! In 1992's "Music of the Heart," Meryl spent six hours each day learning the violin and recruited professional violinist Sandy Park to give her lessons, all so she could play a convincing music teacher.
While many know actor Sidney Poitier for his groundbreaking Academy Award win for best actor in 1964, making him the first African American to win that prize, he also holds another interesting title. The actor, famous for his roles in films like "The Defiant Ones" and "Lilies of the Field," also has the distinction of being the oldest living best actor Oscar winner — he turned 91 in 2018 — as well as the category's earliest living winner, since every best actor Oscar winner before him has died (as have several who won the prize after him). On the sad day that Sidney does pass away, that title will go to Gene Hackman, who won the statue eight years later in 1972.
Just about everyone in the world knows two-time Oscar winning actress Bette Davis had an epic feud will fellow actress Joan Crawford, but few know she also had some strong opinions about other stars in Hollywood. In one of her autobiographies, Bette reportedly called actor-turned-President Ronald Reagan "dull." In a 1983 BBC documentary on her life, Bette elaborated, saying Ron "did not make a great mark as an actor," further dissing him by adding that "he was a nice little contract player." Ron wasn't the only star she threw major shade at either. In a 1988 interview with Johnny Carson, Bette was asked who was the worst person she knew in Hollywood, to which Bette replied, "$1 million, Faye Dunaway. Everybody you can put into this chair will tell you exactly the same thing." Bette also described Faye as "totally impossible" and "very unprofessional."
Although we haven't seen actor, producer and director Clint Eastwood on the big screen since 2014's "American Sniper," the legendary star is still working behind the camera. In 2018, he debuted the biographical drama "The 15:17 to Paris," which he both produced and directed. In 2016, he also produced and directed the heroic biopic "Sully," which told the story of pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who safely landed a U.S. Airways plane in the Hudson River after it experienced engine failure, saving all 155 passengers. What's so interesting about Clint's hand in the film is that in the early 1950s, he was in a significant plane crash himself when he was a 21-year-old soldier in the Army. While catching a free ride on a flight from Seattle to California, the plane, an old WWII-era navy bomber, crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Point Reyes, California, nearly three miles from shore. Clint had to escape the submerged aircraft and swim to shore through heavy kelp beds, which he claims took several hours.
Beautiful, busty and blonde Jayne Mansfield lit up the big screen throughout her 12-year career in Hollywood. The actress, famous for films like "It Takes a Thief" and "Las Vegas Hillbillies," was tragically killed in 1967 after her vehicle crashed into a tractor-trailer, which horrifically crushed the top portion of her skull and killed the driver as well as Jayne's boyfriend at the time, Sam Brody. What few know is that three of Jayne's children — including "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" star Mariska Hargitay, Jayne's youngest daughter, who was just 3 at the time — were also in the backseat during the accident. Her death wasn't in vain, however. Shortly after the crash, tractor-trailers were required to be equipped with DOT bars, more commonly known as Mansfield Bars, to prevent cars from sliding underneath the trailers.
Actor, producer and director Robert Redford's career on the silver screen spans nearly 60 years and he's still churning out films. In 2018, the Oscar-winning actor will star in the comedic crime-drama "The Old Man & the Gun." Before he was an "old man" however, Robert was considered a major Hollywood heartthrob, starring in films like "The Way We Were" and "Out of Africa." His rise to superstardom was almost hindered, however, when he contracted polio at age 11. Thankfully, Robert's brush with the disease was mild, since severe forms of polio can lead to paralysis and even death.
Humphrey Bogart was a star during the golden era of Hollywood and even today, he's widely considered one of the greatest actors of all time. Known for his unique appearance, Humphrey's famous face made him stand out in Tinseltown. Interestingly, even when the actor was just a baby, his good looks helped land him a job. In 1900, the actor's mother, Maud Bogart (who happened to be a commercial illustrator), sketched a picture of her infant son. The pic was so popular that the baby food brand Mellin used it for its national campaign, putting Humphrey's face in all its ads and on its jars of baby food.
Elizabeth Taylor became a child star at the tender age of 10 and would go on to spend the majority of her life as a goddess of the silver screen. Known for her immense beauty, it was no surprise that Liz had many tabloid-worthy love affairs and a whopping seven different husbands (with one, Richard Burton, marrying her twice), but what is surprising is that a very famous tycoon once offered to buy her hand in marriage. Pilot, business magnate and film director Howard Hughes was reportedly so enraptured by Liz that he offered her parents $1 million to marry her. Some reports have claimed Howard proposed the deal in 1946 when Liz was only 14 years old and he was 40. They declined his offer.
He was known as the King of Pop, and for almost 40 years, Michael Jackson reigned supreme on the music charts with hits like "Thriller" and "Bad." While his life, music career, legal and financial troubles and death are well-documented, what is less known about this icon is that he was also an inventor. In 1993, Michael (with the help of co-inventors) patented an anti-gravity shoe that allowed the wearer to lean far forward, seemingly defying gravity (a move Michael made famous in 1987 during a performance of "Smooth Criminal"). The design was later reconfigured in 1996 (after Michael fell out of the shoe during a live performance) and was used throughout his career to showcase his incredible dance moves.
Nearly three decades after Lucille Ball's death, we still celebrate the iconic redhead whose groundbreaking comedy series "I Love Lucy" airs on the small screen even today. What many don't know about Lucille's famous locks is that they weren't naturally red. In fact, she began her career in 1933 as a brunette, but for her 1943 role in "Du Berry Was a Lady," her hair was dyed its trademark "golden apricot" shade. She loved it so much, she kept it until her death in 1989.
Charlie Chaplin was a man who wore many hats. Though known for his famous character the Tramp, Charlie wasn't just an actor in the early days of cinema. He was an editor, director, producer, composer and writer throughout his 53-year career in Hollywood. Of Charlie's many remarkable movies, none can compare to his first feature-length film, "The Kid," which tells the story of the Tramp caring for an abandoned child. Just weeks after Charlie began casting for the film, his own son died at 3 days old. Not only was the film inspired by the loss of his first child, but it also contained numerous autobiographical elements. Charlie, like the child character in his film, had grown up in extreme poverty with unfit and neglectful parents. Just as the young star was saved by the Tramp in the movie, Charlie was rescued from his childhood circumstances by London's National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Dorothy Dandridge was the first African-American star in Hollywood to be nominated for an Oscar for best actress (for her work in the 1954 romantic musical "Carmen Jones," although she ultimately didn't win the award). In an incredible parallel, Halle Berry, who played Dorothy in the 1999 TV movie "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" (and is also, like the star, from Cleveland), later became the first African American to win a best actress Oscar (for her performance in the 2001 drama "Monster's Ball).
Oscar-winning Scottish actor Sean Connery is perhaps best known for his role as the first James Bond of cinema beginning with 1962's "Dr. No." What's even more interesting, however, are the famous roles Sean turned down throughout his career. Not only was the devastatingly handsome star asked to join the cast of "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions" as The Architect (a role that eventually went to Helmut Bakaitis), but he was also originally considered for the role of the wizard Gandalf in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. He reportedly didn't sign on for "LOTR" because he didn't understand the role. The decision ultimately lost him $18 million plus a 15 percent stake in the film's future box-office earnings, which were more than $1 billion.
Katharine Hepburn (who, believe it or not, wasn't related to fellow Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn) holds the distinction of having won four Oscars for acting — more than any other star. While Katharine was celebrated for her talent and beauty, she was also incredibly private and, aside from an early marriage that ended in divorce, seemed to have spent her entire life as a single woman. The only problem? That wasn't exactly true. In her 1991 autobiography, "Me: Stories of My Life," Katharine revealed that she and her nine-time co-star Spencer Tracy engaged in an epic 25-year affair, all while he was married to another woman. Katharine waited until both Spencer and his wife, Louise Tracy, had passed away before divulging the truth of their long romance.
Clark Gable began his career in Hollywood in 1923 and quickly became one of the biggest stars on the silver screen. Although nearly six decades have passed since Clark's death, there's still a little-known scandal involving his birth few are aware of. It turns out Clark was mistakenly listed as a girl on his birth certificate, which led some to question whether Clark was actually transgender. While that would have been such a cool thing to celebrate, it turns out Clark was merely a guy whose birth certificate had a typo.
Oscar-winning actress Judy Garland's life may have been short, but it included some of the most impressive performances Hollywood's ever seen. Known for her role as Dorothy Gale in 1939's "The Wizard of Oz," Judy (whose birth name was actually Frances Ethel Gumm) went on to star in numerous big-budget films like "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "A Star is Born." Her career was also marked by years of personal problems, including prescription drug and alcohol addiction. While many know Judy struggled with sobriety, few know the story of how she became hooked on pills. According to Judy, her mother, Ethel Gumm, was a demanding stage mom who forced her daughter to perform at various venues throughout her childhood, even when she was sick. Ethel supplied pills to Judy to give her energy and pills to make her sleep before she was even 10 years old, creating a lifelong dependency on medication that ultimately took her life in 1969 at the age of 47.
Oscar-winning actor Paul Newman was known for his more than 50-year career in Hollywood as well as his famous food line, Newman's Own (which includes some delicious salad dressings), which donates profits to charity. Famous for his work in films like "Cool Hand Luke" and "The Color of Money," Paul also had his hand in editing, writing, producing and directing. While he remained busy throughout his life, one person he always made time for was his godson, Jake Gyllenhaal. It turns out Paul was a close friend of the Gyllenhaal family and developed a special bond with Jake, acting as both his friend and mentor. Paul even reportedly taught Jake how to drive!
Hollywood siren, author and model Sophia Loren has been turning heads since her American debut on the big screen in 1957's "The Pride and the Passion." Throughout her illustrious career, Sophia, who was born and raised in Italy, was known for her beauty and command of the camera. While she may seem the picture of perfection, Sophia actually has a famous imperfection — a scar on her chin — which she got from flying shrapnel during an air raid in Italy during WWII. Like Audrey Hepburn, Sophia also suffered from starvation during the war and was called "Stuzzicadente" (meaning "toothpick") by other children. Of course, she later became well-known for her voluptuous figure, which she claims came courtesy of eating plenty of spaghetti.
The youngest icon to make it on our list is none other than Tom Hanks, who's already earned a reputation as a legendary Hollywood star. Interestingly, Tom also has a fascination with another type of star — the kind in outer space. Since the actor was a child, he longed to be an astronaut, but he eventually discovered his passion for the performing arts. Still, space exploration has remained one of his biggest loves. Tom (who starred as an astronaut in 1995's "Apollo 13") has lobbied Congress on behalf of NASA to increase the agency's funding, produced the miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon" about the organization's moon missions and is on the board of the nonprofit the National Space Society. He even had the honor of having the asteroid "12818 Tomhanks" named after him.