In 1943 Jim joined the Merchant Marine and the young couple moved to where he was stationed, Catalina Island. It did not take long before Jim was called overseas to duty in Southeast Asia and that left Norma Jean devastated. The old feeling of abandonment hit her quite hard. In 1944 she now moved back to her in-laws in California. Women at this time were deeply involved in the war effort and Norma Jean did her part to by taking a job at Radio Plane munitions factory, working ten hours a day, six days a week. Her starting salary at the time were only 20 dollars. Army photographer, David Conover, visited Radio Plane in late 1944 to shoot a film of women doing war work. He saw Norma Jean and was immediatly struck by her looks. She bacame the standout of the short film and Conover asked her to pose for him in a series of color still photograph sessions and she agreed. He strongly encouraged Norma Jean to pursue modeling professionally.
One of U.S. army photographer David Conover's shot. Taken at the Radio Plane munitions factory.
Being in front of the camera brought her to life. So she took Conover´s advice and continued to model. So in August 1945 she signed a contract with the Blue Book Modeling Agency. Her husband Jim Dougherty came home on leve for the Christmas holidays and issued his wife an ultimatum. Either be the dutiful wife, or pursue modeling. In May 1946 Norma Jean therefor left for Las Vegas, where she could obtain a quick divorce.
Returning to the Blue Book Agency, Emmeline Snively (the head of the agency) ordered a few changes.
Norma Jean visited Frank and Joseph´s salon in Hollywood and had her hair bleached and the tight, frizzy curls loosened into luscious waves. After the changes were made modeling assignments began coming in by the dozen and she started appearing on a number of magazine covers. She established relationships with many of the top commercial photographers in the business who asked to work with her again and again and, in doing so, ensured that she would soon be familiar to anyone who walked by a newsstand.
In July 1946 Twentieth Century-Fox caster Ben Lyon arranged for a color screen test. As a result, she was signed to a six-month contract at a standard starting salary of 75 dollars per week. Now to move on furter she had to change her birth name.
Ben Lyon suggested Marilyn after stage actress Marilyn Miller, but Monroe was her own choice. That was her mother´s maiden name.
De Dienes shot of Marilyn Monroe on Tobey Beach 1949
More to come shortly...