Rare photos of a young and then still-unknown Marylin Monroe hiking in the woods, 1950

These photos were taken in 1950 by Life magazine photographer Ed Clarke, who received a call from a friend of 20th Century Fox, in which the studio signed "Hot Tomatoes".

Her photos of Marilyn offer a rare glimpse into the early days of the ultimate pop-culture icon's career, when a young actress was unaware of what would happen in the years to come.

In a 1999 interview, Clark described the photo shooting: "She was almost unknown at the time, so I was able to spend a lot of time shooting her."

"We would go to Griffith Park [in Los Angeles] and she would read poetry. I sent several rolls to LIFE in New York, but she wired back, 'Who the hell is Marilyn Monroe?'"

The young actress had previously signed with Fox in August 1946, but was released after the expiration of her second six-month contract.

When her contract at Columbia ended, Monroe returned to modeling again. She shot an ad for Pabst Bears and posed in artistic nudes for the John Baumgarth calendar (using the name 'Mona Monroe') by Tom Kelly.

Monroe has previously posed topless or bikini-clad for other artists such as Earl Moran, and felt comfortable with nudity. Shortly after leaving Columbia, she also met and became the patron and mistress of Johnny Hyde, the vice president of the William Morris Agency.

Through Hyde, Monroe played minor roles in several films, including two critically acclaimed works: Joseph Mankiewicz's play All About Eve (1950) and John Huston's film noir The Asphalt Jungle (1950).

Despite her screen time being only a few minutes later, she gained a mention in photoplay and "effectively progressed from film model to serious actress" according to biographer Donald Spoto.

In December 1950, Hyde negotiated a seven-year contract for Monroe with 20th Century-Fox. According to its terms, Fox may choose not to renew the contract after each year. Hyde died of a heart attack a few days later, leaving Monroe devastated.

In 1951, Monroe had supporting roles in three moderately successful Fox comedies: As Young As You Feel, Love Nest, and Let's Make It Legal.

All three films portrayed her as "essentially a sexy jewel", according to Spoto, but she received some praise from critics: Bosley Crowther of The New York Times described her as "fantastic" as you feel. and Ezra Goodman called her "one of the most talented up-and-coming [actresses]" for Love Nest by the Los Angeles Daily News.

Her popularity with audiences was also increasing: she received several thousand fan letters a week, and was declared "Miss Cheesecake of 1951" by the Army newspaper Stars and Stripes, reflecting the preferences of soldiers in the Korean War. In February 1952, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association named Monroe "Best Young Box Office Personality".

In her personal life, Monroe had a short relationship with director Elia Kazan and also briefly dated several other men including director Nicholas Ray and actors Yul Brynner and Peter Lawford.

In early 1952, she began a highly publicized romance with retired New York Yankees baseball star Joe DiMaggio, one of the most celebrated sports personalities of the time.

Monroe found herself at the center of a scandal in March 1952, when she publicly revealed that she posed for a nude calendar in 1949.

The studio had found out about the photos and had been publicly rumored to be her model a few weeks earlier, and decided together with Monroe that it was best to accept them to prevent harming her career, while the matter But to emphasize that she was broken at that time.

Tactics gained his public sympathy and increased interest in his films, for which he was now getting top-billing. I

In the wake of the scandal, Monroe was featured on the cover of Life as "the talk of Hollywood" and gossip columnist Heda Hopper declared her the "cheesecake queen" and became a "box office smash".

Three of Monroe's films—Clash by Night, Don't Bother to Knock and We're Not Married!—were released shortly after, gaining public interest. Despite her newfound popularity as a sex symbol, Monroe also wanted to showcase more of her acting range.

She began taking acting classes with Michael Chekhov and Mime Lotte Gosler soon after starting her Fox contract, and Clash by Night and Don't Bother to Knock featured her in various roles.

In the past, she played a fish canary worker, in a play starring Barbara Stanwyck and directed by Fritz Lang; To prepare, she spent time at a fish canary in Monterey.

She received positive reviews for her performance: The Hollywood Reporter said that "she deserves the starring position with her excellent interpretation", and Variety wrote that she has "the ease of delivery that makes her a cinch for popularity". ".

The latter was a thriller starring Monroe as a mentally disturbed babysitter and which Znak used to test his abilities in a heavily dramatic role. It received mixed reviews from critics, with Crowther describing him as too inexperienced for a difficult role, and Variety blaming the script for the film's problems.

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