LIFE's Best Marilyn Monroe Photos:
1. Marilyn Monroe's First LIFE Cover. The actress appears for the first time on the cover of LIFE magazine, April 7, 1952. An observation from the inside feature: "Marilyn never finished high school but she is devoted to the intellectual life. She sprinkles her conversation with lines from Thomas Wolfe and Browning, with the same candid simplicity she uses in describing her dumbbell exercises."
2. Goodbye, Norma Jeane; Hello, Marilyn. Monroe circa 1947, shortly after she signed with 20th Century Fox and changed her name.
3. Monroe In Dance Class. Feb. 11, 1949: A young Marilyn, still trying to make a name for herself, practices steps with two other women during a dance class in California.
4. Marilyn in Black Velvet, Circa 1950.
5. Marilyn Monroe in 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,' 1953. LIFE photographer Ed Clark was on the set of Marilyn's film "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," and captured many of the iconic moments from the film. Here, Marilyn performs "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," the number that later inspired Madonna's "Material Girl" video.
6. Marilyn Takes a Break. Monroe and her "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" costar Jane Russell, in matching gowns designed by Travilla, relax between photos.
7. Marilyn's Golden Age. Monroe wears a gold lame gown for "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."
8. Marilyn Chats With Dame Edith Sitwell, 1953.
9. Marilyn Monroe on Her Patio at Home, 1953.
10. Marilyn Reading at Home, 1953.
11. Marilyn Gets Out of a Car, 1953.
12. Marilyn Announces Her Divorce. October 1954: A tearful Monroe announces to reporters that she and baseball great Joe DiMaggio will divorce after less than one year of marriage.
13. Monroe and Miller's Road Trip. July 1956: Shortly after their marriage, Monroe and Miller sit in a Thunderbird convertible on their way to Connecticut with Monroe's close friend, photographer Milton Greene.
14. A Sparkling Moment. July 1957: Marilyn Monroe helps get the festivities underway during a ceremony for the soon-to-be-built Time & Life Building in New York.
15. Marilyn, the International Charmer. 1957: At a ball in New York City, Monroe chats with the United States ambassador to Britain, Winthrop Aldrich, as Arthur Miller looks on.
16. Marilyn and Arthur Miller Entertain a Guest. 1958: Broadway producer Kermit Bloomgarden visits with Monroe and her playwright husband, Arthur Miller, in their apartment.
17. Marilyn Jumps for LIFE. 1959: Monroe is the cover girl for Philippe Halsman's photographic series of famous folks in mid-air.
18. Marilyn Sings 'Happy Birthday' to JFK, 1962.