The Reason Marilyn Monroe Developed Her Iconic Voice

Marilyn Monroe was a platinum-blond actress and singer who became a beloved American icon of the silver screen. She had a high-fashion Hollywood look –- glamorous dresses and red lipstick -– and a distinctive way of speaking and singing. But it was more than just traditional voice training that helped Monroe achieve the breathy voice she was known for.

In 1962, Monroe famously sang "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy in her signature breathless voice. It was one of her last appearances before she died just months later, and quickly became an unforgettable performance that was synonymous with Hollywood flair.

But Monroe wasn't always happy with how her voice sounded. Due to circumstances that shaped her as a child, Monroe had a stutter, according to The Stuttering FoundationVogue reported she worked with a speech therapist to improve her stutter, and together they developed the breathy style of speaking that she continued to use into adulthood.

The true backstory to Monroe's voice

Monroe was placed with 12 different foster families throughout her youth, and this instability caused her to have physical and mental struggles. As she recounted her background with her recurring speech disorder, Monroe said, "First time was at the orphanage, and then later in my teens, I stuttered. And I was elected secretary of the minutes of the English class ... Then I'd say the minutes of the last meeting, I'd go m-m-m-m-m ... Oh, it's terrible," according to a 1960 interview (via YouTube).

Her stutter returned occasionally when Monroe was an adult, too. When she was filming "Something's Got to Give," she was so stressed by studio infighting and personal issues that her stutter came back. This led to Monroe botching lots of her lines and requiring multiple takes of her scenes, according to Vogue

At the same time, "Cleopatra," known as one of the most expensive movies ever filmed by Hollywood, was eating up the studio's budget. As the situation worsened, Marilyn Monroe was fired from the movie, reports Independent. After her co-star, Dean Martin, insisted the studio rehire Monroe, she was scheduled to re-join the film in October of 1962. 

But "Something's Got to Give" was the star's final movie: Monroe tragically overdosed on barbiturates and died on August 4, 1962. Even 60 years after her death, she is remembered as a true Hollywood icon who is still idolized by fans across the world.