When Marilyn Monroe died on Aug. 5, 1962, she left behind a series of contradictions. The actress panicked easily, but basked in public attention. She was sometimes troubled by her status as a sex symbol, yet she was willing to profit from it. It was a see-saw life, as TIME's obituary for the Hollywood icon made clear:
She had always been late for everything, but her truancy was never heedlessness. Beset by self-doubt and hints of illness, she would stay alone, missing appointments, keeping whole casts waiting in vain. In the past year, her tardiness was measured in weeks instead of hours. In 32 days on the set of Something's Got to Give, she showed up only 12 times, made only 7 ½ usable minutes of film. When fired from the picture, she sent telegrams of regrets to all the grips on the lot.
...She seemed euphonic and cheerful, even while 20th Century-Fox was filing suit against her in hopes of salvaging $750,000 damages from the wreckage of Something's Got to Give. She offered a photographer exclusive rights to nearly-nude shots of her from the set because, she said, "I want the world to see my body." Last week, she negotiated still another sale of a nude photograph to a picture magazine.
She spent her last day alive sunbathing, glancing over filmscripts. playing with two cloth dolls—a lamb and a tiger. She went to bed early, but later her housekeeper noticed light spilling through the crack under her bedroom door, and summoned doctors. They broke in through her windows and found Marilyn Monroe dead. By her bedside stood an empty bottle that three days before had held 50 sleeping pills. One hand rested on the telephone and the other was at her chin, holding the sheets that covered her body.
Read the full remembrance from 1962, here in the TIME Vault: The Only Blonde in the World