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A Young Marilyn Monroe Reads Poetry In Griffith Park

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Exactly 50 years after her death, we're still celebrating the life of Marilyn Monroe. But when LIFE photographer Ed Clark took a series of photos of the actress reading poetry in Griffith Park in 1950, she was just another actress trying to make it big in Hollywood.

Monroe had just been signed to 20th Century Fox, but at age 24, she was still a relative unknown. When Clark sent a roll of these pictures back to the LIFE offices, they reportedly responded with a wire: "Who the hell is Marilyn Monroe?"

Monroe was just on the verge of stardom. Three months before the shoot she played a crooked lawyer's girlfriend in "The Asphalt Jungle," and a few months later she would have a small role as an aspiring actress in "All About Eve." Three years after this shoot that was never published in the magazine, she would appear on the cover of LIFE (one of many times) alongside her "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" co-star Jane Russell.

There was a benefit to photographing a Monroe just before she made it big, Clark said: "She was almost unknown then, so I was able to spend a lot of time shooting her."

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