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6-Year-Old Marilyn Monroe at the Hollywood Bowl (Photo Exclusive)

Can you spot young Marilyn Monroe in the children’s chorus at the Hollywood Bowl’s 1933 Easter Sunrise Service?

Marilyn Monroe 1933
1933 Hollywood Bowl Easter Sunrise Service rehearsal

In a 1955 profile by Maurice Zolotow, the actress said that when she was 6 or 7, she was selected by her elementary school to be one of the children who form the event’s “living cross.” Per the tradition, at sunrise when the conductor gives the signal, they all drop their black robes to reveal white tunics underneath.

However, she was distracted. “I got so interested watching the sky, I forgot to pay attention and I was the only child who forgot to throw off her black robe. I was the only black mark on a white cross.”

1933 Easter at Hollywood Bowl
1933 Easter Sunrise Service (Getty Images)

As Norma Jean was born in June 1926, this would have been in either 1933 or 1934.

In a British Pathe video from Easter 1933—six weeks before Norma Jean’s 7th birthday—indeed, there are several little girls in the first row who miss their cue. For context: Ages 6 to 16 participated in the living cross, with the youngest in the front and eldest in the back.

Fortunately, there is also a photo from the rehearsal, where the children in the living cross are looking at the camera. Can you spot Norma Jean?

After careful examination, in my opinion this one looks the most like her, based on other childhood photos of the actress. Her widow’s peak particularly stands out.

Marilyn Monroe childhood
Norma Jean at Easter rehearsal

Marilyn Monroe widow's peak
Norma Jean's widow's peak is unmistakable

At the time, she was living with foster parents in Hawthorne, about 15 miles south of Hollywood. The family was very religious, and according to Marilyn, her abusive foster mother Ida Bolender was upset by her small blooper at the Easter service. “The woman I was living with, she locked me in a closet to punish me,” she revealed in 1955.

1933 Easter service program
1933 Easter Sunrise Service program (Los Angeles Philharmonic Association)

The children’s chorus was first organized in 1922 and the living cross they formed, “the spiritual climax of the Sunrise Service,” became the event’s most popular tradition.

“In an instant, the gloom of the shadowed cross is transformed into a white, living cross and in clear, treble voices they sing ‘Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,’” noted the 1933 program. “Only those who have heard and seen this event can appreciate its significant portent, for material things seem to slip away, leaving a touch truly divine.”

Hollywood Bowl program
(Los Angeles Philharmonic Association)


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