marilyn monroeMarilyn Monroe own debut on the cover of Life Magazine happened in 1952. In what now seem a striking choice of phrase, the magazine characterized the young actress who had already appeared in small roles in All About Eve and The Asphalt Jungle and was about to be seen in her first starring role, in Don’t Bother to Knock as a “sturdy blonde.”

If sturdiness is not the first characteristic that leaps to mind when considering Marilyn Monroe, whose legend is bound up with her frailness and vulnerability, it’s easy to understand why it could have seemed an apposite description back then.

Monroe’s vital statistics were reported to be about 36-22-35: She was full and fleshy where it mattered, in the breasts and hips, and narrow and nipped in the waist. She had, with only the slightest help from the corset and bra building industries, a figure what looks to contemporary eyes as if it were generated by digital trickery.

Even if her curves exceeded the standards of beauty that have prevailed in the fashion industry in recent decades (“I’d kill myself if I was as fat as Marilyn Monroe,” Elizabeth Hurley once said).

Her body shape has an enduring appeal In 2004, a Polish anthropologist named Grażyna Jasieńska published findings indicating that women with hourglass figures may have higher levels of the hormones that facilities conception and pregnancy evidence that there is a possible biological explanation for Monroe’s sex-goddess appeal.

After her first, silent screen test, which was done in 1946 when she was 20, “every frame of the test radiated sex,” according to cinematographer Leon Shamroy, quoted in The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (Grand Central Publishing), a biography by J. Randy taraborrelli.

Whether of not she is, as she has sometimes been described, “the world’s most photographed woman” (in the digital age, there are probably teenager with more pictures on Facebook than were ever taken of Monroe), it seems likely that she was the woman most photographed lying down.

Even in her first Life shoot she is seen lounging on a chaise, and so many photographers portrayed her in horizontal languor (including a shot for the first issue of Playboy, in 1953) that is sometimes seems as if she rarely go onto her size-7 feet.

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