Gladys Pearl Eley

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Gladys Pearl Eley (Monroe)

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico
Death: March 11, 1984 (81)
Gainesville, Florida, United States
Place of Burial: Gainesville, Florida, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Otis Elmer Monroe and Della Mae Monroe
Wife of Jasper Newton Baker
Ex-wife of John Newton Baker; Martin Edward Mortensen and John Stewart Eley
Ex-partner of Stanley Gifford
Mother of Robert Kermit Baker; Private; Private and Marilyn Monroe
Sister of Marion Otis Elmer Monroe
Half sister of Private

Occupation: film cutter, Filmklipperska
Managed by: Jennifer Jean Miller
Last Updated:

About Gladys Pearl Eley

Gladys Pearl Baker Mortensen Eley (née Monroe) was the mother of actress Marilyn Monroe and author Berniece Baker Miracle. In popular culture, she has been portrayed by Sheree North, Phyllis Coates, Patricia Richardson and Susan Sarandon, who received a nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Awards. In Blonde, a biographical film starring Ana de Armas, Baker will be played by Julianne Nicholson.

Della Mae Hogan was born in 1876 in Missouri and married Otis Elmer Monroe in 1899, an aspiring painter from Minneapolis. The couple moved to Piedras Negras, Coahuila in Mexico, where Otis began working for the National Railway and Della gave birth to Gladys Pearl in 1902. They soon migrated to Los Angeles County, where Della gave birth to a son, Marion Otis Elmer Monroe (1904–1929), and Otis started working for the Pacific Electric Railway Co. In 1917, Gladys married Jasper Newton "Jap" Baker (1891–1951) and gave birth to a son, Robert Kermit "Jackie" (1918–1933), followed by a daughter, Berniece Inez Gladys (b. 1919). After abusive incidents, Gladys filed for divorce from Jasper in 1921, leading him to kidnap the children and raise them in his native Kentucky.

In 1924, Gladys remarried with Norwegian immigrant Martin Edward Mortensen (1897–1981). They divorced a few years later, after Gladys met her superior at RKO Pictures, Charles Stanley Gifford (1898–1965). While working for him as a film negative cutter, she became pregnant and gave birth to her third and final child, Norma Jeane Baker on 1 June 1926 in the Los Angeles County Hospital. Gifford is often assumed to be her father, though the identity remains uncertain. Gladys registered the surname Mortenson on Norma Jean's birth certificate, using the name of her ex-husband and specifying his address as unknown. Norma Jean was baptized with the name Baker, in an act of her grandmother Della to hide the illegitimacy. Della Monroe died shortly thereafter of a heart attack. Gladys' brother Otis disappeared in October 1929 and was pronounced dead in 1955.

Gladys placed Norma Jean with evangelical Christian foster parents Albert and Ida Bolender in the rural town of Hawthorne. In the summer of 1933, Gladys bought a small house in Hollywood with a loan from the Home Owners' Loan Corporation and moved her daughter in with her. They shared the house with lodgers, actors George and Maude Atkinson and their daughter, Nellie. In January 1934, Gladys had a mental breakdown and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. After several months in a rest home, she was committed to the Metropolitan State Hospital. Norma Jean became a ward of the state, and her mother's friend, Grace Goddard, took responsibility over her and her mother's affairs.

Gladys was married for a third time in 1949, to the electrician John Stewart Eley. Eley died three years later of a heart infection. Out of hospital, Gladys worked at an Eagle Rock nursing home and as a housekeeper in Los Angeles. She was sent money regularly by Norma Jean, who became an actress under the stage name Marilyn Monroe (adopting Gladys' maiden name). Gladys was readmitted to a hospital in 1953, and was supported by Monroe with $250 a month. She was looked after by Monroe's business manager, Inez Melson, until Monroe's death in 1962. Gladys was left a trust fund of $100,000 by her daughter, of which she received $5,000 a year. In 1963, she was reported to have walked 15 miles to the Lakeview Terrace Baptist Church. After trying to escape on numerous occasions, she was released from Rockhaven Sanitarium in 1966. Gladys first lived with her daughter Berniece, until moving to the Collins Court Home for aged people, Gainesville, Florida, where she stayed until her death on 11 March 1984.

Gladys' mental health made headlines in her daughter's career early. In an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News, Monroe stated:
"My mother spent many years at the hospital. Through the Los Angeles County, my guardian placed me in several foster families and I spent more than a year at the Los Angeles Orphanage. I haven't known my mother intimately, and since I'm an adult, and able to help her, I have contacted her. Now I help her and I want to keep helping her as long as she needs me."

Over the years, Gladys' relationship to her children became a subject of debate and was addressed in many films about Monroe, such as My Week With Marilyn. Gladys was portrayed by Sheree North in Marilyn: The Untold Story, by Phyllis Coates in Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn, by Marla Adams in Marilyn and Me and by Patricia Richardson in Blonde. In 2022, Julianne Nicholson will portray Gladys in Blonde, a biographical film drama directed by Andrew Dominik and starring Ana de Armas as Monroe.

In 2015, actress Susan Sarandon portrayed Gladys in The Secret Life Of Marilyn Monroe, which thematized Monroe's family life and the relationship to her mother. Sarandon was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries.

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Gladys Pearl Eley's Timeline

1902
May 27, 1902
Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico
1918
January 16, 1918
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, United States
1926
June 1, 1926
Los Angeles County Hospital, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, United States