Old Wives' Tales
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Claim: Marilyn Monroe had six toes on each foot.
Origins: Despite the way this "fact" about Marilyn Monroe's toes is usually worded, the real issue is not whether she had six toes on each foot
This claim originated with photographer Joseph Jasgur, who in March 1946 (as a favor to a friend who ran a modeling agency) took some test shots of a nineteen-year-old model named Norma Jean Dougherty. Young Norma Jean, of course, would later become one of the twentieth century's most famous women under the name Marilyn Monroe.
Most of Jasgur's pictures of a teenaged Marilyn Monroe remained unpublished for over forty years, until he finally assembled them for a book entitled The Birth of Marilyn: The Lost Photographs of Norma Jean. It was only then, four decades after the fact, that Jasgur noticed his photographic work revealed a previously undisclosed physical feature of the young Marilyn: she had an extra toe on her left foot. As the text of his book explained:
It wasn't until 41 years later when Joseph Jasgur was alone in his darkroom making prints of that day's excursion that he noticed something odd about Normal Jean's left foot. She had six toes. A surprising discovery, he thought, but not earth-shaking. He had heard rumours of plastic surgery on her foot as well as her nose and chin, but he notes, "It's none of my business."Despite Jasgur's "It's none of my business" disclaimer, his publisher made the most of the situation, using the photo in "What's wrong with this picture?" publicity campaign to promote his book. The photograph was also published in the British tabloid Daily Mirror, and it was denounced as a hoax by many Marilyn devotees.
So, did she or didn't she? Here is the relevant portion of the photograph upon which this rumor is based, and a second (less clear) photograph from the same session:
The notion that Marilyn was born with an extra digit which was later surgically removed is bunk, and the appearance of a "sixth toe" Jasgur's photos show is merely an artifact of the blending of shadows and light making the natural bulge that appears at the base of one's small toe (where the digit joins the outer edge of the foot) look somewhat like an extra toe. Nothing other than these questionable photographs supports the claim:
Marilyn Monroe may indeed have been "the girl with something extra," but the extra something in this case doesn't appear to have been a toe.
Last updated: 10 August 2007
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