With her sultry pout and alluring mix of glamour and vulnerability, Marilyn Monroe was one of Hollywood’s most enigmatic and beloved screen icons. But the one person she most deeply wanted to connect with — her own mother — was immune to her charm.

For years, Marilyn publicly claimed that her biological mother, Gladys Mortensen, was dead. In fact, the difficult truth was that Gladys, who suffered from a terrifying mental illness, left Marilyn at a very young age to be raised by foster parents while she bounced in and out of sanatoriums for much
of the movie star’s life.

marilyn monroe mother

Gladys with her infant daughter, Marilyn, in 1926.

“Gladys didn’t hug, kiss or smile,” Marilyn’s niece, Mona Rae Miracle, exclusively tells Closer. “She was delusional, and she heard voices from electrical appliances. She was antisocial and unable to express any emotion, except anger.”

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The heartbreaking details about the real-life relationship between the world’s most beautiful woman and her mother were suppressed for years. But now, in the wake of a new TV movie starring Susan Sarandon that focuses on Marilyn’s relationship with her mother, the real story behind the secret lifelong struggle between these two tortured souls is being illuminated.

marilyn monroe mother

Marilyn and her mother, Gladys, in 1929.

“Marilyn wanted nothing more than to be loved by her mom, but that was always just out of her reach,” says J. Randy Taraborrelli, whose biography The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe is the basis for Lifetime’s movie of the same name.

To read the full story on Marilyn and her mother, pick up the new issue of Closer Weekly on newsstands now!