Before she made it big, Marilyn Monroe appeared as a dancer in “Ladies of the Chorus.” (By J.R. Eyerman/TIME & LIFE Pictures)

In 1948, J.R. Eyerman, a Life photographer, met a 22-year-old woman trying to make her way in Hollywood. He snapped some photographs of her, noting that there was something about the background dancer. Four years later, she would be one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood. Fourteen years later, she would be dead.

Marilyn Monroe’s tortured life, marked by divorces, drugs, rumored affairs and a deep sorrow, have long captivated the American public, almost as much as her effervescent beauty did. On her 85th birthday, Life reissued some of those first photographs of the would-be star. See the full gallery here.


Singing lessons (By J.R. Eyerman/TIME & LIFE Pictures)

In other Monroe news, another photographer discovered a cache of Monroe photographs at a garage sale and waited a few decades before pulling them out of his closet to try to track down the original photographer. The images are taken a few years later, likely, when she was 24.

Here, Edward R. Murrow interviews the star: