Life Magazine Uncovers Pre-Stardom Marilyn Monroe Images members are definitely familiar with the icon images of movie star Marilyn Monroe. But LIFE Magazine has uncovered rare pictures of the young starlet in her early years.

In the fall of 1948, Marilyn Monroe had just a few roles in box office flops on her résumé — but LIFE photographer J. R. Eyerman apparently saw enough of a glimmer in the 22-year-old starlet to follow her through the showbiz training that promised to make her big. The incredible — and seldom seen — images in this gallery are the first a LIFE photographer ever took of Monroe, though the magazine did not publish them at the time. (In fact, she wouldn’t show up in LIFE’s pages until October 1949, along with seven other then-unfamiliar Hollywood “girls”).

But now, in celebration of what would have been Monroe’s 85th birthday (June 1, 2011), presents these rare gems, restored to their original glory and showing early-career Monroe in the dance, acting, and voice classes that helped make her an icon for the ages. Here: Marilyn runs a hand through her long curls — dyed but not yet that famous platinum hue — in one of Eyerman’s portraits.

In the notes accompanying Eyerman’s pictures, LIFE Los Angeles correspondent Carlton McKinney describes the diligence of the young actress and the vets who helped her along: “The processes shot are not terribly complicated, showing as they do how Marilyn trains herself for hoped-for movie stardom by consulting specialists in singing, dancing and drama and how she is worked on by them in the effort to produce a wrapped-up package of talent to back up her photogenic sex appeal.”

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Photo: J.R. Eyerman/TIME & LIFE Pictures

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