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Marilyn Monroe’s death occurred 50 years ago today.

The star died of a drug overdose under still-debated circumstances at the age of 36. To say her legend has grown in the last half century is an understatement.

Marilyn. Her name alone conjures up memories of an icon blessed with beauty, shrouded in mystery, befallen by tragedy and passing away far too soon.

Those who knew Marilyn Monroe considered her talented, versatile, vivacious, troubled and profoundly sexual. Today, future generations know her no differently.

Al Matthews in Aliens

Marilyn Monroe, age 23, in 1949.

The blond, curvy, breathy-voiced star fascinates and inspires fans to this day (see Lindsay Lohan Playboy photos and countless other celebrity homages).

Monroe and her world became the focal point of NBC’s Broadway-themed series Smash, which is fitting as Marilyn’s career, and life, was pure theater.

This year, there have already been 16 books added to the list of Monroe tomes. Marilyn’s staying power may reveal as much about us as about her.

Enigmatic, vulnerable and innocent, yet sexually iconic and always tinged with a hint of scandal, Monroe embodies everything that rivets us culturally.

She’s also sympathetic in a sense, dying young, the victim of her own success, thrust a world beyond her control and taken advantage of routinely.

Whatever hopes, dreams, memories, indelible images and cautionary tales we project onto Marilyn, one thing is clear: There will never be another like her.