Sam Shaw in ‘Hollywood Reporter’

In the iconic image, her white skirt swirls up like a matador’s cape as she fights — reluctantly, it seems — to wrestle it back down. The photograph of Marilyn Monroe, taken at 51st Street and Lexington Avenue in New York as promotion for The Seven Year Itch, is one of the most reproduced shots of the 20th century — and then some. Yet Sam Shaw, the protean photographer, pioneering independent movie producer and all-around bon vivant who shot that and thousands of other indelible photos of postwar Hollywood legends, is so scarcely known he doesn’t rate a Wikipedia entry.

Shaw shared an almost-telepathic bond with Monroe, in whom he recognized a fellow seeker of love, adventure and knowledge. He met her on the set of Kazan’s ¡Viva Zapata! — a struggling extra — along with Anthony Quinn, and became lifelong friends of both. Shaw photographed Monroe throughout her career and became a confidant during the upheaval of her celebrity, marriages, divorces and alienation from the studios. Shaw encouraged the actress to shed the layers of makeup she wore like so much armor, reassuring her that without it she was still one of the world’s most beautiful women. “She really looked at Sam as part of her family — he was the kind of person who was always there, like an Italian mother, with a pot of coffee brewing,” Karnath says.

“The Proposal #1,” Marilyn Monroe | Central Park, New York, 1957
While walking together through Central Park, Sam asked Marilyn what she was learning at the Actors Studio. When she responded, “Improvisation,” he asked her to show him. Marilyn grabbed Sam’s newspaper and headed to a bench to read. Later she explained the couple’s intense conversation. Next to her, the man was asking for the woman to marry him. She said she would, but on the condition that he give up his livelihood as a bookie.

A new book, ‘Sam Shaw: A Personal Point of View’ (published by Hatje Cantz) — which Shaw, who died in 1999, began 20 years ago — presents the first comprehensive retrospective of his Hollywood photographs.

From an illustrated profile of photographer Sam Shaw, published this week in Hollywood Reporter

And an endorsement from Liz Smith, no less…

OH, and here are the best photographs in the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter — several pages of vintage shots taken by the late lensman Sam Shaw. These include a shirtless, sexy Marlon Brando playing pool … the elfin Audrey Hepburn in Paris, circa 1957 … ravishing portraits of Gena Rowlands and Lee Remick … Lauren Bacall hugging Swifty Lazar’s bald pate … and Marilyn Monroe — who was Shaw’s good friend — perched on a Central Park bench, wearing a simple white summer dress, reading the New York Times. Sitting near MM is a young New York couple. They do their best to avoid looking at the goddess.

WowOwow

John Vachon: A ‘Lost Look’ at Marilyn

My profile of photographer John Vachon, whose work with Marilyn Monroe is collected in a new book, Marilyn, August 1953: The Lost ‘Look’ Photos, has been posted on the Immortal Marilyn website.

My fellow Immortal Marilyn staffers are currently adding monthly updates for February, so watch out for more new features (articles, reviews, artwork) over the next few days.

And while you’re there, please consider donating to the St Valentine’s Day Flowers for Marilyn appeal. A bouquet will be left at Monroe’s grave, and all profits will be sent to the Animal Haven charity.

If you’re interested in participating, please contact Immortal Marilyn’s president and webmistress, Mary Sims: mary@immortalmarilyn.com

Miller Reference in ‘The Good Wife’

Nancy Crozier (played by Mamie Gummer) is a recurring character in US legal drama, The Good Wife. In Season 2, Episode 4 (‘Cleaning House’), Crozier, who works for a rival firm, is appointed co-counsel on a case with Alicia Florrick (Julianna Marguiles.)

Florrick is defending a DJ at a nightclub where a young woman died in a stampede, while Crozier represents the security firm on duty when the tragedy occurred.

Judge Jared Quinn is a chauvinist who throws Alicia out of court for wearing trousers. Crozier wins Quinn over when she sees a photograph of his daughter in a high-school production of Arthur Miller’s 1964 play, After the Fall. She tells him that she once played Maggie (the character believed to be based on Marilyn Monroe), and quotes the line, ‘You tried to kill me, mister. I been killed by a lot of people, some couldn’t hardly spell, but it’s the same, mister.’

In the courtroom, Crozier exaggerates her ditzy blonde persona, stating that she knows nothing about the drug world while asking leading questions. She insinuates that the other clubgoers, high on PCP, became aggressive and attacked the woman.

It soon becomes clear that Crozier is seeking to clear the security firm of blame while showing Alicia’s client in a negative light. However, Alicia’s assistant discovers that the skids for holding the revolving stage were uncovered that night, which had caused the guests to trip and fall on top of the victim.

Therefore, Alicia finally outwits Crozier. It is interesting that Crozier had previously played a Monroe-like character in a play, because like Monroe, she is far more intelligent than she lets on, and uses her feminine wiles to manipulate men.

However, unlike Marilyn, Crozier is tough and calculating. Her character is also reminiscent of Elle Woods, the attorney played by Reese Witherspoon in the 2001 comedy, Legally Blonde.

In another plot twist, a deposition made to Alicia by Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver), Peter Florrick’s political rival, is leaked to the press. Childs believes (incorrectly) that Alicia, Florrick’s wife, is the source of the leak.

What’s also intriguing here is that Welliver previously played Joe DiMaggio in the 2001 mini-series, Blonde, while Griffin Dunne, who plays Judge Quinn in the After the Fall sequence, also featured in Blonde as the play’s author, Arthur Miller.

Finally, if Mamie Gummer (Crozier) looks familiar to you, she is, in fact, the 27 year-old daughter of acting legend Meryl Streep. Gummer also stars in the new medical drama, Off The Map, and will appear in John Carpenter’s forthcoming horror flick, The Ward.

‘There’s Something About Marilyn’

Bert Stern, 1962

“She was a beautiful, glamourous, funny and successful woman who was also very mysterious. She didn’t have a lot of friends and didn’t hang out with Hollywood people…She was on a perpetual self-improvement quest in a way that many movie stars are not…When celebrities die before their time it is the lost potential we think about most.This happens with many famous people but Marilyn generates the greatest interest and devotion, and has therefore created the biggest market for what she left behind.”

Margaret Barrett of Bonham’s and Butterfield’s, as quoted in an article by Saul Wordsworth exploring Monroe’s enduring appeal, published in UK magazine The Market and also online.

Newsweek at the Movies

Michelle Williams, currently starring in Blue Valentine, has spoken to Newsweek about her role as MM in the forthcoming My Week With Marilyn. You can watch her here, along with James Franco and Nicole Kidman, discussing their own experiences of playing iconic, real-life characters such as James Dean and Virginia Woolf on the big screen.

Michelle is also cover girl for February’s Marie-Claire in the UK.

‘Blonde’: The Mini-Series

Blonde, a TV adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, was first aired in 2002, barely two years after the book’s publication. Directed by Joyce Chopra and starring Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace) as Marilyn Monroe, it is currently available to watch for free online at Blinkbox.

Although Blonde is based on Monroe’s life, it plays fast and loose with the facts. Characters like ‘I.E. Shinn’, the fictitious agent, are amalgamations of several men who played significant roles in Monroe’s early career. Her first husband, James Dougherty, is renamed ‘Bucky Glazer’, while DiMaggio and Miller are referred to as ‘the Ballplayer’ and ‘the Playwright’.

This technique puts Monroe in the spotlight, and makes her brief, intense life seem much less complex than it really was. Vague, unconfirmed rumours about her relationship with peripheral figures, like Charlie Chaplin’s son, are distorted beyond recognition. While proclaiming that ‘she wasn’t blonde, and she wasn’t dumb’ (seemingly paraphrasing Dolly Parton), Marilyn is portrayed as a victim, passive and helpless.

Poppy Montgomery’s performance is actually quite good, but the other characters are little more than caricatures. Perhaps the most misleading scene of all shows Monroe exchanging sexual favours with Darryl F. Zanuck, head of Twentieth Century Fox, for a stock contract. This incident never occurred and, to me as a fan, it was offensive.

The first half of this two-parter mainly covers Monroe’s pre-Hollywood life as Norma Jeane Mortenson. Her mother is played rather stridently by Patricia Richardson. The costuming in the latter part is somewhat sloppy, playing on stereotyped images and not acknowledging how subtly Monroe transformed herself.

Blonde is reasonably watchable, but fails to rise above other two-dimensional portrayals of Marilyn’s life. It doesn’t match the attempted lyricism of Oates’ novel and fails to distinguish between fact and fantasy.

A new, big-screen version is now planned, to be directed by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) and starring Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive, King Kong, The Painted Veil.)

Rare ‘Misfits’ Pics, Screening in Reno

Photo by Lisa Graeber

‘This 1960 photo of Marilyn and Eli Wallach was taken with a Kodak ‘Brownie’ box camera by Lisa Graeber (then Lisa Stix) at Quail Canyon near Pyramid Lake, while filming The Misfits in Nevada.

Lisa Graeber (then Lisa Stix) was home for the summer after her first year at college when the movie crew took over their house in Quail Canyon, near Pyramid Lake. Graeber and her mother moved into their guesthouse during the filming, and got to know several of the cast and crew members. Graeber took personal photos with her Kodak “Brownie” box camera, which have not yet been seen publicly and will be displayed at a free screening of ‘The Misfits’, on February 13 at 2pm, Wells Fargo Auditorium, Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno.

“There is something special about Lisa’s unstaged photos,” said Donnelyn Curtis, head of the University’s Special Collections Department.

Curtis explained that Graeber’s brother, Dave Stix, a University alumnus and rodeo team member, was hired to be a night watchman for the Quail Canyon movie set, helped with the rodeo sets in Dayton, and found extras to be rodeo performers in the movie.

Film critic Robin Holabird will provide commentary and share stories about the various set locations at the Feb. 13 screening.

The screening is in conjunction with the “Honoring the Horse” exhibit, on display at the Knowledge Center through March. Since other “stars” in the movie were four-legged creatures – wild horses, rodeo horses and trained movie horses, the exhibit pays homage to these horses, and horses in general, which have played an important role in Nevada’s history.’

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