Double Platinum: Elliott Erwitt’s Marilyn

I’ve said it before, but nary a year goes by without another Elliott Erwitt retrospective. ‘Double Platinum’, on display until May 27 at Beetles + Huxley in London’s Mayfair, focuses on Erwitt’s portraits of Marilyn during filming of The Seven Year Itch and The Misfits, and his other great works. The Evening Standard‘s Stephanie Rafanelli visited Erwitt at home in New York, to discuss his extraordinary career.

“He’s been grilled on the subject of Marilyn Monroe for over 50 years since her death in 1962. Having captured her Seven Year Itch flapping dress scene in sequential stills, and photographed the actress in her dressing gown between takes…Erwitt witnessed her demise on the cursed set of The Misfits in 1960. In the 42-degree heat of the Nevada desert, the drug-addled, neurotic Monroe failed to turn up for shoots as her relationship with her husband, and the film’s screenwriter, Arthur Miller disintegrated. Meanwhile, director John Huston went on wild benders: his gambling debts had to be covered by the production. Within a few years, all of The Misfits’ leading cast — Clark Gable, Monroe and Montgomery Clift — would be dead.

‘Marilyn was so screwed up at that time. She could hardly make it to the shoots,’ Erwitt says, visibly cringing. ‘She kept running off to LA to see her shrink. John Huston was out gambling every night, drinking, but he never seemed to have a hangover. Whatever bad shape Marilyn was in, it would be difficult to take a bad photograph of her. Being photogenic was a strong element of her fame.’ To lighten the mood, I ask who he considers to be the Monroe of our day. But he shakes his head and says quietly: ‘I don’t think about those things.’”

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