Gene Lester (1910-1994) began his career as a radio singer before moving into photography. He opened a studio in Hollywood in 1940, and became the Saturday Evening Post‘s West Coast correspondent for the next thirty years.
He first photographed a young Marilyn in 1947, and thereafter on the set of There’s No Business Like Show Business in 1954, and on several occasions in 1956, in which her business partner Milton Greene was also present: including a glamour shoot for the Post‘s famous Pete Martin interview, plus snaps outside the Beverly Glen home Marilyn rented while filming Bus Stop, and her first photo-call after meeting co-star Don Murray.
A number of unseen photos by Gene Lester are now available to view on the Getty Images website. Enjoy!
Marilyn is featured in Face to Face, a new exhibition at the National Archives in The Hague, Netherlands until January 6, 2019.
“The way we look at history is always shaded by our own background. With every narrative, we have to ask: What are we looking at? Whose story is being told? And from whose perspective has that story been recorded? The exhibition FACE TO FACE uncovers both well known testimonies and hidden stories from the holdings of the National Archives, the largest photography collection in the Netherlands.”
A letter written to Marilyn by Pat Newcomb, her publicist and close friend for the last two years of her life, is among the items on auction in the UK tomorrow (Saturday, September 22), as Fox News reports.
Henry Aldridge & Sons, based in Devizes, Wiltshire, is offering several lots from the estate of Monroe collector David Gainsborough Roberts, who died in 2016. Bidding opens at 10 am GMT, and bids can also be made online via The Salesroom or Invaluable (but you’ll need to register first.)
In the letter, Pat advises Marilyn on how to field intrusive questions from the acerbic Hollywood columnist, Hedda Hopper. “If you want to return her call … I think it would be a good idea and you can avoid answering anything you don’t want,” Pat writes. “When she asks what you did over the holidays you just say ‘nothing special’ – that gives her nothing to print. You ‘saw a few friends, whom she doesn’t know anyway’ and just relaxed.'” Probably referring to the latest dance craze, Pat makes a further suggestion: “You can tell Hedda you hear she’s quite a ‘Twister’ and she’ll do a monologue which will completely take her away from anything about you.”
Pat also mentions that “Harrison Cannall’s office called to say that Joe [DiMaggio] was in town and could I confirm it. I said I didn’t know and didn’t discuss your personal life in any case.” Pat refers to related matters, such as the title of an upcoming Redbook article. The letter has an estimated price of £300-£500.
Another letter from Marilyn’s psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson, is dated June 30, 1962, billing her for services totalling $1,250, with an estimated price of £400-£600.
Two vintage movie posters are also available, plus a four-page 1955 calendar featuring a censored version of Marilyn’s famous nude photo by Tom Kelley and three other pin-up shots, complete with envelope (estimated at £600-£800.)
This Marilyn-themed jigsaw puzzle – inspired by a US postage stamp – is among many weird and wonderful finds spotted by Texas-based photographer Norm Diamond and featured in Everything Must Go: Stories From Estate Sales, a new still-life exhibition at the Cumberland Gallery in Nashville, Tennessee until October 27.
Images of Marilyn by Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder and Gene Lester will be featured in Pop Art Photo Show, hosted by Limited Runs at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica from September 27-30. (And if you’re a member of LA fan club Marilyn Remembered, there’s a promo available on single-day tickets – see here.)
Ted Ryan, official historian for Coca Cola, has been showing The Mirror‘s Emily Setter around the company archive in Atlanta, Georgia. Of particular interest was this rare photo of Marilyn…
“Lolling on a sun lounger in a Coca-Cola red swimsuit and sky-high glass stilettos strapped on with red ribbons, Marilyn Monroe looks the real thing. America’s brightest star fizzed as she posed for a glamorous advertisement for America’s coolest drink in these never seen before images from 1953. Incredibly, for a reason now lost in the mists of time, Marilyn’s sizzling Coke campaign never saw the light of day. Until now.
‘Why wouldn’t you want one of the hottest celebs in the world agreeing to appear with your product?’ laughs Ted Ryan. ‘Why was she not used? The ad was being done on spec, but it was never accepted by the company. We just don’t know why.’
Coca-Cola only learned of the candid behind-the-scenes shots by celebrity photographer Harold Lloyd last year after they were found in, of all places, the archives of NASA. Naturally, Coke snapped them up, and is today letting the Mirror publish them for the first time.”
However, this is not the full story, as ES Updates has previously revealed. Marilyn was actually filming a PSA for the US Air Force (not NASA) at Greenacres, the Beverly Hills estate of former silent comedian Harold Lloyd, whose own glamour shots were published in the 1992 book, 3-D Hollywood.
“She visited in 1953 with Jean Negulesco, supposedly to film a dream sequence for How to Marry a Millionaire. This never transpired, but footage of a seductive Marilyn purring ‘I hate a careless man’ was used in ‘Security Is Common Sense’, a PSA for the US Air Force, warning servicemen against revealing military secrets in letters home.
Studio contract stars like Marilyn were routinely asked to endorse products, although she would do so less frequently in later years … the Lloyd shoot does not appear to have been directly connected to Coca Cola – but the tacit promotional value was clearly welcomed, and it has since become part of their glamorous legacy.”
Artist Kirkland Thomas Smith’s portrait of Marilyn – inspired by Bert Stern, and assembled with reclaimed materials – is featured in her new exhibition, Re-Imagined, at the Curtis R. Harley Gallery in Spartansburg (part of the University of South Carolina Upstate) until September 21, as Samantha Swann reports for GroupState.
“The series carries an environmental message, which Smith said was inspired by the plastic toys that her four children accumulated. That caused her to think about just how many plastic items people can accumulate, even when trying not to. Before starting this series of work 10 years ago, Smith focused on traditional portraiture.
‘When I was trying to figure out how I could paint a picture of our consumerism, I just didn’t feel like I could make a bold enough statement painting a picture of it, and that’s where I got the idea to just use the stuff as my paint,’ Smith said.
Smith said that before starting the project, she, like many people, assumed that all plastics were recyclable. They are not. In fact many are not, she said. The items Smith uses would normally be thrown away — some are items that she or others have saved from trash cans, while others were purchased at yard sales or thrift stores.
While she wants the work to be fun, she also hopes that it will make viewers think about the amount of plastic and non-recyclable items in their daily lives and about the legacy being left for future generations.”
Writing for the Mutual Art website, Jordan Mitchell explores the history of the Magnum Photos agency through ten iconic photographers. Marilyn is mentioned in relation to Eve Arnold (see above), but three more of the other artists also photographed her on the set of The Misfits…
Hot off the press, Marilyn’s Monsters is a graphic novel by Tommy Redolfi which retells her story as a dark fairytale. Now available with a preface by cult filmmaker David Cronenberg, it was previously published in France as Marilyn in Holy Wood. You can find out more and view sample pages here.
Also just published, Samantha Barbas’ Confidential Confidentiallooks at the forces behind the notorious scandal magazine which exposed the secrets of Marilyn and other 1950s stars.
Also due in October is Rockhaven Sanitarium, a history of the pioneering women’s psychiatric clinic where Marilyn’s mother Gladys lived for almost fifteen years, authored by LA Woman Tours boss (and friend of this blog) Elisa Jordan. (You can read more about Rockhaven’s history here.)
An extremely rare (and very charming) series of semi-nude photos shot by Richard Avedon, featuring Marilyn with hairdresser Kenneth Battelle, has surfaced on the website of the Edward Cella Gallery in Los Angeles.
This was probably shot during the same session that made the cover of Life magazine to promote Some Like It Hot in April 1959, although Marilyn had worked with Avedon the previous summer on the ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ sessions (published in Life in December 1958.) Avedon had been unhappy with some of the shots, so these nudes could have been among the rejects. However, Marilyn’s slightly bouffant hairstyle more closely resembles her look in March 1959, when Battelle accompanied Marilyn to the Some Like It Hot premiere in Chicago (see here.)
Interestingly, this was not the first time Marilyn stripped off for Avedon – she also posed topless for his ‘Photomatic’ series in 1957 (see here.) The playful nature of these images reflects Marilyn’s trust in Avedon – which was seemingly well-placed, considering how long it has taken for the shots to appear.