When Avedon Met Marilyn…

Richard Avedon’s first collaboration with Marilyn was in September 1954, when she visited New York to film The Seven Year Itch with director Billy Wilder. It may also have been their first meeting, and their warm camaraderie is evident in the resulting photos, taken by Sam Shaw. Earl Steinbicker, who was Avedon’s studio assistant at the time, remembers the shoot in Avedon: Something Personal.

“I met a helluva lot of famous people with Dick … I was there for the first sitting Dick ever did with Marilyn Monroe. The Daily News had sent a photographer to photograph him photographing her. I worked the fan blowing her hair, and at the end of the sitting she came over and said, ‘Wouldn’t you like a picture of me?'”

Garry Winogrand’s Marilyn in New Documentary

Garry Winogrand was a LIFE magazine photographer who captured modern America in many unforgettable images. In September 1954, he was also one of the fortunate few to capture Marilyn shooting The Seven Year Itch in New York – both the iconic ‘subway grate’ scene, and the brownstone on East 61st Street where she waved from the window. Winogrand once said of Marilyn that she drew ‘all the available light’ around her.

Now filmmaker Sasha Waters-Freyer has made a documentary, Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable, which will be touring film festivals this year and has also been selected for the PBS American Masters series.

“Artist. Iconoclast. Man of his time.  Garry Winogrand was the epic photographer of 20th century American life.  

Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable is the first documentary film on the life and work of acclaimed photographer Garry Winogrand  – the epic storyteller in pictures of America across three turbulent decades.  His artistry encompassed the heartbreak, violence, hope, and turmoil of postwar America, from the frenzy of its urban core to the alienation of its emergent suburbs.

He was born a first generation Hungarian-Jewish American in the Bronx, New York, in 1928, but his story is vital to our time.  If you take pictures of friends, strangers or celebrities, on the street or at a party, you are creating in Winogrand’s artistic legacy – even if you have never published an image in the pages of Life Magazine or hung a print on the wall of the Museum of Modern Art.  His ‘snapshot aesthetic,’ once derided by the critics, is the universal language of contemporary global image making.  When he died suddenly at age 56 in 1984, Winogrand left behind more than 10,000 rolls of film – more than a quarter of a million pictures!  He produced so many unseen images that it has taken until now for the full measure of his artistic legacy to emerge. 

Endorsed by his estate, Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable is the first cinematic survey of that legacy.  The film tells the story of an artist whose rise and fall was – like America’s in the late decades of the 20th century – larger-than-life, full of contradictions and totally unresolved.”

Merry Christmas to All Our Readers

“Marilyn flew East for Christmas with the Greenes. She was, in fact, escaping from Hollywood and Twentieth Century-Fox, with a bafford press in pursuit. ‘That put us into a little cadre of sort of road-company secret service agents,’ recalls [Judy] Quine, ‘because the whole thing was so hush-hush – where she was, how she was.’ Aware of Milton’s involvement, the press staked out his Lexington Avenue studio, his pied-a-terre on Sutton Place South and the Weston house on Fanton Hill Road. The Greenes outmanoeuvred them by meeting Marilyn’s flight and heading straight for Connecticut. They stopped outside the village of Weston, deposited their precious cargo in the trunk and smuggled her past the paparazzi crowding their driveway.”

From Milton’s Marilyn (1994)

 

Marilyn and Avedon: Something Personal

This photo of Marilyn chatting with photographer Richard Avedon at a 1961 Actors Studio benefit at New York’s Roseland Ballroom is published in Avedon: Something Personal, a new biography by Norma Stevens and Steven M.L. Aronson. Marilyn is mentioned in the introduction, where Norma Stevens describes her first meeting with Avedon. A photo of Marilyn and Avedon, taken by Sam Shaw in 1954, is also featured. It’s unclear whether the book includes any further material on their iconic collaborations, but this preview looks very promising.

And as a bonus, here’s the Roseland photo in colour…

Not Forgotten: Marilyn in Korea

Bill Wamke, who was drafted by the US Army in 1952 and was appointed stenographer to the Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division, recalls meeting Marilyn during her 1954 tour of Korea in an interview with the Kokomo Herald.

“‘She got to because our division was not on the line when I got over there, the 7 was on the line. My division was not on the line … Of course there was no danger there, and since it was close to the ceasefire, I got there about a month before. Marilyn Monroe moved around the camp and visited with the troops and stuff, and it was neat to see her.’

Wanke still has the photographs he took of Monroe and said, for one of them, she was kind and patient while he got his camera set to take the photo.”

 

63 Years Ago: ‘Joe, Marilyn Married Here’

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The San Francisco Chronicle has reposted their front page from January 15, 1954 – the day after Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn at City Hall.

“’Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio wedded the girl of his and many other men’s dreams yesterday afternoon in San Francisco City Hall,’ the story read.

‘The time and place of the wedding was kept a closely guarded secret and only 500 people managed to hear about it in time to turn the corridors outside Municipal Judge Charles S. Peery’s chambers in a madhouse,’ The Chronicle’s Art Hoppe wrote.

‘Marilyn, it seems, had made the mistake of calling her studio in Hollywood yesterday morning and letting it in on her plans to be married at 1 p.m. A studio official casually mentioned it as fast as he could to all the major news services.'”

And just FYI, January 14 has seen some other significant events – including the release of Clara Bow’s It in 1926, and the publication of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar in 1963 (less than a month after her suicide.)

‘Zimbelism’: New Doc + Book On Marilyn, and More

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Zimbelism, the long-awaited documentary about photographer George S. Zimbel, had its premiere at the recent Hot Docs Festival in Toronto. Zimbel, now 86, spoke to Laura Goldstein for mashumashu.com about his 72- year career in ‘humanist’ photography, and his memories of Marilyn as she filmed the ‘subway scene’ for The Seven Year Itch. A retrospective of Zimbel’s work, Momento, was published last year.

“‘I am more of a determined photographer than a pushy photographer but that night I did something atypical. I started to shoot as the filming commenced. (Strictly forbidden!) There was enough street noise to cover the discrete click of the Leica shutter, but someone obviously didn’t like what I was doing and I was removed from the press photography area and escorted behind the police lines by two of New York’s finest. I used the new viewpoint and kept shooting from there. I remember when all action stopped as two men walked across the set. It was Joe Dimaggio, (Marilyn’s) husband and Walter Winchell, the Broadway columnist. Dimaggio was furious about the scene (remember it was 1954.) Every publication that could find an excuse to run photos of that event did so. And here is my personal mystery – I decided not to throw my shoot into the editorial pot.’

I ask George bluntly, ‘Why did you do that? Didn’t you kick yourself afterwards?’

‘We all have our priorities,’ he says without regret, ‘and I was working on a photo essay on Irish Americans that had to be completed first. You know we had to fight just to be paid $100. Of course I checked the Marilyn negatives first and then I filed them away unprinted and unpublished. They even survived a fire in my darkroom in 1966 and my move to Canada in 1971.’

Amazingly, the Monroe photographs weren’t shown until over 20 years later, in Zimbel’s solo exhibition in 1976 at Confederation Centre of the Arts, Prince Edward Island, Canada. The full set was shown for the first time in 1982 at Galerie Art 45 in Montreal.

As Zimbel reminisces, ‘In January 2000 I had a retrospective in Valencia Spain and my Marilyns were exhibited on the walls of Sala Muralla, a gallery fashioned from an ancient archeological site at Institut Valencia d’Art Modern where they shared space with an ancient plaque of a Roman goddess. I felt it was a homecoming for her image.'”

Marilyn’s Korea Dress On Show in Bendigo

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One of Marilyn’s most iconic dresses, rarely seen today, is currently on display as part of Twentieth Century Fox Presents Marilyn Monroe, the new exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery, as Scott Fortner reports for his MM Collection blog.

“Many of the items on exhibit have been seen around the world, including the US, Italy, Germany, Japan, Canada, Spain and Prague.  However, one item in particular hasn’t been seen by the public in over 20 years, and that’s the striking purple gown that Marilyn Monroe wore throughout her Korean USO tour in 1954 when she performed for US troops stationed there.  Marilyn is often quoted as saying performing in Korea was one of the highlights of her life.

The dress and matching bolero jacket, owned by a private collector in Australia, is quite simply, stunning.  It sparkles in the light today exactly as it must have in February of ’54 as Marilyn sang ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ in front of thousands of US servicemen in freezing temperatures.  It was an absolute thrill to see this treasure live and in person.  And for those who may doubt it’s the actual Korea USO dress, I’ve done a bit of analysis, and I’m convinced it’s THE dress Marilyn owned and wore throughout her USO tour.  Many have speculated the whereabouts of this dress, yet those of us ‘in the know’ have known it was in the hands of a private collector in Australia.  His generosity in sharing the gown with the public is greatly appreciated.”

62 Years Ago: Marilyn and Joe

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This week marks the 62nd anniversary of Marilyn’s marriage to Joe DiMaggio, on January 16th, 1954. Doug Miller looks back at their wedding in an article for the Major League Baseball website.

“‘Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio wedded the girl of his and many other men’s dreams yesterday afternoon in the San Francisco City Hall,’ read the newspaper story the next day in the San Francisco Chronicle, written by Art Hoppe.

‘Marilyn Monroe, who packs no mean jolt herself, said she was very happy. DiMaggio said he was also very happy. Also happy was the battery of columnists which has spent no little time in the past two years running down rumors that the two were already secretly married, were to be married, or were not speaking to each other.’

The report said that the location and time of the ceremony had been kept secret and ‘only about 500 people managed to hear about it in time to turn the corridors outside Municipal Judge Charles S. Peery’s court into a madhouse.’

The reason?

‘Marilyn, it seems, had made the mistake of calling her studio in Hollywood [the day before the wedding] and letting it in on her plans to be married at 1 p.m. A studio official casually mentioned it as fast as he could to all the major news services.’

With that cat out of the bag, the soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. were forced to host an impromptu press conference led by the hard-hitting question, ‘Are you excited, Marilyn?’

Monroe, the Chronicle wrote, giggled and said, ‘Oh, you KNOW it’s more than that.'”

Alistair Cooke on Marilyn and Joe

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As reported by ES Updates earlier this year, Alistair Cooke at the Movies – an anthology of the eminent British journalist’s writings on Hollywood – is now available via Kindle as well as in print. The book includes two full pieces about Marilyn, and several other references. You can read Cooke’s obituary of Marilyn here.

Cooke’s first thoughts on Marilyn were broadcast on October 14, 1954, on his weekly BBC radio show, Letter From America, regarding her divorce from Joe DiMaggio.

“The Monroe-DiMaggio breakdown is easily dismissed as just another Hollywood marriage. It’s true enough that over twenty, thirty years Hollywood has developed certain mores and customs. And the world jumps to the conclusion that love and marriage in Hollywood constitute something like a religious heresy, a shameless cult mocking the true faith of marriage and children. I have no hesitation in saying that this is mostly moonshine and is brewed from a compound of ignorance and envy…

The gods and goddesses of the Greeks were not known much outside the Mediterranean, and were never seen in the flesh. But the mere announcement of Marilyn Monroe arriving on platform five would cause a riot anywhere in the world. She was mobbed on arriving in Tokyo last year more embarrassingly than she was on leaving San Francisco…

I don’t think there’s been so much talk, from the unlikeliest people, about a movie marriage since the Pickford-Fairbanks idyll as there has been the last fortnight about Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. I hope I can get across to you that this marriage, when it suddenly burst upon the world – an elopement naturally – nine months ago, was equally a poetic event … She was a poor girl, an orphan, brought up in an orphanage, and towards the end of the war she was a war-factory worker – a tousled, cheerful, lonely working girl, pretty as a kitten. It is not hard for millions of such girls to identify with her.

So who did Rosie the Riveter marry? She eloped with one of the two or three greatest baseball players there ever have been; nobody but the Yankee Clipper himself … he met Miss Monroe over a plate of spaghetti on a blind date. And they eloped. The perfect fulfilment of two ambitions: the average American boy’s dream of being a baseball hero, and the girl next door’s dream of Hollywood.

So they moved down to Hollywood, and to Joe ‘down’ is the word, not only from his beloved San Francisco, but from any sort of life that made sense to him. He was suddenly surrounded by voice coaches and dancing teachers, and press agents, and telephone calls for publicity stills, for magazine covers, for calendars, for interviews … And the object of all this concern was a wife who worked hard in a calling where you go to bed at nine and get up for work at five in the morning. It was all hopelessly bewildering, and one day Miss Monroe announces, right upstairs, over your puzzled head, that she is going to file for divorce…

I tell you this story in its social outline and leave you to write your own moral. But don’t ascribe it to Hollywood, whose divorce rate is hardly higher than that of Bradford or Kensington. Put it down in an age of television, aeroplanes, publicity and universal movies to the overwhelming conspiracy of fame against two ordinary and engaging young people who pay a rather high price for the only extraordinary thing about them – her prettiness, and his old knack of hitting a ball into the grandstand.”