Long before Monroe-inspired photo shoots became de rigueur, Marilyn herself posed as five ‘fabled enchantresses’ for LIFE magazine in 1958. She considered the session on a par with her best screen performances, and in his accompanying text, husband Arthur Miller supported that claim. In a week when another Richard Avedon sold at auction for more than $8K (see here), the Flashbak website looks back at their supreme collaboration.
“As in life so in these pictures — [Marilyn] salutes fantasy from the shore of the real until there comes a moment when she carries us, reality and all, into the dream with her, and we are grateful. Her wit here consists of her absolute commitment to two ordinarily irreconcilable opposites — the real feminine and the man’s fantasy of femininity. We know she knows the difference in these pictures, but is refusing to concede that there is any contradiction, and it is serious and funny at the same time.
I am quite conceivably prejudiced, but I think this collection is a wonder of Marilyn’s wittiness. As Lillian Russell, Marilyn sits [on] the solid gold bicycle just inexpertly enough to indicate that she is, after all, a lady… Her hands lace around the bike handles so much more femininely than they grasp the fan as Clara Bow. And here again is the difference between imitation and interpretation, between making an affect and rendering a spirit.”
This rare and charming photo of Marilyn getting her make-up done by an unnamed woman while a baby looks on from inside a basket, was posted to the Avedon Foundation’s Instagram account yesterday. It was taken in New York 61 years ago, on July 2, 1958 – five days before Marilyn flew to Los Angeles to begin shooting Some Like It Hot.
Richard C. Miller’s photographic archive has been added to Getty Images, including his photos of James Dean on the set of his last film, Giant, and many other Hollywood icons. Marilyn is also featured, from the early modelling days to her roles in Some Like It Hot and Let’s Make Love. Among the selections are some rare outtakes and more familiar shots previously unattributed. (You can read my tribute to Miller here.)
Four years after her first assignment with Miller in 1946, Marilyn worked with him again in 1950, as he followed her to an audition at the Players Ring Theatre in Los Angeles. This shoot remained unpublished for many years.
When they reunited eight years later Marilyn was a superstar, shooting what would become her most popular movie, Some Like It Hot.
And finally, on the set of Let’s Make Love in 1960…
Also featured is a type-written letter from Marilyn, allowing her name to be quoted in Green Eyes, a 1957 movie starring Susan Oliver, released as The Green-Eyed Blonde. Interestingly, Marilyn’s friend Steffi Sidney (daughter of columnist Sidney Skolsky) played a small role in this teen drama set in a home for wayward girls.
“The dialogue which Monroe granted permission to use was for the film, the Green-eyed Blonde: ‘JOYCE: / (before mirror) / How’s my hair? / BETSY: / (genuine admiration) / It’s beautiful, Joyce! / JOYCE: / (preening herself) / It’s kind of the way Marilyn Monroe does hers.’ The film was released by Warner Bros. on December 14, 1957.”
And finally, this 1958 letter to Manhattan department store Bloomingdale’s allowed Marilyn’s secretary, May Reis, to use her charge account.
A black velvet floppy hat with upturned brim – belonging to Marilyn, and worn in a photo taken by Roy Schatt at the Actors Studio circa 1955 – is on offer for a starting bid of $20,000 at Nate G. Sanders Auctions this coming Thursday, August 27. The hat label reads, ‘Original Design by Madcaps New York.’ Apart from a tear in the lining, the hat is in good condition. It was originally sold at the Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe auction at Christie’s in 1999.
A cheque for sixty-one dollars, signed by Marilyn to her secretary, May Reis (with ‘Marilyn Monroe Prods.’ written underneath), is also on offer for a starting bid of $2,500. It is dated October 9, 1958 – Marilyn was filming Some Like it Hot at the time.
Actress Kim Stanley, who played Cherie in the original Broadway production of Bus Stop – and was dubbed ‘the female Brando’ – also starred in perhaps the first Marilyn-inspired movie, The Goddess(1958.)
The melodrama was written by Paddy Chayevsky, and some think his downbeat portrayal of an actress whose life is very similar to Marilyn’s was prompted by his failure to interest MM herself in a previous script. (Reportedly, Arthur Miller advised her to reject it. Curiously, Miller’s sister, Joan Copeland, would play a supporting role in The Goddess.)
Writing for Backstage, Matt Mazur – who has praised Marilyn’s acting in the past – argues that despite its negative associations, The Goddess was Kim Stanley’s finest screen performance.
“Stanley’s performance in The Goddess represents the archetypal Hollywood bleached blonde’s misguided dreams of being a star, instead winding up at the wrong end of the bottle, wasted on her own demons. Stanley neither condemns nor condones her character’s erratic behavior, despite screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky’s near-insistent judgments. Stanley never allows him to use Rita as a simple cautionary tale, and her shockingly complex, empathetic performance gives him no control over the character’s turbulent interior. Rita is owned by Kim Stanley, not by the man who wrote her, not by the film’s director, and certainly not by the audience. This brusque defiance of conventionality cements Stanley’s icon status—her Rita lives on as a genuine miracle of film acting.”
Casting Norma Jeane: A Starlet is Transformed into Marilyn Monroe focuses on 1946, the year when 20 year-old Norma Jeane Dougherty became Marilyn Monroe. Author James Glaeg met Sam and Enid Knebelcamp, part of her extended family, in 1958. The book is based on his recollections of this encounter and others connected to Marilyn, as well as his own research. It reads like a novel, but unlike so many books about Monroe (alas), it’s true to fact. Casting Norma Jeane illuminates that year of wonders, and the many players involved, although the young woman at the centre remains somewhat elusive. So no earth-shattering revelations here I’m afraid, but a nice read, available in paperback and on Kindle (for free at time of writing!)
Bill Cunningham, best known as the ‘on-the-street’ photojournalist at the New York Times, has lived at Carnegie Hall for sixty years. This week, Cunningham and Carnegie’s four other remaining tenants are moving out as the legendary concert venue is set to become a music school.
In his latest slideshow, Cunningham talks about his bohemian home and the many famous names who have visited him there. During the 1950s, when Cunningham designed hats, Marilyn Monroe would pass through on her way home from the Actor’s Studio.
The image of Marilyn trying on hats in Cunningham’s studio apartment reminded me of some beautiful photographs of her taken by Carl Perutz, used by illustrator Jon Whitcomb for artwork in American Weekly. (Whitcomb’s painting was kept by her ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio, until his death.)
Although Cunningham was then a hatmaker – and not yet a photographer – at this time, I wonder if he might know the story behind these pictures?