Surgical scars can be seen on Marilyn’s tummy in two of her final photo shoots, with George Barris (left) and Bert Stern (right), and in her ‘nude’ swim scene for the unfinished Something’s Got to Give, as Mehera Bonner reports for Marie-Claire. Marilyn underwent an appendectomy in 1952, and had her gallbladder removed in 1961, a year before she died. She also underwent several operations to alleviate her endometriosis and help her to have children, sadly without success. While surgical procedures are considerably more sophisticated today, our expectations have also increased. While there’s something rather liberating about these gorgeous, unaltered shots, it’s also important to remember that Marilyn – who exerted rigid control over her photo shoots, if not her movies – may herself have wanted to airbrush these photos had she lived long enough to fully review them. In fact, she vetoed many of Stern’s images, marking the rejects with an orange ‘X’; but after her death, he published the session in its entirety.
“Though she was famous for her perceived ‘perfection’ and ‘flawlessness’ (all the eye-rolls at the inherent sexism that goes into these terms), Marilyn Monroe had a pretty big scar across her stomach—which appears in both the Last Sitting and in Something’s Got to Give.
The scar itself is the result of gallbladder surgery that occurred before Stern’s famous images were taken. He says Marilyn was self-conscious about it, and called upon her hairdresser George [Masters] for reassurance before shooting. When Stern noticed the scar, he reportedly remembered Diana Vreeland saying to him, ‘I think there’s nothing duller than a smooth, perfect-skinned woman. A woman is beautiful by her scars.’
Diana Vreeland is right: women *are* beautiful with scars. But she’s also incorrect about women without them being dull. Either way, the sometimes-removal of Marilyn’s scar offers a fascinating insight into beauty standards in Old Hollywood—did she ever truly have agency as to how her body was portrayed?
Ironically, Something’s Got to Give was the first time Monroe was ‘allowed’ to expose her belly button on film—as most of her previous swimwear moments were high-waisted. Before her death, she’s said to have quipped ‘I guess the censors are willing to recognize that everybody has a navel.’
Bert Stern’s ‘avant garde’ 1962 photo shoot with Marilyn is featured in a new exhibition at the DS World car showroom in Paris. (The photo above shows Marilyn’s scar after gallbladder surgery.)
“DS World Paris is hosting the ‘Marilyn, The Last Sitting’ exhibition from 8 June 2017 to 6 January 2018.
The session took place in Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles in 1962 over two days and one night, consisting of three long photo shoots by Bert Stern for Vogue magazine. The photographer took a total 2,571 pictures; the 59 most emblematic are on show at DS World Paris.
For Julien Faux, Director of DS World Paris, the exhibition is ‘a way of keeping alive the legend of this extraordinary woman, who was ahead of her time. It is also a perfect opportunity for drawing parallels between the timelessness of this artist, who has since become an icon, with the spirit of avant-garde of the current models in the DS collection, descended directly from the DS, another icon of the 20th century.’
The exhibition is showing at DS World Paris at 33 rue François 1 in Paris. Free admission.”
Marilyn is the perfect muse, so it’s no surprise that artists would pay tribute on her 91st birthday. David Bromley, whose paintings of MM were exhibited in Los Angeles last summer, had some wise words to offer on age and immortality in this Bert Stern-inspired tribute.
Daniel Acosta profiled Marilyn’s subtle transformation from role to role, while Alejandro Mogollo looked to near-sighted Pola in How to Marry a Millionaire for inspiration.
After a recent mini-movie starring Kate Upton, UK fashion magazine LOVE has unveiled another Marilyn-inspired clip, featuring the model and young Kardashian sister, Kendall Jenner. Shot by photographer Rankin and apparently inspired by Marilyn’s late collaboration with Bert Stern, the effect is more Lolita than Let’s Make Love; but Kendall exudes a playful innocence here, keeping her hair brunette a la Norma Jeane, and (perhaps wisely) miming to Marilyn’s voice rather than attempting a full impersonation.
She’s not the first in the Kardashian clan to be linked with MM – eldest sister Kim was compared to Marilyn by husband Kanye West (of course, he’s biased), while Khloe received some iconic Monroe prints from the family matriarch, Kris Jenner, last Christmas. ‘What would Marilyn Monroe have made of it?‘ asks WWD‘s Samantha Conti – and that, of course, is anyone’s guess.
The short-lived but highly influential 1960s magazine, Avant Garde, has been digitised in its entirety, as Dan Colman reports for Open Culture. Issue 2, released in March 1968, featured ‘The Marilyn Monroe Trip by Bert Stern‘, and is now highly collectible.
If you’re going to Chelsea Harbour for the Design Centre exhibition, there’s another Marilyn-related event to check out in nearby Fulham. Happy Birthday Miss Monroe, a pop-up display of classic images from Milton Greene, Bert Stern, Douglas Kirkland and others, opens at The Showroom Presents from tomorrow and throughout June, Jess Denham reports for the Independent.
Women in Dior: Sublime Elegance of a Portrait, opening at the Christian Dior Museum in Granville, Normandy on May 5 (through to September 25), features Marilyn – as photographed by Bert Stern in a black Dior dress – among other iconic women who wore Dior, reports the Malay Mail.
“The exhibition focuses on the elegant women who have showcased Dior’s dresses, garments and accessories in style, from 1947 to the present day. Their personality, style and key moments from their lives are explored through a selection of dresses, photographs, letters, paintings and drawings.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a book, also entitled Women in Dior – Sublime Elegance of a Portrait, written by fashion journalist Laurence Benaïm and published by Rizzoli. The book takes a closer look at the famous figures who marked the history of the French fashion house, exploring their tastes, their memories and — of course — their Dior ensembles.”
Vanity Fair has released a one-off tribute magazine dedicated to Marilyn on the eve of her 90th birthday, as part of their ‘Icons’ series. It is currently available from newsstands in the US only, but can also be ordered from their website.
The cover image, by Bert Stern, has been used twice before by the magazine. It also appears excessively airbrushed, and is a disappointing choice overall. However, there are many more photos inside, as well as some of the better articles about Marilyn published in recent years.
Unfortunately, the special issue also includes more dubious pieces about Marilyn and the Kennedys, citing widely disputed sources like Robert Slatzer and Jeanne Carmen; and Tony Curtis’s questionable claims about his relationship with Marilyn.
Interestingly, the current issue of Vanity Fair‘s regular edition also includes a tribute to MM, with comedienne Amy Schumer recreating her ‘Golden Dreams’ calendar pose on the cover. And in France, Marilyn’s life is chronicled in L’Humanite, among twenty famous names from the 20th century – more details here.
UPDATE: Amy Schumer has been featured in another seemingly Marilyn-inspired cover shot, for American Vogue‘s July issue. (Marilyn wore a very similar red off-the-shoulder dress while promoting Monkey Business in 1952.)
Artist Chuka Susan Chesney‘s portraits of Marilyn – each based on the same 1962 photo by Bert Stern – will be on display at the Altadena Public Library throughout April, reports Pasadena Now. Chesney will donate 30% of her sales to Kitten Rescue, an Los Angeles-based charity.