A ‘Likely’ Pair: Marilyn and Carl Sandburg

Photo by Arnold Newman, 1962

In an article for Vintage News, Barbara Stepko takes a closer look at Marilyn’s touching friendship with the Chicago poet and Lincoln’s biographer, Carl Sandburg. (She also notes that Sandburg was not the only intellectual charmed by Marilyn: after meeting her at a party in 1960, Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov described her as “gloriously pretty, all bosom and rose.”)

Photos by Len Steckler, 1961

“When she and Sandburg first met is a matter of some debate. Some believe it was in 1958, during the filming of Some Like It Hot. Others say it was two years later, when an 82-year-old Sandburg, working in Hollywood at the time, was temporarily given the actress’s dressing room to use as an office.

Monroe introduced herself and the two immediately hit it off. The two would meet up again at the New York apartment of photographer Len Steckler in December 1961, then a month later at the home of Hollywood producer Henry Weinstein, with photographer Arnold Newman and others in attendance. A Look Magazine tribute to Monroe which Sandburg had written after her death was accompanied by photos from both photographers.

What Monroe found in Sandburg was someone who could see beyond her glamorous image and like her for herself. Sandburg, for his part, was impressed with the actress’s down-to-earth personality, citing ‘a vitality, a readiness for humor.’ He also appreciated that Monroe, like himself, had come up the hard way.

Monroe was eager to pick Sandburg’s brain, the two of them discussing a wide range of topics. Although the actress was a bit out of her depth when it came to science and economics, she was well-versed when it came to current events and, naturally, Hollywood. (At one point, both of them would sing the praises of Charlie Chaplin.)”

Happy Birthday, Marilyn!

Marilyn by Ed Clark (1950)
Marilyn by Ed Clark (1950)

On what would be Marilyn’s 89th birthday, I am sharing a poem by her dear friend, Carl Sandburg.

Silver Wind

DO you know how the dream looms? how if summer misses one of us the two of us miss summer-
Summer when the lungs of the earth take a long breath for the change to low contralto singing mornings when the green corn leaves first break through the black loam-
And another long breath for the silver soprano melody of the moon songs in the light nights when the earth is lighter than a feather, the iron mountains lighter than a goose down-
So I shall look for you in the light nights then, in the laughter of slats of silver under a hill hickory.
In the listening tops of the hickories, in the wind motions of the hickory shingle leaves, in the imitations of slow sea water on the shingle silver in the wind-
I shall look for you.

‘Masterclass: Arnold Newman’

 Masterclass: Arnold Newman, published this week, is a tribute to the man who photographed Marilyn at her most informal, dancing at a Hollywood party in early 1962, and in conversation with poet Carl Sandburg. You can learn more about Newman here.

“A landmark publication for anyone interested in photography, and the art of portraiture in particular, this book is the first posthumous monograph of the American master, showcasing his iconic individual and group portraits as well as abstracts, landscapes and cityscapes. Arnold Newman (1918 – 2006) was one of the most productive, creative and successful portrait photographers of the twentieth century. For sixty-six years he applied himself to his art and craft and was amply rewarded by regular publication in the most influential magazines of the day, by major solo exhibitions, and by appearances in many of the worlds most prestigious photography collections. Three dynamic black-and-white plate sections, organized for maximum visual impact, feature over 160 photographs, including dozens never before seen in book form. Photographs of Newman’s famous subjects include Truman Capote, Marc Chagall, J. F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, Gore Vidal, Andy Warhol, and many more. Packed with iconic images and never-before-seen gems, and complete with an illuminating preface by Todd Brandow and short biographies of Newmans sitters written by Corinne Currat, this landmark publication pays homage to a true master of modern photography.”

Hollywood Progressives: Marilyn and Carl Sandburg

Photo by Len Steckler, 1961

Hollywood Progressive takes a look at Carl Sandburg’s love of silent movies, and his friendship with Marilyn, with whom he shared a love of Lincoln, Chaplin and poetry:

‘He found her to be down-to-earth and genuine. He said that “she came up the hard way,” and since his path to fame had also been difficult, he probably admired her “rags-to-riches” saga. He thought she “was a good talker.”

Although “’there were realms of science, politics and economics in which she wasn’t at home, . . . she spoke well on the national scene, the Hollywood scene, and on people who are good to know and people who ain’t.”

He added that they “agreed, on a number of things—that Charlie Chaplin is beyond imitation, for instance”—and she “never talked about her husbands.” He also found in her “a vitality, a readiness for humor,” which was a characteristic Sandburg always appreciated in others, including Abraham Lincoln. In his Look magazine tribute, he expressed great regret over her death, “I wish I could have been with her that day. . . . I believe I could have persuaded her not to take her life.”’

Also included is a fragment from Sandburg’s last major poem, Timesweep, completed in 1963, a year after Marilyn’s death. Sandburg died, aged 89, just four years later.

“Makers and givers may be moon shaken,
may be star lost,
Knowing themselves as sea-deep seekers,
both seeking and sought,
Knowing love is a ring and the ring endless,
Seeing love as a wheel and the wheel endless.”

Len Steckler Exhibit in LA

Len Steckler, who photographed a fateful meeting between Marilyn and the poet, Carl Sandburg, in 1961, is the subject of a new exhibition opening today at the Paley Center, Los Angeles.

“The Center’s multimedia showcase includes Steckler’s acclaimed photographic series The Visit, a 1961 chronicle of an encounter between Marilyn Monroe and Carl Sandburg, and Off the Wall, a recent series of images that, in the artist’s words, “challenge our often-dismissive eyes to linger on imagery and experience the discovery of how to ‘see’ what is beautiful and compelling in these complex times.” With video footage of his acclaimed commercials, such as Joe Namath in pantyhose for Hanes, short films, and television projects including the Emmy-winning Free to Be…You and Me rounding out this multifaceted artist’s showcase.

As a commercial artist, he introduced the world to Diet Pepsi and developed major advertising campaigns for AT&T, Revlon, and American Airlines among others. His story illustrations and photography have appeared in a diverse array of publications including the Saturday Evening PostLadies Home JournalLife, and Look magazines, and he helped shape the direction of modern fashion with his stunning fashion photography in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.”

 

‘Strictly For Kicks’ at Bonham’s

Rare photographs of Marilyn Monroe in a 1948 stage show, Strictly For Kicks, will be sold in a Bonham’s and Butterfield auction of entertainment memorabilia, to be held in Los Angeles next month. Marilyn wore the same floral bikini and platform sandals in her first movie, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1947)

In 1948, Marilyn signed a 6-month contract with Columbia. However, she had previously worked at Twentieth Century Fox, and in March she appeared in a studio talent showcase at the Fox Studio Club Little Theater. An outside arena was built instead of using the stage on the lot, as studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck would be attending.

Marilyn appeared in two brief scenes, and the script included directions such as ‘Miss Monroe butts onto the stage…’

Marilyn appears to be wearing a costume from Ladies of the Chorus, which she filmed at Columbia in April.

In other pictures from the event Marilyn wears a light-coloured dress, which could be the same gown which she would wear in Love Happy (1949.)

Other items on offer at Bonhams’ include contractual papers for Bus Stop; a signed photo; personally-owned scripts for Let’s Make Love and Something’s Got to Give; a handwritten note by Marilyn, reminding herself to call poet Carl Sandburg; a mortgage agreement signed by Monroe and third husband Arthur Miller; a receipt for a gas payment, dated to Marilyn’s last birthday; and some airline tickets.

More details at Jezebel

Thanks to Megan at Everlasting Star