Cinema Through the Eye of Magnum, a new documentary about the legendary photo agency, will be screened for the first time in the UK tonight at 10pm on BBC4. This image, captured by Ernst Haas, shows fellow Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt among the cast and crew of The Misfits.
“The Misfits was a pivotal moment in photographers’ relationship with cinema. Lee Jones, Magnum’s head of special projects in New York, decided that the film’s dream cast deserved special attention. Nine different photographers took turns over 3 months of the shoot to capture the ‘total chaos’ on what would be Marilyn Monroe’s last film.
Eve Arnold, Magnum’s first woman member, was Monroe’s trusted collaborator. Having previously worked with Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, she started photographing Monroe when they were both relatively unknown. She spent two months on the set of the John Huston movie.
Photographer Bruce Davidson remarked, ‘Marilyn is really in torment – this was the movie where it all collapsed. And the hidden homosexuality, total neurosis, drugs, the whole works (on set). This film is a turning point, and the photographs document the disintegration of a system.’
Clark Gable had a heart attack the day after filming wrapped on The Misfits and died a few days later.”
In a new interview with the UK Telegraph, Elliott Erwitt recalls photographing Marilyn on the set of The Misfits. ‘She didn’t pay any attention to me and I took a few pictures of her not posing,’ he remarks. ‘I guess it’s unusual to see a movie star without make-up, with their mere essentials.’
Angela Allen, who served as director John Huston’s script advisor for The Misfits, says, ‘I don’t think Elliott played up to people, being as smarmy as some of the others. Especially around Marilyn. I think he was more objective about her.’ The two women did not get along, as Marilyn suspected her husband, Arthur Miller, of being attracted to Angela.
Allen mistakenly states that Erwitt photographed Marilyn on the set of Some Like it Hot, adding, ‘he’d seen what Billy Wilder had had to go through.’ In fact, Erwitt had been on the set of The Seven Year Itch, Wilder’s earlier, more harmonious collaboration with Marilyn. He did not photograph her in Some Like it Hot.
I’ve said it before, but nary a year goes by without another Elliott Erwitt retrospective. ‘Double Platinum’, on display until May 27 at Beetles + Huxley in London’s Mayfair, focuses on Erwitt’s portraits of Marilyn during filming of The Seven Year Itch and The Misfits, and his other great works. The Evening Standard‘s Stephanie Rafanelli visited Erwitt at home in New York, to discuss his extraordinary career.
“He’s been grilled on the subject of Marilyn Monroe for over 50 years since her death in 1962. Having captured her Seven Year Itch flapping dress scene in sequential stills, and photographed the actress in her dressing gown between takes…Erwitt witnessed her demise on the cursed set of The Misfits in 1960. In the 42-degree heat of the Nevada desert, the drug-addled, neurotic Monroe failed to turn up for shoots as her relationship with her husband, and the film’s screenwriter, Arthur Miller disintegrated. Meanwhile, director John Huston went on wild benders: his gambling debts had to be covered by the production. Within a few years, all of The Misfits’ leading cast — Clark Gable, Monroe and Montgomery Clift — would be dead.
‘Marilyn was so screwed up at that time. She could hardly make it to the shoots,’ Erwitt says, visibly cringing. ‘She kept running off to LA to see her shrink. John Huston was out gambling every night, drinking, but he never seemed to have a hangover. Whatever bad shape Marilyn was in, it would be difficult to take a bad photograph of her. Being photogenic was a strong element of her fame.’ To lighten the mood, I ask who he considers to be the Monroe of our day. But he shakes his head and says quietly: ‘I don’t think about those things.’”
This 1953 pin-up shot by Bert Reisfield features in a new exhibition at In Focus Gallery in Cologne, Germany, until November 4th. This Marilyn retrospective also includes photographs by Eve Arnold, Andre de Dienes, Elliott Erwitt, Sam Shaw, George Barris, Edward Clark, Bruno Bernard, and Bert Stern.
Rarely does a year goes by without a new book from Elliott Erwitt, often with Marilyn on the cover. Regarding Womenincludes rare photographs taken during filming of The Seven Year Itch.
“Photographic master Elliott Erwitt has created many noteworthy portraits of womankind over the years. Regarding Women is Elliott Erwitt’s evocative personal tribute to female strength, intelligence, and beauty. Conveying respect, admiration, and sometimes awe, these photographs portray all the complex elements that make up the feminine nature, whether formidable and tenacious, or occasionally capricious and coy. Through capturing their many varied facets, Erwitt shares his insights into how all kinds of women make their way in—not to mention their mark on—the world. The archival material spans several generations, with many images not previously published or rarely seen before. In these pages, readers will find romance and glamour, touches of sensuality as well as much affection, and those disarming flashes of candid everyday humor that are so quintessentially Erwitt.”
This shot of Marilyn with director Joshua Logan, on location filming for Bus Stop in 1956, is the personal favourite of photographer Zinn Arthur. In another preview of the Newsweek special – Marilyn Monroe: The Lost Scrapbook – Douglas Kirkland, Elliott Erwitt and Lawrence Schiller share their own selections, while Joshua Greene picks one of his father’s shining moments. Read more here.
It isn’t yet available elsewhere, but I would advise fans to be patient rather than paying vast prices on Ebay. The magazine will be on sale until March 14, and speaking as a UK resident, I’ve found it’s normal for American magazines to arrive up to a month after publication. (And as I’ve mentioned before, previous Newsweek specials have been sold at WH Smith.)
Over on the Marilyn Monroe Collection Blog today, Scott Fortner gives us a preview – including several pages dedicated to Marilyn’s personal property, now owned by himself, and others by Greg Schreiner.
As to the rest of the magazine, Scott tells us that it ‘includes an introduction written by Joshua Greene, and has many photos of Marilyn along with comments from photographers Douglas Kirkland, Lawrence Schiller and Elliott Erwitt. Other information on Marilyn is also included in glossy, full color spreads.’
Despite the rather distasteful rumour-mongering about Marilyn’s relationship with Sam Shaw that has dominated media coverage of this issue, I remain confident it will be a must-have for fans.
Elliott Erwitt’s Kolor is a new, and very large book of colour shots spanning the photographer’s long career, including previously unseen pictures from The Seven Year Itch and The Misfits.
The publisher’s price is £70, but it’s currently available from Amazon.uk for £33.60. In December, a collector’s edition – £1500 to pre-order – will be released, with a selection of four prints to choose from. One is described as ‘New York City, USA, 1955’, and another as ‘USA, 1960’, but it’s unclear whether either features Marilyn.
Nonetheless, this is the third time that Marilyn has featured on an Erwitt book cover…
“Kolor is a subtle tribute to George Eastman (who liked words with the letter K because he thought people remembered them better) and his photography empire, Kodak. To select the color photographs for this vast project that have never been published in a book before, Elliott Erwitt sifted through his nearly forgotten ample archive of nearly half a million 35mm—primarily Kodachrome—film slides. Then he began the mammoth task of whittling it down to this epic collection of roughly 450 pages.
For most of these images, the color managed to stay miraculously preserved and every evocative detail is as crisp as the date they were developed, many nearly sixty years ago.
Whether world leaders or sassy showgirls, the subjects reflect Erwitt’s own wry and eclectic sensibility. To say the juxtapositions are intriguing would be an understatement. From marketplaces to military camps, Vegas to Venice, there’s a rich mixture of public pageantry and carefully observed private interactions.”