Gene Lester (1910-1994) began his career as a radio singer before moving into photography. He opened a studio in Hollywood in 1940, and became the Saturday Evening Post‘s West Coast correspondent for the next thirty years.
He first photographed a young Marilyn in 1947, and thereafter on the set of There’s No Business Like Show Business in 1954, and on several occasions in 1956, in which her business partner Milton Greene was also present: including a glamour shoot for the Post‘s famous Pete Martin interview, plus snaps outside the Beverly Glen home Marilyn rented while filming Bus Stop, and her first photo-call after meeting co-star Don Murray.
A number of previously unseen photos by Gene Lester are now available to view on the Getty Images website. Enjoy!
Images of Marilyn by Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder and Gene Lester will be featured in Pop Art Photo Show, hosted by Limited Runs at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica from September 27-30. (And if you’re a member of LA fan club Marilyn Remembered, there’s a promo available on single-day tickets – see here.)
A photography exhibition last seen in New York, ‘Marilyn: The Making of a Legend’ will return to the Andrew Weiss Gallery in Los Angeles on July 25. BlouArtInfo.com has posted a slideshow of images by photographers including William Carroll, Andre de Dienes, Kashio Aoki, Milton Greene, Bert Stern and George Barris.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the exhibition also includes rare photos taken by Gene Lester during filming of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and There’s No Business Like Show Business.
As previously reported on ES Updates, those unable to attend the exhibition can order a catalogue – more details here.
Limited Runs, who curated a Marilyn-themed photo exhibition in 2014 (see here), have announced a new touring event – featuring Tom Kelley’s famous nudes, as well as photos by Len Steckler and Gene Lester. Opening in Los Angeles on July 29, ‘Marilyn Monroe: Red Velvet Collection’ will also visit San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, and New York. More details here.
“On May 27, 1949, an out of work and broke, Monroe posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley at his studio in Hollywood, California. Agreeing to the session under the condition that Kelley’s wife, Natalie, attend the shoot, Monroe signed the model release as ‘Mona Monroe’ and earned a paltry $50. Neither the photographer, nor 22-year old Monroe realized the historic moment they were creating.
Chicago-based printing company John Baumgarth Company acquired the prized ‘Red Velvet’ Kodachrome photograph in 1951. Baumgarth used them to create three iconic images of the bombshell that were then printed and sold in an estimated 9 million ‘Golden Dream’ calendars. Reproducing Monroe’s refined features, supple texture and luxurious tones was no small feat – print artisans painstakingly created and corrected the many layers of film for the full color printing process to make the original Chromalin color proof separations – a masterpiece of printer’s art.
Believed to have been lost forever, the Kodachrome and color Separations actually remained amidst Baumgarth’s massive print archives. Narrowly escaping destruction on multiple occasions, the separations changed hands several times through a series of corporate asset acquisitions until acquired as part of a corporate art collection purchased by the Messenger Art Collection in 2010. These are the only known surviving examples of the original separations used to produce Golden Dreams calendars.
The framed Kodachrome photograph and the color Separations are now mounted and protected in OP3 museum-quality acrylic frames (29” x 24”) and will be suspended from gallery ceilings across America.”
‘American Blondes’, my essay comparing Marilyn Monroe with Lana Turner (originally posted here), is republished in the latest issue of the excellent Mad About Marilyn fanzine, which also features Marilyn’s 1956 interview with Elsa Maxwell; a profile of photographer Gene Lester; and a feature on the Moon of Baroda diamond.