George Barris 1922-2016

A tribute to George Barris and Marilyn by Fraser Penney
A tribute to George Barris and Marilyn by Fraser Penney

George Barris, one of the last photographers to work with Marilyn, has died aged 94,  Mike Barnes writes for the Hollywood ReporterHis photos of Marilyn revisiting her childhood haunt of Santa Monica Beach, wearing a Mexican-style sweater over her bathing costume, are among the most natural and poignant images from her final days.

“George Barris, the photojournalist … died Friday at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., his daughter Caroline told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 94.

Barris and Monroe became friends after they met on the set of The Seven Year Itch (1955).

‘When I first saw her, I thought she was the most beautiful, fantastic person I’d ever met,’ Barris told the Los Angeles Daily News in 2012. ‘She completely knocked me off my feet.’

Barris photographed the actress on a windswept beach in Santa Monica on July 13, 1962, about three weeks before she was found dead of a drug overdose at age 36. He moved to France after her death and remained there for two decades.

A native of New York City, Barris enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the office of public relations during World War II. He was Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal photographer for the welcoming Victory Parade in New York on June 19, 1945.

While on assignment for Cosmopolitan, Barris photographed Elizabeth Taylor while she filmed Cleopatra (1963) in Rome, and during his career he also shot such stars as Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, Sophia Loren and Walt Disney. His daughter also said that he photographed Chubby Checker for the singer’s ‘The Twist’ record cover.”

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Filming ‘The Seven Year Itch’, 1954

A more detailed biography, including a full account of his work with Marilyn, is available on the Cursum Perficio website.

He first met and photographed Marilyn in 1954 in New York where she was on location for the film The Seven Year Itch , where they became friends.

He was one of the last photographers to take Marilyn in pictures, between June 29 and July 1, 1962:

  • Friday 29 and Saturday 30, June, at Walter ‘Tim’ Leimert’s house, located 1506 Blue Jay Way, North Hollywood Hills
  • Sunday 1st, July, last day of the session, last pictures. It took place at the Santa Monica beach, near the Lawfords’ house.
  • Those pictures were to be published in Cosmopolitan magazine.
  • Some of those pictures were published in 1973 in Norman Mailer’s biography, and most of them in the book he wrote with Gloria Steinem in 1986 (Marilyn: Norma Jeane).
  • In 1995, he published Marilyn : Her Life in Her Own Words, whose text is composed of notes jotted after the picture sessions. Those notes should have produced an autobiography they had planned to write together.
George Barris photographs Marilyn in 1962

After returning to California with his family, Mr Barris became a respected member of the Monroe fan community, as Leslie Kasperowicz reports for Immortal Marilyn.

“George Barris attended many Marilyn memorials and events and was one of the most accessible of Marilyn’s photographers to fans from around the world.  He spoke frequently at the Memorial service held at Westwood and signed books and photos for fans at public and private events.  Immortal Marilyn was honoured to have him present at several of our own events.

George leaves behind his daughter Caroline, who was also a frequent presence at Marilyn events, another daughter Stephanie, his wife Carla, and legions of Marilyn Monroe fans who have spent nearly 55 years appreciating his work and his willingness to lend us his ear and tell us his stories of that summer of 1962.”

George Barris celebrates Marilyn’s 36th birthday on the set of ‘Something’s Got to Give’

Marilyn’s Santa Monica Beach Days

Marilyn photographed on Santa Monica Beach by George Barris, 1962

One of Marilyn’s first memories was visiting Santa Monica Pier with her mother, and she held an affection for the area throughout her life. Her friends the Lawfords lived nearby, and she would be photographed on the beach by George Barris just weeks before her death in 1962. As the Santa Monica Hippodrome (the Pier’s original name) celebrates its centenary, Julia Bennett Rylah investigates its history in an article for LAist.com.

“It was June 12, 1916 when the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome opened its doors. Charles Looff was a carousel carver who had previously worked on the first two carousels at Coney Island. Jim Harris, Santa Monica Pier historian and author of Santa Monica Pier: A Century on the Last Great Pleasure Pier, tells LAist that Looff had expanded beyond carousels and into building whole amusement parks across the country. The Santa Monica Looff Pleasure Pier, now simply the Santa Monica Pier, would be Looff’s last park before he died in 1918.

Santa Monica Pier

‘When the Santa Monica Municipal Pier was built—the long part that goes over the ocean—the citizens of the northern part of the Santa Monica wanted an amusement park built next to it. And so, seeing the opportunity and realizing that the Red Cars stopped right at this location and that there was an electric tram running up and down the beach, Looff thought it would be an excellent location.’

Only three months after the carousel opened, Looff added a fourth row of horses to accommodate additional riders at the popular attraction. Back then, it cost five cents for a ride. Today, it’s $2 for adults and $1 for children.

The pier in 1924, two years before Marilyn’s birth
A young Norma Jeane on the beach (Los Angeles area, exact location unknown)

The Looff family sold the amusement pier and the Hipppdrome to a group of local relators in 1924, and the Security First National Bank took the over both in 1939. In 1943, Walter Newcomb leased the pier and the Hippodrome, hiring the Gordon family to manage it in 1955. The Gordon family took ownership in 1956…

Santa Monica Pier, late 1960s

In the 60s, the building had a very famous visitor, though many who encountered her were probably oblivious. ‘Towards the end of her life, Marilyn Monroe was living in Brentwood and hung out at the Santa Monica Beach a lot,’ Harris says, noting that many of the iconic photos George Barris took of the actress were shot here.

Harris continues:

‘She would come to the Hippodrome to find solace. She’d sit on a bench and watch the horses go round and round. Being sensitive to who she was, she would come in disguise wearing a scarf and overcoat and sunglasses. One day, the gentleman who was operating the carousel walked up to her and said something along the lines of, Why do you come here every day? You’re young and you should get a job. She then revealed [her identity] and said, I do have a job, I’m Marilyn Monroe.‘”

Marilyn Inspires Max Mara’s Wrapover Trend

The Mexican beach jacket worn by Marilyn during her last photo session – with George Barris in July 1962 – is one of the inspirations behind Max Mara’s Fall 2015 collection, reports Women’s Wear Daily.

Among the wrapover sweaters and coats, I also noticed designs similar to the Jean Louis costumes worn by Marilyn for her role as ‘bohemian’ Amanda in Let’s Make Love (1960.)

Of course, today’s catwalk models can’t fill out a sweater quite like Marilyn did – and by the way, when did smiling go out of fashion?

Snooker Champ Sells Marilyn Photos

Marilyn by Andre de Dienes, 1949

British snooker star Dominic Dale is selling his collection of 32 stunning original prints of Marilyn, including works by Andre de Dienes, George Barris, and the 1952 Frank Powolny shot that inspired Andy Warhol, reports the Shropshire Star. As part of an auction organised by Mullock’s Auctioneers, the sale will take place at Ludlow Racecourse on November 26.

Marilyn by George Barris, 1962

“The individual images could fetch up to £2,500 each when they are auctioned by Mullocks Auctioneers at Ludlow Racecourse, Shrops., in two weeks time.

Richard Westwood-Brookes, historical document expert at the auctioneers, said: ‘These are classic images of Marilyn and are works of high art in their own right.

‘What’s important about these photos is that they all have their photographer’s stamp on the back, so they have come straight from the negative of the image.

‘As a result we are pricing them at £500 estimate each.

‘But judging from the worldwide interest in original photographs such as these of Marilyn we expect that they will make far more.

The set also includes snaps by several other renowned photographers including Joseph Jasgur, Bruno Bernard, Philippe Halsman and Milton H Greene.

Mr Westwood-Brookes added: ‘In addition to the photographs, Dominic’s collection also has some very important books including an extremely rare edition of Marilyn – a Hollywood Farewell by Leigh Wiener with preface by Richard B Stolley.

This was produced in 1990 as a limited edition signed by Wiener and Stolley.

‘Unfortunately Wiener died before he could complete more than a few signings, and the copy we are offering is one of those very few which bear both signatures, together with an autograph dedication from Stolley to Dominic Dale.

‘The collection also contains the definitive books produced by the photographers, which include printed versions of the originals we are offering in the sale, and many other rare and desirable books about Marilyn.’

Snooker ace Dominic, 42, added: ‘It will be sad to see them go but my snooker commitments now call for me to be jetting around the world all the time.

‘I think the time has come for my collection to pass into the hands of other lovers of Marilyn who will cherish them as much as I have done.’

Dominic, whose nickname is ‘The Spaceman’, is one of the top 30 professional snooker champions in the world.”

 

Marilyn in Cologne

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.

Heritage Auctions: Barris and More

A collection of 80 colour prints signed by George Barris is featured in a collection of Signature Photos at Heritage Auctions, New York, on April 5, with bids starting at $30,000. Among the other Marilyn-related items are photos by Andre de Dienes, Bruno Bernard, Laszlo Willinger, Tom Kelley and others.

Some Like it Hot premiere, Chicago 1959 (Photo by George Dalmas)
Photo by Gene Anthony, 1962

 

Hollywood Museum: Marilyn Returns

Back by popular demand, ‘Marilyn – The Exhibit: Hollywood Icon‘ is open now at the Hollywood Museum, through to September 8th, reports Scott Fortner on his MM Collection website.

“The scope of the exhibition encompasses Marilyn’s costumes, jewelry, furs and accessories from her films; publicity gowns and personal wardrobe; her 1961 Fleetwood Cadillac limousine; original Marilyn Monroe artwork, photographs and documents from her private files; and many of Marilyn’s personally owned artifacts.

‘Marilyn Monroe: The Exhibit’ displays the million-dollar dress Marilyn wore on her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio, one of the highlights of The Hollywood Museum’s permanent collection. In addition to THM’s permanent collection, items from the Scott Fortner Marilyn Monroe Collection and the Greg Schreiner Marilyn Monroe Collection are featured in this exclusive exhibit, including film costumes from The Prince and The Showgirl, There’s No Business Like Show Business, and clothing and furs from Marilyn’s personal wardrobe, including the brilliant green Pucci jersey top.

Highlighting the exhibit are exclusive photos by world-renowned photographer George Barris, who shot Marilyn’s the last photo sitting while collaborating on a book at the time of her death 50 years ago. Barris Photography: www.inhollywoodland.com

This exhibit also includes original works of art by famed celebrity artists LUDVIC, original photographs, including the legendary “red velvet” nude photographs shot by Tom Kelley, and a vast photograph collection of her childhood, family and early modeling career when she was still Norma Jeane Baker; and much more.

Additional Marilyn commemorative events planned:

• Saturday, August 3, 1-3 PM Meet & Greet with collectors Greg Schreiner, Scott Fortner and THM President Donelle Dadigan at The Hollywood Museum

• Sunday, August 4, 1-3 PM George Barris Book and Photo Signing at The Hollywood Museum

Monday, August 5 TBD ‘Marilyn Remembered’ Annual Memorial Service, co-sponsored by  The Hollywood Museum, at Westwood Mortuary