Today’s edition of U.K. Sunday newspaper, The Observer, includes a feature on the 70th anniversary of Magnum, focusing on the pioneering agency’s female photographers. Marilyn’s work with Eve Arnold is mentioned, and Inge Morath’s portrait of a warm, mature but still wistful Marilyn during the Misfits shoot is among Magnum’s many iconic images of Monroe. When Inge visited the Millers’ hotel suite in Reno on that fateful day in 1960, who could have predicted that within two short years Marilyn would die, and Morath would be Arthur’s wife?
Inge Morath: On Style is a new book focusing on the late photographer’s work in fashion and film. Her images of Marilyn on the set of The Misfits are elegant and tender, and the knowledge that Morath would become Arthur Miller’s third wife adds a note of poignancy. Author Justine Picardie writes about Inge’s work with director John Huston, and her later encounter with Arthur which led to a long and happy marriage, in a blog post for the Magnum website.
“This was also the period when Morath first started working with the director John Huston; one of her earliest assignments was to photograph the stills for his film Moulin Rouge in London in 1952, which was to be the start of a lifelong friendship … Huston would later describe Morath as ‘a high priestess of photography,’ a woman with ‘the rare ability to penetrate beyond surfaces and reveal what makes her subject tick.’
Morath’s friendship with Huston was to play an important part in her personal life, as well as her career. In 1959, she travelled to Mexico to photograph the making of his film The Unforgiven … The following year, Morath visited the set of another of Huston’s films, The Misfits, accompanied by her Magnum colleague, Henri Cartier-Bresson.
When Morath was subsequently asked by the New York Times about the experience of photo- graphing Monroe, she described the actress as ‘kind of shimmery. But there was also this sadness underneath. A poetry of unhappiness. That was what was so mesmerizing, the twofold thing you got, the unhappiness always underneath the joy and the glamour…that was the poetry.’ In the same interview, Morath added one more intriguing fragment to the story. ‘I once dreamt we both danced together, Marilyn and I. It was beautiful.'”
Marilyn was an admirer of Russian culture: she studied Stanislavsky’s teachings on acting, and campaigned (sadly without success) to star as Grushenka in a movie adaptation of Dostoevsky’s classic novel, The Brothers Karamazov. At the height of America’s anti-Communist fervour, she observed, ‘They’re for the people, aren’t they?’ She briefly considered visiting Russia in 1956, and was later introduced to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev at a Hollywood luncheon.
However, when the Russian press unjustly accused her of ruining Arthur Miller’s career, she shot back: “Listen! I know Arthur Miller better than the Russians do and I’ve learned more from Arthur Miller than the Russians have. I’ve learned from Arthur Miller that he does not believe in a communistic state. The Russians can talk all they want about my ‘climb to the stars,’ his ‘broken life,’ and what I’ve done to somebody. But I know the man. They’re talking about an idea. They can have their ideas. I had the man.” (Redbook, 1962.)
In some quarters, however, it appears that these prejudices still exist. In a recent article entitled ‘Candle in the wind: America, Russia, and Marilyn Monroe’s Free Fall’ for the RBTH website, novelist Viktor Yerofeyev recalls meeting Miller with his third wife Inge Morath during the 1990s, and ruminates on Miller’s prior marriage to Marilyn.
“I looked at Inge and realized that it was for this woman with an intelligent look that Miller had refused to be the skyscraper roof for Monroe, after which the star flew downward. Although in her flight, possibly, she remained the most popular actress in America.
America, at first glance, is not about actresses, singers or writers. It is about the absolute success of an individual, who was nothing and then became everything (as our revolutionary song goes).
And it is not important whether this person had a poor or rich childhood, whether he lived in an orphanage or he quietly went to school. Because this, from the national audience’s view, is routine, but what is important is that the chosen one reached the sky and turned into the Himalayas.
In such a system happiness is only a substitute for powerful success and in this system Monroe and Miller were like twins. And they appeared equal on the cover of a popular magazine that announced their union to the whole country.
Why equal? Because Miller’s high-altitude flight was stronger than Death of a Salesman, which held up a mirror to America. And Monroe’s high-altitude flight was stronger than all of her roles and all of her money. Two high-flying planes.
However, America is actually a country with a double cultural circulatory system. While the larger circle of cultural circulation is destined for the mass public, which creates the broth of national success, the smaller circle is the one in which I found myself in Connecticut, and where a lot opposes the larger circle … Properly speaking, where the Millers live, happiness … is valued more than success and talent is more important than money…
The participants were snobs but as I have just said, they were the cream of the crop. And in this circle Monroe and Miller were opposites. She was no one and he was everything. But she was burning with desire to be included in this world.”
Its remit goes beyond The Misfits however, celebrating Magnum photos from other eras as well as other notable photographers including Alfred Eisenstadt and Nahum Baron.
Some of the photos above – by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Inge Morath and Eve Arnold – were rare for me. You can view them all here.
“Etherton Gallery is pleased to announce a new exhibition, Marilyn, Magnum and The Misfits, featuring a selection of photographs of Marilyn Monroe from a private Los Angeles collection. Most of the photographs on display are from the set of Marilyn’s last film, The Misfits, takenby notable Magnum photographers including Eve Arnold, Bruce Davidson, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dennis Stock, and Inge Morath. A selection of early contact sheets by Hollywood photographer Earl Leaf and fashion and celebrity photographer, Phillipe Halsman, will also be on view from November 23, 2013 – January 11, 2014.
Magnum Photos, founded in 1947 by several well-known photographers including Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa, was the first artist-owned photo agency, allowing its numerous members to take control of their careers while giving them the freedom to search out events and people and ultimately inform a world hungry for information.
“You’re a real beautiful woman. It’s almost kind of an honor sittin’ next to ya’.”
With those words from the 1961 film, The Misfits, star Clark Gable wryly said what photographers world-wide knew about Marilyn Monroe: she was just special and no more so than when in front of a camera. And she knew it.
Incomparable director John Huston had a royal flush of a cast starring Monroe and Gable, along with Eli Wallach and Montgomery Clift, and he made sure that only the best photographers were on set for the press photos, and those photographers were from Magnum.
Lining up to film the stars while on and off the set –it would tragically be the last film for Monroe and Gable —were Magnum photographers including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, Inge Morath, Philippe Halsman, Bruce Davidson, and Dennis Stock.
Along with The Misfits images, is a select group of contact sheets by photographer Earl Leaf, known for his work with magazines from Time to Movie Spotlight. This intriguing group gives a sweet look at an early unknown Marilyn, swinging from a tree and doing cartwheels for the camera in 1950 and then 6 years later, at age 30, when she staged a publicity session to keep her image in front of the public during a one-year period when she was producing films and not acting.
The camera was always in love with the beautiful Monroe, and this rare exhibit of vintage contact sheets and press photos represents a historic look at one of the world’s most well-known film stars. Resplendent in her natural beauty, the portraits and vintage contact sheets reveal the drive, desire, sadness, and pure spirit of one of Hollywood’s most photographed and relished stars
All photographs copyright the artists, courtesy Magnum Photo Agency and Etherton Gallery.”
After separating from Marilyn Monroe in October 1960, Arthur Miller lived for six years at New York’s bohemian Chelsea Hotel. It was during this period that he wrote one of his most divisive plays, After The Fall(1964), seemingly based on his two marriages (the self-destructive singer, Maggie, is reminiscent of Marilyn), and was remarried for a third time to photographer Inge Morath (whom he had first met during filming of The Misfits) in 1962.
Miller noted in his memoir, ‘Timebends’, that it was a place where you could get high from the marijuana smoke in the elevators, deeming the hotel “the high spot of the surreal”. “This hotel does not belong to America,” he wrote. “There are no vacuum cleaners, no rules and shame.” Elsewhere, he paid tribute to the two prevailing atmospheres during that decade: “A scary and optimistic chaos which predicted the hip future and at the same time the feel of a massive, old-fashioned, sheltering family.”