Marilyn’s Vanity Fair: A Tale of Many Covers

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Marilyn makes the cover of Vanity Fair‘s August issue (French edition only.) If the photo looks familiar, that’s because it was previously used on Vanity Fair‘s US edition, back in October 2008.

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And by comparison with Bert Stern’s original photo, you can tell that poor Marilyn has fallen victim to the digital airbrush!

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Some fans have suggested that another, more flattering Stern photo could have been used…

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The magazine includes an article about Lawrence Schiller’s photos of Marilyn, filming the poolside scene in Something’s Got to Give. As some readers may recall, an extract from Schiller’s book, Marilyn & Me, was published in the US edition of Vanity Fair in June 2012. The French article, however, is written by MM superfan Sebastien Cauchon.

Which begs the question – why wasn’t a Schiller photo used on the cover? Many fans were asking the same question in 2012, when an Andre de Dienes photo was used on the US cover of Vanity Fair, and not Schiller.

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The answer, according to Sebastien Cauchon, is that Schiller’s poolside nudes don’t include a full-face, colour shot of Marilyn making eye contact with the camera. Marilyn & Me‘s original cover (later rejected) showed a pensive, full-face shot of MM in a fur hat, on the set of Something’s Got to Give – but not a nude. Presumably Vanity Fair‘s editors felt that a cheerful beach shot from De Dienes – though taken 13 years previously – was more in keeping with the summery, au naturel theme.

SchillerAnd as Sebastien Cauchon explained to members of Immortal Marilyn’s Facebook group this weekend, his article differs from the 2012 extract because its main subject is the proposed Playboy cover shoot Marilyn was considering at the time of her death (though according to Schiller, she was having second thoughts about the project.)

The article includes Hugh Hefner’s letter to Schiller and fellow photographer Bill Woodfield, explaining the concept of the mooted cover – click on the photo below to read in full.

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The photo shoot went ahead with model Sheralee Connors taking Marilyn’s place, and was featured in Playboy‘s 1962 Christmas issue.

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Photo by Fraser Penney
Photo by Fraser Penney

2014: A Year in Marilyn Headlines

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In January, Newsweek published a special issue, Marilyn Monroe: The Lost Scrapbook. Photographer Larry Schiller claimed to own a scrapbook given to Sam Shaw by Marilyn, though expert readers noted the handwriting was dissimilar to her usual style.

Also this month, Unclaimed Baggage – a documentary about ‘the unclaimed trunk of MM‘ – was screened on European television, and George Jacobs, valet to Frank Sinatra, died aged 87.

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In February, Life published The Loves of Marilyn, another magazine special with text by J.I. Baker (author of a conspiracy novel, The Empty Glass.) Many fans were surprised to see the widely discredited Robert Slatzer listed among Marilyn’s alleged paramours. It has since been republished in hardback.

Also this month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences acquired an archive of 58,000 pictures by press photographer Nat Dallinger. His photos of Marilyn at the Let’s Make Love press conference were featured in the Hollywood Reporter. And archive footage of Marilyn was featured in Bob Dylan’s Chrysler ad, screened during America’s Superbowl.

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In March, Icon: the Life Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe – Volume I, 1926-1956 was publishedMarilyn also graced the cover of Julien’s 90210 Spring Auction catalogue, and was the subject of another magazine special, part of the ‘Etoiles du Cinema‘ series in France.

Stanley Rubin, producer of River of No Return, died aged 96, and William Carroll, one of the first photographers to work with Marilyn, also passed away. Bob Thomas, the veteran Hollywood columnist who reported Joan Crawford’s verbal attack on Marilyn back in 1953, died aged 92.

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Playboy re-released its very first issue – with Marilyn as its cover girl and centrefold – in April, as part of an ongoing celebration of the magazine’s 60th anniversary. And a collection of Elia Kazan’s private correspondence – including a 1955 letter to his wife, Molly, regarding his prior relationship with Marilyn – was also published.

Also in April, Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney (Marilyn’s co-star in The Fireball) died aged 93. And Pharrell Williams released his hit single, ‘Marilyn Monroe’.

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In May, make-up artist Marie Irvine shared her memories of Marilyn with readers of the Daily Mail. AmfAR, the world’s leading charity for AIDS research, held a ‘Red Marilyn’-themed fundraising ball during the Cannes Film Festival.

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June 1st marked what would have been Marilyn’s 88th birthday. Also in June, actor Eli Wallach, Marilyn’s friend and co-star, died aged 98. An archive of ‘lost’ Milton Greene photos was auctioned in Poland, and a revised, updated edition of Carl Rollyson’s MM: A Life of the Actress was published.

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In July, Some Like it Hot was re-released in UK cinemas, winning a 5-star review in The Guardian. Sadly, several people with connections to Marilyn passed away in July, including psychic Kenny Kingston, journalist Robert Stein, and actors James Garner and Elaine Stritch. Meanwhile one of Marilyn’s old haunts – the Racquet Club in Palm Springs – was engulfed by fire.

August marked the 52nd anniversary of Marilyn’s death, with a live stream of the annual memorial service in Los Angeles. Also this month,  Lauren Bacall, Marilyn’s co-star in How to Marry a Millionaire, died aged 89; and Tom Tierney, ‘Marilyn’s paper doll artist’, also passed away.

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In September, Newsweek published a cover feature exposing the many inaccuracies in C. David Heymann’s posthumously-released Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love. And TV Guide released a special issue dedicated to Marilyn, part of their ‘American Icons’ series.

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Several rare photos of Marilyn were featured in Profiles in History’s Hollywood Auction 65 catalogue, while Britain’s Daily Express published a special supplement about Marilyn’s tragic death, as part of a ‘Historic Front Pages’ series.

Also this month, self-confessed ‘Marilyn Geek’ Melinda Mason launched a new exhibition at the Wellington County Museum in Ontario, Canada; and the chameleon-like actor John Malkovich posed as Marilyn for photographer Sandro Miller.

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In October,  A retrospective of photographer Nickolas Muray opened in Genoa, Italy. Carl Rollyson’s latest book, Marilyn Monroe Day by Day, was published.

A rather sensationalised documentary about Marilyn’s mysterious death – Marilyn: Missing Evidence – was broadcast in the UK. Her death was also the subject of a cover feature in the US magazine, Closer.

Also this month, Kelli Garner was cast as Marilyn in Lifetime’s upcoming mini-series, The Secret Life of MM.

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In November, Gary Vitacco-Robles’ Icon: The Life, Times and Films of MM – Volume II, 1956-1962 and Beyond was published, earning a rave review from columnist Liz Smith. Fansite Immortal Marilyn published a series of myth-busting articles at Buzzfeed. And Anna Strasberg, current owner of Marilyn’s estate, lost a lawsuit against Profiles in History, regarding a so-called ‘letter of despair‘ from Marilyn to Lee Strasberg.

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In December, items from ‘the lost archive of Marilyn Monroe‘ sold for high prices at Julien’s Auctions. Marilyn graced the cover of Esquire‘s Colombian edition, and a new CD boxset, Diamonds, was released. Finally, photographer Phil Stern died aged 95.

Pop Art Marilyn in Paris

Mr Brainwash, 2008
Mr Brainwash, 2008

Pop art images of Marilyn by Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, Mel Ramos, Russell Young and Mr Brainwash – as well as photos by Lawrence Schiller – feature in ‘Les Marilyn’, an exhibition at the Galerie Tagliatella in Paris, on display until July 27.

Newsweek Special: Marilyn’s Lost Scrapbook

A Newsweek special issue, Marilyn Monroe: The Lost Scrapbook, is due to be published in the US next Tuesday, January 14th. The 98pp magazine showcases a scrapbook made by Marilyn herself for her friend, Sam Shaw, featuring his photos of the star with her handwritten, often witty captions.

Shaw gave the scrapbook to another of Marilyn’s photographers, Lawrence Schiller, in 1973, and some of the photos were featured in Norman Mailer’s Marilyn, published the same year. Schiller claims that Shaw confessed to having had an affair with Marilyn, though neither Shaw or Monroe ever said this publicly.

The scrapbook was profiled today on ABC News’ Good Morning America, and the magazine is sure to become a collector’s item. No news of other releases yet, but copies are already being sold on Ebay. (If you’re in the UK, keep your eyes peeled over the coming weeks – Newsweek‘s special editions are often sold at WHS Smith.)

Schiller Exhibit in Berlin

Lawrence Schiller‘s ‘A Splash of Marilyn’ exhibition – featuring photos from Marilyn’s last, unfinished movie, Something’s Got to Give – is coming to Berlin’s Galerie Mellili Mancinet on October 4th, through to November 9th.

‘Mad About Marilyn’ in September

My review of Lawrence Schiller’s Marilyn & Me: A Memoir in Words and Photographs has been published in Issue 25 of the Mad About Marilyn fanzine, which also includes an in-depth profile of photographer Earl Thiesen and ‘I Dress for Men’, an article penned by Marilyn herself in 1953.

You can read my review in full here. For more details on Mad About Marilyn, contact emmadowning@blueyonder.co.uk

Reel Life: Marilyn Monroe

The Reelz Channel in the US has just announced a new documentary, Reel Life: Marilyn Monroe, to premiere on Friday, August 3rd.

“Hosted by television personality Dayna Devon, Reel Life: Marilyn Monroe explores the continued and unrelenting popularity of the woman who wanted nothing more than to be taken seriously as an actress. We’ll talk to the stars of the hit television series Smash, Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty, whose characters are vying to be the lead in a Broadway musical based on Monroe’s life as well as Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams, who played Monroe in My Week With Marilyn about Monroe’s enduring legacy.

Fellow Hollywood icons George Hamilton and Mitzi Gaynor – Monroe’s co-star in There’s No Business Like Show Business – reveal the personal side of the woman they knew. Reel Life: Marilyn Monroe also takes a look at Monroe’s rise to sex symbol, including candid interviews with Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, who discusses how Monroe’s nude photos helped launch his empire and catapult Monroe to superstar status. Also featured are interviews with photographers Lawrence Schiller and George Barris who share their personal stories of working with Monroe, including the story behind her last ever photo shoot.”

Banner, Schiller and the Many Sides of Marilyn

Jeff Simon’s review of Lois Banner’s Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox – due out in the US later this month – suggests that this will be a controversial book.

(Now personally, I’m all in favour of opening up the debate – and books which make me re-evaluate my preconceptions, whether or not I agree. So I won’t be adding my own opinions here until I’ve read the book in full.)

What interested me most in this review was the contrast between Banner’s portrayal of Marilyn and Lawrence Schiller’s in his recent book, Marilyn & Me.

“While Banner’s guess is that Monroe might have gone on to have a career like Barbara Loden’s – the actress who was married to Elia Kazan and who portrayed the Monroe figure in Arthur Miller’s ‘After the Fall’ – it is also more than possible that the rebel generation coming up in Hollywood would have seen a sympathetic soul at the very least and might have figured out whole new masterpieces for her and whole new ways of filming her quite different than the routine humiliations of even some of her greatest films. (Think of what Scorsese or Altman or Hal Ashby or Francis Ford Coppola might have invented for Monroe in her 40s as feminism changed completely the savage spotlight that followed her – and demeaned her – everywhere.)

…Lawrence Schiller took the famous, unique late-period nudes in which she revealed herself to be the greatest genius of all in the art of exploiting Marilyn Monroe. Quite possibly she was cognizant even then of what would become her true immortality – not completely as a film actress, where she was erotic and radiantly beautiful but often painful to watch in a post-feminist era, but a photographer’s model. It’s there where she can be captured to perfection – frozen in time, all exterior, a flesh and blood masterpiece of white on white, suitable for any and all gallery walls.”

Read the review in full at Buffalo News