Marilyn’s Greatest ‘Life’ Covers

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Life has selected some of its most memorable covers, including this iconic Philippe Halsman cover from 1952:

“April 7, 1952: Marilyn Monroe
LIFE was an early champion of Marilyn Monroe’s, and this photograph by Philippe Halsman graced the first of many cover stories on Monroe for the magazine. Readers, however, were probably paying less attention to Monroe’s mind than to her off-the-shoulders gown, apparently held up by little more than optimism.”

Another Halsman cover shot of Marilyn, from 1959, is also featured:

Early Glimpse of a Natural Star

In an essay, ‘Monroe and Sexuality’, published in the 1986 book, Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society, the British film critic Richard Dyer discusses Philippe Halsman‘s portrait of the young Marilyn among a group of aspiring actresses (Lois Maxwell, who would later play Miss Moneypenny in the Bond movie series, is at top left.)

The photo was taken for Life magazine, as part of an article headlined ‘Eight Girls Try Out Mixed Emotions’. It was published on October 10th, 1949. Dyer mistakenly dates the photo to 1950 and assumes that it was a group portrait for 20th Century-Fox. In fact, Marilyn was not at Fox in 1949 and had only appeared in four movies.

With this minor error taken into account, Dyer’s comments are nonetheless very perceptive on why Marilyn stood out from the crowd from a very early stage in her career.

“In 1950, when Monroe had been signed to a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox, she was photographed for the studio with a group of other contract players by Philippe Halsman. It is not only with hindsight, because she is the only one we now recognise, that Monroe stands out. We may ascribe to Halsman the fact that Monroe is placed at the front and in the centre and looks straight to camera (rather than in the various off-screen or self-absorbed directions of the other players) and thus seems to make a direct contact with the viewer’s eyes. We could go on to ascribe the very simple, relaxed pose to Halsman, the tousled, naturally falling, uncoiffed hair to an expert hair stylist, the unfussy blouse to the wardrobe department and so on. But of course we have no way of knowing who made such decisions, Monroe or someone else; the evidence in the biographies suggests that even if others did make the decisions, it was because they had already ascribed naturalness to her in their minds; and, most important, it is unlikely that anyone seeing this photo in 1950 would have sought to identify those responsible for constructing her in an image of naturalness. Indeed, what is striking about the photo is the contrast between the very obviously contrived poses of the other players, though each a very recognisable female stereotype of the period, and the apparently artless look of Monroe that makes the others seem constructed but her seem just natural. Many other Monroe pin-ups from around this time have a similar quality, and the contrast between Monroe and the others in this photo encapsulates the more general contrast that was beginning to be apparent between her pin-ups and the other available cheesecake.”

Shopping for Menswear With Marilyn

Sam Shaw, 1957

“Sam Anfang owned Gentree, a men’s clothing store in midtown Manhattan, from 1933 to 1978. He turns 100 years old Dec. 31.

‘Arthur Miller was a customer of mine for his whole life. Then Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller and it was a great fuss all over the country. So Life magazine called me up one day and said they would like to have Marilyn Monroe come over to the store to shop there, and they wanted to take pictures.  I used to call up to find out what’s doing down at the store, and my partner says to me, ‘The store is closed.’ I said, ‘What do you mean it’s closed?’ He says, ‘Marilyn Monroe is here, they spotted her, they had cops in front of the store and everything.’ I asked, ‘Well, what does she look like?’ He says, ‘Sam, she’s got a dress on with nothing underneath, she’s absolutely fabulous!’

AM New York

‘An Actress Prepares’ in Edinburgh

Irina Diva in ‘An Actress Prepares’

“Empire film magazine crowned Marilyn Monroe the ‘Sexiest Female Movie Star of all Time’, while People magazine voted her the ‘Sexiest Woman of the Century’. But what was beyond the public image and the pretty face? Now the life and thoughts of the troubled screen goddess is coming to Edinburgh in An Actress Prepares, a surprising and revealing adaptation of Marilyn Monroe’s last ever interview, for the first time ever making its appearance on stage.”

On 17th August 1962 LIFE magazine published “Last Talk with a Lonely Girl”.  36 years old, divorced for the third time and now living alone, frustrated by Hollywood and tired of the label ‘sex symbol’, the final years of her life were marked by illness, personal problems, and a reputation for being unreliable and difficult to work with.  In An Actress Prepares, Marilyn reflects on her silver screen persona and exaltation to one of the most celebrated idols of her time, while freely admitting to never knowing happiness. Candid and contemplative, and with her untimely death shortly after, this was to become her ultimate interview.”

Bulgarian actress Irina Diva plays Marilyn in An Actress Prepares (a pun on Monroe’s dramatic bible, An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski) at the Edinburgh Fringe until this Saturday, August 21.

Venue:  Zoo Roxy – The Warren, 2 Roxburgh Place (venue 115)

Time:  22.00 (22.45)

Dates:  15th – 21st August 2010

Tickets:  £8.00

Box Office: 0131 662 689