Elizabeth Avedon Interviews Schiller

Lawrence Schiller spoke to curator Elizabeth Avedon recently:

“In 1972, when I did the Marilyn book with Norman Mailer’s text and twenty-four photographers, I discovered that photographers were just mechanics with Marilyn. You put her in front of the camera; she knew exactly what she was doing. When Dick Avedon photographed her, he did those intimate portraits of her, but then he did her vamping all the other women of the world; you know Marilyn knew how to pose. I think she was different people to different photographers. She reinvented herself depending upon who was shooting her. Take Milton Greene’s pictures of her in the black. That’s him recreating the Marlene Dietrich pictures that he did, that’s Marilyn Monroe taking it a step further. Yes, you could play music; yes, you could fill her up with Dom Pérignon; and yes, photographers had to know lighting; but you got to tell Marilyn Monroe what to do? No way!

Marilyn was right there, right in your face. You could really feel the pores on her skin. Some people when you photograph them, their skin becomes for lack of a better word, dead; there’s a flatness to it. There was never a flatness to Marilyn Monroe’s skin. It was alive. She was constantly alive. She could look anyway she wanted. She certainly had professional makeup people, but I saw her doing her own makeup many times.

I think there are probably some unedited Marilyn somewhere. As an example in the new book, there are at least thirty images that came from the shooting for Look Magazine. I’m not exaggerating, until last year I had never looked at that shooting since the day the film was sent into Look magazine and Marilyn approved the contact sheets. They went into the Look Library, I owned the copyright. Look ran one picture of mine, some with Bob Vose, some with Guy Villet and John Bryson, who was a God to me. I just never looked at it. Now I look at it and I come up with this image, the first picture I ever shot of her. This picture was never published; it’s on the cover of the Talese book. It comes from a contact sheet she killed all except the one frame…Over fifty-two years I never looked at this contact sheet.

In those days, if you sold a picture for a cover for a thousand dollars, that was a lot of money; so a spread for Life Magazinefor six or seven thousand dollars, that’s a lot of money. The American Society of Magazine Photographers day rate was $100. a day in those days, so when we did like $80,000. worth of sales off basically one days shooting, next to David Douglas Duncan’s pictures of Picasso, probably the highest amount generated from one days worth of shooting. If you have exclusivity, you’re able to control the market.

I never even looked at the Marilyn pictures as anything artistic. I remember the thing that really blew me away, I had this image I took of Buster Keaton and one day I walked into Sammy Davis, Jr.’s home and there it was framed on the wall in his den. I just looked at it on the wall like a piece of art. It was the first time I ever realized that my pictures were something more than just that.”

‘Marilyn Forever’ at Cannes


A few weeks ago the Cannes Film Festival official poster, featuring a classic photo of Marilyn blowing out a birthday candle, was revealed. Now the Telegraph reports that Chopard, who are sponsoring the festival, have created a jewelled tribute to Monroe, to be worn by a mystery guest at the festival’s opening night on May 16. They are also hosting ‘Marilyn Forever’, an exhibition of photos by Milton Greene, which will subsequently tour worldwide.

Rihanna Brings Marilyn Into Hollywood Home

Pop star Rihanna – who has been sporting an MM-style blonde wig of late – commissioned this portrait of Marilyn (made from 65,000 Swarovski crystals), for her new Hollywood home. It is based on a haunting 1954 photo from Milton Greene’s Ballerina session.

Artist Claire Milner tells Haute Living, ‘I tried to capture some of the complicated and contradictory aspects of Marilyn – the glitter and the public façade, the sadness in the eyes.’

Liz Smith on ‘My Week With Marilyn’

Veteran columnist Liz Smith is unimpressed by My Week With Marilyn:

‘This movie is based on the highly suspect memoirs of Colin Clark, a lowly go-fer on the set of “The Prince and the Showgirl,” which was filmed in London, in 1956.  Colin and Monroe became “close”  he averred. The characterization offers nothing of Monroe’s wit, humor, intelligence or — and this is vital — her anger. Her reactions to events were not always a depressed collapse…

HOWEVER, the worst served by “My Week With Marilyn” is the late photographer Milton Greene. This man admired and loved Marilyn, encouraged her ambitions, supported her financially during her year-long strike against 20th Century Fox. He co-produced “The Prince and the Showgirl.” Their partnership ended badly, but he never spoke ill of her, never exploited their relationship or her image. Dominic Cooper plays Milton like a foul-mouthed NYC gangster, just another user…

I admire Miss Williams for her efforts and sincerity, but in the end, she has given one more imperfect impersonation of Marilyn…Just check out “The Prince and the Showgirl” the next time Turner Classic Movies runs it…No more pretty blonde ladies playing dress up, pretending to be Marilyn. It just doesn’t work. Sorry, Michelle.’

‘Picturing Marilyn’ in New York

Marilyn by Andre De Dienes, 1946

‘Picturing Marilyn’, an exhibition featuring 62 photos by Andre de Dienes, Richard C. Miller, Bruno Bernard, Philippe Halsman, Sam Shaw, Milton Greene and Bert Stern, will be on display (and up for sale) at New York’s Milk Gallery for two days only (November 10-12.)

The exhibition is featured in fashion bible Women’s Wear Daily. Curator Etheleen Staley comments, “The key to it is that she has been so photographed, and was so photogenic that, in a way, people are drawn to her image even more than her movies.”

Other highlights include a replica of the black dress Marilyn wore for Bert Stern in 1962 (remade by Christian Dior), and a screening of My Week With Marilyn.

St Vincent Inspired by Marilyn’s Writing

Marilyn leaving hospital in 1954

St Vincent – aka musician Annie Erin Clark – performed ‘Surgeon’, a song inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s writings, now available as a free download from her forthcoming album, Strange Mercy, at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on Thursday, reports the Times:

‘St. Vincent ended her concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Thursday night with an emotionally complicated plea. “Best, finest surgeon,” she sang coolly, fingers skittering along the neck of her guitar. “Come cut me open.”

The song was “Surgeon,” with lyrics inspired by an entry in Marilyn Monroe’s diary, and St. Vincent made its queasy hunger feel palpable, even, somehow, during the mounting vulgarity of the synth-guitar solo that she used as a coda.

Surgery isn’t a bad metaphor for the process by which St. Vincent, a k a Annie Clark, creates her music. But she’s rarely if ever the one being operated on. What she does is traumatic but controlled, unsentimental but not uncaring. She can seem clinical, but she knows what she’s doing in there.’

The song is based on a piece published in Fragments, the 2010 collection of Marilyn’s writing. It was written on Waldorf-Astoria stationary (MM lived at the hotel in 1955.)

This may be an account of a dream. It is filled with characters from Marilyn’s life at the time – Lee Strasberg, Arthur Miller, Milton Greene, Dr Hohenberg, the Rostens – and suggests Marilyn’s intense fear of not living up to their expectations.

Like many of Marilyn’s undefined pieces, it has the quality of a prose poem. The bolded parts denote spelling anomalies, while the crossings-out are her own.

Best finest surgeon – Strasberg

waits to cut me open which I don’t mind since Dr H

has prepared me – given me anesthetic

and has also diagnosed the case and

agrees with what has to be done –

an operation – to bring myself back to

life and to cure me of this terrible dis-ease

whatever the hell it is –

Arthur is the only one waiting in the outer

room – worrying and hoping operation successful

for many reasons – for myself – for his play and

for himself indirectly

Hedda – concerned – keeps calling on phone during

operation – Norman – keeps stopping by hospital to

see if I’m okay but mostly to comfort Art

who is so worried –

Milton calls from office with lots of room

and everything in good taste – and is conducting

business in a new way with style – and music

is playing and he is relaxed and enjoying himself even if he

is very worried at the same time – there’s a camera

on his desk but he doesn’t take pictures anymore except

of great paintings.

Strasberg cuts me open after Dr. H gives me

anesthesia and tries in a medical way to comfort

me – everything in the room is white in fact but I

can’t even see anyone just white objects –

they cut me open – Strasberg with Hohenberg’s ass.

and there is absolutely nothing there – Strasberg is

deeply disappointed but more even – academically amazed

that he had made such a mistake. He thought there was going

to be so much – more than he had dreamed possible in

almost anyone but

instead there was absolutely nothing – devoid of

every human living feeling thing – the only thing

that came out was so finely cut sawdust – like

out of a raggedy ann doll – and the sawdust spills

all over the floor & table and Dr. H is puzzled

because suddenly she realizes that this is a

new type case of puple. The patient (pupil – or student – I started to write) existing of complete emptiness

Strasberg’s hopes & dreams for theater are fallen.

Dr H’s dreams and hopes for a permanent psychiatric cure

is given up – Arthur is disappointed – let down +