Inside the Hollywood Jewellery Box

Sadie Mintz is the 105 year-old founder of the Hollywood Jewellery Box, and designer of the earrings worn by Marilyn in Some Like it Hot, reports Emily Smithack for the Smithsonian blog.

“On one occasion in the 1950s, I rented several pairs of the same rhinestone earrings. Evidently they were worn by Marilyn Monroe and several other cast members in Some Like It Hot. My husband and I made the earrings. We were supposed to make them with a lot of rhinestones, very noticeable. These earrings were the very same that Marilyn Monroe had on in the famous LIFE magazine photograph of her, which I always kept framed on the wall.

Years later, I sold my inventory back to the studios. I kept some things for the grandkids – I had three granddaughters, and they used to love to come play in the drawers. But I did keep those rhinestone earrings. I tried to have them sold by Christie’s or Butterfield’s – I don’t remember which auction house. They agreed it was the same design, but I had no proof that these were the very same earrings worn by the stars, so they could not ‘authenticate’ them. I wonder what more information they needed since I was already in my mid-nineties and remembered everything! My eldest granddaughter even got me a clip of the video showing the earrings. These were indeed the same earrings. I ended up having them sold at auction by the Screen Actors Guild, which was more lax on the authenticity rules.”

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.”

Milla Jovovich as Marilyn

Model turned actress Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil) posed in an MM-inspired shoot for photographer Ellen Von Unwerth at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont recently. The pictures, and accompanying interview, are published in French magazine Madame Figaro.

How did you create the character of Marilyn?

Ellen has a pretty crazy sense of humor. We went partly for Marilyn’s look, with the stylist, then we forced the line: a stronger makeup, messier hair, bigger cleavage, like Jayne Mansfield. Distance between fun and great affection for the character.

You just turned 36, the age at which Marilyn committed suicide. Do you feel close to her?

Apart from having worked with Richard Avedon, I had never thought about other things in common with Marilyn. Like the fact that she was a model before becoming an actress … It fascinates me, necessarily, as it touches me. From her image, you could not guess the horrors she crossed personally and professionally. Reduced to the status of sex symbol in ‘Dumb Blonde’ comedies, when she was a great dramatic talent. At the same age, I am relieved not to have known that way. Today, one can succeed as an actress without being subject to the studio system.”

Ron English Exhibit at Venice Beach

‘Marilyn Comic’, a screen print by pop artist Ron English, is currently on display as part of the English 101 exhibit at the Post No Bills gallery space, Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice Beach, until October 30.

‘Marilyn Comic’ is loosely based on Richard Avedon‘s 1957 portrait of Monroe, and can be purchased for $350.

English describes his art as ‘POPaganda’. An exhibit of his new work will open at the Corey Helford Gallery, Culver City, on November 19.


‘Waiting for Hockney’: The Art of Billy Pappas

Waiting for Hockney is a documentary about the artist Billy Pappas, who spent eight years recreating Richard Avedon’s iconic 1957 portrait of Marilyn Monroe, using magnifying lenses, in a large, finely detailed pencil drawing. This ambitious, if eccentric project, which Pappas aimed to present to his idol, the artist David Hockney, is covered in the film.

‘Why would Pappas devote such single-minded fervor on a photo-realistic portrait that could far more easily be captured (and was, of course) on film? According to the artist, an outgoing, amiable guy who is miles away from the kind of cloistered hermit one envisions, he wanted to challenge photography, to reveal something in this technique that photography could not capture, and thereby create a whole new style of art. And, being the ambitious sort, he hoped his magnum opus would be his entree into the art world.

The key to his plan, Pappas decided, was the famous artist David Hockney, who had written some papers on photography and optics that convinced Pappas that Hockney would be the one to appreciate his achievement…”Waiting for Hockney”, and the response to Pappas’ work from the art establishment, raises some pointed questions about how art becomes Art. It asks why some artists are taken seriously, their every paint smear analyzed and honored, while others are relegated to the world of “outsider” art, no matter how interesting or meaningful their work.’

DVD Verdict

Richard Avedon, 1957