Richard C. Miller and the Story of Marilyn’s Audition

Richard C. Miller first photographed Norma Jeane Dougherty as a young model in 1946. By 1950, she was an aspiring actress and he photographed her again at an audition for Street Scene, an upcoming production at the Players Ring Theatre in Los Angeles. She didn’t get the part, and the photos remained obscure until just a few years ago.

The series was recently posted on the Considerable blog, a timely reminder that Marilyn Monroe worked long and hard for fame, with disappointments along the way. When she and Miller next met in 1958, she was at the peak of her success, filming Some Like It Hot.

This photo of Marilyn talking with an unnamed man (most likely involved with the production) has led to speculation among fans that he may have been making unwanted advances on her, from the way he was tugging at her collar and the solemnity of her expression in contrast to his.

But while sexual harassment was certainly a widespread problem in Hollywood – and is still making headlines today – it’s all too easy to pass judgement on images without knowing their full context. They were not alone at the time, and the relaxed demeanour of others in the frame doesn’t indicate any cause for concern. (This poster from the 1931 movie adaptation of Elmer Rice’s Pulitzer-winning play, in fact, suggests Marilyn may simply have been rehearsing with another hopeful actor.)

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Richard C. Miller’s Marilyn (and More)

Richard C. Miller’s photographic archive has been added to Getty Images, including his photos of James Dean on the set of his last film, Giant, and many other Hollywood icons. Marilyn is also featured, from the early modelling days to her roles in Some Like It Hot and Let’s Make Love. Among the selections are some rare outtakes and more familiar shots previously unattributed. (You can read my tribute to Miller here.)

Four years after her first assignment with Miller in 1946, Marilyn worked with him again in 1950, as he followed her to an audition at the Players Ring Theatre in Los Angeles. This shoot remained unpublished for many years.

When they reunited eight years later Marilyn was a superstar, shooting what would become her most popular movie, Some Like It Hot.

Chatting with reporter Joe Hyams

On the beach

Maurice Chevalier visits the set

‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’

And finally, on the set of Let’s Make Love in 1960…

Richard C. Miller’s Norma Jeane Portfolio

A vintage carbro print of Richard C. Miller’s ‘wedding portrait’ of 19 year-old Norma Jeane Dougherty – which made the cover of True Romances magazine in 1946 – is up for sale at Santa Monica Auctions on October 7 with an estimated price of $60,000-$80,000, as LA Weekly reportsThe young model wore her own wedding dress for the shoot, and borrowed a bridal prayer book from Miller’s wife Margaret.

The prayer book is included in the lot, as well as a signed model release form, a linen clamshell box containing twelve more prints, and a photo of the newly blonde Norma Jeane and ‘Dick’ at work on a later beach session. Miller’s remarkable colour images capture the transformation from Norma Jeane to Marilyn, although ironically, her own first marriage would end in divorce just months after the ‘wedding portrait’ was published. Miller met Marilyn again in 1959, on the set of Some Like It Hot. You can read my tribute to him here.

The Perils of Photoshop

Marilyn by Ed Clark, 1950

False Images = Faulty Facts‘, an article posted by John Greco on his excellent Twenty-Four Frames blog today, takes a look at the problem of Photoshopped images. This photo of Marilyn alone, taken by Ed Clark at Griffith Park in 1950, was interpolated into a Richard C. Miller picture of James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor relaxing during filming of Giant in 1955.

While it may seem like harmless fun, these images are too often taken as genuine, and are circulated around the internet – thus rewriting a small slice of history. With so many misunderstandings about Marilyn already in existence, these pictures are witlessly damaging her legacy.

Hollywood in Kodachrome

David Wills’ 2011 book, Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis, is one of the best photo retrospectives on the market – so it’s no surprise to report that his latest publication, Hollywood in Kodachrome, is also of fine quality. Focussing on 1940s photography, Wills devotes ten pages to Richard C. Miller, Bruno Bernard, Tom Kelley and Earl Thiesen’s glorious colour shots of a young Marilyn in her starlet years.

Scans by Chris at Club Passion Marilyn – click on thumbnails to see them at full size.

‘The Marilyn Monroe Marriage Guide’

At first glance, Marilyn might seem an unlikely example to follow where marriage is concerned. Indeed, she was already heading for her first divorce when this magazine promo was shot by Richard C. Miller in 1946.

However, Darla Carmichael was inspired by Marilyn’s relationship pattern – and so far, it seems to be working out rather well…

“I had a long-term marriage plan. The perfect, glamour woman I was to become needed not one, not two, but three marriages. I had studied up long and hard on starlets and famed women and determined that following in the steps of Marilyn Monroe was the way to go for me. The first marriage had to be a hormonally-driven, youthful mistake that would start and end quickly. For me, this turned out to not be a marriage, but a long, co-habitating engagement, which definitely fit the bill.

The second was to be a sign of maturity. It was supposed to be a marriage that would seem like the right thing to do at the time because of a need to just settle down already. It would be a backlash to hard partying, a string of anti-commitment relationships and something that would transition into full adulthood. That, it did, indeed.

The third marriage, though, was always meant “for keeps.” It would be when after all the world went crazy around me and I was ready to just be me. I would find someone who was perfect. It would be someone who had both bad and good in common, but with enough differences to forever keep things interesting. There would never be one thought of it being a mistake or impulsive or temporary. It would be the one person who I would be happy and fulfilled living the rest of my life with. And, well, I think my plan (though vaguely idiotic and very naïve looking back on it) worked out pretty well. I managed to follow it to a tee without really trying.”

‘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.

Marilyn at Julien’s: Hollywood Legends 2011

Julien’s Auctions have announced a ‘Hollywood Legends’ exhibition from April 25-May 6 at their Beverly Hills office, followed by a public and online sale on May 7-8.

Items related to Marlene Dietrich, Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe feature in the catalogue (plus modern celebrities like Princess Diana and Angelina Jolie), which can be viewed online or ordered in print.

The black cocktail dress worn by Marilyn on the cover is among the highlights. She wore it at the press party for Some Like it Hot in 1958 (photo by Earl Leaf.)

Joseph Jasgur, 1946, signed by photographer

Richard C. Miller, 1946

Pages from Andre De Dienes’ journal

Marilyn at Harold Lloyd’s home, 1953