Richard Avedon’s first collaboration with Marilyn was in September 1954, when she visited New York to film The Seven Year Itch with director Billy Wilder. It may also have been their first meeting, and their warm camaraderie is evident in the resulting photos, taken by Sam Shaw. Earl Steinbicker, who was Avedon’s studio assistant at the time, remembers the shoot in Avedon: Something Personal.
“I met a helluva lot of famous people with Dick … I was there for the first sitting Dick ever did with Marilyn Monroe. The Daily News had sent a photographer to photograph him photographing her. I worked the fan blowing her hair, and at the end of the sitting she came over and said, ‘Wouldn’t you like a picture of me?'”
This photo of Marilyn chatting with photographer Richard Avedon at a 1961 Actors Studio benefit at New York’s Roseland Ballroom is published in Avedon: Something Personal, a new biography by Norma Stevens and Steven M.L. Aronson. Marilyn is mentioned in the introduction, where Norma Stevens describes her first meeting with Avedon. A photo of Marilyn and Avedon, taken by Sam Shaw in 1954, is also featured. It’s unclear whether the book includes any further material on their iconic collaborations, but this preview looks very promising.
And as a bonus, here’s the Roseland photo in colour…
The touring retrospective, Remembering Sam Shaw: 60 Years of Photography, including some of the legendary shutterbug’s most famous shots of Marilyn among many other iconic images, is now on display at the Brandts Museum in Odense, Denmark until January 21, 2018.
Three years after their encounter on the set of We Were Strangers (see here), Marilyn and John Garfield were early contenders for the lead roles in On the Waterfront, according to Marilyn’s photographer friend, Sam Shaw, who was then developing it as a screenplay. (Director Elia Kazan denied all of this, but Al Ryelander, then a press agent for Columbia Studios, insisted the story was accurate.)
By 1952, Marilyn’s star was rising – but Garfield’s career was destroyed, after he refused to ‘name names’ to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and became the most famous victim of the ‘red-baiting’ era. He died of a heart attack months later, aged 37. Author Robert Knott retold the story, which also touches on Marilyn’s relationships with Kazan and future husband Arthur Miller, in He Ran All the Way: The Life of John Garfield (2003.)
On the Waterfront was released to acclaim in 1954, starring Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint. Ironically, the film can be seen as director Elia Kazan’s self-justification for his own decision to name names. One can only imagine how different Marilyn’s subsequent career might have been had she played the role of demure Edie Doyle…
“Shaw gave Monroe the script while she was in New York to take in the Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Monroe read the script and passed it on to her lover, Elia Kazan. Shaw, who called himself a ‘half-assed observer at the Actors Studio,’ had met Kazan on the set of the 1950 film Panic in the Streets. ‘Kazan had heard about my script (before Monroe gave it to him) and wanted to see it,’ Shaw said. ‘I wouldn’t give it to him, because he was involved with Arthur Miller on a similar project, The Hook.’ But after Monroe gave Kazan the script, the director called Shaw. ‘You’ve got an interesting script, but it needs a lot of work,’ he told Shaw. ‘Let Budd Schulberg work on it.’ Shaw, seeing the merit in Kazan’s suggestion, raised $40,000 to pay Schulberg to work on the script. According to Shaw, at this point Jack Cohn turned the script over to Sam Spiegel … Within a year Kazan, Spiegel and Schulberg were preparing the film for Columbia Pictures with Marlon Brando … By that point, neither Shaw nor Garfield were involved in any way.”
On the eve of the UK general election, a stencil painting of Prime Minister Theresa May wearing her favourite leopard-skin stilettos, in a recreation of Marilyn’s ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch (originally photographed by Sam Shaw) signed by street artist ‘Loretto’, has appeared in London’s West End, reports Fitzrovia News.
The merging of Marilyn, an icon of youth and beauty, with a right-wing politician is either comical or grotesque, depending on your perspective. However, comparisons of this kind are nothing new, especially in the art world. Photographer Philippe Halsman started the trend with ‘Marilyn Mao‘, blending his own 1952 portrait of MM – her first Life magazine cover – with the head and shoulders of the Chinese premier, Mao Tse-tung.
Perhaps it’s the rumoured affair with President Kennedy that triggered this strange phenomenon, or just that Marilyn’s own cultural reach rivals that of our world leaders. For me, these images evoke the contrast between her radiant humanity, and the dangerous aura of those who wield power.
The exhibition Marilyn: I Wanna Be Loved by You opens on October 22 at the Hôtel de Caumont – Centre d’Art in Aix-en-Provence, France. Featuring works by Sam Shaw, Andre de Dienes, Milton Greene, Philippe Halsman, Eve Arnold, Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon, Ed Feingersh, George Barris, Bert Stern, and others.
Floral tributes were left by Marilyn’s crypt at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles on what would be her 90th birthday, while devoted fans like Monica Shahri visited in person.
Canadian fan Billy made a heart-shaped card for Marilyn…
And there was cake too, courtesy of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the team behind the Golden Globes.)
The L.A.-based fanclub, Marilyn Remembered, organised a donation to Hollygrove, the former children’s home where Marilyn once lived. Now known as EMQ Families First, the charity has launched a new fundraising drive, ‘Modern Marilyn‘.
Immortal Marilyn listed 90 Marvellous Marilyn Moments on their blog, and compiled a fan-focused tribute video. In Bendigo Park, Australia, staff member Marisa left a memento at the feet of Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn‘.
Mexico loves Marilyn…
Snapchat users (including reality TV star Kim Kardashian) got busy with a special Marilyn Monroe filter…
The Milton Greene Archive shared this previously unpublished photo of Marilyn with a canine friend, originally taken for a Life magazine spread on Asian gowns in 1955.
The estate of Sam Shaw remembered a ‘dear friend.’
Novelist Megan Abbott chose her favourite photo of Marilyn.
The estate of Humphrey Bogart also remembered her fondly…
Everlasting Star admin Sirkuu Aaltonen went on a book hunt…
And UK superfan Megan posted a touching tribute on her personal blog.
“Another year has gone by and Marilyn’s star keeps growing brighter and brighter, people are still fascinated and enthralled by this beautiful soul. Did Marilyn have her faults? Of course she did, it’s hard to believe, I know, but she was a human being just like us. I love Marilyn for Marilyn and that will never change. I’d like to think that there are more genuine fans who love and respect Marilyn than conspiracy lovers who just follow their ignorance.”
The touring exhibit, Sam Shaw: 60 Years of Photography, is now open at the City Gallery in Regensburg, Germany until May 18, Marianne Sperb reports for Mittel Bayerische.