A ‘Likely’ Pair: Marilyn and Carl Sandburg

Photo by Arnold Newman, 1962

In an article for Vintage News, Barbara Stepko takes a closer look at Marilyn’s touching friendship with the Chicago poet and Lincoln’s biographer, Carl Sandburg. (She also notes that Sandburg was not the only intellectual charmed by Marilyn: after meeting her at a party in 1960, Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov described her as “gloriously pretty, all bosom and rose.”)

Photos by Len Steckler, 1961

“When she and Sandburg first met is a matter of some debate. Some believe it was in 1958, during the filming of Some Like It Hot. Others say it was two years later, when an 82-year-old Sandburg, working in Hollywood at the time, was temporarily given the actress’s dressing room to use as an office.

Monroe introduced herself and the two immediately hit it off. The two would meet up again at the New York apartment of photographer Len Steckler in December 1961, then a month later at the home of Hollywood producer Henry Weinstein, with photographer Arnold Newman and others in attendance. A Look Magazine tribute to Monroe which Sandburg had written after her death was accompanied by photos from both photographers.

What Monroe found in Sandburg was someone who could see beyond her glamorous image and like her for herself. Sandburg, for his part, was impressed with the actress’s down-to-earth personality, citing ‘a vitality, a readiness for humor.’ He also appreciated that Monroe, like himself, had come up the hard way.

Monroe was eager to pick Sandburg’s brain, the two of them discussing a wide range of topics. Although the actress was a bit out of her depth when it came to science and economics, she was well-versed when it came to current events and, naturally, Hollywood. (At one point, both of them would sing the praises of Charlie Chaplin.)”