Vaccaro, Rizzo and the Marilyn Connection

Tony Vaccaro began his career in photography while serving in the US Army on the battlefields of Europe during World War II. Aged 97, he is now the subject of an HBO documentary and a new retrospective, Tony Vaccaro: La Dolce Vita, at the Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s telling that along with Pablo Picasso, Marilyn heads up the impressive list of celebrities he photographed, though she appears not to be featured in the exhibition.

The photo shown above right, taken in Canada during filming of River Of No Return, has been attributed to Vaccaro by the QNS website. (Canadian photographer John Vachon was also present at the shoot, as featured in his book, Marilyn, August 1953: The Lost Look Photos.)

One of Marilyn’s last photo shoots is also mentioned in connection with an ongoing Paris retrospective, Willy Rizzo: Pop! Once again, though, it’s unclear if Marilyn is featured in the exhibit, other than in a 1996 photo taken at the home of supermodel Stephanie Seymour, with Andy Warhol’s iconic portrait adorning the wall.

Willy Rizzo 1928-2013

Collage by Marilynette Edits

Willy Rizzo, who photographed Marilyn in 1962, has died aged 84. Born in Naples, he moved to Paris during the 1930s, and became interested in photography.

Rizzo’s photos of the North African war caught the eye of Life magazine. He later worked for France Dimanche, and covered the first Cannes Film Festival.

Rizzo worked for the Black Star agency in New York, and in 1948, he began a 20-year tenure at Paris Match. He photographed historic events like the Nuremberg Trials, and stars including Brigitte Bardot, Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn.

In his 2010 book, The Final Years of Marilyn Monroe, author Keith Badman gives a detailed account of how her photo shoot with Rizzo came about.

It was originally arranged with Paris Match in December 1961. Marilyn had been out of the public eye since The Misfits, so this was considered quite a coup. He planned the shoot with Marilyn’s publicist, Pat Newcomb, who suggested an afternoon session.

On February 8, 1962, Newcomb informed Rizzo that Marilyn was unwell, and promised that she would appear the next day.  And indeed, Marilyn did so – however, exhausted after moving house, she apologised with a kiss.

‘For you, I would wait a week,’ Rizzo said.

She arrived on Saturday, February 10th. ‘Marilyn was immensely sad at the meeting,’ he said later, ‘and that sadness was very visible in the pictures.’

‘These photos showed a very different side to Marilyn,’ wrote biographer Michelle Morgan (in MM: Private and Undisclosed), ‘in that her hair is rumpled, her clothes are plain and she looks thin and exhausted. Still, she loved them and on March 9th Pat Newcomb wrote to Rizzo to express that Marilyn thought the photos were sensational and she looked forward to working with him again.’

The photos were first published in Paris Match on June 23rd. In recent years, outtakes from the shoot have emerged, showing a softer, more flattering view of Marilyn than the original shots had indicated.

During the 1960s, Rizzo launched a successful second career in furniture design, and was much favoured by the international jet set. In 2010, he opened a gallery in Paris with the help of his wife, Italian actress Elsa Martinelli, and their son.

Willy Rizzo died in Paris on Monday, February 25th. His funeral was attended by, among others, actor Jack Nicholson.

For more information on Rizzo’s work with MM, please visit Immortal Marilyn.

The Art of Marilyn in Crete

Painter and ES member Elizabeth Grammaticas visited the ‘Marilyn Monroe in the Arts’ exhibition in Crete last week, and has shared her thoughts (and photos) with us.

I have posted a small selection, but you can see many more over at the ES forum.

‘I attended the “Marilyn Monroe in the Arts” Exhibition at DEKK Exhibition Center in Crete a few days ago, and was pleasantly surprised with the exhibition. The exhibition is up until 10/30 if anyone happens to be in Crete in the time (*does ‘happening’ to be in Crete actually happen? I lucked out and was on vacation with my dad there and saw the signs).

It was a larger exhibition than I expected, as well as intelligently done. Here’s some more pics of my favorites.’

‘1)This first piece is my favorite. It’s “Changing the Story of MM”. It contains four panels of Marilyn’s image being digitally altered. First is one of the famous Kelley nudes, with Marilyn Pregnant. Then a Bert Stern with a woman covering her up. Marilyn surrounded by a large asian family..and finally…another nude female with Marilyn in the “Something’s Got to Give” pool scene. I think this piece hit the nail on the head with so much of what we see with Marilyn’s story being constantly retold and reimagined based on the story teller.’

‘2) I liked these silhouette type images of Marilyn as well. I love how the icon is so clearly recognizable without the need for an image of the person to actually be there. (my camera didn’t get the photo well enough to see the artist.)’

‘3)I love that they had these Rizzo photos!

Each section of the exhibition had large signs elaborating on her life, image, and impact. I have the exhibition book which contains most of the exhibition, and then some.’

‘The videos in the exhibition were a good variety. Before you go into the exhibition, there is a projection of Marilyn’s performance at the JFK Gala. In the “White dress” section, they had a Sam Shaw interview playing. Another part of the exhibition had chairs to sit down and watch various Marilyn movie trailers.’

‘They also had two video pieces, one titled “No,No,No!”. It was mostly “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” footage, but without Marilyn in it. You hear the audio track looped of Marilyn singing the pre-diamonds intro of”!”, and see various men and people surrounding her, except Marilyn is cut out. So you just see the crowds of people demanding her attention, and her going ‘no no no nono’. It was a bit eerie walking in the exhibtion with all these images and manipulations of Marilyn’s image and hearing her voice going “No no nono!”.

They had another video looped of the paddle scene in “The Misfits” with one video on top with the paddle, the other with the zoom shot of her rear bouncing back and forth.

In addition to these videos, they also had slide shows of Marilyn magazine covers, celebrities impersonating Marilyn, and Marilyn photos not in the exhibition.

Most of the art is from Europe, and most of it is from a few collections in Vienna and Germany.’