Marilyn Monroe fifty years on

Today, 5 August, is the fiftieth anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death and to mark the occasion almost every photographer who has anything that might be claimed as an ‘unseen’ photograph of her has cashed them in.  Bert Stern is the past master at this, having squeezed every possible ounce of publicity out of the mediocre nudes he took at what, by happenstance, came to be known as her last sitting; then, a few years ago, he squeezed a few drops more by re-shooting them with Lindsay Lohan.  Now it is Lawrence Schiller’s turn: he has an exhibit at Steven Kasher Gallery and an article in Vanity Fair of never-before-published photos — though, unfortunately him, many virtually identical to oft-published photos — of her infamous nude swimming pool scene in her last film, Something’s Got to Give.  She looked pretty great but was fired soon after the scene was shot and was dead of a probable suicide not long after that.

I had already been obsessed with Marilyn for most of my teenage years before I saw any of her films so that high, breathy voice that was so much a part of her charm came as a surprise to me.  Gosh, though, she photographed well. So, to do more justice to her than Messrs Stern and Schiller, here is a survey of Marilyn at her best.

This famous photograph by Ed Feingersh did quite a lot for the reputation of Chanel No. 5:

This is from a series by Cecil Beaton that was reportedly Marilyn’s favorite of herself:

This, by Philippe Halsman, became iconic but it is really just Marilyn wedged in next to a closet door:

Milton Greene took a great many photographs of her, this being the best known:

But, to me, Marilyn was never hotter — quite possibly, no woman may ever have been hotter — than she was at 26 years old when she shot Niagara with Joseph Cotten:


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