From Milton’s Marilyn: “On September 9th she flew without Joe to New York for location filming for ‘The Seven Year Itch’. The next day she reported to Milton’s [Greene] Lexington Avenue Studio. With the festive participation of Dom Perignon, he shot her in various buoyant juxtapositions to a wicker chair, but the highlights of that sitting resulted from a mistake. He captured her as a ballerina - which certainly she was not - when the costume he ordered proved to be too small. “That’s all right” he said, “just hold it up against you.” Some of the most poignant photos of Marilyn Monroe emerged, to be sure, but something more. The pictures became more generic portraits of a dancer to challenge even the sketches of Degas.”
In Bert Stern:Original Madman, Shannah Laumeister’s 2011 documentary about the photographer, Stern discusses his infamous ‘last sitting’ with Marilyn. He spoke to Time magazine recently, and you can watch a clip from the film at Nowness.
“After I set up the studio [at the Bel-Air] the front desk rang ‘Miss Monroe is here’ I decided to go down and meet her. I met her [for the first time] on the pathway to the suite. She was alone wearing a scarf and green slacks and a sweater. She had no make up on. I said ‘You’re beautiful,’ and she said, ‘What a nice thing to say.’
[In the suite] she looked at what was there and asked about makeup. I said I didn’t think we needed any makeup, but how about a little eyeliner? She picked up one of the scarves, which was chiffon, you could see through it. She looked [at it] and said, ‘Do you want to do nudes?’ So it was her idea.”
However, in his 1982 book, The Last Sitting, Stern detailed a more complex version of events:
“She lowered the scarf, looked at me and said, ‘You want to do nudes?’
She’d seen right through it.
‘Uh, well I – I guess so!’ Who, me? ‘It’d probably be a nice idea, wouldn’t it? But it wouldn’t be exactly nude. You’d have the scarf.’
‘Well, how much would you see through it?’
‘That depends on how I light it,’ I said.
‘What do you mean?’ she said. And then, ‘Just a second. George?’
George Masters [hairdresser] came in. She said, ‘George, what do you think about these scarves and doing nudes?’
I held my breath.
‘Oh…what a divine idea!’ said George.
Thank God. If he had said, ‘Oh, no, how gauche,’ the whole thing would have been off in a second. Gone.
She was that vulnerable.”
As the shoot began, Marilyn made it clear exactly how much she wanted to reveal:
“Marilyn walked onto the set in her bare feet, a glass of champagne in one hand and an orange striped scarf tied around her bare bosom. She still had her green slacks on.
‘I’m not going to take off my pants,’ she declared.
‘Just roll them down, then,’ I said.”
It was not until late in the evening that Marilyn finally stripped:
"It was late, close to dawn, when I finally got all her clothes off…’You know, for this one you’ve really got to take your pants off,’ I said.
I expected her to call for George, who by now was falling asleep in the other room. But she just said, ‘Okay.’ We’d already gone so far in the pictures; what was there to be shy about? She stepped into the archway between the rooms and, holding the scarf around her like a towel, wriggled out of her slacks. And then she walked back out onto the white paper.
I started to shoot. This was the way I’d wanted her all along. Her beautiful body shone through the harlequin scarf in a tantalising, abstract hide-and-seek.
Until she dropped it. And I shot it. Just for myself.
One glimpse, one stolen frame.
We were finished.”
The same text has been used in all subsequent editions of the book.[x]
Throughout the 1960’s Rizzo’s work mainly focused on portraits, with none more famous than the shoot he did with Marilyn Monroe in February of 1962. At first the shoot was very much a ‘mission impossible’ affair, with a friend of Rizzo’s who was an acquaintance of Marilyn’s agent, Arthur P. Jacobs calling him to discuss organising a shoot. Jacobs informed the friend that this request was ‘impossible’, and the message was relayed back to Rizzo, but determined he still hoped for a chance even though Marilyn was tied up in a number of personal affairs. These included moving house, her daily sessions with Dr Ralph Greenson, and also a pending trip to Mexico to - among other things - purchase furnishings for the new property she was relocating to on
5th Helena Drive, Brentwood. Eventually, contact was made with Rizzo’s friend once more from Jacobs, informing them that Marilyn had agreed to the shoot and to relay this message to Rizzo, who was ecstatic at the prospect of working with Monroe.
The meeting was not without its conditions, though. Firstly, Rizzo was refused his request to conduct the shoot in the morning when the light would be at its best. Jacobs was adamant this request was too much, and informed Rizzo that it was not possible. It had to be an afternoon shoot or nothing at all. Rizzo agreed, and the meet was set for two days later at a friend’s house. Rizzo waited and waited, but no Marilyn. He was called by Jacobs and told that she was not feeling well and would not be able to attend the shoot. Rizzo was dejected, but understood if Marilyn wasn’t feeling well, then she wasn’t feeling well and patiently waited for her at the same location the next day.
Again, he had a long wait until Marilyn breezed in at 6pm. Sadly for him; this was just for a face-to-face apology she felt Rizzo deserved. “I’m sorry, I’m so tired. I’ll be here tomorrow, I promise,” she told him kindly before honouring him a little kiss. This kiss melted Rizzo, and he told her fondly “For you, I would wait a week.” This was perhaps not the best thing to say to a woman who was renowned for her lateness (as she once said herself – “I’ve been on a calendar, but never on time!”) but true to her promise Marilyn arrived the next day when she said she would, and what would turn out to be one of the last ever professional photo shoot with the star commenced.
Rizzo commented that Marilyn had applied her makeup herself, and even though he honestly admitted that he thought she’d made ‘a bit of a hash of it’ (to use his very words), she was still luminous to his eyes and his lens. He commented that looking at her was like looking at all of the world’s most beautiful women at once, all rolled into one person. Rizzo also commented that he thought Marilyn had an air of underlying sadness about her. “I could sense how distraught she was at this last meeting, but we still took the photos. She trusted me, we knew each other and that is so important, trust is the most important thing of all,” Rizzo said of the shoot in an interview years after Marilyn’s death.
“The Proposal #1,” Photographed by Sam Shaw | Central Park, New York, 1957
While walking together through Central Park, Sam Shaw asked Marilyn what she was learning at the Actors Studio. When she responded, “Improvisation,” he asked her to show him. Marilyn grabbed Sam’s newspaper and headed to a bench to read. Later she explained the couple’s intense conversation. Next to her, the man was asking for the woman to marry him. She said she would, but on the condition that he give up his livelihood as a bookie.
It is five and a half minutes of grainy eight millimeter footage, but in that time we can see more of the true nature of Marilyn Monroe than in many of her longer and better known films. The film was shot in 1955 when Marilyn Monroe was 29 and Peter Mangone was 15.
Marilyn had just divorced Joe DiMaggio and was living at the Gladstone Hotel while taking classes at the Actors Studio. Peter had been skipping 9th grade classes at James Monroe High School in the Bronx to stake out the star and take photographs as she left the hotel. On this particular grey March day Peter borrowed his older brother’s new Revere movie camera and waited outside the hotel in the hope of running into his idol. Luck was on his side. The star emerged, recognized her young fan, and beckoned for him to follow. For the next few hours Peter accompanied Marilyn, her friend and business partner the photographer Milton Greene, and the fashion designer George Nardiello. (Nardiello would later take his place in Monroe history when he sewed her into her form fitting sequined dress to sing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.) They sauntered down 5th Avenue, stopped at Elizabeth Arden, and continued their journey in an unhampered way that would be completely unimaginable today.
Turning the camera on and off throughout the afternoon, the young fan recorded the star in the bustling environment of mid-century midtown Manhattan. Taxis, cars, and trucks drive by, a few people stare politely or do a double-take, most pass by without intruding or noticing. Yet within this ordinary context Monroe has never looked more extraordinary, natural, or beautiful. It takes an unusual generosity of spirit to enable an encounter like this and that warmth glows throughout the film. It may be a cliché that Monroe loved the camera and the camera loved her, but it was the perfect symbiosis. [x]
“I used to get up every day and put on a shirt and tie, because I read she was coming to New York to go to the Actor’s Studio and that she would stay at the Gladstone Hotel, so I used to get up every morning, dress up, get on the train, cut school and wait for hours. Some days I didn’t see her, some days I’d get a glimpse of her. Then I finally stood across from the hotel one day and I saw her. The next day I went in front of the hotel with a piece of paper, she signed it and she said, ‘You were here yesterday. You had a red tie on. Weren’t you cold?’ Because it was freezing. But she noticed. She really cared, you know.”
-Peter Mangone, 1941- December 11, 2012
Carl Perutz photographed Marilyn in 1958. The photographs were lost until 1980, when they were discovered by an acting troupe in an abandoned New York warehouse. They were published in January 1980’s issue of Playboy’s Roving Eye without the knowledge of the photographer. Artist Jon Whitcomb wrote in explaining the origin of the photographs:
Dear Playboy, Mystery Division: For The American Weekly issue of April 6, 1958, Hearst needed an Easter hat feature and asked me to paint six ladies for it. As usual, overnight. A photographer named Carl Perutz or some such Nom de Nikon handled Marilyn. He was never heard from again. If he was demolished on East 18th Street amidst actors, I’m sorry to hear it.
A staff stills photographer at Twentieth Century-Fox for over four decades, Frank Powolny took many of the best-known movie stills of Marilyn, working with her from The Asphalt Jungle (1950) to her last uncompleted movie Something’s Got to Give.
Frank Powolny; Marilyn’s Photographers
“I’m sending only brief captions,” a LIFE magazine correspondent wrote to his editors in February 1949, in notes accompanying photographs of a little-known actress with a few small roles in mediocre films under her belt. “For one thing, time is of the essence in getting the pictures to a plane. For another, the processes shot are not terribly complicated, showing as they do how Marilyn trains herself for hoped-for movie stardom by consulting specialists in singing, dancing and drama and how she is worked on by them in the effort to produce a wrapped-up package of talent to back up her photogenic sex appeal.”
By the time she caught the eye of LIFE photographer J. R. Eyerman in early 1949, Marilyn Monroe had appeared (largely uncredited) in half-a-dozen utterly forgettable movies, and there was absolutely no guarantee that the 22-year-old’s “hoped-for movie stardom” would pan out any time soon.
And yet, Eyerman clearly saw enough of something, a special glimmer, in the fresh-faced beauty to chronicle the training that, as a practitioner of a craft, she evidently knew she needed. The Eyerman pictures in this gallery are among the very first that any LIFE photographer ever took of Monroe, although — for reasons that have been lost in time — the magazine chose not to publish them.
-J.R. Eyerman; Marilyn’s Photographers
Earl Moran moved his studio from New York to Los Angeles in 1946. In February, Earl was searching around for the new models for his highly popular pinup calendars. He called the Bluebook Agency and they sent over a shy girl with a special presence. Her name was Norma Jean and she first posed for Moran on February 7, 1946. Moran said this about her, “She fit my formula for a good calendar model— a sweet, expressive face and a body that was more than she realized." "The Spanish Girl" was inspired when he discovered a matador costume in the closet and she “filled into it perfectly.”
Earl Moran: Marilyn’s Photographers
Photographed by Cecil Beaton’s assistant, Ed Pfizenmaier.
Marilyn arrived to Beaton’s suite with only a simple black dress and a white puffy evening gown. Ed Pfizenmaier, Beaton’s assistant, said that Marilyn took  care of her own make-up “which most people, they can’t believe it nowadays … she came just by herself, with these two little dresses and … it was as simple as that.” Beaton added a few props: an artificial Bluebird, flowers, and scarves. He provided the unique backgrounds, as he’d actually redecorated the suite himself in what he called a “Japanese Nouveau art manner”. Beaton himself described Marilyn’s method as subject of the session: “The initial shyness over, excitement has now gotten the better of her. She romps, she squeals with delight, she leaps onto the sofa. She puts a flower stem in her mouth, puffing on a daisy as though it were a cigarette. It is an artless, impromptu, high-spirited, infectiously gay performance. It may end in tears.” His diary entry read: “She was the greatest fun.” Pfizenmaier said “I found her just a delight to work with, we just had a magnificent time.”
- Marilyn’s photographers
In April 1949, photographer Philippe Halsman was assigned to write a story for Life magazine, to find out how good eight Hollywood starlets were at acting. The starlets were found by editor Gene Cook, and Halsman photographed them in his room at the Beverly Hills Hotel, asking each girl to act out four basic situations: listening to a good joke, enjoying an invisible delicious drink, being frightened by a monster and kissing a fabulous lover.
When Marilyn walked into the room Halsman discovered a painfully shy girl who was wooden in her actions, and he was not impressed. But when she embarked on the kissing part of the exercise, his opinion changed and he discovered that she was an intense and hard-working starlet. He wanted to encourage her and told her that while most models couldn’t act, she showed great promis and thought she should move to New York to continue her acting career. ‘I didn’t go,' she later said, 'but I was thrilled by his encouragement.’
-Philippe Halsman;Marilyn’s Photographers
In 1949, Milton Greene (born Greenholtz) was quickly acquiring a reputation as one of the country’s most talented fashion and celebrity photographers. “They showed me a portfolio with the most beautiful pictures I’d ever seen. I asked ‘Who took these?’" Introduced to Greene, Marilyn said, "Why, you’re nothing but a boy!" Replied Milton, unfazed, "Well, you’re nothing but a girl!"
Harold Lloyd was a major comedic star of the silent era, but by the time Marilyn had become a star, Harold had become a photographer. During the photo shoot for Marilyn’s first Life cover in 1952, Lloyd had arranged several more sessions over the following year. His photographic specialty was color stereo pictures. Seven pictures of Marilyn appeared in a 1992 book of his 3-D photographs, with text by Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd Hayes.
It was in 1960 during the shooting of The Misfits in Reno that Inge Morath met both Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. Inge arrived with Henri Cartier-Bresson to photograph the filming. In his autobiography Timebends Arthur Miller said of Marilyn’s feelings towards Inge;“Marilyn liked her at once, appreciating her considerate kindness and the absence – remarkable in a photographer – of aggression. She doted a little on the pictures Inge Morath had taken of her, sensing real affection in them.”
Inge Morath would later become Arthur Miller’s wife. Of Marilyn she said, “Once she was ready to be photographed she would surpass the expectations of the lends. She had a shimmering quality like an emanation of water, and she moved lyrically.”