Photography

Marilyn Monroe: Still Life (2006)


“The camera adored her. She seduced the camera; there were some four-letter words said about the way she worked with a camera. It was incredible. But, she is working in a way that she loves. She’s in control. She’s telling the camera what she wants. She’s letting me do what I want to do. But, in the meantime, I’m really under orders from her. That’s the way she loved to work, and Laurence Olivier said of her, that she was happiest when she was playing the part of a model.”

—Eve Arnold, photographer

* * *

“Despite her wit, she was not overbearingly bright, and if intellectual ability is comparable to weight lifting, she lifted no weight. She had intelligence—an artist’s intelligence. And her taste, by the end of her career, was close to superb. She must have had a profound sense of what was whole in people, and what was false.”

—Norman Mailer, screenwriter and director

* * *

“The first time I heard of her, I was at a men’s magazine called Argosy. The managing editor threw a pile of pictures on my desk, and said, ‘This tootsie hasn’t been in a movie yet, but she’s all over the place, posing for anything.’

And so, my job was to write captions for this ubiquitous starlet who would pose for anything… so that, after awhile, she was more of a joke than a serious figure. But, the interesting thing always was if you looked at the pictures, you could see that she was in on the joke.

If you look at all of the movies she made, they don’t add up to the answer of why she still has this appeal, you have to look at the still photographs. The thousands and thousands, you know, that show her essence. People sensed that you were being given access to something you don’t normally see.”

—Robert Stein, editor

* * *

“She had a bag and a couple of dresses in it—Marilyn, over the shoulder, this kind of thing came in the door—and the first thing she did was discard her shoes, which I couldn’t believe. So, immediately Cecil and I looked at each other with big eyeballs. We could tell, for some reason, this was going to be a good day. I mean, I kind of adore somebody that throws shoes off and gets right—in other words, she wanted to work.”

—Ed Pfigenmaier, assistant

* * *

“The year was 1961. I photographed her in November. November 17th. I wondered if I had oversold myself, if I was going to get out of my league. She seemed to be so sophisticated. I know subsequently that she, too, had her uncertainties, but as I approached her and met her for the first time, I expected this giant superstar. And, she wasn’t that. She was quite the contrary.”

—Douglas Kirkland, photographer

* * *

“Fame and happiness, it seems to me, is certainly temporary. Fame will go by. You know: ‘So long, I’ve had you, fame.’ I told you it was fickle. So, at least, it’s something that, let’s say, I’ve experienced. But, this isn’t my aim; this is what I wanted to make clear. In some ways, it has its compensation. It does. But, it also has its drawbacks. And I’ve experienced both.”

—Marilyn Monroe, actress and model

“Marilyn Monroe: Still Life.” Dir. Gail Levin. American Masters. PBS, New York City. 19 Jul. 2006.

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