Sunday, June 10, 2012

Marilyn Monroe at 86

By James Colt Harrison

Had she lived, Marilyn Monroe would have turned 86 years old on June 1. Would she still have been a blond bombshell? Not likely, but she still would have been a beautiful woman and not a cartoon another legendary actress, Mae West, became. Marilyn, you see, took herself seriously. She would have moved on to more dramatic roles and left behind the bubbly, showgirl types she played so well in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Bus Stop, and How To Marry A Millionaire.

Marilyn’s life was cut short in 1962 when she died—accidentally or otherwise--- of a drug overdose. The jury is still out if she took her own life or if somebody else assisted her demise. We will never know the truth. She was only 36 when she died, but we are fortunate to have the last photos taken of her when she was looking her absolute best, slim and sexy, and gorgeously platinum blonde.

What we do know is how her life was going near the end in author/photographer Lawrence Schiller’s sprightly jewel of a remembrance in the new book Marilyn & Me from Doubleday. The small book is the narrative part of his reminiscences, while a larger book of photos from the upscale publisher Taschen is also being published.

Schiller was a mere 23 when he first met Monroe on the set of Let’s Make Love. He had been assigned to shoot photos on the set of MM and her co-star, French singing idol Yves Montand. Marilyn liked the spunky young Schiller and came to trust him because of his honesty.

Schiller returned to the 20th Century Fox lot two years later when the original American idol was filming her latest epic, the comedy-romance Something’s Got To Give with Dean Martin, Wally Cox and Cyd Charisse. In one provocative scene, Marilyn was to get into the swimming pool to entice Martin’s character. Schiller and photographer/journalist William Read Woodfield were given the assignment to capture set photos. Little did they know Marilyn would be acting devilishly that day when she slipped into the pool completely nude.

The boys nearly dropped their cameras into the water, but they knew what they were doing, just as Marilyn knew how to create a sensation of publicity. If they didn’t leave their lens caps on their cameras, they would be getting the first nude photos of Marilyn Monroe since her early nude calendar of 1952 before she became a star. They snapped and snapped as Marilyn frolicked in the water and provocatively threw her leg up over the edge of the pool. When she emerged from the pool she slipped sexily into a blue robe that just happened to fall open at all the right anatomical parts that would interest all medical students.

Schiller and Woodfield knew they had something spectacularly marketable---the first nude shots of a reigning movie star. The saga of what happened then is a fascinating look into the machinations of Hollywood publicists, the studios, and world-wide magazines that would all go into a frenzy to get the rights to the photos.

The book is a slim remembrance of a very lucky man. The photos of a nude Marilyn gave a huge boost to his career and wallet. The photos sold around the world in 1962 for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s the equivalent of millions in today’s economy.

Marilyn & Me by Lawrence Schiller
Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday, Publishers, New York
ISBN 978-0-385-53667-7
© 2012 by Lawrence Schiller

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