Marilyn Monroe is a star cast to earth, a spirit in the flesh, and on camera, that’s ethereal. Eternal. Forever a star glowing bright in the sky and we watch as it burns, burns everything in its wake until one day, it’ vanishes. Explosions of sorts, and things leading in that direction, and stories and legends and myths. And Marilyn was the greatest star of them all.
August 5 marks the 52 anniversary of her death, a death that has become as iconic as the legend herself. Less than one year before she died, Monroe posed for Douglas Kirkland, who was then a young photographer on assignment for the 25 anniversary of Look magazine.
The date was November 17 and as Kirkland recounts in his book, With Marilyn, An Evening/1961 (Glitterati Incorporated), “My greatest difficulty during that meeting was telling Marilyn exactly how I wanted to photographer her. As I’d looked into her eyes, which seemed especially warm and virginal to me that evening, I felt as though my two older colleagues were sitting there in judgment, like two ancient schoolmasters, as I tried to gently seduce her into doing the picture I had envisioned, I felt conflicted: one part, the masculine, photographer side, just wanted to say, ‘You’ll get into this bed we’ll have, with nothing on, and we’ll figure it out from there. Period!’
“However, the Sunday School-side of my background wouldn’t let the words come out. Marilyn, with her sweet intuitiveness, made it easy. She simply said, ‘Okay I know exactly what we need. We need a bed with white silk sheets and nothing else, and it will work. But,’ she added, ‘the sheets must be silk.’ She had done the biggest part of my job for me: understood my ideas and articulated them better than I had been able to—bless her.”
In Kirkland’s photographs from this historic sitting, there is an energy, a spirit flowing through the ether, captured forever in these images, a force that floats through our fingers as we page through the book, which is page after page of Marilyn wearing nothing but Chanel No. 5 in bed. It is quite literally exquisite.
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