Marilyn Monroe; through a photographer’s lens

“A splash of Marilyn”, the title given to a recent feature in Vanity Fair, provides fascinating snapshots of Marilyn Monroe. I use the term “snapshots” in both literal and figurative terms.

The article, an adaptation from photographer Lawrence Schiller’s memoir of his sessions with Marilyn Monroe, depicts the actress in a state of total undress.

Not only did Marilyn strip off for Schiller’s camera, but to some extent she also bared her soul to the photographer.

Marilyn Monroe Elizabeth Taylor
Marilyn Monroe felt acutely aware of Elizabeth Taylor’s success (Vanity Fair June 2012)

The feature is accompanied by a series of never-seen-before, semi-nude shots of Marilyn, but far more revealing than the photographs is Schiller’s account of his working relationship with the Hollywood icon.

According to Schiller, there was much more to Marilyn Monroe than met the eye – or indeed the lens. She was beautiful and charismatic, undoubtedly, but she was also troubled and insecure.

In his article, Schiller depicts the many different facets of Marilyn Monroe;  from headstrong and career-driven (“Fox should start paying as much attention to me as they are paying to Elizabeth Taylor”), to angry and resentful (“This lousy movie! Fucking studio!” he once overheard her say from her dressing room).

“A Splash of Marilyn” written by Lawrence Schiller (Vanity Fair June 2012)

But in his memoir Schiller also sheds light on how gentle, fragile and vulnerable Marilyn was –  qualities which no doubt complimented her shapely curves, dulcet voice and her face which, in Schiller’s words, was ‘as soft as a silk bedsheet’.

Marilyn not only confided in Schiller about her feelings towards the movie industry (“It’s still about nudity. Is that all I’m good for?”) but she also trusted him with her deepest insecurities.

“I never wanted to be Marilyn,” she once told him. “It just happened. Marilyn’s like a veil I wear over Norma Jeane.” This quote, to me, is the most telling and poignant of all, and proves that beauty does not necessarily equate happiness.

Indeed, Marilyn was plagued by good looks, and to her they were both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand they made her a star, and on the other they made her miserable.

But there’s no denying the power of Marilyn Monroe’s beauty, or indeed the beauty of her character. After all, we’re still talking about her today…

Marilyn Monroe on the cover of Vanity Fair (June 2012 issue)
Marilyn Monroe on the cover of Vanity Fair (June 2012 issue. Image:

To read Schiller’s “A Splash of Marilyn” online, visit


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