PHOTOGRAPHY Marilyn Monroe’s Famous Nudes
Lawrence Schiller’s iconic photos of Marilyn Monroe on the set of 1962’s ‘Something’s Got to Give’ are on view in Los Angeles. He tells The Daily Beast what the shoot told him about the tragic superstar.
Lawrence Schiller’s iconic photos of Marilyn Monroe on the set of 1962’s Something’s Got to Give are on view in Los Angeles. He tells The Daily Beast what the shoot told him about the tragic superstar.
“Marilyn knew how light shaped her body and face, she knew what a camera was capturing at any one moment,” said photographer Lawrence Schiller, whose infamous nude photographs of the late actress on the set of 1962’s
Something’s Got to Give are currently on view at the Duncan Miller Gallery in Los Angeles.
“She very seldom took directions as to expressions or emotions,” Schiller told The Daily Beast. “If you gave her a scarf, she knew how to play with it like a child would with a toy. If you gave her a two-piece bathing suit, she knew exactly when to take it off and that doing so would wipe Liz Taylor off all the magazine covers.”
The shoot with Schiller marked the first time in 10 years that Marilyn had agreed to be pose without her clothes on, and her motives were clear: she wanted to prove to 20th Century Fox that as a publicity tool she was as valuable as any actress in the world.
One of the photographs from the shoot graced the cover of Life magzine that year in what became one of the magazine’s most legendary issues. A particularly striking picture featured in the Duncan Miller exhibit shows an implicitly nude Marilyn hanging on the side of a pool with one bare leg resting on the edge, her mouth open and inviting, teasing the viewer to join her for a dip. Schiller’s 6-year-old daughter made an astute observation about the photo several years after it was taken: “That’s a picture that says everything but shows nothing.”
The shoot took place four months before Marilyn tragically died, and yet we see nothing of a woman on the verge of a breakdown.
“She was performing. She was playing her role for the still camera just as she had done for the moving camera,” Schiller said. “Marilyn had the ability to take her personal demons, put them in a room and shut the door. Once the door was closed, they no longer existed in her mind.”
The photographs thus reveal Marilyn as the public knew her to be—a woman who effortlessly exuded sexuality.