marilyn monroe in the studio
October 1954 – Perhaps Milton and Marilyn’s most recognizable series of images, the Ballerina Sitting, was named by Time magazine in 1999 as one of the top three photographs of the 20th century, alongside Philippe Halsman’s photo of Albert Einstein and Yousuf Karsh’s Winston Churchill. Taken in Milton’s New York studio, Marilyn is wearing an ill-fitting tulle and satin dress. The design of the dress has been commonly attributed to Anne Klein, a close personal friend of the Greenes whose clothes Milton frequently borrowed. However, it was actually created by another New York designer, Herbert Kasper, while working for 7th Avenue fashion manufacturer Arnold-Fox. Milton also used Kasper’s designs at various times during the 1950s. The fitting error was because Milton’s wife, Amy, did not know Marilyn’s actual dress size, as they had yet to shop together. Apparently, the dress was two sizes too small, requiring Marilyn to hold up the front bodice.
October 1955 – Milton selected two outfits from a rack of clothes left over from a fashion shoot and used Marilyn as a model while setting up lights for two shooting environments to be used the following day. Milton and Marilyn had heard that the lawsuit filed against 20th Century Fox would soon be settled and were in festive mood. “She wasn’t a victim. I hate when people describe her as a victim,” recalled Amy. “She was a young woman that was a sponge who wanted life to come in and show her what she had to do. She was ready for anything. That’s why she had such a great sense of humor. And she lived every day in the present.”
February 1956 – The ultimate Monroe-Greene achievement. Many Monroe fans revere The Black Sitting as the finest pictures of Marilyn available. Although sexy and provocative, the images retain the innocence of youth. With the red wine flowing, over the course of four hours, Milton and stylist Joe Eula had Marilyn posing with hats, bustier and fishnet stockings. Near the end, they went a step further, with Marilyn going topless and wrapped in black velvet. Other than the private portfolio that Milton gave Marilyn, the pictures were never seen by the public during her lifetime. They appeared for the first time in Norman Mailer’s 1976 book Marilyn. Photographed in Milton’s New York studio before leaving for California to make Bus Stop, the use of the bustier and fishnet stockings sparked the design for the costume worn by Cherie, the character she played in the film.
Brando & Monroe
November 1955 – In order to raise money for the Actors Studio, a performance of The Rose Tattoowas planned as a benefit gala. Amy was tasked with promoting and selling tickets, which up to that point had been slow going. To help spur sales, Milton called Jay Kanter, Marlon Brando’s closest friend and agent, telling him to bring Marilyn and Marlon to the studio for some publicity images to promote the gala. The two were having an affair at the time, which is obvious in the photos by how exuberant Marlon was, which was out of character for the intense and serious method actor.
March 1955 – In light of the new partnership, Milton set up a series of sittings to explore angles, lighting and hair and neck lines, to become more familiar with how the camera and lights captured Marilyn. These were not necessarily for any particular assignment; simply a learning tool for both of them to study.
October, 1954 – Taken the day after the Ballerina images, Milton made an effort to keep Marilyn focused and occupied. Now living full-time in New York, Marilyn was living life like she should:going to jazz clubs, enjoying great theater and studying her craft.
September, 1953 – Fleur Cowles, editor-in-chief of Look magazine, brought Milton to Los Angeles to meet Marilyn. Mandolin was the first photographic collaboration between the two. Over the next three days they created memorable work that won her over. Marilyn had sprained her left ankle while filming River of No Return, which was the only reason she was even available for this assignment.
September, 1953 – In the second ensemble from their first collaboration, Marilyn is wearing a negligee adorned with fur and a diamond bracelet. Because of her sprained ankle, most of the pictures that they did together over those three days had Marilyn sitting, kneeling or lying on the floor.
September 1953 – Taken during their first sitting for Look magazine, this series was shot after the entourage from Look had left. Milton loved to use props in his photography. Here Marilyn is wearing one of Amy’s sweater coats, a favorite of Milton’s. At the time, many of these photos were considered too risqué for Look magazine, which ended up only publishing a few of the pictures of her sitting on the floor.
February 1955 – Look magazine gave Milton an assignment to shoot oriental gowns. Marilyn posed as the model. Close family friend, artist Joe Eula was the stylist. They created the right setting with Asian-style furnishings: a screen, a table and large pillows with tassels. Milton and Joe’s wicked sense of humor led them to include Pekingese dogs as an Asian accessory. One of the images from this sitting appeared in Look’s June 14, 1955 edition.
January 1957 – Photographed for Life magazine, this series produced several memorable images. Appropriately entitled the Red Sitting, these photos display the playful eroticism that was apparent in all their work together. Milton did something during this shoot he rarely did, setting up his strobe bank light and adding a 10K tungsten spotlight, which bathed her in a golden yellow glow. The January 1957 sitting in that simple red dress would be their last assignment together.
July 1955 – Donning one of Milton’s props, Marilyn is shape shifting in his cashmere red sweater. Innocent, charming and funny, Marilyn was always the consummate actress.
July 1955 – The Greene’s home in Weston, Connecticut was originally a barn and a residence. Milton converted the barn by putting in large ten-foot by four-foot windowpanes in the ceiling as skylights and similar windows on the north wall. The light in the studio was soft and glowed. It was more like a painter or sculptor’s studio than a photographer’s. It was designed by the artist Joe Eula, a close family friend.
August 1955 – After a family breakfast, and with Marilyn wearing a tennis sweater left behind from a previous fashion sitting, she and Milton went to the playpen once again.
December 1955 – 1955 had been a pivotal year that would change both Milton and Marilyn’s lives forever. The lawsuit with 20th Century Fox was now behind them and they were ready for what would become a momentous 1956. Here, Marilyn is wearing a white mink, a gift from her business partner, Milton.
March 1955 – Here Marilyn has just finished doing her makeup, and is wearing her favorite outfit, a white terrycloth robe. As she came out of the studio, Milton said, “Let’s shoot this.” And, unprompted, he began shooting her in the robe.
March 1955 – Imbibing spirits, Milton and Marilyn holed up in his New York studio to create this loose and relaxed series of images. Marilyn is wearing matching trousers and jacket designed by Jax of Hollywood. This retro style for a 1950s modern woman became a signature look for Marilyn. Marilyn hated wearing high heels. Her personal preference was to go barefoot or to wear a simple pair of flats.