Posted By: Sarah Hodgson
Posted: December 07, 2012
Love her or loathe her, Marilyn Monroe was one of the most alluring starlets to ever grace the silver screen. Holding audiences’ captive with her giddy charm and flirtatious ‘wiggle’; she led a beautiful yet insecure and troubled life. Marilyn once said herself that it is ‘better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring’, and it seems the public haven’t grown tired of their love affair with Marilyn, even fifty years after her death.
Being a new addition to the Adam Matthew editorial team I have taken great pleasure in spending time familiarising myself with our catalogue of digital resources. I was captivated by the Mirrorpix Photographic Archive in the resource Popular Culture in Britain and America, which explores the dynamic period of social, political and cultural change from 1950-1975. Included in the wide selection of evocative photographs of the period are some beautiful images of Monroe.
Popular Culture features images of Marilyn from the 1950s, highlighting her trip to England. Her place in the collection postitions her alongside stars such as Elvis, Andy Warhol and The Rolling Stones; figures who changed the face of popular culture and created some of the greatest celebrity brands we know today. Andy Warhol himself completed a silkscreen painting of Marilyn, the Marilyn Diptych, just weeks after her death; it is said to be one of the most influential pieces of modern art and sits in the Tate.
I was particularly intrigued by the photograph below which shows Marilyn Monroe sitting with her new husband Arthur Miller at the Royal Court Theatre in London for a press conference. Marilyn’s marriage was to last only 5 years but the image appears to capture a tender happy moment and one far removed from the posed sensual shots she lived her life creating. How happy Marilyn actually was, we will never know. Reports of her trip to London to film ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, which Arthur Miller accompanied her on, suggest that this experience was fraught with tension for all parties; Marilyn’s appalling time keeping, unreliability and a childlike dependence on her acting coach all sought to infuriate her director Lawrence Olivier, while in the background Arthur Miller served as an emotional bully.
The photographs of Marilyn featured in Popular Culture are a wonderful and entrancing addition to this collection and re-ignited my interest in the pin up; I set off to the National Portrait Gallery a few weekends ago to take in the exhibition ‘Marilyn Monroe: A British Love Affair’. The exhibition was brimming with fans eager to view photographs and magazine covers of Marilyn and her infamous look, a look which still fascinates the world. While most women in the 1950s favoured full skirts Marilyn poured her voluptous curves into barely there sequinned gowns, plumped her red lips and teased her blonde hair into soft curls driving her fans crazy; not only a cultural icon but the quintessential sex symbol.
I will leave you with the charming photograph below from Popular Culture, showing Marilyn Monroe on the phone to her friend Donald Zec; the personification of Hollywood glamour, even in her pedal pushers.
The photographs of Marilyn Monroe are included in the Mirrorpix Photographic Archive from the resource Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975: Rock and Roll, Counterculture, Peace and Protest. Additional material for the resource will be published in 2013.
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