Sale Date: Saturday, July 27, 2013 - 11:00 AM PDT
In 1953, Look magazine editor Fleur Cowles offered Milton Greene an unprecedented non-exclusive contract ($100,000 per year) to lure him away from Life, where he had established a reputation for delivering incredible cover- worthy images. Milton’s first assignment was a trip to California to shoot Hollywood stars, including Marilyn Monroe, who had just filmed Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Soon thereafter, when Greene sent Marilyn proofs from their first sitting, “she responded with two dozen roses and called to say they were the most beautiful pictures she had ever seen.”
Two years later, and after Marilyn had spent her one year “hiatus” from Hollywood living with Milton Greene and his family at their Weston, Connecticut farmhouse, on the evening of January 7, 1955, Marilyn Monroe and Milton Greene held a press conference to announce the formation of Marilyn Monroe Productions, which Greene had secured through negotiating her out of her contract with 20th Century-Fox, to the dismay of Fox’s studio head, Darryl F. Zanuck.
Greene’s negotiation for Monroe was essentially the same type of contract he had secured for himself as an independent photographer. Because of his belief in Marilyn as an actress, and the growing eloquence of their sittings together, she began to believe the one year “hiatus” from film work was worth the outcome, as she came away with greater creative control over her film career. The result of their partnership was the two films she considered her best work, Bus Stop (20th Century-Fox, 1956) and The Prince and the Showgirl (Warner Bros, 1957). This was the happiest period of her working life from which Greene left a legacy of still images, that more intimately than any other body of work, show his muse and business partner as sweet, guileless, wise and heartbreaking.
Greene helped Monroe define the powerful force of nature that she revealed in her best moments on film by allowing her to be vulnerable in his studio, and, by showing her that what she regarded as her weakness (her paralyzing lack of confidence in her performance, her insecurities about her sexuality, and her deep sensitivity to everything around her) could be reversed through force of will and persistence. As she wrote in her diary early in 1955 “my body is my body every part of it.” By the end of the year she would write “Now I want to live and I feel suddenly not old.”
The 3,700 camera negatives comprising the Marilyn Monroe portion of the Greene archive represents the largest sequence from the actress’ mature working life ever offered for public sale, sold with copyrights. Milton Greene’s association with Marilyn spanned four years (1953-1957) through the end of production for The Prince and the Showgirl. During these years, Milton served as Marilyn’s protector, buffer, advisor, confidant and collaborator. He oversaw production for both films, all the while, shooting extensive still photographs on set, in the studio and at public functions.
Most of Greene’s best work from his more than 50 sittings with Marilyn is included in this archive,which was split into two portions after his death and remain largely unpublished,the larger represented here.There is the Balalaika sitting from their first day together;the Laurel Canyon outdoor sitting where Greene discovered Marilyn’s love of natural light;the Nightgown and Mink Stole sitting;the Nude sitting in Amy’s long black sweater;the celebrated Ballerina sitting,when Marilyn wore a tulle and satin dress fromAnn Klein which arrived two sizes too small which shows her struggling to prop up; the Black Cape and Fur sitting and all three heartfelt and eloquent sittings at his converted barn and studio – the Red Sweater,Trestle andTennis Sweater sittings.The Black Raincoat and mesmerizing Gypsy and“fortune teller” sittings were shot on the Fox back-lot, with Marilyn wearing the saloon girl costume that prefigures her wardrobe for Bus Stop.
The comprehensive photography Greene completed while serving as Executive Producer on set and in the studio for Bus Stop and The Prince and the Showgirl is included here. Milton documented every aspect of production. This is the most comprehensive in scope and intimacy of a major actress’ film work, and includes extended sequences in 8 x 10 in. color, 4 x 5 in. black-and-white and color, 2.25 x 2.25 in. black-and-white and color, and 35mm black-and-white and color, all of which remains largely unpublished and unseen.
Even the 35mm color from Bus Stop, shot in long rapid strides, reveals that Marilyn could concentrate and compose herself when she knew she was being photographed. Marilyn gave the camera an ideal subject, transfixing and transcendent – reinventing herself in each frame, lovely but fierce, angelic and present. Greene would learn by the last sitting with her in early 1957 that she was the greatest photographic muse of his career and perhaps the greatest photographic subject of the 20th Century.
Additionally, there are several hundred images from Marilyn’s public life which include her brief affair with Marlon Brando, her appearance with idol Edward R. Murrow on Person to Person, with Marlene Dietrich at the press conference for the formation of MM Productions, and many other primary events documented with absolute care by Greene. Since the only other portion of Greene’s life work to be published or reproduced was left to his son, Joshua Greene, this extensive archive of primary artifacts from Marilyn Monroe’s life before the camera – film and still – constitutes the fullest glimpse into her soul that can be gleaned from the person who knew her best and was primarily responsible for the legacy that survives her.
Milton H. Greene was also knows as the “King of Lex”, or 480 Lexington Avenue, New York, where he kept his large overlapping studio where he and partner Joe Eula shot most of his commercial work and provided for full production for each session. Along with Richard Avedon at Harper’s Bazaar and Irving Penn at Vogue, Greene was a member of the generation of American-born fashion photographers who swept aside the pre-War classicists Cecil Beaton, George Hoyningen-Huene and Horst P. Horst (all at Vogue) and established an American preeminence, forever supplanting Paris as the capitol of Fashion.
Both Avedon and Penn were influenced by Harper’s Bazaar photographer LouiseDahl-Wolfe, who mentored Greene. Greene eventually replaced Dahl-Wolfe before landing at Life as their feature photographer,where he eventually produced 50 covers, more than any other photographer. Avedon has written that “Penn was interested in form – photography as it related to art and graphics, and perfect surface, exquisite proportion, lighting and composition – the shape of the dress. I was interested in emotional layering. I was an eclectic, he was a classicist.” Milton Greene fell between the two rather evenly – he was often quoted as saying “If you can’t light it with one light, then you can’t light it.” He pursued perfection through minimal means. His gifts were his magical eye for natural and reduced lighting, his arresting compositional form and his extraordinary rapport and trust with his subjects, with whom he formed many life-long friendships.
Before he married future wife Amy, he met French model Nelly Nyad during Paris Fashion week in 1952 while shooting Balenciaga and Givenchy. They ran into each other in the back stairs, which led to both houses and began their personal and professional affair soon after, decamping to Madrid to avoid her wealthy and jealous lover, a “Duke” who guarded his jealousy with a pistol. The results were a series of lushly romantic sittings between the two, where Greene showed his rapport with intimate gestures on a grand scale.
Then, there were the effusive, sexually charged sittings with perennial scene stealer, Dorian Leigh, who led her younger sister Suzy Parker into high fashion. The centerpiece was a lavish extended sitting on June 23, 1952, where Leigh posed in exquisitely rendered black against black in color, purportedly a feature about legs, but with Leigh incandescent, poised and memorable in every frame. With Greene’s inventiveness and coaxing, they both enlarged the scope of the sitting into fashion art. Included in the archive, you will see Suzy Parker showing her classic American elegance, whether in the Virgin Islands with Lillian Marcuson in early 1951 posing with natural grace and in the following year another classic cover for Life, in a beaded red gown by Arthur Norell.
Greene’s Fashion work cannot be defined by style or genre. He shot most of the celebrated models and celebrities of the day, exploring infinite thematic schemes in rigorous artistic calm. He composed based on the chemistry of the day’s work, he worked nearly every day in his prime years. Making a good portrait was not enough for Greene. In order to make great portraiture, he had to gain the intimacy of the subject before he could interpret their essential nature, which was the most intriguing to reveal. He gave more than his editors could ask for, and has presented us with a body of lasting work that mesmerizes the eye with every viewing. Because he worked before modern digital methods of archiving and restoration, much of what he shot remained unpublished. This is by far one of the greatest offerings of unpublished photographic work, by one of America’s most celebrated photographers.
Note: The size of certain lots precludes exact counts: due to interpretation of what constitutes a finished exposure, no two counts will be identical thus large counts must be considered approximate. In addition, the Ektachrome color film which Greene and the majority of commercial photographers favored during the 1940s through 1960s proved unstable over time and subsequently suffered from color shifting and fading. Therefore, any works represented here are the result of editorial and graphic interpretation to restore the integrity of the original color balance and clarity as presented in print.
Fragments – Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe; Edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment,Farrar and Straus and Giroux, New York, 2010, p.76-77.t
PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF MILTON H. GREENE
**For this auction only,the consignor represents that the original camera negatives and transparencies (“Originals”) offered in this auction come with United States copyright. No representation or warranty regarding copyright is made for any other item auctioned other than the Originals. The buyer is solely responsible for ascertaining that each Original is otherwise cleared for publication including but not limited to satisfying any publicity right that persons appearing in an image may have under any statute or common law. Neither the consignor nor Profiles in History makes any representation or warranty as to any matters that need to be cleared prior to publication. No representation or warranty is made regarding copyright outside of the United States. All publication issues should be referred to the buyer’s own professional advisors. All representations or warranties as to copyright or rights to publish are solely made by the consignor and not Profiles; the buyer agrees that Profiles will not be liable to Buyer in any respect for alleged breach of any such representation or warranty. All items in this auction are sold as is.We encourage all prospective buyers to preview the lots prior to bidding.**