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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What do you think of the previously unknown photos of Marilyn Monroe just released?

UPDATE: Life staffer Colleen McMillen asks me to alert you to many more new Marilyn photos available at Life.com

Editors at Life.com, the online photo archive of the long-running magazine, recently uncovered photos of Marilyn Monroe in its collection taken before she became a star. This is my favorite:

Four others are available to view at CNN.com, which also includes details of the photos’ discovery:

“She hasn’t really exploded as a star, yet she was on the brink of something big,” says Dawnie Walton, deputy editor at Life.com, a Web site harboring more than 7 million Life magazine photographs. The site was launched in March.

Last month, Walton stumbled upon the rare photographs while combing through the company’s digital photo archives. Apparently, no one at Life.com even knew they were ever taken.

Upon investigating the photos, Walton says, she found there were few notes left on the negatives. She says the photos were probably taken for a cover shoot that was never used. Monroe appeared on her first Life magazine cover in 1952.

“It just got lost and stowed away,” Walton said. “It was just … somewhere in a warehouse in New Jersey.”

Life.com staff members say there are 15 billion photographs in the Life archive dating back to the late 1850s, even before Life officially began publishing in 1936. Two years ago, the publication began slowly transferring the photographs into a digital archive.

The first thing these photos make me think is the waste of talent and charisma we lost when Monroe died so young. The second thing is: I want to know what else is in that Life archive that we’ve never seen. It sounds like the photo equivalent of the big warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, full of mystery and wonder…

As an aside, today would have been Monroe’s 83rd birthday.

What do you think of the previously unknown photos of Marilyn Monroe just released?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)



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  • Mathias

    Marylin was never known for her acting, but for her looks. If i could compare her to any actress today, it’d be Cameron Diaz. Light fluffly roles protraying ditzy blond girls were her bread and butter.

    That gorgeous face with the tiny Cindy Crawford like mole on her left cheek and her 5’5, 120lb, 36-24-36 frame shot her to a global sex symbol status unattainable in today’s celeb tabloid world.

    She looks like a pretty innocent model in those pics, although photo #13 shows you a glimpse of the sex starlet ready to burst out. So sad that exactly 12 years later, she’d OD on drugs.

  • Saladinho

    Beautiful.

  • MaryAnn

    Marylin was never known for her acting, but for her looks.

    Oh, but she had a charisma onscreen that was just delicious, and it wasn’t about her looks but her spirit.

  • Oh, but she had a charisma onscreen that was just delicious, and it wasn’t about her looks but her spirit.

    I agree here. A better contemporary comparison to Marilyn would be Drew Barrymore. Not the best actor, but you can’t help but like her on screen…

  • Saladinho

    MaryAnn :”Oh, but she had a charisma onscreen that was just delicious, and it wasn’t about her looks but her spirit.”

    Indeed: I was thinking that Cameron Diaz doesn’t hold a candle to Marilyn, and I like Cameron Diaz.

    Marilyn truly is in a class all by herself. There’s no one else quite like her.

  • Mathias

    I compared her to Cameron Diaz for two reasons. The first is that they both started out as blonde models that made their way to the big screen. Marilyn slowing worked her way up from supporting roles while Cameron shot to superstardom shortly after her big break in The Mask.

    The second is in their choice of roles. They both specialized in rom-coms playing likable blonde bimbos.

    But of course no celeb can hold a candle to Marilyn’s “myth”. How could they in today’s fractured tabloid celeb porn-drenched media? In the ’50s movie stars held a place in our soceity long extinct. They were legitimate role models with larger than life personas, not the plastic surgery addicted, club-hopping, rehab-bouncing, baby-adpoting jokes many of them are today.

    How can any actress challenge her spot in Hollywood lore within today’s enviornment?

  • Oh wow, did you see the headline on this one?

    THERE IS A CASE
    FOR INTERPLANETARY
    SAUCERS

    Ahhh, the fifties!

  • Pollas

    I’ve never understood the obsession with Monroe. Sure, it’s an interesting story, but there are many interesting stories in the history of American film. *shrug*

  • Colby

    I just have to say to Mathias and others reading this that Marilyn’s “choice” of roles weren’t really always her choice–the studio system in Hollywood during the 1940’s and 50’s left little choice up to the actual actors and everything up to the big studio bosses. They saw that the public adored her in those light comedies and they kept PLACING her in those films under the infamous slave contracts of the day…naturally, she was flawless in such performances but even so, Monroe herself was very displeased with always getting the part of the blonde in such low-grade films like “River of No Return” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and made no attempt to hide this. It was when she finally broke away from Hollywood and moved to New York city, attended acting classes and formed her own production company (all VERY brave and controversial moves at the time) did she gain real recognition and praise for her amazing dramatic talents in films such as “Bus Stop,” “The Prince and The Showgirl,” and “The Misfits”. Monroe was and still is the single greatest comedienne of the silver screen and a MASSIVELY unappreciated and gifted dramatic actress. There will never be another one like her, and we need to recognize that today more than ever.

  • Victor Plenty

    Mathias, your image of a kinder, gentler Hollywood gossip machine is the myth here. The tabloid press has been vicious for a very long time, and Marilyn Monroe felt its sting more than once, even before the sensationalized reporting and speculation about how she died.

    The ’50s were not a time of magical utopian harmony between all social strata, despite what certain elements in today’s media would like us to believe.

    Getting back to the topic at hand, it seems to me that MaryAnn was not talking about any “myth” of Marilyn Monroe, but very specifically about her screen presence, which is not at all the same thing.

  • Mathias

    Victor, i was talking about Marilyn’s myth in response not to MaryAnn’s comments but to Saladinho’s comments.

    And yes i know that the tabloid media existed back in the ’50s, but you have to agree, it was nowhere near as grostesque as it is now.

  • Saladinho

    Mathias, I wasn’t talking about myth. I said Cameron Diaz doesn’t hold a candle to Marilyn and I meant it in terms of both talent and charisma. You then responded by saying basically Monroe’s stature was created by another time and place that wouldn’t hold up today.

    Victor was right in contradicting that notion.

  • Mathias

    It’s not just Cameron Diaz that doesn’t hold a candle to Marilyn, it’s EVERY WORKING ACTRESS TODAY! She enjoys a place in pop culture history that is unassailable today. I was just offering my opinion as to why that is.

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