Marilyn Close Up

Article excerpt

Marilyn & Me: A Photographers Memories

By Lawrence Schiller

New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday

114 pp. Cloth $20

Also available by Taschen (signed and numbered monograph)

THE EVENTS SURROUNDING THE PUBLICATION OF LAWRENCE SCHILLER'S Marilyn & Me: A Photographer's Memories, lead up to the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death. She left the earthly plane on August 5, 1962 at the tender age of 36. Yet Marilyn the icon refuses to die: a solo exhibition of Schiller's seductive photographs of Marilyn went on display in May at the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York; an art edition of the photos is published by Taschen; and Marilyn's image as captured by Schiller graces the cover of the current issue of Vanity Fair. The legend endures.

What is it about Marilyn that so captures our imagination? Her beauty, certainly, was quintessentially American. Her voice was as alluring as a siren's sweet singing. Yet it is her vulnerability that persuades us, brings us closer, and makes us want more. We sense her pain, her very human insecurity even in the face of outlandish fame. Men want to hold her and protect her. Women want to be her--or at least to share in her otherworldly allure.

And now comes this book. There is something sensuous and comforting in Schiller's warm memoir, Marilyn & Me. It feels right. It's a small book replete with endearing anecdotes. Schiller's memories reveal the scintillating charms of the woman obscured by the legend in much the same way as his photographs capture Marilyn's timeless beauty. You don't so much read the book as you slip into it like a silk robe after a dip in a heated pool.

The photographs Schiller made with Marilyn in the last two years ofher life and the prose of his memoir expose an open, soft, enticing real live woman one wants to defend and protect against a world so hungry for her image. You want to thank Schiller for bringing us his intimate pictures and his personal stories of this extraordinary American female seen up close. And then, as you read on, you might want to light up a cigar and celebrate Schiller's wiles as a businessman. For not only does he tell us how he made his famous pictures of Marilyn, he explains how he used them to catapult his career to a whole new level.

Marilyn Monroe was a woman and movie star like no other. She was Norman Mailer's muse. He loved her from afar. I seem to remember he wrote that the closest he got to her was to sit several rows back from her gorgeous back at some event or other Marilyn was with her then husband, Arthur Miller, and one can imagine Norman fuming, smoldering, stewing: "What the hell is she doing with that stiff galoot? A girl that sexy belongs with me!"

So Mailer had her, in his own way, on the page, in the book Schiller brought him, Mailer's Marilyn: A Biography, published in 1973. Mailer said Marilyn was "not so much a movie star as a major figure in American life." It became one of Mailer's best-selling books.

But Schiller had her up close. He adored her with his camera, seen, as he tells us, through his one good eye. …