Lawrence Schiller’s resume reads like few others. He has directed, produced and written for television and movies; he has worked for Life magazine, Time, Newsweek and The Saturday Evening Post and he collaborated with the iconic writer Norman Mailer.
Although Schiller worked for years as a photojournalist, he didn’t begin to exhibit his own photographs until 2007. The seeds of his newest book, “Marilyn & Me” were sown when Schiller was hired to take pictures of the legendary actress Marilyn Monroe when he was just 23-years-old.
He ended up shooting Marilyn several times near the end of her career, on movies sets and even after her untimely death at the age of 36 in 1962. “Marilyn and Me” includes Schiller’s photographs and personal recollections of the troubled superstar.
He was gracious enough to join Patt in-studio where he talked about his personal Marilyn anecdotes and insights into the life of this Hollywood legend.
On his first meeting with Marilyn:
“I was a young photographer emerging in that field and lo and behold I got this dream to photograph Marilyn Monroe. I had seen her in college on the cover of Time magazine and I have to tell you, in some ways it irrevocably changed part of my life.”
On Marilyn’s ability to photograph well:
What few people understand...is that she had been basically trained by a photographer in the late 40s and 50s, Andre de Dienes, a Hungarian photographer that she lived with, that nurtured her. He took her out into the desert and the barns, the farms, he put a big mirror next to his camera always so she could see what she looked like when he was photographing her.”
On Marilyn’s fear of the film camera:
“Marilyn in front of the still camera was in total control. I mean just total control. But in front of the motion picture camera she was so insecure it was unbelievable.”
On Marilyn’s intelligence and relationship with Carl Sandburg:
“Very few people realize that Marilyn was really very well read. There are pictures by Andre de Dienes where she is actually reading Sandburg’s Lincoln...Miller was the intellectual in her life and that marriage didn’t work out. DiMaggio was a public person of equal status to her and that didn’t work out. Certainly the relationship with Sandburg, based on his age, was not gonna be romantic but certainly I think she was looking to continue that intellectual part of that life.”
On Marilyn’s frustration with her own career:
“Basically what we have here is a woman who is not being acknowledged in the way that she wants to be acknowledged as an actress. Not being paid the money that she feels she should be paid for the work and the contributions and the money she makes for the studios. So she’s fighting these demons at the same time, she’s fighting her own personal demons.”
On Marilyn’s decision to do racy photos later in her career:
“The weapon she pulls out of the bag is the weapon that started her life, and that is her body, her nudity. And she again wants to use that to prove that she can be on more magazine covers than anybody else, that she is as important as Elizabeth Taylor...I became a partner in the exploitation of herself.”
On the entertainment news climate in the early 60s:
“You have to remember that the glossy circulation magazines of that day was the major form of communication. There wasn’t live television news like we have. There wasn’t "Entertainment Tonight" or "Hard Copy." So celebrities and studios wanted to be in these general circulation magazines, they wanted to be on the covers.”
Why does the legend of Marilyn Monroe still resonate fifty years after her death? How do photographers capture the essence of people in a still framed photograph?
Lawrence Schiller, film producer, director, screenwriter and photographer; author of “Marilyn & Me, A Photographer's Memories”