The secret life of Marilyn Monroe

Hello, Norma Jean! A new book uncovers nearly 300 unseen photos of the '50s icon
The secret life of Marilyn Monroe

In Milton’s red cashmere jumper, July 1955

This may come as a surprise, but if you think you’ve seen all there is to see when it comes to images of Marilyn Monroe, think again. A new deluxe-edition coffee-table book, The Essential Marilyn Monroe by Milton H. Greene: 50 Sessions, has just been published, comprising 280 photographs, including many never-before-published and unseen images, and original prints that have been newly scanned and digitally restored.

Wearing matching trousers and jacket by Jax of Hollywood, March 1955

Taken by Marilyn’s photographer of choice and friend, Milton H. Greene, during the height of her fame in the ’50s, his capturing of Marilyn at work, rest or play resulted in a definitive, 360-degree view of the icon’s life. Since Milton’s passing in 1985, his son Joshua Greene – for whom Marilyn used to babysit, and now also a photographer and leading figure in image restoration – began a journey to meticulously restore his father’s legacy. The result? One of the most beautifully curated books of Marilyn Monroe images ever published.

Wearing her favourite outfit; a white terrycloth robe, March 1955

Marilyn always spoke fondly of Milton; they met on the set of LOOK magazine after one of the writers introduced her to his work. Marilyn’s reaction? “I saw the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen. I would like this photographer to photograph me.” On meeting, however, she was surprised by his age – he was 32 at the time – and stated, “You’re just a boy.” He famously replied, “Well, you’re just a girl.” Thus began a friendship that grew into a trusted relationship and business partnership.

The pair’s most recognisable series, The Ballerina Sitting, was named by Time in 1999 as one of the top three photos of the 20th century

Marilyn moved in with Milton and his wife Amy, staying in their guesthouse next to the converted farmhouse they owned in Connecticut. She would come and go as she pleased, giving the photographer and muse intimate time together, with Milton able to capture one of the world’s most recognisable women completely unmade-up and utterly candid.

Milton selected two outfits from a rack of clothes left over from a shoot and used Marilyn as a model, October 1955

From au naturel poolside moments to her goofing around with a young Joshua, Marilyn seemed to enjoy the domesticity of life with the Greene family. Milton would also accompany her on film sets – notably, 1956’s Bus Stop and 1957’s The Prince and the Showgirl – shoot fashion stills, studio sessions, cocktail parties and red-carpet events, even documenting her marriage to Arthur Miller, and shooting her with Marlon Brando and Laurence Olivier. So if you’re after a true insight into the life of an icon and a real piece of 20th-century Americana history, this coffee-table tome tells it all.

Photos: Milton H. Greene © 2017 Joshua Greene Taken from The Essential Marilyn Monroe (ACC Editions)