Photographer Lawrence Schiller took the final nude photos of Marilyn Monroe the day before she was found dead in her bathtub at the age of 36.
Vanity Fair has several of the photos from that shoot in their June Issue, available on newsstands in New York and L.A. on May 3 and nationally and on the iPad, Nook, and Kindle on May 8.
PHOTOS: See More Marilyn Monroe Lost Nudes
Here’s an excerpt from the issue:
“Fox [Studios] should start paying as much attention to me as they are paying to Elizabeth Taylor,” Marilyn Monroe told Lawrence Schiller (then known as Larry Wolf), hatching the idea that would turn out to be the break of the young photographer’s life: for him to photograph her nude. An ongoing battle to get Fox to take her more seriously, and jealousy of Taylor’s success, led Marilyn to her attention-grabbing plan: a poolside shoot in which she’d jump in the water with a bathing suit on… and come out without it. “Larry,” she said, “if I do come out of the pool with nothing on, I want your guarantee that when your pictures appear on the covers of magazines Elizabeth Taylor is not anywhere in the same issue.”
Marilyn was making only $100,000 for what would be her last film, Something’s Got to Give, in 1962, while Taylor was receiving a million dollars for Cleopatra. She wanted to show Fox that she could get the same kind of coverage as the publicity bonanza generated by Taylor’s very public affair with her co-star, Richard Burton. When Hugh Hefner agreed to pay $25,000 for a nude shot of Marilyn—the most money Playboy had ever paid for a photograph—Schiller thanked her for creating such a big payday, joking, “See what t**s ’n’ ass can do?” “That’s how I got my house and swimming pool,” Marilyn said, laughing. “There isn’t anybody that looks like me without clothes on.”
Just 23 years old at the time, Schiller, at the set on assignment for Look magazine, had no idea that he was getting to know the icon in some of her most vulnerable moments. In an adaptation of his memoir about their sessions together, Schiller recounts intimate and telling conversations that illuminate the private struggles that consumed the starlet in her final days.
“I could tell you all about rejection,” Marilyn said to Schiller. “Sometimes I feel my whole life has been one big rejection.” “But look at you now,” he said. “Exactly,” she replied. “Look at me now.” Confused, Schiller protested, “You’re a star! Your face is on magazine covers all over the world! Everyone knows Marilyn Monroe!” “Let me ask you, Larry Wolf—how many Academy Award nominations do I have?” “I don’t know,” he said. “I do,” she said. “None.”
However, Schiller reveals, Marilyn’s attitude about her sex-symbol status fluctuated wildly. While she was at times boastful of her looks and what they procured for her, she was also by turns insecure and angry. “It’s still about nudity. Is that all I’m good for?” she demanded of Schiller. “I’d like to show that I can get publicity without using my ass or getting fired from a picture,” she continued. “I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
It was to be their last conversation: the very next morning, Marilyn was reported dead at 36.
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