Sunday, June 24, 2012


24-year-old Marilyn, wearing a simple button-down shirt monogrammed with her initials, leans against a tree in Los Angeles' Griffith Park in August 1950..

Few Hollywood stars of the 1950s and 1960s were so compelling, so utterly unique, that they actually came to define the era in which they worked and played. Marilyn Monroe was one of those stars.
From her earliest days as an actress until late in her career — when she had, against her will, been cast in the public eye as the century’s ultimate Sex Goddess — Marilyn posed for LIFE magazine’s photographers. Many of those pictures never ran in LIFE magazine.
The negatives for the revelatory images seen here were discovered during the years-long effort to digitize LIFE’s immense, storied photo archive — an archive that includes outtakes and entire photo shoots that, for reasons as varied as the subjects they covered, were never published.
Here, then, is a series of stunning shots of the one and only Marilyn, as well as some possible explanations why the pictures never made it into print.
A barefoot Monroe balances on rocks over a tiny brook. In a 1999 interview with Digital Journalist, photographer Ed Clark described how in 1950 he received a call from a friend at 20th Century Fox about "a hot tomato" the studio had just signed

Monroe, changed into a bikini top, relaxes with a script. Why LIFE never published this gold mine of photos after Marilyn became a superstar remains a mystery. The only clue: a brief note about the shoot we found in our archives, addressed to LIFE's photo editor and saying that "this take was over-developed and poorly printed."

Lounging in the shade, Monroe studies lines of an unknown script. It was still early in her career, and she'd just begun to grab attention: Three months before this shoot, she appeared as a crooked lawyer's girlfriend in The Asphalt Jungle, and two months after, she had a small role as an aspiring starlet in All About Eve..

She was unknown then, so I was able to spend a lot of time shooting her," Clark recalled. "We'd go out to Griffith Park and she'd read poetry. I sent several rolls to LIFE in New York, but they wired back, 'Who the hell is Marilyn Monroe?' Later, though, they did a cover of my shot of Marilyn and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blonde..
Monroe leans over a railing, her short-shorts riding up. Four years later, she'd show off those legs again in the now-legendary subway-grate scene in The Seven Year Itch..