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June’s Vanity Fair is a must-read for fans of old Hollywood and particularly of Marilyn Monroe lore. Not only does it contain outtakes of Marilyn’s last on-set shoot — with photographer Lawrence Schiller — but the entire reason for the 1960 shoot reveals a lot about the late star, too. Notably, a big rivalry with Elizabeth Taylor.
First, the film My Week With Marilyn let us in on some of Marilyn’s many insecurities, but Schiller’s account of this shoot, for Look Magazine when he was 23-years-old, is beyond revealing. He says Marilyn felt that Fox Studios was paying more attention to Liz Taylor than her, so she asked Schiller to shoot her going into a pool with a bathing suit — and coming out without it. These particular images have never been published before.
In an adaptation of Schiller’s memoirs, he recalls her saying to him at the time, “Larry, 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.” Turns out, it was the height of the Liz Taylor and Richard Burton affair, so Liz was ubiquitous. Liz was also getting a million dollars for Cleopatra, and Marilyn only a hundred thousand dollars for her last movie, Something’s Got to Give. Though it’s pretty hard to believe right now, stars haven’t always had giant pay days and back end deals.
Schiller also reveals Marilyn’s attitude about her sex-symbol status fluctuated wildly. While she was proud of her looks at times, she could also be radically insecure. “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 said. And that was her final conversation — the next day, she was dead at age 36.
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