See Rare Photos Of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Jack Nicholson


Life Magazine has released a series of beautiful, rarely-seen photographs of three American icons. I’m a total sucker for a good black & white, so I was all over these. The shots of Marilyn Monroe surprised me the most, as I know little about the actress-turned-sex-symbol — aside from what I learned watching Michelle Williams’s brilliant performance in last year’s My Week With Marilyn. Wikipedia articles are great and I’ve been browsing through the one on Marylin Monroe (the bits about her childhood are, of course, really fascinating), but these Life pictures are worth a thousand words.


These images are not exactly the ones that come to mind when we hear the name ‘Marilyn Monroe,’which is why I’m glad LIFE has released them:


At 22, Marilyn took dance lessons in Hollywood. It was 1949 and, according to the LIFE article accompanying the photos, Marilyn was still struggling to become an actress. She sought training from specialists in pursuit of her big movie-star dreams.


Can’t help but flashback to the Single Ladies video, lol.


Monroe also took singing lessons with bandleader Phil Moore.

Many of the Elvis-related photos on the LIFE website feature images that reflect reactions to the King, rather than photos of the artist himself. For example:


I mean yeah, this is basically a picture of Elvis, right? Lol. These kind of pictures always make me a little uncomfortable. Hysterical women who can’t even bear the sound of their own screams but who must scream nonetheless? Very striking image, even more powerful message… but I digress.

A portrait of the artist as a young man; Elvis in Florida, 1956.

I think this one is my personal faves. Members of the Trinity Baptist Church prayed for Elvis’s mortal soul, as his Rock N’ Roll music proved that he had reached a spiritual low. Juxtapose this against another picture on LIFE of a judge in Florida meeting with civic leaders to discuss legal policies that would “curb” the dangerous Elvis effect, and you see how religion, politics, and pop culture can’t help but collide.

The photos of Jack Nicholson have a more personal touch, as they feature the actor as a young man in his LA home. I adore this very scary man, who changed my life when he starred in The Departed. It was great to get another perspective on him, although he still scares the ish outta me.



Behind him is a bookshelf and a record player. It was 1969 and Jack loved him some rock music.

The slideshow also featured a series of shots of Jack with his daughter Jennifer, who went on to help her Daddy out on some of his movies as an extra, or production aide.




Nicholson checks out some film negatives. His interest and involvement in the artistic and technical process of movie-making must be one of the reasons he’s a cinematic game-changer.


Go to Life to see more of these amazing photographs and to read some of the stories behind them. Below I’ve posted a few clips that might give us all a better perspective on the work of these actors, these cultural phenomenons. Yes, the Jack Nicholson clip is from the opening scene to The Departed. Couldn’t resist.


Marilyn Monroe Singing In Gentleman Prefer Blondes

Elvis Presley, That’s Alright Mama

YES: Scorsese + Nicholson = The Departed

  • Grace

    Super interesting post, Shannon. I really enjoyed reading your comments.

    • Thank you Grace! I was kind of like, is anyone gonna be into this other than me? LOL. I’m glad it worked for you.

  • Lulu

    Loved this :)

  • nicole

    such great photos.

  • I agree nicole– classics!

  • Jess

    Love this! It’s always wonderful to see the carefree spirit that was Marilyn Monroe, before the drugs/alcohol and all of the sadness

    I also adore that Elvis video,my favourite concert and favourite song of his..I can’t help but wiggle in my seat when I hear it.

    • Thanks for the comments Jess! Glad you liked the post :)

  • c-word

    LOVE these! thanks for posting them, shannon! :)

    • c-word, it was my pleasure! Glad you’re enjoying.

  • Isabella

    My 14 month old son, old soul that he must be, has LOVED Elvis since he was only about 4 months old. “All Shook Up” is his favorite song, we had an Elvis/50’s themed sock hop/ice cream social for his first birthday. I may not be an Elvis FANATIC, but I definitely prefer it over more current music lately, lol.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Isabella, that party must have been insane! What a brilliant idea for a celebration. Your son sounds like a blast– enjoy him! And thanks for the comment.

  • Banana

    I seriously think Elvis was very hot! I would definitely have a crush on him if we were in the same school or something! Those sideburns were to die for!!!!!!!!

    • Banana, you might have been one of those two screaming girls in another life, lol. I get it! Thanks for the comment