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