"The cinema is cruel like a miracle." -Frank O'Hara

Marilyn Monroe, Crucifix [From Bert Stern’s The Last Sitting, 1962]


While I am not a M.M. fetishist, I find this image remarkably unsettling for the way it seems to prophesy her death. During her legendary final photo shoot with Bert Stern, Monroe crossed out the negatives that she didn’t want to published with a magic marker. (She just had a gall-bladder operation, and was ashamed of the scar on her midriff). The red gash on her ghostly body produces an uncanny memento mori — a quality that, according to Roland Barthes, lies at the crux of all photography.

Of course, Marilyn-as-muse is a popular trope in all mediums. Here’s Dalí’s take on the icon, which is obviously a nod (or a jab) in Warhol’s direction. (Duly noted: Monroe’s beauty mark takes precedence over Mao’s mole.)

Salvador Dalí, After Marilyn Monroe [1967]

Pasolini, La Rabbia [Rage, 1963]

Restored for the NYFF this year, Pasolini’s La Rabbia interprets Monroe’s death as the killing of all that is innocent and beautiful in the world. My shoddy translation of the last line, spoken over footage of a mushroom cloud: “You’re the first in the world beyond the gates abandoned to death’s fate.”

Category: art + video, photography

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3 Responses

  1. Bryan Land says:

    Marilyn Monroe left such an impression. Happens every so often. Mao as Monroe–love it.

  2. Denise Weiss says:

    I like your article very much but I must say she was not ashamed of the scar. There were over 3000 shots taken during the two Vogue photo shoots and she crossed out the negatives she did not like. There are many; her eye-liner was not perfect, her eyes looked a little off, etc. Like most women we are our worst critics. I have seen so many of these photographs and I see them as beautiful but I would do the same as she if I felt I did not look good.

    This is actually one of my favorites and hangs in our gallery.

  3. bryan says:

    i have a book full of these photos

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