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June 1, 2024

Marilyn Monroe – “The Mandolin Sitting” by Milton Greene, 1953

Milton Greene and Marilyn Monroe’s first sitting together was in Los Angeles for Look magazine in September of 1953. This photoshoot “Mandolin” was the first photographic collaboration between Milton and Marilyn. Marilyn posing with a mandolin, vibrantly colored boas and flowers. Wearing a large grey sweater over the evening dress donned in that session, Marilyn is striking with the props Milton opts to pose her with.

Greene initially established himself in high fashion photography in the 1940s and 1950s. His fashion shots appeared in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Greene then turned to portraits of celebrities. He photographed many high-profile personalities in the 1950s and 1960s, including Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner, Sammy Davis, Jr., Catherine Deneuve, Marlene Dietrich, and Judy Garland.

Greene’s work with Marilyn Monroe (whom he first shot for a layout for Look in 1953) changed the course of his career. The two struck up a friendship and, when Monroe left Los Angeles to study acting with Lee Strasberg in New York City, she stayed with Greene, his wife Amy and young son Joshua in Connecticut. Together with Greene, Monroe formed Marilyn Monroe Productions, a production company in an effort to gain control of her career (from Hollywood powerhouses). Greene would go on to produce Bus Stop (1956) and The Prince and the Showgirl (1957).

The two also collaborated on some 53 photo sessions, some of which became well known, including “The Black Sitting.” Greene’s photograph for one such sitting in 1954 featuring Monroe in a ballet tutu was chosen by Time Life as one of the three most popular images of the 20th century. Monroe and Greene’s friendship ended after the production of The Prince and the Showgirl in 1957, and they decided to separate.


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