Last in life of Marilyn Monroe. This is how they have been. Interested to take a peak?
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John Florea (known as ‘Johnny’) was born in Alliance, Ohio in 1916, of Romanian origin. He grew up in Los Angeles.
By 1941, Florea was working in Hollywood as a staff photographer for ‘Life’ magazine. He was in a darkroom, developing pictures of actress Jane Russell, when he heard the news that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbour.
Florea headed for San Diego’s military camps, creating a photo essay, ‘A Day in the Life of the Marine Corps Raiders.’ The results were impressive, and Florea became one of America’s first war correspondents.
He covered marine battles in the Pacific; the liberation of the Belsen death camp in Germany; and was on the frontline for both V-E Day and V-J Day. “I busted a lot of lenses,” he recalled in 1995. “It's hard to run with cameras, and you have to hit the deck when the bombs whistle by.”
After World War II, Florea returned to Hollywood. He continued working for ‘Life’, as well as the San Francisco Examiner, and was appointed photo editor at Collier’s magazine.
Marilyn Monroe was first photographed by Florea in early 1951. At 24, she had played supporting roles in two acclaimed movies, ‘The Asphalt Jungle’ and ‘All About Eve’. And she had recently signed a seven-year contract with Twentieth Century-Fox.
On March 29, 1951, Marilyn presented the Academy Award for Best Sound Recording to Thomas Moulton for ‘All About Eve’. Florea photographed her that day in an elegant black gown, and the pictures were used to illustrate a feature, ‘1951’s Model Blonde’, published in ‘Collier’s’ that September.
On June 19, Florea accompanied Marilyn on a trip to the USS Benham at Long Beach, where he photographed her with sailors. She wore the black netted dress seen in ‘As Young as You Feel.’
Monroe was already a gifted model, but she had yet to find the great portrait photographers who would transform her from starlet to goddess. Most of her publicity shots from this period fit the ‘cheesecake’ mould, and Florea was happy to play along.
Marilyn posed on a rock in a tight-fitting bathing suit, with one strap pulled down. Other sessions showed Florea’s sense of mischief. For one shoot, Marilyn sat at a dressing table, clad in a negligee, pouting sulkily as the telephone rang.
Another series depicts Marilyn by a roaring log fire, clad in thermal underwear. It was snapped up by men’s magazines that winter, seemingly proving that she could look sexy in anything.
This period also yielded two of the loveliest portraits of Marilyn, lying on a rug. In one shot, she faces the camera with heavy-lidded eyes, and a finger dangling from her mouth. In another shot, she rests her hand on her head and looks up in angst. In these pictures, we are shown not a calendar cutie, but an alluring siren, and they were sold to magazines such as ‘Esquire’.
I don't know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot! Read more Marilyn Monroe quotes
In 1952, Marilyn vamped it up again for Florea. In one session she wore a black camisole. These glamour shots have since been reproduced countless times, in pop art and posters. These images are familiar to us all, but only die-hard fans can identify the originals as Florea’s work.
A candid shoot, at Monroe’s suite in the Beverly Carlton Hotel, which rendered captivating results. Dressed casually in jeans and shirt tied at the waist, Marilyn lay on her bed reading Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’. Though she was often mocked for her literary leanings, Marilyn’s combination of sensuality and intellect was entirely genuine. By showing a different side to the actress, Florea also revealed his own versatility.
Throughout 1953-54, Florea photographed Marilyn on the set of her movies. During filming of ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’, she posed in character as gold-digging Lorelei Lee, sitting cross-legged and counting a pile of money. Another shoot showed her reclining on a psychoanalyst’ s couch, while a further series shows the erstwhile diva in a satin robe, tucking into a box of chocolates.
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