Marilyn Monroe: From Beginning to End

There are definately photos included in this book that you will not see anywhere else. So for that reason I would recommend it. It covers Marilyn from early in her career until the end.

Author Michael Ventura and Earl Leaf
Publisher Blandford
Cover Type Hardcover
Dimensions 8.75 x 11 inches
Publish Date 1997
ISBN 0-7137-2686-5
Signed No
Number of Pages 144


I donít know about you but for me, one of the best things about Christmas is the fact that there is always a Marilyn book out there that some kind soul will find for me to add to my growing collection. Some would call these kind souls enablersóIíd rather think of them as good friends who are incredibly generousÖ

 This week I want to fill you in on one of the books I received for Christmasóone I kind of remembered when it came out but is fairly obscureówhich, in a way, is fitting as that description matches up with the man whose work this book focuses onóEarl Leaf.

 I know there are many out there who are far better versed in the careers of the many photographers who worked with Marilyn and to them perhaps Earl Leaf isnít as obscure as I think. Until I received this book, the only thing I really knew about Leaf was how he looked, (youíve seen him in many photos with Marilynóthat kind of weird looking guy with the Lincoln beard who always seems to be sitting near her and talking.) In fact, for years I had no idea who this guy was ñ maybe part of the Monroe Six? A member of an older fan club? Finally someone filled me in but even when I finally learned that Leaf was a photographer, I still had only a very sketchy idea of which photos could be credited to him.

 The full title of the book, youíll notice, is From Beginning to End. And, come to find out, that pretty much sums up Leafís careeróhe started working in photography and with Marilyn right at the very start of her own careeróthink of those pictures of Marilyn and the Chihuahua on the lawn of Joe Schenckís mansion. The year was 1950 and in Leafís words, the girl was just another no-name starlet. When heíd snapped what he figured were more than enough photos, the no-name starlet pleaded with him to stay a while longer, afraid that heíd been packing up because she was simply not very good. ìI can climb trees, do hand-stands, cartwheelsóanything you like.î And maybe that sentence explains what it is about this slim book that will touch anyone who takes the time to lookóthe young Marilyn Monroe certain that she wasnít very good but so damned eager to please, if only youíd stick around a little longer, if only youíd give her a chance to show what she could do.

 Leaf did stick around. For the next twelve years he would be a constant in Marilynís life. Perhaps not as talented as say Milton Greene, maybe not as flashy as Bert Stern. But Leaf, (at least I get the feeling), is along the lines of Sidney Skolskyósomeone who was there at the beginning and stuck it out with her for that short if incredible ride.

 And he was there nearly all the way. There are so many photos that I know but had no idea they were the work of Leaf: The buxom starlet at the Henrietta Awards. The full on movie star at the big Hollywood premiere of How to Marry a Millionaire. The established actress in a spaghetti strap gown, meeting the press in the living room of her rented home in 1956. The stunning icon in her long white gloves and tasteful black cocktail dress at the press party for Some Lie It Hot. And then the last photos of the legend, the woman with the bleached hair and sequined gown who stood laughing with Rock Hudson after having been named the World Favorite. Leaf had been there at the beginning and he stayed all the way through the last chapter. And along the way he took pictures. Granted, they may not be the best ever taken of that amazing face. But Leafís legacy is a newsreel- like documentation of the career of one of the last centuryís most studied figures. The photographic trail Leaf left behind is invaluable.

 The funny thing about this book is that it isnít better known. Usually these photo books have some great pictures but when it comes to actually reading themóforget it. The text accompanying most photo books, (in my opinion at least), is pretty lame. Youíll get a lot of that poor waif stuff, followed by the struggling starlet stuff, followed by the calendar scandal and thenÖ you get the idea. No insight, very few quotes and certainly nothing you havenít already seen elsewhere. The surprise with this one is Michael Ventura actually put some thought behind what is usually filler to frame the photographs. I wouldnít say thereís anything earth-shattering here but there are many, many quotesóby Marilyn, by Leaf, by a host of others who played a part in her life or stood on the periphery and looked on with awe.

 The highest compliment I can give a photographer or a writer, when it comes to Marilyn, is that they Get It. Some folks might have taken pictures of Marilyn Monroe but I donít think they ever quite got what the deal was. The same can certainly be said about a great many who have decided to write about the woman. The treat with Marilyn Monroe From Beginning to End is that we have the rare combination of both the guy who took the pictures and the guy who wrote the wordsógetting it. That in itself is reason enough to find a copy and see for yourself.

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