Photo: Marilyn Monroe on the set of “The Misfits”, Reno, Nevada, USA, 1960 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos
In 1960, three Hollywood stars gathered in Reno, Nevada, to shoot a film that Time Out would define as a superb anti western. Photographic cooperative Magnum realized how exceptional the event was and sent 9 of its most talented photographers to document the film’s behind-the-scenes. Today, an exhibition curated by Forte di Bard and Andrea Holzherr for Magnum Photos Paris shows the set backstage images of a movie that has made history, The Misfits, where Marilyn Monroe’s allure is captured forever: a style icon and a symbol of an era that still inspires us today.
The Misfits, directed by John Houston and released in 1961, made history for various reasons. Firstly, because the film stars Marilyn Monroe and was written by her husband playwright Arthur Miller, as his first and only script. Secondly, because it also features Clark Gable, who had never worked with Marilyn Monroe before. As a final addition to this stellar cast – specifically assembled to promote the film written by Miller – comes Montgomery Clift. Today, for the first time ever, the public can view, set against the breathtaking backdrop of Forte di Bard (AO), a story within a story, thanks to discreet and never intrusive shots from the archives of the celebrated Magnum agency. The shots depict the behind-the-scenes of a movie shadowed by the fame and personal life of its main characters (film icon Marilyn Monroe more than anyone, who at the time was going through the end of her troubled relationship with Arthur Miller – the couple in fact officially announced their divorce after the shooting). The exhibition, open until September 17, 2023, offers the typical behind-the-scenes graceful approach, a peek at the atmosphere and energy of a unique mix of scenic fiction and vivid emotions.
A small group of photographers with a great personality had exclusive access to the movie set. Every one of them documented, with their own style, the film shooting
A small group of photographers with a great personality had exclusive access to the movie set: Eve Arnold, Cornell Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Davidson, Elliott Erwitt, Ernst Haas, Erich Hartmann, Inge Morath and Dennis Stock. Every one of them documented, with their own style, the film shooting. The exhibition showcases 60 shots, as a tribute to the decade to which it refers, the 1960s, when the wind of change was blowing in America, shining the spotlight on youth protest movements. Western movies that were so popular in the 1940s and 1950s were now out of fashion; Arthur Miller knew it and so he chose a very personal approach to his script. Magnum Photos also wanted to be part of the change and welcomed the first woman photographer aboard: Eve Arnold, whose backstage shots of The Misfits are featured in this article as they really capture and express Marilyn Monroe’s emotional authenticity on and off stage.
The classic dark cat-eye or butterfly sunglasses that were so popular at the time featured the typical shapes that were considered real style must-haves and that are now back in fashion in the Marcolin collections
The diva, instead, the one who was born when she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, expressed herself with seductive femininity – an allure that in the 1950s the Hollywood industry had already built around other icons of the time, from Elisabeth Taylor to Ava Gardner. After all, the audience just wanted to dream and the post-war period provided fertile ground for the codification, also in aesthetic terms, of a diva status that would continue until the 1960s. The classic dark cat-eye or butterfly sunglasses that were so popular at the time featured the typical shapes that were considered real style must-haves and that are now back in fashion in the Marcolin collections. In fact, in the shots featuring Marilyn in New York City on the day after her divorce announcement from Arthur Miller, she is captured forever wearing a pair of dark cat-eye sunglasses, her face framed by a classic white scarf, perhaps shielding her, like never before, from the tough outside world.