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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Modeling Marilyn Monroe

Norma Jean Baker, better know as Marilyn Monroe, was a swimsuit model back in her early career. This week at Glamoursplash we'll be sharing a bit of history on Marilyn and some eye candy of her in swimsuits.

Army photographer David Conover was one of the first photographers to take a photo shoot of Marilyn Monroe, then known as Norma Jeane. His work, including some photos of Norma Jeane, appeared regularly in such military magazines as Yank and Stars and Stripes. Norma Jeane was enthusiastic about her new vocation, and even consented to join Conover on picture-taking excursions through Southern California. After the initial Yank magazine photographic session with Conover, Norma Jeane posed for him on other occasions. As his freelance model, she was paid five dollars an hour.

A commercial photographer named Potter Hueth became interested in Norma Jeane on a professional level after Conover showed him some of his photographs. Hueth asked Norma Jeane if she would be willing to work on "spec." That is, he would shoot some photos of her and then tout them to various magazines, but Norma Jeane would not get paid unless the photos were sold.

Some of Potter Hueth's photographs of Marilyn ended up on the desk of Emmeline Snively, head of the Blue Book Model Agency in Los Angeles. Snively sent Norma Jeane a brochure and expressed interest in using her if she was willing to take Blue Book's three-month modeling course. The photo at the left is from 1945 while Norma was at the Blue Book Modeling Agency.

Norma Jeane is wearing a Catalina two piece suit.

In 1946, Norma Jeane's modeling career had taken off, coinciding with the boom in exploitation magazines. Though virtually nonexistent today, these types of publications flooded the market after World War II, particularly after paper rationing ended in 1950. Several types of exploitation magazines appeared on newsstands following the war. Some were devoted to lurid crime stories, others to dimestore romance or Hollywood scandal.

A significant number were aimed at men. Contrary to what might be assumed today, the magazines did not include photographs of nudes but displayed women in bathing suits, negligees, towels, and other scanty but tasteful attire. By modern standards, the layouts are amusing, even innocent.

Because Norma Jeane was not the tall, willowy type best suited for fashion modeling, she began to make her mark in pinup magazines such as Laff, Peek, See, Glamorous Models, Cheesecake, and U.S. Camera. A result of the popularity of the pinup during the war, these inexpensive magazines featured the best in cheesecake photography.

Norma Jeane posed for a number of photographers who sold their work to pinup magazines. One of the best of these photographers was André de Dienes, a fine technician gifted with a sensitive eye that enabled him to work with equal success in color and black and white. De Dienes worked with Norma Jeane from 1945 to 1949, capturing her at the peak of her modeling career. Their last session together was a series of seashore photos shot at Tobey Beach in 1949, when Norma Jeane, by that time Marilyn Monroe, was in New York City to promote one of her early films. These images are from that session.

Marilyn Monroe was a Jantzen model back in the days when she was known as Norma Jean Baker. In 1947 She modeled the Jantzen Double Dare and Temptation suits. The “Double Dare” was a two-piece suit with peek-a-boo cutouts on the hips. She also modeled for Catalina sportswear for advertising and publicity purposes.


Emily Hillgren said...

Hi, was the white suit from Andre de Dienes photo shoot Catalina swimwear?

Thank you!

Glamoursurf said...

Hi Emily,

Not sure if it was Catalina or not. Sorry.