Fifty years of Marilyn
Sam Shaw’s photograph of Marilyn Monroe standing on a subway grate with her skirt flying up secured the actress legendary status. Taken in New York City on 15 September 1954 in connection with the movie The Seven Year Itch and published in newspapers worldwide, the shot quickly became one of the most famous photos of the 20th century.
In the photo Marilyn is a vision in white, both erotic and innocent. Not merely a great photographic model demonstrating her dramatic and comedic ability, she resembles a Greek Aphrodite cut out of stone as well as a ballerina whirling on her toes. Her stance is a classic pose from a burlesque routine – caught in a wind produced from underneath the stage, which blows up her skirt and shows her underwear as she tries to hold it down.
Joyous and triumphant in The Seven Year Itch photograph, Marilyn symbolised the freedom and ebullience of the US – victorious in the Second World War – to the rest of the world. So great was her subsequent fame that everyone around the globe soon knew who was meant by the name Marilyn and the initials MM.
The scene in which the photo was taken was a publicity stunt, devised by Shaw to publicise both Marilyn and The Seven Year Itch, for which Shaw was the official stills photographer. The time and location of the shoot were announced in the newspapers, and it drew over 1,000 spectators and hundreds of photographers, all male. It was held on Lexington Avenue in the middle of the night to avoid daytime crowds. Billy Wilder, the director of the movie, interspersed shooting the scene with breaks to allow the photographers present to shoot their own photos of Marilyn on the grate, as she assumed the pose again and again. Innumerable photos were taken, all similar, all ready to be marketed by their producers – what amounted to worldwide mirror-images of Marilyn. Who could forget her after such a campaign?
Lois Banner is the author of Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox
Fifty years of Stones gigs
The Rolling Stones’ reputation as dissolute louts, as embodied in the photographs of them in New York in 1964 [left], was set by the revolutionary cover of their eponymous first album that year, two years after their first gig: five skulking profiles with no explanatory title. It set up an immediate and enduring contrast to the corporate smiles of The Beatles. One afternoon, the Stones promised to arrive at the studio of hip young photographer Gered Mankowitz at 2pm. They showed up around 4.30pm, “five corpse-pale stick insects trailing a constant cloud of fag smoke”. To his surprise, “nothing was too much trouble”. It may be only rock ’n’ roll, but thought went into selling it.
Christopher Sandford is the author of The Rolling Stones: 50 Years
Twenty-five years of Ziggy
In the 1970s, pop stars didn’t look like this. No one looked like this. The mix of hair dye, make-up and attitude would go on to define the 1970s as well as the 1980s. Bowie has endured as an icon because not only did he create some of the most iconic alter-egos of the 20th-century entertainment industry, but he has never seriously fallen from grace or favour. He has occasionally slipped up, but he’s never fallen over. Ziggy Stardust is without doubt the most important pop creation of the 1970s, and without him there would have been no Punks, no New Romantics, or indeed any of the trends that followed, trends that were often only responses to those that Bowie had influenced.
Dylan Jones is the author of When Ziggy Played Guitar
Fifty years of Bond
We first met James Bond on screen in Dr. No – adapted from Ian Fleming’s sixth Bond novel – in 1962. Two indelible images introduced him: Bond (Sean Connery) playing cards with a beautiful woman; and that familiar opening of the silhouetted spy shooting into the screen. In a few short minutes the icon of Bond – a suave, sophisticated killer – is born. The staying power of a visual image that was then contemporary, now classic, is echoed in the designs of the new Vintage Classics covers for all 14 Fleming books (out now in ebook and September in print). They emphasise the cool and clever reputation of Bond as established in those opening moments of Dr. No, evoking the era without being dated. The bold, film-poster feel was inspired by the work of graphic designer and filmmaker Saul Bass, with a retro feel created by omitting the designs and using the Folio font that was used in publications at the time. Classic and contemporary: that’s Bond.
Ian Fleming's Dr. No is published by Vintage.