Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake
Silver Gelatin Print
30 x 40 in.
Edition of 75
Signed and numbered in ink
About the work:
Lawrence Schiller began shooting Marilyn in 1960 on the set of “Let’s Make Love” when he was just 23 years old and he would be among those who took the very last stills of the actress.
As a model, Schiller has recounted, the Monroe was very easy to photograph, a “dream subject.” Their first time working together, she even coached him, saying: “That’s not the best angle for me. If you go over there the light will be better.” She knew what to do and understood light, as though she were both the shooter and subject.
This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Lawrence Schiller’s iconic photograph Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake.
Marilyn Monroe celebrated her last birthday on June 1, 1962 with the cast and crew of her final movie “Something’s Got to Give” in which she costarred with Dean Martin.
Three weeks prior to that, on May 17th, 1962, during the shooting of the movie she showed up and completed all her scenes by noon in order to secretly fly out to New York and sing “happy birthday” to President Kennedy on May 19th. Fox studios would then sue the actress for breach of contract. Despite the suit, filming continued, even on Marilyn’s birthday.
Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake was shot on set after a day of filming. Fox studios did not even so much as give Marilyn her birthday cake, which was purchased by her stand in. The actress, smiling broadly in front of the cake topped with sparkling candles commands all the attention. Set lights, ladders and props in the background are barely visible yet symbolic of the personal and professional turmoil of Marilyn Monroe’s life.
The actress was fired from the movie one week later on June 8th and Fox sued her again in an attempt to recover damages. Two months later, on August 5th, she would be found dead, in her home, at the age of 36.
Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake, which was purchased directly from Lawrence Schiller was released in 2007, the 45th anniversary of her passing. It comes with the hardcover book by the photographer documenting this photo shoot.