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“A wise girl knows her limits, a smart girl knows that she has none.” –Marilyn Monroe

(MONROE, MARILYN). Clark, Ed. Portrait of Marilyn Monroe.

Ed Clark, 1950

Printed later by Clark. Ektacolor print. 14 x 11 in. Minor faults in the negative. Fine.

Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe at the beginning of her career. Signed by the photographer in silver ink.

Ed Clark was a top photographer for Life magazine in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. In 1950 he received a call from a friend at 20th Century Fox wondering if he wanted to photograph “a hot tomato,” the little-known 24 year-old actress Marilyn Monroe. Her film career had just begun to gain momentum: three months earlier, Monroe had appeared as a crooked lawyer’s girlfriend in The Asphalt Jungle. Two months later, she had a small role as an aspiring starlet in All About Eve.

In a 1999 interview, Clark recalled, “She was almost unknown then, so I was able to spend a lot of time shooting her.” “We’d go out to Griffith Park [in Los Angeles] and she’d read poetry. I sent several rolls to LIFE in New York, but they wired back, ‘Who the hell is Marilyn Monroe?’”