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When Photographs of Unknown Actress Marilyn Monroe Were Sent to Life Magazine, the Editors Replied With “WTH is Marilyn Monroe?”

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Ed Clark was a longtime Life Magazine photographer who took iconic photographs during the post-war era. He is best remembered for a photograph of a weeping Graham W. Jackson, who played the accordion as the body of Franklin D. Roosevelt was transported to Washington D.C.

Throughout Clark’s career, he was in the right place at the right time, with a knack for sensing important moments. He photographed Hermann Göring at the Nuremberg Trials and was the only photographer permitted to take pictures at the wedding reception of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. In 1950, a friend of Clark’s recommended he take photographs of an unknown woman named Marilyn Monroe, who had just been signed by 20th Century Fox.

Monroe stakes her claim

Life Magazine was unimpressed. “I sent several rolls to LIFE in New York, but they wired back, ‘Who the hell is Marilyn Monroe?” recalled Clark. At the time, no one had heard of Monroe, and the magazine had no idea that she would become an icon.

Future pinup
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The photographs Clark sent to Life Magazine were forgotten until decades later, when a search of other Life archives turned them up.

A pose which would become famous
Marilyn dyed her hair blonde for the photo shoot
Monroe leaving the garden path

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