Cecil Beaton had only one shoot with Marilyn Monroe, which took place at the Ambassador Hotel in New York in February 1956. The actress turned up at his suite 90 minutes late and in his diary Beaton admitted that he was: “startled, then disarmed, by her lack of inhibition”.
The photographer compared the actress to ‘an over-excited child asked downstairs after tea’ and added: “The initial shyness over, excitement has now got the better of her. She romps, she squeals with delight, she leaps on to the sofa. She puts a flower stem in her mouth, puffing on a daisy as though it were a cigarette. It is an artless, impromptu, high-spirited, infectiously gay performance”.
Marilyn shot to fame playing witty blondes in films including Some Like It Hot, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Seven Year Itch, and Beaton acknowledged that while it was likely ‘press agentry or manufactured illusion’ that had helped her find success, it was “her own weird genius that [had] sustained her flight”.