Preview: Marilyn Monroe @ National Portrait Gallery

This summer might’ve marked 50 years since her death, but the world is still fascinated by Marilyn Monroe. As well as last year’s biopic starring Michelle Williams, and a new biography by Lois “I’m an academic really” Banner earlier this year, fans of TV series Smash are currently wondering how long before Marilyn The Musical hits Theatreland. (Not happening, apparantly. We refuse to believe it.)

Till then, you can get your blonde bombshell fix at a new, free exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from next week. Marilyn Monroe: A British Love Affair features various photos of the star which showcase her links to the UK. As well as portraits by British photographers (think Beaton, Beauchamp and Baron), there’ll be rare magazine covers, vintage prints, lobby cards and film stills.

If you remember My Week with Marilyn, you’ll know the star arrived in Britain with her new husband Arthur Miller in 1956. She stayed for four months, generating huge press interest while filming The Prince and the Showgirl opposite Laurence Olivier. Items on display from this sojourn will include little-known images by Life magazine photojournalist Larry Burrows, and press images of Monroe meeting the Queen. (Our Liz does get about, doesn’t she?)

Other highlights include work by Brit photographers Antony Beauchamp (pics of Monroe in that yellow bikini from 1951), Baron’s photographs from a Hollywood assignment from 1954 and Cecil Beaton’s photographs taken in the Ambassador Hotel in New York in February 1956. Look out too for cinematographer Jack Cardiff’s dreamy images of Monroe, created with a wind machine and Vaseline over the lens. (Rumour has it she was nine hours late for the shoot. Nine hours!) On one of these shots she’s written “Dearest Jack, if only I could be the way you created me.” As a woman almost completely reduced to pure iconography, perhaps this wish has now come true.

Marilyn Monroe: A British Love Affair opens on 29 September and runs until 24 March 2013 in Room 33 at the National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2. Visit www.npg.org.uk/whatson to find out more.

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