Marilyn & Me by Lawrence Schiller is a very short memoir by one of the lucky photographers who had the opportunity to work with Marilyn Monroe. When he first meets her, she is working on Let’s Make Love and he is a young photographer, aching for an opportunity to have one of his photographs on the cover of a magazine like Look or Life. There are several photographs from Shciller’s own collection taken at several times he was invited to take photographs of her, some taken merely days before her death.
In spite of its brevity, Schiller manages to convey the complicated person that Monroe was, surrounded as she was by people who wanted to protect her (like her personal assistant and acting coach) and those who wanted to exploit her (directors, magazine editors, and the many men who hoped to become her lover). As he tries to capture candid moments, he talks with her. She is determined and frustrated but also vulnerable, as unsure of herself in the real world as she is bold and confident in front of the camera.
The most interesting part of this memoir for me was how Schiller himself becomes merely an opportunist. He is aggressive about one particular set of photos, striving to keep them exclusive and, even after Monroe herself shows ambivalence about one of his ideas, he continues to pursue it completely disregarding her lack of interest, practically manipulating her into doing something she clearly does not wish to do. When she says “You’re like a business man” he cannot even recognize the implied judgment, the nuanced accusation a pretty woman is making when talking about herself in relationship to him.
This book can easily be read in a day, enjoyed for what it is—one man’s memories about a remarkable woman. Schiller doesn’t fall into the hubris of thinking he was an influence in her life but it is clear she had a lasting impact on his own. At least on his career, anyway. But he isn’t the only man whose professional life benefited greatly from having Marilyn Monroe in it.