Manfred Kreiner received the opportunity of a lifetime when he was asked to photograph America’s most famous sex symbol.
The photojournalist’s snapshots of Marilyn Monroe were recently part of Julien’s Auctions' “Legends” event where photos and memorabilia of Hollywood’s most influential eras were sold in Beverly Hills and online.
Kreiner passed away in 2005 at age 78. It was his widow, Sally Kreiner, who offered photos and negatives during the height of Monroe’s career for the high-profiled auction.
“[My husband] met Marilyn through a friend who turned out to be her publicist for [1959’s] ‘Some Like it Hot,’” Sally told Fox News about the encounter. “This publicist told him one day, ‘How would you like to photograph Marilyn Monroe?’ My husband said, ‘Of course I would love to.’ And that’s how it all started.”
The German native soon found himself in Chicago face to face with Monroe. And she was far from a Hollywood diva.
“He thought she was really lovely,” said Sally. “He really liked her. “He was a little bit nervous about shooting her because she was just so famous. And he was really delighted to become part of her entourage and photograph her. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and he was really happy to tag alone.”
As for Sally, she decided to stay behind.
“No I certainly didn’t tag along,” Sally chuckled. “I would have been more of a hindrance.”
Still, Sally insisted she wasn’t worried about the blonde bombshell seducing her husband. In fact, Monroe had another man in mind.
“She was really happy with [then-husband] Arthur Miller,” said Sally. “She was just in awe of him. Arthur was an intellectual and she was not. And for the same reasons, he saw something in her, obviously.”
However, when it came to anyone capturing Monroe’s image, the actress had one request.
“She had the right to select the photos he could print and the ones he could not,” said Sally. “She had a final say when it came to her pictures. And it worked out because she selected the ones he wanted to print of her. There was no argument there.”
While Kreiner went on to pursue a thriving career, Monroe would be plagued with tragedy.
In the last few years of her life, Monroe suffered several setbacks. After “Some Like it Hot,” her last two films – 1960’s “Let’s Make Love” and 1961’s “The Misfits” – were box office disappointments, The New York Times reported. And after completion of “The Misfits,” which was written by Miller, the couple filed for divorced just one week before the film’s opening.
History.com also shared that by 1961, Monroe was under the constant care of a psychiatrist and “lived as a virtual recluse" in her Brentwood, Los Angeles, home. In 1962, Monroe was found dead at age 36 from a barbiturate overdose.
Sally said Kreiner was heartbroken by the news.
“He said it was too bad something like this happened to her,” said Sally. “Even at that time, there were a lot of rumors and questions. He certainly didn’t have an answer for it. And I don’t know if anyone ever really did get an answer for what happened to her and why… She became such a celebrity overnight. And that just became so much bigger than her.”
“But despite everything that was said about her, she did have a certain quality, a remarkable quality,” continued Sally. “You just see her and you wish you could have known her. She’s ethereal, but earthy too. And she possessed a certain charm, an American charm. You think of all the celebrities in Hollywood today, how many of them have exactly what she had. I don’t think people can ever really totally figure out her magic. She’s still mystical.”
While Sally didn’t get to meet Monroe, she did get a glance at another famous subject of her husband's — the infamous cult leader Charles Manson. After the horrifying murders that rocked California in 1969 by the Manson family, including that of pregnant movie star Sharon Tate, Kreiner was sent to Los Angeles to cover the story.
“He wanted me to come out and help him, which I did because I knew he was going to be gone for so long,” recalled Sally. “I went to one of the trials. I saw Manson come in and he just looks the way he does in newspapers and magazines. The only striking thing about him was his eyes. They were piercing, very magnetic. It made him very scary. That was the only time I ever saw him in person.”
“[My husband] had more fun photographing Marilyn, that’s for sure,” she joked.
Kreiner, who came to Winter Haven, Fla., from New York in 1984, passed away in 2005 at age 78 from heart failure.
Sally said she hopes her husband images will not only keep his legacy alive but also show a new side to a woman who continues to be one of the most famous in the world.
“What you see is what my husband saw in her,” she said. “He really didn’t see her as a sex symbol. He saw her as a lovely person with a great smile.”