Pictures I Like: Marilyn on a Park Bench, 1957


"The Proposal" Sam Shaw, 1957

My Story: A couple sits on a New York park bench — not a young couple — look at them, these two have had some hard years. It’s been twelve years since the war ended and some guys just never get a break, but listen (he says), everything will be different if you come into my life, I will work so hard, I only want You. And she listens, here on lunch hour from the cafeteria where she earns a small wage dealing out ice cream scoops of mashed potatoes onto the plates of other working people, grabbing lunch before they return to their dreary underpaid jobs. But now she doesn’t even notice that she still wears her hair net, she wears it like a crown because in this moment she is taken away from mundane details, in this moment she is courted, she is a star. Of course she will say Yes, she just wants the moment to last a little longer, but she will say Yes because, at the other end of the bench, Aphrodite herself watches these little humans and Aphrodite is all powerful in matters of Love, which is to say that the goddess can always command the word “Yes”.

The Facts: Marilyn Monroe and her photographer, Sam Shaw, are walking in Central Park looking for locations. Marilyn tells Shaw that she has been studying improvisation in her acting classes. All right, says Shaw, sit on that bench and improvise something. So Marilyn sits down with her newspaper and overhears the guy proposing to the woman at the other end of the bench. After the shoot: Version A, she congratulates the couple and gives them a wedding gift of a hundred bucks, not being very rich herself at the time; Version B, according to Shaw he paid the couple for the right to use their picture. Shaw said the woman agreed to marry the man but only if he would give up being a bookie.

So far as I am concerned, all of these stories work.


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