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Marilyn Monroe photos found at garage sale still a mystery

By Alan Duke, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Photographer found Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield negatives in 1980
  • Who shot them and how they ended up at a garage sale is unknown, man says
  • Finder, art appraiser David Streets welcome public help in solving the mystery
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Los Angeles (CNN) -- Photographer Anton Fury's hobby of searching weekend garage sales for collectible toys led him to dozens of apparently unpublished photos of a young Marilyn Monroe.

Fury has allowed CNN to publish the images just days before what would have been Monroe's 85th birthday. They apparently were taken during a photo session before she was well known.

"I found an envelope of negatives, didn't know what they were, but I realized they were old," Fury said. He paid $2 for the folder, which contained two envelopes of black-and-white negatives.

That was in Parsippany, New Jersey, in 1980, when Fury says he was "a fledgling photographer."

"I took it home, put them on the lightboard with a loupe and, needless to say, these are Marilyn," he said. "That was probably my greatest garage sale discovery ever."

The second envelope was filled with about 70 negatives of actress Jayne Mansfield.

Fury held onto the photographs for the last three decades, not knowing much about them.

"The only thing we're sure of is who," he said. "We don't know where, we don't know why, we don't know when, we don't know who shot them. But we do know it is Marilyn."

Fury flew to Los Angeles this week to show the images to David W. Streets, a Beverly Hills art dealer and appraiser experienced with Monroe photos.

Monroe was one of the most photographed women ever, but Streets suspects these photos are from her early years, soon after she cut her hair and evolved into the iconic look most people associate with her.

"I've looked for early photographs, early test shots, magazine shots, books, and haven't been able to find anything yet, so the mystery we're just beginning to unravel," Streets said.

Streets' best guess for now is the photos were taken in 1950, a breakout year for the nearly unknown Monroe because of her minor roles in "The Asphalt Jungle" and "All About Eve."

"I know they were taken here in Los Angeles," which we know "from the backgrounds that we see in the photos," Streets said. "You see Hollywood Hills, Hollywood 1950s architecture."

There are more questions than answers, though.

"For me as an appraiser and as a researcher, I want people to call, I want people to e-mail and say, 'This is where it is, this is what it is, this is who I think took it,' " Streets said.

One clue that could be important is the coincidence of a man seen in both the Monroe and Mansfield photographs. It is possible he was the photographer for both sessions, Streets said.

"We know that Monroe and Mansfield were here working at the same time, were contemporaries and friends," Streets said. "So, there's an intertanglement there that we're going to unravel and see where the mystery leads."

Monroe, who would have been 24 in 1950, wore two bathing suits, including a bikini, and short pants during the poolside photo shoot.

One risk Fury runs as he brings his garage sale find to the public, and possibly for sale, is that someone could make a legal claim to the photos, which are possibly still protected by copyright laws even after 60 years.

"That's kind of what we're trying to figure out," Fury said. There's way more questions than there are answers at this point. We don't know where this is going to lead."

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