The famous final photo session of Marilyn Monroe, conducted by photographer Bert Stern in June 1962, soon after Monroe's 36th birthday and six weeks prior to her untimely death, returned to public prominence earlier this year when Stern replicated the photos with Lindsay Lohan as the subject for New York magazine; the Monroe and Lohan photos are shown above. (It should be noted that Lohan was photographed at age 21 -- and at that stage of Monroe's life, it was 1947 and she had yet to be discovered.)
We refer to this because the subject of today's entry happens to be Carole Lombard's "last sitting"...and about the photographer who took it.
As most of us know, Lombard was a frequent subject of still photographers in relation to her movie work; literally thousands of pictures were taken of her in this context. But the last time Carole sat before a photographer for this reason came on New Year's Eve 1941, when she was called back to do a shoot for her upcoming movie, "To Be Or Not To Be."
The photographer was Robert Coburn, who had earlier taken publicity stills of Lombard and co-star Jack Benny for the film:
This time, however, Carole wouldn't dress as Maria Tura. These were fashion publicity shots for newspapers to run, invariably with a blurb below promoting both Lombard and her new film. A hat, designed to reflect current winter fashion, was the dominant aspect of the shoot:
Here are two other photos with that hat:
In addition, Coburn took several other notable photos of Lombard for the film, possibly at earlier sessions:
Unfortunately, by the time all of these reached the view of the public, Carole Lombard was already gone -- and so at the time, there was naturally a tragic, posthumous tone about them then that sort of obscured their beauty.
"To Be Or Not To Be" was likely the only Lombard assignment Coburn ever had, but he was one of the movie industry's top still photographers and deserves to be better known. Born in June 1900, his still photography for movies began in the early 1930s. He worked for a variety of studios, most notably Columbia in the 1940s -- so naturally, he is most associated with Rita Hayworth. Here are two shots he took of Hayworth, first for "Affair In Trinidad," then for "The Loves Of Carmen":
Coburn worked through the late 1950s, working stills for the James Stewart-Kim Novak films "Vertigo" and "Bell, Book And Candle." He died on July 3, 1990, not long after his 90th birthday.
Incidentally, if you're interested in that first Lombard photo with the hat, it's now available at eBay. It's from movie portrait maven Mark A. Vieira,, whom we've written about before (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/77921.html) using the same Golden Age printing technology to recapture every bit of the quality from that halcyon era. This is definitely recommended if you're into collecting these sort of things; check it out at http://cgi.ebay.com/ROBERT-COBURN-LAST-SITTING-CAROLE-LOMBARD-PHOTO_W0QQitemZ260240968376QQihZ016QQcategoryZ66465QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem. Bidding lasts through Thursday.