George Barris, Photographer Who Captured the Last Images of Marilyn Monroe, Dies at 94

George Barris’s last photo of Marilyn Monroe, taken on Santa Monica beach on July 13, 1962

George Barris, who took the last professional photographs of Marilyn Monroe, just weeks before her death in 1962, died on Friday at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was 94.

The death was confirmed by his daughter Caroline Barris.

When Mr. Barris shot those last pictures, on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., on July 13, Monroe had reason to be troubled. She had been fired the month before from the film “Something’s Got to Give,” reportedly because of her chronic lateness and absenteeism.

At 36, she was only a year past her divorce from her third husband, the playwright Arthur Miller. She wanted to write a book, she said, and Mr. Barris would be her collaborator.

“Mr. Barris was obviously a sympathetic coadjutant,” Diana Trilling observed in The New York Times in her 1986 review of “Marilyn,” written by Gloria Steinem, with photographs by Mr. Barris. “Through June and July, Marilyn talked and posed — and drank Champagne. Mr. Barris took many soft, gentle pictures of her, in bathing suit, towels, beach robe, sweater. But this project, too, was not completed.”

Monroe and Mr. Barris had been friends for almost a decade, having met in New York in 1954 on the set of “The Seven Year Itch,” in which she starred with Tom Ewell. The story he always told was that he was discreetly photographing her derrière while she was leaning out a window. When she caught him, she cheerfully said, “I’ll take a dozen of those.”

Monroe telephoned him two days before her death, he told The Los Angeles Daily News in 2012.

“She called me on Friday, and I was in New York, and she wanted to know if I could come to see her that weekend and that it was urgent,” he recalled. But he had plans to see his family that weekend, so he begged off and promised to visit her on Monday instead. Her body was found by her housekeeper early Sunday morning.

Mr. Barris told numerous interviewers over the years that he did not believe that Monroe’s death was a suicide. Caroline Barris said on Monday that he never shared whatever he knew about the death, not even with his family. “A lot of things he kept secret,” she added.

George Barris at a memorial service in 2012, on the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death.

George Barris was born on June 14, 1922, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He was the youngest of nine children of Joseph and Eva Barris, immigrants from Romania, who lived on Delancey Street but soon moved to the Bronx. According to Mr. Barris’s website, George was 6 when his brother Willie gave him a box camera; his fascination with photography was born.

Mr. Barris served in the Army during World War II, working as a photographer. One of his last assignments was to cover Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s homecoming victory parade in New York in June 1945.

In civilian life, he worked for Parade, the weekly magazine that appeared in hundreds of Sunday newspapers, and other publications. He was the photographer for a book about a young nun and convent life. While working in Florida, he took on a young assistant, Steve McQueen (whose driving frightened him, he told his family years later), but soon encouraged him to go back to New York to pursue his acting career.

If Mr. Barris was not photographing Hollywood’s biggest stars — among them Marlon Brando, Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren — he might be shooting an album cover or posing models as cigarette-smoking gangsters and molls for Real Detective magazine. He worked in Rome on the set of “Cleopatra,” the 1963 epic starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and declared it “a big, big mess.” (The accountants at 20th Century Fox and the tabloid press agreed.)

But it was for his work with Monroe that Mr. Barris was best known, and he never shied away from the association.

In addition to Ms. Steinem’s book, he published his photographs of Monroe in a 1995 book, “Marilyn: Her Life in Her Own Words: Marilyn Monroe’s Revealing Last Words and Photographs.” In 2012, the 50th anniversary of her death, he gave multiple interviews, and his photos were the centerpiece of “An Intimate Look at the Legend,” an exhibition of Monroe memorabilia at the Hollywood Museum. Eight of his prints from the last shoot were sold at auction in 2015.

Mr. Barris left the United States after Monroe’s death, partly to escape the controversy and any suspicion that he knew more than he was telling, and lived in Paris for two decades.

In addition to his daughter Caroline, his survivors include his wife, Carla, whom he met there, and another daughter, Stephanie Barris.

Even in his old age, Mr. Barris was being asked about Monroe. “She projected such joy when the camera was on,” he told The Chicago Sun-Times in 2004. “And all these years later, the world still can’t forget her face.”

There she is, in Mr. Barris’s very last shot of the day in Santa Monica — it was a Friday the 13th — sitting in the sand, bundled up in an oatmeal-colored Mexican sweater, her blond hair tousled, her hands clasped, and her lips pursed, as if in a kiss. He always told people that she had just said, “This one’s for you, George.”

Excerpt from The New York Times, “George Barris, Photographer Who Captured the Last Images of Marilyn Monroe, Dies at 94” Written by Anita Gates, October 4, 2016