Obituary: Sam Shaw

SAM SHAW created two iconic images of the late-20th century: Marlon Brando in sweaty T-shirt for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951; and Marilyn Monroe with her white dress ablow for The Seven Year Itch in 1955.

Shaw not only took these photographs, he came up with the original ideas, persuaded the actors to agree to the poses, and "styled" them with his own hands; four professional jobs by today's industry standards. But he was, too, the producer of John Cassavetes's films. A fixer, a go-between and publicist, Shaw was a well-read, sophisticated and charming cultural omnivore with an awesome range of contacts and interests.

Born in 1912, Shaw grew up tough and poor in New York's Little Italy, where his creative energy was evident at a young age; he created sculptures out of mud to support himself. Offered a choice between a scholarship to the Pratt Institute to paint, or using the grant money to rent a studio in which to work, he took the studio, which he shared with the black artist Romare Bearden. He found work as a courtroom artist, then as a political and sports cartoonist on The Brooklyn Eagle, and finally became a full- time photojournalist with covers for Life and Look. He moved into film as a stills photographer, and demonstrated an ability to integrate with the biggest stars, coming up with ideas for publicity campaigns, script changes and plots.

In 1951 Shaw persuaded Brando, who "thought it was vulgar", to be photographed in his undergarment for A Streetcar Named Desire. On Viva Zapata (1952) Shaw was a mutual friend of Brando and Anthony Quinn, even judging a peeing contest between them (he declared it a draw). In 1958 he covered the filming of One Eyed Jacks for Life whilst also acting as a "Fat Checker" for Brando; "I'd point to my chin, telling him to keep his head up so there wouldn't be a double chin." In 1979 Shaw published his photographs and reminiscences in Brando in the Camera Eye.

Shaw first met Monroe on the set of Viva Zapata, where she worked as his driver. When he read the script of The Seven Year Itch he thought of Monroe for the part of "the girl upstairs", and recalled photographs he had taken for Friday magazine of sailors at Coney Island, with their girlfriends' skirts blowing in the wind. He devised the publicity stunt in which Monroe's skirt was blown up by a gust of air escaping from an subway vent on Lexington Avenue. The event gathered 15,000 fans (and almost as many journalists), blocked Manhattan traffic and ended her marriage to Joe DiMaggio. Shaw himself took the official photographs of the scene in the film, which were shot in studio.

These impossibly famous images later led to a $100m lawsuit Shaw brought against his son Larry for illegally reproducing Marilyn pictures. Shaw himself published three books about the actress: Marilyn Monroe as The Girl (1955), The Joy of Marilyn (1979) and Marilyn Among Friends (1987).

The first film Shaw produced was Paris Blues in 1961, under the auspices of Marlon Brando's company "Pennebaker". A romantic tale of jazz musicians in France, starring Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier, it was very much of Shaw's aesthetic, and included a moody score by Louis Armstrong. The link between this movie and Cassavetes's films is obvious, a poetic vision of bruised male grace and nocturnal camaraderie.

Shaw introduced Cassavetes to burlesque houses in 1950s New York and remained one of his most devoted collaborators. Indeed a section in Husbands where the men discover themselves transported in a drunken fugue to London was inspired by Shaw's experiences during Viva Zapata. Shaw left Brando drunk on set in Texas one night; the next day he was spotted strolling in Manhattan.

Shaw was also Cassavetes's production designer on Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), a storyboard artist for several films and producer of A Woman Under the Influence (1974, for which he also won several international awards for his advertising campaign), Opening Night (1978) and Gloria (1980).

Many of Shaw's best photographs of Cassavetes were published in the German book Cassavetes: DirActor (1993) and shown both at the Museum of Modern Art (Moma) in New York and the Venice Biennale.

Adrian Dannatt

Sam Shaw, photographer and film producer: born New York 15 January 1912; married (one son, two daughters); died Westwood, New Jersey 5 April 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea


In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops


Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game