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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition