“Do You Want To See Her?”

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Marilyn’s stay in New York led to her marriage to Arthur Miller and an attempt to become a conventional wife and mother in Connecticut while making a few movies that showed acting ability as well as amplitude of flesh and spirit.

Eddie got married, too, and then he was in the crisis of his life.

The Cliff was a bar on Twenty-third Street. Eddie used his last dime for the phone call, and I went down to keep him from going over the edge.

It had started to go bad a couple of years after the Marilyn story. After my wedding we saw each other less, and so it came as a surprise when he told me he was getting married. She was a blank beauty with high cheekbones and an impervious air who drifted through our times together in a detachment that seemingly spurred Eddie to pour all the energy he used to put into finding the perfect picture into solving her mystery.

At their wedding I was behind the camera, looking at incongruous images of a picture-book bride in white alongside Eddie’s dark suit and sheepish smile, some part of him seeing it all in helpless bemusement. The marriage lasted a few months, during which he gradually worked less and less, then finally stopped altogether before his bride floated out of his life, leaving behind only her enigmatic stare.

After he called that evening, we sat for hours, trying to figure out what he could do, now that he was too paralyzed to do the one thing in life he was meant to do. Finally, I suggested an answer: “Come work for me. I need a picture editor.”

I was the editor of Redbook by then, and the idea made sense. If Eddie could no longer take pictures, he could imagine them, match photographers to subjects, and help them do good work until he could start doing his own again.

For a few months it went well. Once in a while, when he was excited about an assignment, I would say without looking at him, “Of course, you’d be perfect for it,” or, “It’s your kind of story.” Each time he would freeze for a moment before his eyes went blank and he shook his head.

He cut down on his drinking, but the depression got worse. Gradually he came into the office less and less and finally not at all. Then came a phone call from a woman who had been in love with him for years. He had arrived at her door the evening before and died in his sleep during the night.

Over the years I had urged Eddie to try a psychiatrist, but my pleading could not break through his certainty that suffering was inseparable from his gift, that he could not escape one without losing the other. In today’s world he—and Marilyn, for that matter —might have been kept going by medication, but back then there was no such lifeline.

Ever since, those who loved Eddie’s work have tried to get museums to give him the recognition he deserves. But it has been no easier to help him in death than it was during his life. Almost all his prints and negatives, so closely held, scattered and disappeared, magnificent pictures lost forever.

Yet something of him remains alive, linked forever with that other lost soul. On Web sites, in many languages, people are selling prints of a few of those pictures Eddie took of Marilyn that week in 1955. The negatives were found in a warehouse three decades after his death.

Marilyn has inspired rescue fantasies in legions of writers, among them Norman Mailer and Gloria Steinem. Toward the end of his life Arthur Miller looked back and saw himself that way. “I spent five years trying to keep her from falling off the cliff,” he told an interviewer in 2004 while justifying After the Fall , the nasty piece of self-pity he wrote soon after her death.

As Eddie’s would-be savior, I am left with no such soothing consolation, only an abiding sense of loss.

A Marilyn Monroe Chronology