Pop Culture

Never-before-seen Marilyn Monroe photos up for auction

Makeup artist Allan "Whitey" Snyder had a unique and complicated connection to Marilyn Monroe: Friends and co-workers, the two worked together from an early screen test in 1946 until her death, and she even asked him for an extraordinary favor once. Now, Snyder's estate (Whitey died in 1994) has put up for auction many photos he took of Monroe in a professional and personal capacity over the years -- many of which have never been seen.

"It's spectacular," said Martin Nolan of Julien's Auction House, who brought several of the photos going up for auction on March 31 to the TODAY studio Friday, and spoke to Matt Lauer. "He was involved with her on the set and off the set, Matt, so he had amazing, privileged access."

Many of the photos were taken in the 1940s and 1950s and show Monroe smiling, giving her all to the camera while on location for some of her well-known and lesser-known films. Reportedly, Snyder would photograph Monroe to calm her down when she was feeling jittery.

"The camera loved Marilyn Monroe, but Marilyn loved the camera," said Nolan. "When the camera was rolling she became Marilyn Monroe. She became distracted from her own issues and just played the role. She loved the camera."

But it wasn't all about fun and games: Once, Monroe asked Snyder that if she died before he did, would he be the makeup artist for her body. Making a dark joke, Snyder told her, "Sure, drop off the body while it's still warm and I'll do it." Proving Monroe had her own appreciation for that kind of humor, she bought him a gold Tiffany money clip -- which Nolan brought into the studio, and which is also up for auction -- that is engraved: "Dear Whitey, While I'm still warm, Marilyn."

"That's gross," said Lauer, after Nolan showed the clip. "I'm glad you told the story and not me."

Ultimately, Snyder did Monroe's makeup for her funeral, and was one of her pallbearers; other items in the auction include memorabilia from his estate including a clipping showing him carrying her coffin.

For the auction, not just the photos are going up for sale, Nolan noted: In some cases, the rights to the photos are also up for sale -- the buyer will be able to reap royalties from republishing them. It's a good investment, said Nolan: "(Marilyn memorabilia) continue to increase year over year, it's unbelievable. ... She's still relevant today, and of course that adds value. She's a global icon."

To see some of the items up for auction, be sure to click on the slideshow above.

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