More than 50 years after Marilyn Monroe’s death, she stars in a previously unseen film that premieres Thursday in New York City. It’s a grainy, color 8mm production, shot on location in Manhattan and only 5½ minutes long — filmed in 1955 by a teenage fan who skipped school to meet the platinum blonde movie queen.
“The whole day she played with me,” recalled filmmaker Peter Mangone of Fort Lauderdale in a 2006 interview with Katie Couric. “People that have filmed her said no one captured her like the [15-year-old] kid, because she wasn’t threatened, she wasn’t afraid. It wasn’t going to be in the paper so I got the real girl.”
Mangone won’t be there when his brief film is finally screened this week at the Danziger Gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. He died Dec. 11 of lung cancer at age 73.
“This is his legacy,” said Miami financial planner Daniel Pye, Mangone’s partner for 33 years, who will attend the New York opening.
Mangone met Monroe in March 1955 after her split from ballplayer Joe DiMaggio. She was living in New York to study at Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio.
The Bronx boy read in the gossip columns that she was staying at the old Gladstone Hotel on East 52nd Street near Lexington Avenue. One day he showed up at the hotel with a still camera and took Monroe’s photo. He came back the next day and asked her to autograph it.
“And the next day, I’d have a reason to go back,” Mangone told Couric. “Then I’d go back with a little Brownie camera and take the picture.”
This ritual went on for several weeks and he became friendly with the superstar, then age 28.
“She would give me rides to the subway if it was raining. One day she gave me candies to take home and I ate most of it on the subway,” Mangone told Couric.
One morning, Mangone slipped out of his home with his older brother’s wind-up Revere 8mm movie camera.
“He was literally with her from the morning until it was dusk,” Pye said. “She had lunch at 21. That was her favorite restaurant. She shopped at I. Magnum for shoes, Elizabeth Arden.”
As the ninth-grader ran backwards ahead of Monroe, filming, the star flirted with him — blowing kisses as she strolled along Fifth Avenue with two friends, fashion photographer Milton H. Greene and dress designer George Nardiello.
Most of the time, though, she just acted naturally. Despite being among the most famous women in the world, Monroe managed to stroll the streets without drawing much attention.
“In the middle of the day and nobody was bothering her,” Pye said. “Imagine if Madonna was walking down Fifth Avenue.”
Afterward, Mangone never again saw Monroe in person. For nearly a half-century, he didn’t see his movie, either.
Mangone thought he accidentally threw out the film.
In 2002, following a successful career as a South Florida celebrity hairdresser, Mangone got a call from his brother.
After the call, Mangone said to Pye, “You’ll never believe what Lou found. He found the Marilyn film!”
It had been packed away in their father’s home all those years.
Mangone and Pye took the movie to a production company in Baltimore, which transferred the 9,212 color frames to 16mm film.
Pye said Mangone was “floored” the first time he saw the restored film. “He was amazed,” Pye said. “We kept watching it over and over again.”
Last year, Mangone assembled still frames from the film and published a 48-page book, Marilyn Monroe: NYC, 1955: Photographs by Peter Mangone.
Mangone and New York City gallery owner James Danziger originally planned to screen the film (in a continuous loop), along with framed stills in August 2012. To avoid competing with another nearby Monroe gallery exhibit, they delayed the opening until Nov. 1. Then Superstorm Sandy struck, flooding the Danziger Gallery’s first floor exhibit space and forcing the exhibit to be postponed again, this time until Jan. 10.
In August, Mangone was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died four months later.
“We’re obviously sad that Peter won’t be here for this,” Danziger said. “What would be the end of a long journey for him will be a celebration of his life.”