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From the Archives: Marilyn Monroe ‘art’ photo sellers convicted

From the Archives: Marilyn Monroe ‘art’ photo sellers convicted
June 26, 1952: Marilyn Monroe is photographed in court where she testified against Jerry Karpman and Morrie Kaplan, who were accused of trying to sell "indecent" photos of her. (Los Angeles Times)

The two men – Jerry Karpman and Morrie Kaplan – were accused of trying to sell "indecent" photos of young women including Marilyn Monroe. The actress testified against the men.

A story in the next morning’s Los Angeles Times explained:

After actress Marilyn Monroe indignantly denied that she had penned come-on letters to promote the sale of "art studies" advertised as featuring her, two men who traded on her name were found guilty yesterday on five of nine misdemeanor charges against them.

Municipal Judge Kenneth L. Holaday returned the guilty verdict against Jerry Karpman, 46, photographer, and Morrie Kaplan, 32, salesman, after the onetime calendar girl denied she had ever met them.

June 26, 1952: Marilyn Monroe in court during trial of two men accused of trying to sell "indecent"
June 26, 1952: Marilyn Monroe in court examining letters introduced into evidence. Nelson Tiffany / Los Angeles Times

Miss Monroe examined some of the prosecution evidence, including handwritten letters signed with her name. The letters bore a printed return address, also bearing her name.

One of them read in part:

"A short time ago two friends of mine and myself got together and took some pictures in almost every pose imaginable…I feel that these pictures…are worth more than the price I have found ordinary pictures are selling for.”

On the witness stand Miss Monroe denied she had ever posed for any kind of pictures for them or that she had used or authorized use of her name in efforts to sell the objectionable "art" material.

The actress was rushed from 20th Century-Fox studio, where she is working on a picture, by a coterie of press agents and managers. She said her true name is Norma Jeane Dougherty and that she took her professional name when signed by the studio six years ago.

Defense Atty. William J.F. Brown pried into her "right" to the Monroe name and demanded to know if she had ever heard of President James Monroe.

"This is completely immaterial," protested Dep. City Atty. William E. Still.

The actress was excused after 10 minutes of testimony.

The defendants were convicted on charges of sending come-on letters in efforts to sell lewd photographs purportedly made of Miss Monroe, Marilyn Miller and Marilyn Martin; of unlawfully using Miss Monroe's name "for the purpose of selling nude and indecent pictures represented to have been posed by Marilyn Monroe" and of selling without a State license.

Judge Holaday ordered the men back July 17 for probation report and sentence. They are free on bail.

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The July 18, 1952, Los Angeles Times reported that "Karpman got 30 days in City Jail and Kaplan 60 days and each was placed on two years' probation."

This post was originally published on May 20, 2015.

June 26, 1952: Letter entered into evidence during trial against Jerry Karpman and Morrie Kaplan who
June 26, 1952: Letter entered into evidence during trial against Jerry Karpman and Morrie Kaplan who tried to sell "indecent" photos of young women includeing Marilyn Monroe. Los Angeles Times / Los Angeles Times

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here

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