‘Objects of Desire: Collecting Marilyn Monroe’, featuring interviews with Scott Fortner, Darren Julien and David Gainsborough Roberts, appears in this month’s Jumeirah, an exclusive magazine for hotel customers in London, New York and Dubai.
A 1954 X-ray of Marilyn Monroe’s chest is reported to have sold for $45,000 (about £30,000) at the ‘Hollywood Legends’ auction in Las Vegas this weekend. Here’s the item description from Julien’s Auctions:
“X-ray of Marilyn Monroe’s chest. Printed on the x-ray is the following information, ‘Cedars of Lebanon Hospital/Drs. E. Freedman and S. Finck/ Name Di Maggio Marilyn/ No. 50612 Date 11-10-54/ Ref. By Dr. L. Krohn.’ As a radiology resident at Cedars, a young doctor obtained these x-rays. When he taught at the school himself, he used these x-rays to ensure that students were paying attention. Monroe was said to have known about the x-rays and their use, about which she said ‘Isn’t that sweet.’ Monroe’s hospital visit was said to be for her chronic endometriosis – or as her doctor’s described it, ‘For correction of a female disorder she has suffered for years.’ Accompanied by a copy of the X-Ray. 17 by 13 3/4 inches”
It’s hard to know what to make of Marilyn’s comment at the time, or how she might have felt about this sale.
The X-Ray dates from November 1954, when Marilyn underwent surgery to relieve her chronic endometriosis. Photos taken of her leaving Cedars of Lebanon Hospital the following day showed her to be extremely distressed by the paparazzi’s presence.
To illustrate this point, I have posted the least upsetting photo from this occasion above (I have no intention of posting the X-ray here. This is a personal decision, those who wish to see it can search on Google.)
In The X-Rays of Others, an article for yesterday’s Huffington Post, Dr Elaine Schattner criticises the auction:
“It seems ironic that Monroe, who was hospitalized for gynecological reasons and died childless, has no descendants to hold her records near, to intervene or somehow say ‘no, the x-rays are off-limits.’ Rather, it’s her doctor’s children who’ve cut the deal.
I can’t help thinking that she, who struggled so in her life, in and out of strangers’ households, love affairs and flicks, is defenseless now again. The films render her vulnerable, again, to more inspection. The loss of privacy is irrevocable, a violation after death.”
Marilyn Monroe’s Ceil Chapman evening gown is displayed next to Anna Nicole Smith’s custom painted Marilyn Monroe dresser at Julien’s Auctions annual summer sale at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino June 24-27, 2010, in Las Vegas,Nevada.
Scott Fortner has noted on his blog that while beautiful, the gown is partially damaged due to neglect over the years since Marilyn died. Sadly, this is true of many of Monroe’s former possessions – but still, they continue to sell at high prices. Another Chapman gown belonging to the star sold at Christie’s for $100,000 in 1999.
“Ceil Chapman began her career in New York, her first company was ‘Her Ladyship Gowns’ started in 1940 with partner Gloria Vanderbilt. The she went on to another company labeled ‘A Chapman Original’ which later became simply ‘Ceil Chapman’. She was a popular, talented designer through the early 1960’s. Known for her exquisite draping that enhanced the female form, she became a favorite among many stars of the era, such as Deborah Kerr and Elizabeth Taylor. Rumor has it she was the favorite designer of Marilyn Monroe.
Her specialty was evening, formal wear, done in silks, taffeta, chiffon and organdy, embellished with beading and lace. She designed a great deal for movies and television.”
But is it the same dress that Marilyn wore, asks collector Scott Fortner today…
“The dress Marilyn actually wore in the film (below) is a vibrant and shiny fabric, quite unlike the material of the dress sold at auction (above). In many other examples of proven authentic costumes, they look very much today the same way they did when worn by Marilyn in her films. Most often the colors match, as do the materials and fabrics … The dress that sold at auction is likely a copy of the dress that Marilyn actually wore. We’ll never know for sure if this was in fact the dress Marilyn wore in the number, though personally I don’t believe that to be the case. What is undeniable is the fact that there is more than one pink dress as there are actually two known to exist today.”
UPDATE: A last word from Andrew Hansford, author of Dressing Marilyn, a book about Travilla’s costumes…
“I was asked by the press if this was the original dress. I did a lot of research and found the following: it had all the right tags and studio numbers so I have to assume it was a Travilla, however and how many time I have said this is amazing, he always made a few of the dresses to check shape and wearability especially in this gown as it was so complicated to create. The dress she wore did have felt lining, this one has not – so no it was not worn in the film. I may have been tried on by her. But it stops there. The dress in the Travilla collection is a prototype and has so many corrections and alterations on it, including at least three cut out linings, which I can only assume did not work. Hense the felt. From his notes he stated she wore two identical copies in that scene as it took so long to shoot and of course no retouching then, any dirt on it and on with the next one.”
Julien’s Auctions are offering property from the personal and professional life of Marilyn Monroe to be auctioned on June 26th and 27th at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, Las Vegas.
A collection of items from the estate of Dr Ralph Greenson, Monroe’s psychiatrist in the last two years of her life, are featured, including a therapy couch from Greenson’s Beverly Hills office, and a chest X-Ray of his famous patient from the early 1950s.
(Some Monroe fans, myself included, may find this more than a little morbid…)
Also on offer are handwritten correspondence between Marilyn and Dr Greenson’s daughter, Joan, then a teenager; and a pink Pucci blouse given by Marilyn to Joan: additionally, there is a chair from Marilyn’s home, a Chanel No. 5 bottle owned by the star, an early portrait by David Conover, and snaps taken by servicemen during Monroe’s 1954 trip to Korea.
An interesting sidenote: items from the personal estate of Anna Nicole Smith are also up for auction. Smith, a glamour model and tabloid favourite until her tragic death in 2007, was an ardent Monroe fan and even lived in the star’s last home for a while.
For those unable to attend the auction in person, bids will also be taken online (in real time) and by telephone. Alternatively, interested parties can order a full ‘Hollywood Legends’ catalogue for the rather grand price of $100.