That iconic scene from The Seven Year Itch – and the dress worn by Marilyn as she stood over the subway grate – is constantly being referenced in popular culture. One recent example is this magazine ad for the Marilyn-themed Sexy Hair brand.
On Immortal Marilyn this week, Marijane Gray unravels the mystery of what happened to that dress, designed by Marilyn’s regular costumer, Travilla.
“The white pleated halter dress that Marilyn Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch is always described in superlatives: most iconic, most recognized, most recreated, most expensive. It can also be called the most mysterious: how many copies of the dress were there? Is there another one in existence, hidden away all these years? Did Marilyn herself own a copy of the dress, and if so, where did it end up? And perhaps most intriguing: was a copy of the dress really stolen back in 1993?”
Also this week, Keena Al-Wahaidi reviews the movie that started it all for The Medium, the student magazine for the University of Toronto. (Incidentally, the campus is based at Mississauga, which is also home to a skyscraper complex whose curvaceous design has earned the nickname The Marilyn Monroe Towers.)
“The most notable aspect of The Girl is her obliviousness towards her own allure …. The most dubious fixture of this film is the lack of identity in Monroe’s character. The reason for her ambiguity is because she’s nameless … However, Monroe’s lack of identity contributes to the mystery of the film’s plot. Regardless of the immorality of the situation, we find ourselves rooting for Richard and The Girl. Despite the futility of their relationship, or perhaps owing to it, their fling is undeniably enthralling.”
In daily life, Marilyn often went unrecognised. This rare photo shows her wearing a black wig. When travelling ‘incognito‘, she sometimes used false names (including ‘Zelda Zonk’.)
In the summer of 1953, Joe DiMaggio joined Marilyn in Canada, where she was filming River of No Return. She took these snapshots of Joe during his visit. Also pictured is Jean Negulesco, who had directed Marilyn in How to Marry a Millionaire. Although his work on River was uncredited, Negulesco may have helped to smooth the differences between Marilyn and the somewhat tyrannical Otto Preminger.
Shortly before her third marriage to Arthur Miller, Marilyn converted to Judaism. This Jewish prayer book was probably a gift from Rabbi Robert E. Goldburg.
Some photos of Arthur Miller, including one taken with Marilyn in 1959.
Marilyn’s Minolta 16mm camera. This model was introduced in 1957.
These photos are of the farmhouse at Roxbury, Connecticut, bought by the Millers after their marriage. It is incorrectly identified in the Julien’s catalogue as Marilyn’s Los Angeles abode. The Millers’ country home required extensive renovations. After their marriage ended, Marilyn kept their city apartment while Arthur lived at Roxbury until his death in 2005.
Marilyn with her friend, actor Eli Wallach, in 1957. They would later co-star in The Misfits (1961.)
Correspondence with Xenia Chekhov, widow of Marilyn’s acting teacher, Michael Chekhov.
“A single-page typed, unsigned file copy of a letter dated December 19, 1958, to ‘Mrs. Chekhov’ reading ‘My husband and I were so happy with the pictures you sent us of Mr. Chekhov. We will treasure them forever. I am not able to shop for Christmas, as you may already know I have lost the baby, so I would like you to use this check as my Christmas greetings with all my most affectionate good wishes. My husband sends you his warmest regards.’ The letter is accompanied by Xenia Chekhov’s response written on a notecard dated January 10, 1959, reading in part, ‘[Y]our personal sad news affected me very much and I could not find the courage to write you sooner. All my warmest feelings of sympathy go out to you and Mr. Miller.’ This is a deeply personal note with an acknowledgement of a miscarriage in Monroe’s own words.”
“An assortment of receipts from seven different bookstores: including: Doubleday Book Shop, Beekman Place Bookshop, and E. Weyhe Inc., all of New York City, and Wepplo’s Book Store, Lee Freeson, Martindale’s Book Stores and Hunter’s Books, all of Los Angeles. Titles include The Great Gatsby; Van Gogh’s Great Period; I , Rachel; An Encyclopedia of Gardening; Hi – Lo’s – Love Nest; a book listed simply as ‘Yves Montand’, among others. The receipts are dated 1958 and 1960.”
A Royal Quiet de Luxe model typewriter owned by Marilyn.
Various letters from Marilyn to her stepdaughter, Jane Miller.
“A 1957 letter is written to Janie at summer camp and recounts a number of amusing stories about Hugo the Bassett Hound reading in part, ‘He got kicked by that donkey. Remember him? His nose swelled up with a big lump on top and it really wrecked his profile. I put an ice pack on it and it took several days for it to go down but the last time I saw him it was pretty well healed. Bernice is taking care of him and the house while I am at the hospital.We are going home tomorrow and then I will write you by hand. Listen, I had better stop now because I want to get off a note to Bobby today. Don’t worry about me in the hospital. I am feeling much better now and I have the funniest Scotch nurse.’ (Marilyn had recently been taken to hospital after suffering an ectopic pregnancy.)
The 1958 letter is typed on the back of a piece of stationery from the Hotel Bel-Air and is addressed, ‘Dear Janie-bean.’ The letter, written as Marilyn prepared for Some Like It Hot, reads in part, ‘Thanks for helping me into my white skirt. I almost didn’t make it -but now that I’m busier I’ll start losing weight – you know where. Along with ukulele lessons I have to take I’m learning three songs from the 1920 period. … I don’t know how my costumes in the picture will be yet. I’ll let you know.'”
Three colour slides from the estate of Frieda Hull, showing the Millers leaving New York for Los Angeles in November 1959. Marilyn’s parakeet, Butch, travelled with them. He was a noisy passenger, constantly squawking, “I’m Marilyn’s bird!”
An electroplate ice bucket, made in England, and a receipt for 12 splits of Piper Heidsieck champagne, delivered to the Millers’ bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel during filming of Let’s Make Love in December 1959.
Address books from 1955 and 1962. The first includes a handwritten ‘to-do list’, with entries such as “as often as possible to observe Strassberg’s [sic.] other private classes”; “never miss my actors studio sessions”; “must make strong effort to work on current problems and phobias that out of my past has arisen.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Julien’s sale is that Marilyn was planning to buy a home in New York, even commissioning a series of architectural drawings for a property on East 61st Street in November 1961. In addition to her rented Manhattan apartment, she bought a small bungalow in Los Angeles in 1962, but clearly hadn’t given up her dream of a permanent East Coast base.
“An original letter from John E. Holland of the Charles F. Noyes Real Estate Company dated October 18, 1961, addressed to Miss Marilyn Monroe, 444 East 57th Street, New York, “Attention: Miss Marjorie Stengel” (Monroe’s secretary). The letter reads in part, ‘L]ast summer Mr. Ballard of our office, and I showed you the house at the corner of 57th Street and Sutton Place and Mr. Arthur Krim’s house on Riverview Terrace. I spoke to Miss Stengel yesterday and told her of a house which we have just gotten listed for sale at 241 East 61st Street. She asked me to send you the particulars on this house as she thought you might be interested in it. I am enclosing our setup. … The garden duplex apartment is now occupied by the owner and would be available to a purchaser for occupancy. You may possibly have been in this apartment as Miss Kim Novak … just moved out in September. Before that it was occupied by Prince Aly Khan.’
An original letter from John E. Holland of the Charles F. Noyes Real Estate Company dated November 15, 1961, addressed to Miss Marjorie Stengel, stating, ‘I am enclosing herewith Photostats which I had made of the drawings adding a stairway which would include all or half of the third floor with the duplex garden apartments. These sketches may be somewhat confusing, but I could easily explain them if you would like to have me do so,’ together with six Photostat copies of original architectural drawings for the redesign of an apartment located at 241 East 61st Street in New York. The drawings go into great detail as to the redesign of the apartment, with space for an art studio and specific notes stating, ‘This could be another bedroom or boudoir, or health studio with massage table, chaise lounge, private living room…or…with numerous closets.'”
This grey pony handbag may have been bought by Marilyn during her February 1962 trip to Mexico. She was also a keen gardener, and a Horticulture magazine subscriber.
“An extraordinary, blue cloth over board, ‘project management‘ three-ring binder kept by one of Monroe’s assistants chronicling the purchase and ongoing renovation and decoration of her home located at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, California. The notebook begins with an information sheet and lot diagram as well as a typed renovation and additions budget for the property totaling $34,877.36 against a purchase price of $57,609.95. The book also contains approximately 28 pages of notes on various renovation projects and to-do lists; a page with notes regarding terracing and planting the hillside; seven drawings of exterior floor plan for possible apartment above the garage for a cook; three renderings of options for a table and another decorative element for the home; and a listing of bills due as of August 16, 1962. The last page of the book lists ‘Moet – Champagne vintage 1952/ et Chandon a Epernay/ Cuvee Dom Perignon – 13.88.’ The book lists dates that furniture is due to be delivered from various suppliers, many after Monroe’s death, as well as dimensions of each room of the home for the purpose of ordering ‘white India’ carpet. It also has estimates to have the pool resurfaced, water heater moved, fountain built, and laundry room and shower expanded for people using the pool as well as notes about decoration of a ‘play room,’ fabrication of a new gate, bars for windows, and shelving to be built, among many other things.
A group of invoices dating to February 28, 1962, from various Mexican boutiques listing the purchase of a great number of pieces of furniture and home furnishings, purchased in Mexico for Monroe’s Fifth Helena Drive residence. Together with a two-page typed signed letter dated July 26, 1962, signed ‘Mura’, giving a full report to Monroe’s secretary Eunice Murray regarding her buying trip in Mexico. The letter demonstrates the fact that Monroe was still quite actively working on her home at the time of her death.”
David Bald Eagle, the Lakota chief whose adventurous life included several movie appearances, has died aged 97, NPR reports. Although uncredited, he may have met Marilyn in Canada, during production of River of No Return in 1953. Might Dave Bald Eagle have been among these men with whom she was photographed on location?
“In the U.K., the headlines note the passing of a Dances With Wolves actor. But appearing in an Oscar-award-winning film was one of the least interesting things David Bald Eagle ever did…
In his long, extraordinary life, he was a champion dancer — both ballroom and Lakota styles — a touring musician, a rodeo cowboy, a tribal chief, an actor, a stunt double, a war hero.
He danced with Marilyn Monroe. He drove race cars. He parachuted into enemy gunfire at Normandy. He played professional baseball. He was a leader not just of his tribe, but of the United Native Nations. He was an advocate for Native people.
And he was a bridge between the past and present — a man who, in his childhood, heard stories from survivors of the Battle of Little Bighorn.
He started race car driving, tried skydiving, returned to the rodeo circuit, took up bareback bull riding, became a stunt double in the movies.
Shooting Westerns required ‘people who can actually ride horses,’ as Sonny Skyhawk puts it. Skyhawk is a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation who has been a film actor for nearly four decades.
So Bald Eagle, a talented rider, went on to appear in dozens of Hollywood films — which is how he met, and danced with, Marilyn Monroe.
The Westerns he was in represented Native people as less than human, Skyhawk says: ‘We were always being shot down or killed. With one bullet five or more Indians would fall.’
But Bald Eagle always tried to teach people about Native American history and life, whatever was happening around him, Skyhawk says.”
Floral tributes were left by Marilyn’s crypt at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles on what would be her 90th birthday, while devoted fans like Monica Shahri visited in person.
Canadian fan Billy made a heart-shaped card for Marilyn…
And there was cake too, courtesy of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the team behind the Golden Globes.)
The L.A.-based fanclub, Marilyn Remembered, organised a donation to Hollygrove, the former children’s home where Marilyn once lived. Now known as EMQ Families First, the charity has launched a new fundraising drive, ‘Modern Marilyn‘.
Everlasting Star admin Sirkuu Aaltonen went on a book hunt…
And UK superfan Megan posted a touching tribute on her personal blog.
“Another year has gone by and Marilyn’s star keeps growing brighter and brighter, people are still fascinated and enthralled by this beautiful soul. Did Marilyn have her faults? Of course she did, it’s hard to believe, I know, but she was a human being just like us. I love Marilyn for Marilyn and that will never change. I’d like to think that there are more genuine fans who love and respect Marilyn than conspiracy lovers who just follow their ignorance.”
Canadian-born celebrity photographer Douglas Kirkland’s iconic 1961 images of Marilyn wrapped in silk sheets (as well as his 2001 remake with Angelina Jolie) are featured in a retrospective at the Izzy Gallery in Toronto, Canada, as Nigel Hunt reports for CBC.
“Kirkland recalled how, as a young photographer, he went to meet the movie star in her apartment to discuss ideas for the photo shoot.
‘She said: I know what we need. We need a bed, a white silk sheet, Dom Pérignon champagne and Frank Sinatra records. We don’t need anything more. And I’m going to be in that bed with nothing on!’
‘Could you imagine what a young man like me was thinking?’
That session produced several images that count among the most iconic shots of the much-photographed screen starlet.
For that, Kirkland credits the sexual energy in the room that emanated from his subject.
‘She was just under this white silk sheet, nothing on. And I’m a kid from Fort Erie!'”
Canadian artist Sandra Chevier’s Cages, currently on display in Hong Kong, blends images of Marilyn and other iconic women with comic strip superheroes, reports Time Out. (The portrait above is based on Richard Avedon’s 1957 photo, while the image below draws on a 1953 studio shot by Frank Powolny.)
“Cages is about women trying to find freedom from society’s twisted preconceptions of what a woman should or shouldn’t be. The women encased in these cages of brash imposing paint or comic books that mask their very person symbolise the struggles that women go through [facing] false expectations of beauty and perfection, as well as the limitations society places on women, corrupting what truly is beautiful by placing women in these prisons of identity. By doing so, society is asking them to become superheroes.”
The TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto is screening a series of movies starring Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn this month, including almost every major Monroe film from Don’t Bother to Knock to The Misfits. This is a tie-in with a current exhibition, Andy Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen, on display until January 24, 2016.
“One raven-haired, the other blindingly blonde, the actresses form a kind of dark/light chiaroscuro — a term mostly inappropriate to Warhol’s jewel-toned, flatly rendered paintings and silkscreens of the two. Dissimilar in image and sensibility (one vulnerable, the other seemingly invincible), Liz and Marilyn were nevertheless sisters in notoriety by the time Warhol turned them into icons of Pop Art — Monroe for perishing young, quite possibly a suicide, Taylor for her unapologetic avarice in accumulating husbands, lovers, jewels, and the highest salary ever paid an actress, all with ferocious alacrity. Their shared talent for scandal and reputations as miscreants on set — ‘No company can afford Monroe and Taylor,’ a spokesman for 20th Century Fox stated after Monroe was fired from Something’s Got to Give — were equalled, for Warhol, by their ability to make the screen shimmer with an ineffable allure. If, as he famously averred, ‘beauty is a sign of intelligence’, no stars were brighter.”
You can read more about Liz, Marilyn and Warhol here.
Canadian superfan Billy Krzemien shared this hauntingly beautiful mural on Immortal Marilyn‘s Facebook group today…
“Proof that our sweet Marilyn is EVERYWHERE….My dear friend Sheila was visiting her brother recently in a small town called, Chetwynd (northern part of our British Columbia), when upon a walk with her friend, spotted this mural painted on a building. Her friend surprisingly had no idea who the subject was (*shocker*), but Sheila sure did…and told her that she knows someone (me), that he was a huge fan/collector, and would love this! I sure do! Sheila believes that it was painted a good number of years ago, as it has been weathering with time and the elements. Sheila says there are many other murals of other subjects painted on buildings there, to deter tagging and grafitti…WORKS, as no one has dared to ruin another artist’s work. Of course if someone defaced this, they’d have to answer to me and a whole army of Marilyn fans! Anyway, I love this mural, inspired by a 1953 photo session, that Marilyn had with photographer Milton H. Greene…Her first with him, for LOOK magazine…and a collaboration that would go from 1953-1957…Sessions that would go on to become some of the most beautiful photos taken of Marilyn, ever!”
One of the world’s leading authors, Margaret Atwood, has referenced Marilyn in her latest sci-fi novel, The Heart Goes Last. “Elvis really put it out there,” she told Toronto Metro. “I was also a Marilyn fan. It’s my little homage to the Elvises and the Marilyns.”
Atwood, who is Canadian, begins the chapter entitled ‘Black Suit’ with a reference to MM’s sultry performance in Niagara. In another chapter, ‘Dressups’, a character transforms into a Marilyn-style robot. (A ‘Monroebot’ previously featured in a 2001 episode of the animated series, Futurama.)
“Black flatters me, thinks Charmaine, checking herself in the powder room mirror. Aurora had known where to take her shopping, and though black has never been her colour, Charmaine’s not negative about the results. The black suit, the black hat, the blond hair – it’s like a white chocolate truffle with dark chocolate truffles all around it; or like, who was that? Marilyn Monroe in Niagara, in the scene right before she gets strangled, with the white scarf she never should have worn, because women in danger of being strangled should avoid any fashion accessories that tie around the neck. They’ve shown that movie a bunch of times on Positron TV and Charmaine watched it every time. Sex in the movies used to be so much more sexy than it became after you could actually have sex in the movies. It was languorous and melting, with sighing and surrender and half-closed eyes. Not just a lot of bouncy athletics.
Of course, she thinks, Marilyn’s mouth was fuller than her own, and you could use very thick red lipstick back then. Does she herself have that innocence, that surprised look? Oh! Goodness me! Big doll eyes. Not that Marilyn’s innocence was much in evidence in Niagara. But it was, later.”