Marilyn Sculpture in Cairo Controversy

A large sculpture of Marilyn, currently on display outside the Cairo Opera House, has stirred up controversy, reports Egypt Independent. Recreating the famous ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch, Ehab al-Asyuti’s sculpture seems derivative of Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’, and some observers have deemed her likeness less than flattering. But while she probably won’t be replacing the Sphinx anytime soon, Marilyn has made quite the comeback – her films were banned in Egypt after she married Arthur Miller and converted to Judaism in 1956.

Yours Retro: Marilyn in the UK

Yours Retro is a great read for lovers of all things vintage, and after several prior appearances, Marilyn finally graces the cover of the latest issue, available now in UK newsagents and via Newsstand. ‘When Marilyn Met Larry ‘, a four-page article by biographer Michelle Morgan, focuses on Marilyn’s time in England filming The Prince and the Showgirl, and there are also pieces of related interest about Cyd Charisse, Picturegoer magazine, and Hollywood censorship. If you collect magazines featuring MM, this is a must-have. (Yours Retro has recently been launched in Australia; however, it is several issues behind, so the UK version is your best bet.)

A Girl, A Grate and the Censors

US poster - unaltered
US poster – unaltered

Although tame by today’s standards, Marilyn’s movies often fell foul of the rigid censorship code of the time. The Seven Year Itch was toned down to gloss over its theme of adultery, while the famous ‘skirt-blowing scene’, which garnered huge publicity, was cut to a minimum.

Even after its release, the film was considered risque. The Irish Examiner notes that posters featuring Marilyn’s windblown skirt were altered so that her thighs were entirely covered. And in Spain, another Catholic country, the same tactic was used.

‘I think they were doing it because they were afraid the local parish priest would close it down,’ said Dublin auctioneer Ian Whyte.

Irish poster
Irish poster
images
Spanish poster

Sex and Censorship: Billy Wilder in Hollywood

Over at Pretty Clever Films today, an interesting look back at director Billy Wilder’s tussles with the Production Code:

“Most of Wilder’s film topics were more risqué than other movies of the time. Take The Seven Year Itch (1955) for example, a film about temptation and marital infidelity. Richard’s (Tom Ewell) family is out of town for the summer, and a gorgeous blonde bombshell (Marilyn Monroe) moves in upstairs. They strike up a friendship, and it’s clear he’s attracted. The specter of adultery rears its ugly head, but since much of the film is told through Richard’s fantasies – not actual infidelity – and is resolved with him joining his wife and family on holiday, Wilder’s suggestive and titillating film fully complies with the Production Code.

In Wilder’s slapstick comedy Some Like it Hot (1959) Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis play down and out Chicago musicians. On the run from gangsters, they dress up in drag to join an all-female band on tour. Both enamoured of the band’s lead singer (Marilyn Monroe), the two men compete for her affections. Hijinks ensue.

By the late 1950s, many directors were getting more daring, and audiences were looking for a loosening of the Code’s standards. Wilder’s Some Like it Hot (1959) was an enormous popular and critical success, but received a ‘Condemned’ rating from the National Legion of Decency. It was released anyway, without Code approval, and its success helped spur on the eventual demise of the Code in 1968.”

However, it seems that Marilyn may have thought the director wasn’t daring enough. In a 1961 interview with W.J. Weatherby, author of Conversations With Marilyn, she said of Wilder, ‘He’s a brilliant moviemaker, but he worries too much about the box office.’

‘Some Like it Hot’ and the Censors

As part of its ‘Essential Movie Library‘ series, Los Angeles magazine explores how Some Like it Hot helped to bring down the National League of Decency, and why Marilyn’s presence has made it such an enduring classic:

“This is the best movie of the sound era’s greatest female star, her unsung skills as a comedienne plainly tethered to the same vulnerability, even instability, that undid her, her performance of  ‘I’m Through With Love’ more personal than anyone intended except maybe Monroe herself…The National League of Decency condemned this instant classic and almost immediately rendered itself obsolete; Kansas wouldn’t allow the film to be shown anywhere in the state, rendering Kansas obsolete too.”

‘Some Like it Hot’ and the Censors

Some Like it Hot was voted ‘funniest film of all time’ by the AFI. Its popularity is so ubiquitous that few stop to consider what made it so special. Over at Film.com, Eric D. Snider asks, ‘What’s the big deal?’

“Some Like It Hot was also one of the nails in the coffin of the Production Code. This was the Motion Picture Association of America’s method of self-censorship, instituted in the 1930s to keep the government from getting involved. By the 1950s, Hollywood was growing restless with the Code, and even after updates were made to reflect the changing times (you were allowed to depict interracial romances now!), there were still a lot of restrictions.

So filmmakers started pushing back. Adhering to the Code was voluntary, technically, but it had long been the accepted wisdom that a movie released without the MPAA’s seal of approval would be a flop, either because theaters wouldn’t play it, or audiences wouldn’t watch it, or both. But the studios gradually began to suspect that this was no longer the case. Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), with its graphic depiction of drug use, couldn’t get MPAA certification — so United Artists released it without one. The film was a commercial and critical success and the recipient of three Oscar nominations. Skipping the MPAA approval process didn’t necessarily spell doom after all.

The MPAA rejected Some Like It Hot because of its double entendre, cross-dressing, vague allusions to homosexuality, and general naughtiness. The studio (United Artists again) released it anyway, and it was, as previously noted, a smash hit. More and more people in Hollywood started saying, “Wait, tell me again why we even have a Production Code…?” After more and more films pushed the limits in the 1960s, the Code was finally abandoned and replaced with the rating system familiar to us now.”