Unveiling Marilyn’s Beautiful Scars

Surgical scars can be seen on Marilyn’s tummy in two of her final photo shoots, with George Barris (left) and Bert Stern (right), and in her ‘nude’ swim scene for the unfinished Something’s Got to Give, as Mehera Bonner reports for Marie-Claire. Marilyn underwent an appendectomy in 1952, and had her gallbladder removed in 1961, a year before she died. She also underwent several operations to alleviate her endometriosis and help her to have children, sadly without success. While surgical procedures are considerably more sophisticated today, our expectations have also increased. While there’s something rather liberating about these gorgeous, unaltered shots, it’s also important to remember that Marilyn – who exerted rigid control over her photo shoots, if not her movies – may herself have wanted to airbrush these photos had she lived long enough to fully review them. In fact, she vetoed many of Stern’s images, marking the rejects with an orange ‘X’; but after her death, he published the session in its entirety.

Now you see her, now you don’t: Marilyn in ‘Something’s Got to Give’

“Though she was famous for her perceived ‘perfection’ and ‘flawlessness’ (all the eye-rolls at the inherent sexism that goes into these terms), Marilyn Monroe had a pretty big scar across her stomach—which appears in both the Last Sitting and in Something’s Got to Give.

The scar itself is the result of gallbladder surgery that occurred before Stern’s famous images were taken. He says Marilyn was self-conscious about it, and called upon her hairdresser George [Masters] for reassurance before shooting. When Stern noticed the scar, he reportedly remembered Diana Vreeland saying to him, ‘I think there’s nothing duller than a smooth, perfect-skinned woman. A woman is beautiful by her scars.’

Diana Vreeland is right: women *are* beautiful with scars. But she’s also incorrect about women without them being dull. Either way, the sometimes-removal of Marilyn’s scar offers a fascinating insight into beauty standards in Old Hollywood—did she ever truly have agency as to how her body was portrayed?

Ironically, Something’s Got to Give was the first time Monroe was ‘allowed’ to expose her belly button on film—as most of her previous swimwear moments were high-waisted. Before her death, she’s said to have quipped ‘I guess the censors are willing to recognize that everybody has a navel.’

Guess what? Everyone has scars too—even Marilyn.”

Inner Marilyn at the Jung Center

The Jung Center in Houston, Texas is a non-profit educational institute, named after Carl Jung and dedicated to the arts, psychology and spirituality. A new exhibition, ‘The Inner Marilyn‘, has just opened and will be on display until June 2.

The items featured are from the collection of Marie Taylor Bosarge, who produced and starred in the 2011 musical, Babydoll Reflects, and is president of the Music Doing Good foundation.

Associated events include ‘The Wounded Feminine’, a lecture and workshop led by psychoanalyst Sharon Martin, and a musical celebration of Marilyn’s life. This compassionate, humane approach sounds very promising.

However, I do have a few concerns – firstly, a chair said to be from Marilyn’s home comes with a letter of authentication by Robert Slatzer, who many consider a fraud (see here.) The chair may well be Marilyn’s, but I think a second opinion is needed.

Also, in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, the Jung Center’s Jerry Ruhl seems to imply that Marilyn may have had up to 13 abortions. This is an uncorroborated rumour propagated by Norman Mailer in his ‘factoid’ biography, Marilyn (1973.) In fact, Marilyn suffered from endometriosis which made her unable to carry pregnancies to term.

“There is no proof of it through medical records and stuff like that though, because abortions were illegal and so no records would have been kept,” Danamo notes on the long-standing MM Pages website. “However, to have that many ‘back-alley’ abortions would have surely messed Marilyn up gynecologically, but her autopsy report doesn’t report any abnormalities of this nature.”