Over at Beam Fashion, Nadja Beschetnikova looks at the stories behind Marilyn’s three ‘most expensive dresses’ (which sold for the highest prices at auction.)
“Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend
‘Apart from the two side seams, the dress was folded into shape rather like cardboard. Any other girl would have looked like she was wearing cardboard, but on-screen I swear you would have thought Marilyn had on a pale, thin piece of silk. Her body was so fabulous it still came through’ – Travilla
The Seven Year Itch
Travilla called it ‘that silly little dress’. The dress indeed has a simple sewing pattern with a typical silhouette for a cocktail dress, which was in vogue in the 1950s and 1960s. Although the designer never paid much heed to his creation, it’s now one of the most famous dresses of all time.
Happy Birthday Mr President
Jean Louis had originally designed a version of the dress for Marlene Dietrich. Her live performances always had almost a magical effect to the audience thanks in no small part to her fascinating outfits. This backless flesh-colored gown remains an example to emulate for modern celebrities and pioneered the trend for ‘naked’ dresses.”
A month-long retrospective dedicated to Hollywood’s greatest blonde icons – Marilyn and Marlene Dietrich – is now in progress at MIC: The Interactive Cinema Museum in Milan, Italy. Still to come are The Seven Year Itch (August 6); There’s No Business Like Show Business (August 9); Let’s Make Love (August 10); Bus Stop (August 12); Niagara (August 13); Don’t Bother to Knock (August 16); How to Marry a Millionaire (August 19); Bert Stern: Original Madman (August 20); Monkey Business (August 23); Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days (August 24); Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (August 26); and Some Like It Hot (August 27.)
“‘Women stars in Hollywood were invariably in one of two categories,’ said director Otto Preminger. ‘One group was made up of women who were exploited by men, and the other, much smaller group was composed of women who survived by acting like men.’ Beginning with silent film vamp Theda Bara and continuing with icons like Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch, this study of film industry misogyny describes how female stars were maltreated by a sexist studio system–until women like Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis fought for parity. The careers of Doris Day, Brigitte Bardot, Carole Landis, Francis Farmer, Dorothy Dandridge, Inger Stevens and many others are examined, along with more recent actresses like Demi Moore and Sharon Stone. Women who worked behind the scenes, writing screenplays, producing and directing without due credit, are also covered.”
Hollywood’s Second Sex is published by McFarland, and as with their previous titles – including Les Harding’s They Knew Marilyn Monroe and Michelle Vogel’s MM: Her Life, Her Films – it has an intriguing premise, but a rather hefty cover price.
In another recent academic release, Palgrave’s Sex and Film: The Erotic in British, American and World Cinema, author Barry Forshaw also references Marilyn. The cover photo depicts Marlene Dietrich in a sultry pose, and reminds us of how the Blonde Venus star’s heady glamour influenced later sex symbols, including MM.
“Marilyn Monroe was virtually a living refutation of the censor’s anti-sex ethos. Her elemental carnality simply refused to be cossetted within the constraints of the day, even though such Monroe vehicles as Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch tended to be rejigged for the cinema … But it is somewhat limiting to consider Monroe as simply a sex symbol; so iconic and all-pervading is her presence that she might be said to represent the medium itself, albeit in a self-parodying form. That knowing burlesque of her own image is to be seen in such movies as Howard Hawks’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953.) What’s more, for modern viewers there are overtones of the tragic … but even had Monroe been able to grow old and pile on the weight – as her British opposite number Diana Dors did, the latter becoming a respected character actress – there is little doubt that she would have continued to embody a particular image of female sexuality in the cinema.”
Three French Marilyn-related books have been published recently. Frank Bertrand’sLes Trois Reines d’Hollywoodlooks at Marilyn alongside Dietrich and Garbo; while Zelda Zonkis a novel by Laurence Peyrin, taking MM’s sometime pseudonym as its title. How much it pertains to Marilyn herself, I don’t know.
Most intriguing of all is Marilyn, Une Femme Meconnue. Author Andree Parent’s book is a study of Marilyn’s time in Canada (though the cover, oddly enough, shows her in Korea!)
A series of lurid allegations from celebrity muckraker Darwin Porter’s forthcoming book, Marilyn at Rainbow’s End, are published in this week’s Globe. Most of these rumours are nothing new, and some I find hardly believable. You can read the article here.
Among his claims are that Marilyn had lesbian affairs with Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich and Elizabeth Taylor; that Marilyn aborted JFK’s lovechild; and that she had an ’emotional hotel summit’ with first lady Jackie Kennedy days before her death.
Marilyn appears – via the wonder of CGI – alongside Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich in a new commercial for Christian Dior’s J’Adore fragrance, starring Charlize Theron – an actress sometimes compared to MM.