Marilyn tops French Vogue‘s list of Iconic White Dresses in Cinema (with Elizabeth Taylor’s lacy slip from Cat On a Hot Tin Roof and Sharon Stone’s turtle-neck dress from Basic Instinct also making the grade.)
“Among the iconic dresses of the cinema, the white dress remains one of our favorites. When it is not the traditional and classic uniform of the bride, the white dress has a sexy look, immortalized on screen by some of the greatest actresses of all time … When we say ‘white dress at the movies’, we immediately think of the one worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, which is a myth in itself. All it took was one scene to shape the Marilyn legend. At the end of a film session, Richard Sherman and his beautiful neighbor stop above an air vent between Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street in New York City when the hot air from the subway lifts the young woman’s dress. At the age of 29, Marilyn gained legend status with this pleated white cocktail dress designed by costume designer William Travilla, nicknamed the ‘subway dress.'”
As another awards season ends, All About Eve comes third in Vulture‘s ranking of the all-time best Oscar-winning movies – right behind Casablanca and The Godfather.
“Filmmaker Joseph L. Mankiewicz once described his movies as ‘a continuing comment on the manners and mores of contemporary society in general and the male-female relationship in particular.’ Which meant they were also darkly, piercingly funny. Inspired by a Mary Orr story, which had been based on an anecdote relayed to Orr about a particularly ambitious aspiring actress, All About Eve is a wellspring of razor-sharp dialogue and despicable human behavior, telling the story of Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), a massive fan of Broadway giant Margo Channing (Bette Davis) who, slowly but surely, usurps her stardom. A takedown of ego, theater, actors, writers, vanity, and other deadly sins, All About Eve puts the dagger in with such elegance — and then does it again and again.”
While there were no direct nods to Marilyn at this year’s ceremony, British actress Florence Pugh – nominated as Best Supporting Actress for her role as flighty Amy in Little Women – wore a Louis Vuitton gown to Vanity Fair‘s Oscar party which brought to mind a 21st century version of Marilyn’s gold lamé gown, designed by Travilla for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
On the streets in Hollywood, meanwhile, W magazine profiled some of the faces in the crowd…
What’s your name? Monika Ekiert. What brings you to the Oscars tonight? I’m an actress and I just finished a film about Marilyn Monroe, because before, I was in a play, The Seven Year Itch. Are you looking to see any celebrities on the red carpet? I am not looking, I’m an actress. I was famous in Europe, so when I came here it was different, it’s not the same system. Maybe someday soon I can be like them, at the Oscars.
As Shelby Rowe Moyer notes in her ‘History of the Polka Dot’ for South Sound magazine, Marilyn wore a number of polka-dot dresses (and a bikini) to great effect. Originally known as Dotted Swiss, the print took off during the Industrial Revolution and later renamed after the Polka, a Czech peasant dance popularised in the 1830s.
In 1926, the year Marilyn was born, Norma Smallwood seized victory in the Miss America contest wearing a polka-dot bathing suit, and launched a fashion craze. In 1952, Marilyn wore an ivory rayon Ceil Chapman dress with oversized red polka dots while visiting Atlantic City, where she greeted contestants in that year’s Miss America pageant. A year prior, she had caused sensation on the Love Nest set by sporting a bikini with hot pink polka-dots designed by Renié, and considered daring for the era.
The white cotton halter-neck sheath dress that Marilyn wore to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in 1953, designed by Dorothy Jeakins, wasn’t quite ‘polka-dot’ but spotted with eyelets. Marilyn makes her first entrance in The Seven Year Itch (1955) wearing a polka-dot dress, one of Travilla’s spectacular designs for the film. And finally, she wore a blue polka-dot sundress for a photo shoot with Sam Shaw in 1957.
Over 50 Marilyn-related lots will go under the hammer at on December 17-19, as part of the Hollywood – A Collector’s Ransom auction at Profiles in History. Marilyn’s costumes from A Ticket to Tomahawk, Love Nest, and Don’t Bother to Knock, and her fishnet tights from Bus Stop – which went unsold at last year’s Essentially Marilyn event – are back for a second chance. (UPDATE: the brown skirt suit worn by Marilyn in Love Nest has been sold for $30,000 – but again, the other movie costumes went unsold.)
As Simon Lindley reports for Just Collecting, Marilyn’s personal annotated screenplay for The Seven Year Itch is also on offer, with a reserve of $60-80K. (The photo shown above, taken on location in New York, is sold separately.)
“In the film Monroe’s character is known simply as ‘The Girl’, an aspiring actress who serves as the object of the husband’s desires.
But behind her on-screen persona as the blonde sex symbol, Monroe’s extensive handwritten annotations reveal her dedication to her craft.
Throughout the script she has written notes to herself such as ‘Look first indecisive – pause – hesitation – little smile’ and ‘My body into his – sliding into him as if I want to sleep with him right then & there. Swing hips again’.
This preparation and complete understanding of the role in evident in her notes for the famous ‘Subway’ scene, which helped cement her place as a genuine Hollywood icon.
The energy and sexuality which Monroe portrays may seem effortless, but her script notes show she though very carefully about how to play the moment: ‘Child w/a woman. Direct & fem[inine]. Open… This is everything there is in the world. Light & easy. Everything flies out of her. Newborn – the baby looking at the moon for the first time.'”
Screenplay UNSOLD; photo sold for $200
And now, let’s take a closer look at what else is on offer…
“Vintage original 8 x 10 in. photograph taken of 13 year-old Norma Jeane on a trip to Yosemite with ‘Aunt’ Ana Lower and other family members. And sold separately, a vintage original 2-page printed 6.25 x 9 in. Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High School Class of Summer 1941 commencement program. The printed program contains itinerary including music, speeches, and songs. Listed alphabetically in the ‘Graduating Class, June 1941 Girls’ roster of graduates is ‘Baker, Norma Jeane’.”
“Vintage original gelatin silver 8 x 10 in. photograph of Marilyn with her junior high school glee club, smiling in the center of the group. The verso is copiously inscribed with messages to Norma Jeane by her girlfriends, including, ‘To a beautiful, sweet, charming, and darling, adorable Norma Jean’ and ‘I hope your ambition will come true – to stay an old maid all your life’.”
SOLD for $3,000
“A 2-page letter to ‘Cathy’ handwritten in pencil and signed, ‘Norma Jeane’. Written during a period of major transition in her life, Norma Jeane mentions a leave of absence from her job as a parachute inspector at Radioplane. She had recently been ‘discovered’ by US Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit photographer David Conover while working at the plant, and through his connections, had been able to get freelance work as a pin-up model. She writes in full: ‘Thursday. My dearest Cathy, thank you for your sweet little note, why of course of course I like you dear very much, you know that. If I seem a little neglectful at times its because I’m so busy I don’t seem to have any time to catch up on my correspondence, but I promise after this, I shall, do better, honestly I will. Jimmie arrived about three weeks ago and you can imagine how thrilled I was. I only wish he didn’t have to go back. Jimmie and I went up to Big Bear Lake for a week and had a grand time I hope you and Bud will be down soon because I would love for you both to meet him. I’ve been on leave of absence from Radioplane. I shall tell you all about it when I see you honey or I shall write to you later. I have so many things I have to do so I had better close for now but I shall write soon. Tell Bud Hello for me. Love, Norma Jeane.'”
Vintage original 8 x 10 in. cast & crew photo from Marilyn’s first movie, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! She is in the third row, just above leading lady June Haver. SOLD for $1,500
“Vintage original gelatin silver 7 x 8.75 in. double weight matte photograph, inscribed and signed in black ink at lower right, ‘To Grace and Daddy Always Lovingly Norma Jeane 12/25/46′. The ‘daddy’ to whom Norma Jeanne inscribed this early headshot is Erwin ‘Doc’ Goddard, a research engineer and the husband of Norma Jeanne’s legal guardian, Grace Goddard. And sold separately, two oversize glamour portrait photographs of Marilyn Monroe in character as ‘Miss Caswell’ in All About Eve. The first is credit stamped by Ray Nolan with studio snipe, and the other, seen at right, attributed to Ed Clark.” [A poster for the film, signed by Bette Davis, Joseph Mankiewicz, and Celeste Holm, is being sold separately.]
Signed photo SOLD for $30,000; poster SOLD for $6,000.
Two vintage calendars including a 1950 wall calendar measuring 8.5 x 14.5 in., and featuring paintings by Earl Moran, six featuring Marilyn, alongside cute, risque poems like, ‘What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice, Perfume that smells nice, Jewels and furs, To attract attention, And other good things Too obvious to mention’, and a wall calendar featuring unique topless ‘cowgirl’ images of Marilyn not seen elsewhere. Sold separately, a 16 x 32 in. pin-up 1952 wall calendar titled, ‘The Lure of Lace‘. Featuring Marilyn Monroe in her famous Tom Kelley nude kneeling pose, but with a black lace teddy ‘overprint’.”
“Two original studio production 8 x 10 in. negatives of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, each modeling wardrobe by designer William Travilla. [Russell wore a blonde wig to impersonate Marilyn in a courtroom scene.] Each includes within image a ‘shot-board’ documentation of production, scene, and change numbers. Also included are two original wardrobe documentation green pages detailing costumes [Monroe page describes a different costume, for the opening ‘Little Rock’ number.] At some point in time a positive copy print of the Monroe negative was made for archive continuity, but is not original to the production.”
“11 x 14 in. portrait by Ed Clark of Marilyn in the gold lame gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for LIFE magazine. Signed in black ink on Marilyn’s skirt by the photographer, ‘Edmund Clark Life’.”
SOLD for $300
“Photo of Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards in 1953, part of a 1750-image archive for celebrity snapper J.B. Scott. And sold separately, an award plaque presented to Marilyn by a County Fair ‘Sugar Queen’, engraved, ‘To the Sweetest Girl in Motion Pictures, Marilyn Monroe, 20th Century-Fox Films Star Presented by 1953 Yolo County Fair Sugar Queen’.”
Photo archive SOLD for $95,000; award plaque UNSOLD.
“Elois Jenssen costume sketch for Lucille Ball as ‘Lucy Ricardo’ as ‘Marilyn Monroe’ from I Love Lucy. Elois Jenssen was Lucille Ball’s designer of choice, who is credited with creating the ‘Lucy Look’. This dress design was created for the I Love Lucy Episode: ‘Ricky’s Movie Offer’, which aired on Nov. 8th, 1954. In the episode, ‘Lucy’ transforms herself into Marilyn Monroe to try to win a role in Ricky’s (Desi Arnaz) new Hollywood film. This costume was then repurposed into a showgirl costume for two subsequent episodes.” [Elois Jenssen’s costume sketches for Marilyn in We’re Not Married are being sold separately.]
“Ten 8 x 10 in. photographs of Marilyn Monroe in scenes from films, including the earliest title which depicts her on any of its publicity, Dangerous Years. Other highlights include Ladies of the Chorus, The Asphalt Jungle, Right Cross [to our knowledge, this still is the only original release paper to depict Marilyn], Let’s Make it Legal, and [shown above] Bus Stop.
SOLD for $225
“A set of fourteen 7 x 8.5 in. to 8 x 10 in. photographs, a mix of portraits, candids, and scenes, including stills from The Seven Year Itch and Let’s Make Love [at left] and a candid by Al Brack [at right], showing Marilyn on location for Bus Stop in Sun Valley, Idaho.”
“Two exhibition photos signed by Marvin Scott, of Marilyn performing at a circus benefit in 1955; and sold separately, another set including this photo of Marilyn arriving at Los Angeles in 1958 for the filming of Some Like It Hot.
“A candid photo taken by Milton Greene at Marilyn’s wedding to Arthur Miller; and sold separately, two address books from her estate, including typed and annotated entries for contacts including Actor’s Studio, Jack Benny, Eve Arden, George Cukor, Montgomery Clift, Jack Cardiff, Joe DiMaggio, Henry Fonda, John Huston, Hedda Hopper, Designers, makeup artists, Ben Gazzara, Gene Kelly, Jack Lemmon, Yves Montand, Arthur Miller, Robert Montgomery, Jane Russell, Jean Negulesco, Lee and Paula Strasberg, David Selznick, Carl Sandburg, Frank Sinatra, Eli Wallach, Shelley Winters, Clifford Odets, Peter Lawford, JAX, Richard Avedon, Louella Parsons, and more. Annotations not attributed to Monroe.”
And finally, a set of nine photos from Marilyn’s last completed film, The Misfits (1961.) SOLD for $4,500
This Marilyn-inspired doll is one of several created for the launch of Funko Pop’s new Hollywood store. The white dress and matching fur stole are seemingly based on Marilyn’s look at the Call Me Madam premiere in 1953, when she wore a variant on Travilla’s ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ gown. Interestingly, Marilyn is the only actor represented in the new range; the others (such as Wonder Woman) are all fictional characters. The doll is getting snapped up quickly, but please don’t be tempted by the high prices on eBay, as it’s rumoured to be set for general release in the coming months.
Yet another Kardashian sister made her love for Marilyn public this week, as Kylie Jenner recreated her ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ look for Halloween. (Of course, unlike most of us when we party in fancy dress, Kylie had a stylist on call, as Elle reports.)
Looking onward to Christmas, singer Mariah Carey – arguably the doyenne of celebrity Monroe fans, and the owner of Norma Jeane’s white grand piano since the Christie’s sale of 1999 – has put her own sartorial stamp on another Travilla creation from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, wearing a red gown similar to Marilyn’s in the opening song, ‘Two Little Girls From Little Rock’, in a festive ad for Walker’s Crisps.
Incidentally, Marilyn’s original ‘Little Rock’ costume sold for $250,000 at Julien’s Auctions yesterday …
As expected, Marilyn’s ‘Heat Wave’ costume from There’s No Business Like Show Business was the biggest seller at Julien’s Auctions yesterday, fetching $280,000 (over three times the maximum estimate) in the Property From the Life and Career of Marilyn Monroe sale – and Travilla’s ‘Heat Wave’ design sketch sold for $11,520. Marilyn’s ‘Little Rock’ costume from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was close behind at $250,000 (while Jane Russell’s matching gown fetched $43,750.) Her River of No Return costume fetched $175,000, and the black cocktail dress she wore to the Some Like It Hot press conference reached $100,000.
Other big sellers included the chair from Marilyn’s Brentwood home, at $81,250; her green Pucci ensemble, at $46,875; the bathing suit from Let’s Make It Legal, at $37, 500; the pink Ferragamo shoes worn by Marilyn in the ‘Incurably Romantic’ number from Let’s Make Love, at $25,000; the white parasol from her 1949 photo-shoot with Andre de Dienes, and her necklace from the 1953 Cinerama party, at $21,875 each; and finally, her custom-made MGM bathing suit, and Dr Ralph Greenson’s couch at $11,250 each.
I have now updated all my posts on this sale with final bids – see here.
“A single page removed from a trade publication such as Variety or The Hollywood Reporter with text reading in part ‘Thank you / Marilyn Monroe’ — an ad the star placed in the publication to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for her 1962 Golden Globe win for ‘World Favorite Actress,’ mounted to cardboard; found in Monroe’s own files. ”
SOLD for $512
A framed still photo showing Marilyn with co-stars June Haver, William Lundigan and Jack Paar in Love Nest (1951); and a costume test shot for Don’t Bother to Knock (1952.)
Photo sets SOLD for $640 and $896, respectively
Marilyn and Jane Russell performing ‘Two Little Girls From Little Rock’ in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, as seen on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1953. Marilyn’s costume is expected to fetch a maximum $80,000 – see here.)
Magazine SOLD for $896; costume SOLD for $250,000
A still photo of Marilyn during filming of River of No Return in 1953. The gown she wore while performing the theme song is expected to fetch a maximum $80,000 – see here.
Photo set SOLD for $1,152; costume SOLD for $175,000
Travilla’s costume sketch for the ‘Heat Wave’ number in There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), and a colour transparency of Marilyn in costume for a wardrobe test shot. (The costume itself is estimated to fetch up to $80,000 – see here.)
Sketch SOLD for $11,520; photo SOLD for $750; costume SOLD for $280,000
A framed still photo of Marilyn performing ‘Heat Wave‘, and a custom-made, one-of-a-kind poster made for the Century Theatre in the Hamilton, Ontario area to advertise a raffle to win tickets to see There’s No Show Business Like Show Business.
Photo SOLD for $750; poster SOLD for $1,280
“A group of three, all original prints with a glossy finish, depicting the star behind-the-scenes on the set of her 1956 20th Century Fox film, Bus Stop; all have typed text on the bottom margin noting to credit Al Brack who was a ‘Sun Valley, Idaho photographer.'”
SOLD for $576
A pair of memos regarding Milton Greene’s photos from the set of The Prince and the Showgirl; and, sold separately, a contact sheet. The second memo reads in part, ‘Dear Mike, The print you sent me, that Marilyn Monroe said she had killed, is incorrectly numbered. Marilyn is right – she did kill it.’ Both memos are dated April 11, 1957, and are addressed to ‘Meyer Hunter.’ Lois Weber, one of Monroe’s publicists at the time, authored both memos.”
Memos SOLD for $312.50; contact sheet SOLD for $500
Still photo of Marilyn with co-stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in a scene from Some Like It Hot (1959.)
Photo set SOLD for $576
“A pair of colour slides of Marilyn Monroe in a scene from How To Marry a Millionaire (1953), and during a press conference for Let’s Make Love with co-star Frankie Vaughan on January 16, 1960.”
Still photos taken by Lawrence Schiller during filming of the ‘pool scene’ in Something’s Got to Give.
Photo sets sold for $1,280 each
“A collection of approximately 65 pieces comprising only photocopied scripts and documents, all related to Marilyn Monroe’s films. Some film titles have more than one copy of the script, and some feature the working title and not the final one. All are bound into 20th Century Fox covers of various colors and appear to be the studio’s ‘loan out’ or ‘library’ copies. Pieces include (in alphabetical order): All About Eve (a treatment only), As Young As You Feel (2 scripts ), Bus Stop (3 scripts), Dangerous Years (1 script), Don’t Bother to Knock (2 scripts), The Full House (1 script), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (2 scripts plus 4 related documents), How to Marry a Millionaire (3 scripts plus 1 related document), Let’s Make Love (2 scripts), Love Nest (2 scripts), Monkey Business (2 scripts plus 2 related documents), Move Over, Darling (1 script), Niagara (2 scripts plus 4 related documents), O. Henry’s Full House (2 scripts plus 1 related document), River of No Return (1 script plus 5 related documents), The Seven Year Itch (3 scripts), Something’s Got to Give (1 script), There’s No Business Like Show Business (3 scripts plus 7 related documents), Ticket to Tomahawk (2 related documents), and We’re Not Married (1 script plus 1 related document). Also included are a few miscellaneous pieces related to Monroe. “
As was common practice in old Hollywood, several of Marilyn’s movie gowns were repurposed for other actresses; and earlier in her career, she had often worn gowns borrowed from the studio’s wardrobe department to glitzy public events. Here we see Leslie Caron wearing an adjusted variant based on Marilyn’s tutu – or ‘snake costume’ – from Bus Stop (1956) in The Man Who Understand Women, which as the Western Costume Company notes, was released sixty years ago, on this day in 1959. Written by Nunnally Johnson (How to Marry a Millionaire), this romantic comedy also starred Henry Fonda. And although Charles Le Maire (All About Eve) was credited as costume designer, this tutu had been created for Marilyn by Travilla.
This green lace blouse and black pencil skirt ensemble, created by Travilla for Marilyn’s role as down-at-heel showgirl Cherie in Bus Stop (and topped with a black fedora she wore in the Arizona sun), is among many iconic movie costumes on display in Designing Hollywood, an exhibit showcasing the extensive collection of Gene London, opening on September 29 until December 22 at the Allentown Museum of Art in Pennsylvania, as WFMZ reports. Previous exhibits from London’s archive have also included costumes from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch and The Prince and the Showgirl.