The scene from the Seven Year Itch, went on to become one of the most iconic moments in movie history. But a lot more went into to the scene than what’s portrayed in director Billy Wilder’s film. And its consequences rippled far beyond making young moviegoers blush.
The scene allegedly played a role in Monroe’s divorce from Joe DiMaggio
Despite the roar of approval from fans, DiMaggio was less than pleased with what he felt was an “exhibitionist” scene. Photographer George S Zimbel recalled everything going deathly quiet as Monroe’s disapproving husband stormed across the set and very publicly left the scene. After returning to California, Monroe filed for divorce from the baseball player on grounds of “mental cruelty” following a violent fight at their hotel after the shoot.
Filming took place at 1am, while thousands of fans looked on
An hour after midnight on the corner of New York’s Lexington Ave and 52nd Street, Monroe stood atop a subway grate and created movie magic – 14 times. Taking around three hours to film, the scene took 14 takes to get right, while 100 male photographers and between 2,000 and 5,000 spectators (who all loudly reacted whenever her skirt blew up) looked on.
But the final version was actually filmed in California
Despite 14 takes, the crew still couldn’t get it right, due in part to the incessant noise created by the droves of fans on set. Later that year, the scene was re-shot on the Fox lot in California though the original location shots were used for ads and promos.
Marilyn was careful to make sure she wasn’t showing too much
While she caught the dress before it blew up over her head, she still took precautions to make sure anyone watching didn’t see too much: she wore two pairs of white underwear, so that once the fan blew upwards, nobody got an actual glimpse.
The dress was recently sold for $4.6m
Designer William Travilla created The Seven Year Itch’s white dress and he dreamed up the pink and gold gowns from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – all famous Monroe getups. Although the designer never paid much heed to his creation (once dismissing it as “that silly little dress”) it has paid off, and was sold at a 2011 auction for $4.6m.
The auction resulted from Debbie Reynolds’ need to sell off assets to avoid bankruptcy. Those assets included her collection of Old Hollywood memorabilia (that she hoped to eventually house in a museum of her own), among which was Monroe’s dress – which Reynolds said she only paid $200 for in 1971.
The scene’s been commemorated, and copied across the world
The $4.6m price tag makes more sense when you think about its cultural impact. In Japan, villagers paid homage with a 140 x 100-meter image of Monroe in a rice field (made from nine species of rice), while earlier this year, New Jersey acquired a 26ft-tall, 34,000lbs statue of Marilyn in her iconic pose. Called “Forever Marilyn,” the statue was previously in Chicago and Palm Springs, and a copycat was recently dumped in China – which experts assure American artist Seward Johnson did not design.
So much for it being just a “silly little” dress.
This article was written by Anne T Donahue, for theguardian.com on Monday 15th September 2014 17.29 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010