What is the typical image that comes to mind when you think of iconic movie star Marilyn Monroe? Is it Marilyn basking on the beach in a white one-piece, her serenading President Kennedy for his birthday, or is it Marilyn standing over a breezy subway grate holding down that infamous halter dress so as not to expose any, well, assets? All three are possibilities, but the third option is what many of us remember of the beloved late actress.
Marilyn’s iconic photo shoot for “The Seven Year Itch” took place 59 years ago today, in the fall of 1954. Her flouncy white dress, a rather simple silhouette to those lacking her endowments, was designed by friend William Travilla. The story as to how he came up with such a stunningly straightforward design is one of heated deliberation. Travilla, as he was known, either sorted through three of his own designs to get to the final version or grabbed the dress straight off the rack and called it his own; both narratives are still contested today.
The day of this favored shoot, on a similar note, did not go as planned. When word leaked that the Marilyn Monroe would be shooting scenes for an upcoming movie on a public street, hoards of people gathered in attempt to sneak a peak of their favorite actress. The crowd grew and grew until they were so loud and distracting that director Billy Wilder could no longer continue filming out in the open. Adding fuel to the fire was Joe DiMaggio’s arrival. As soon as Marilyn’s then-husband saw fans ogling his wife, he stormed off the set and supposedly carried the fight over into the night.
In the wake of all the drama with the original shoot, the cast and crew set up camp on a Century Studios lot in order to obtain a similar shot of Marilyn. Today, not only is the live and staged version of this scene found under every search of her name but, in 2011, a 26-foot-tall statue of Marilyn in her bone-white dress was hoisted in central Chicago. Complete, might I add, with replicas of the two pairs of underwear she was forced to wear because one was too sheer. For all the inspiration Marilyn Monroe has endowed upon our lives, this gleaming moment of her looking as happy as can be is rightfully the picture that will live on and be celebrated for years to come.