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Remember when showgirl Lorelei Lee left her fiancé dumbstruck as she emerged onstage in a pink satin robe, dripping in diamonds, in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”? Lee, performed by Marilyn Monroe, then launches into a musical range the place she croons “diamonds are a girl’s greatest good friend” — a scene widely imitated in the a long time considering the fact that, from Madonna’s “Content Girl” video to Margot Robbie in “Birds of Prey.”
Similarly unforgettable was Monroe’s strapless dress. Figure-hugging, paired with matching gloves and cinched with a huge pink and black bow, the seem became one of Hollywood’s most legendary outfits immediately after the film’s launch in 1953.
But the outfit was, in fact, a very last-moment alternative. The original — and considerably a lot more revealing — costume was ditched since of a scandal involving nude photographs.
The pink satin robe has been broadly imitated due to the fact it can be creation in the early 1950s. Credit history: Allstar Photo Library Ltd./Alamy
4 years earlier Monroe, then an mysterious jobbing actress, had posed bare for a photo shoot, earning just $50 for a series of images that would later function in a calendar. Shot by pin-up photographer Tom Kelley, the photos confirmed the actress stretched artfully across red velvet sheets with her confront tilted towards the camera, arms prolonged and toes pointed, developing lovely strains.
By the time the calendar emerged in 1952, Monroe’s Hollywood profile experienced started to blossom. She was shortly discovered as the nude design, sparking backlash in conservative 1950s The us and casting unflattering consideration on the mounting star. But Monroe overcame the incident and even received sympathy through her unflinching honesty.
Hear Marilyn’s response when confronted about a nude photoshoot
“A few decades in the past, when I experienced no money for food or rent, a photographer I realized asked me to pose nude for an artwork calendar,” she told reporter Aline Mosby at United Push International.
Film studio 20th Century Fox, which would launch “Gentlemen Favor Blondes” the following 12 months, requested her to deny it was her. But she refused, explaining to Mosby: “Oh, the calendar’s hanging in all garages all above city. Why deny it? You can get one particular any location. Apart from, I’m not ashamed of it. I’ve performed practically nothing erroneous.”
By possessing the images, she was able to manage the narrative — and her community impression — in the encounter of those people attempting to disgrace her.
“The nude calendar scandal seriously place her in the vanguard of the sexual revolution,” American literature professor Sarah Churchwell says in the new docuseries.
Costume designer William “Billy” Travilla, who labored with Monroe on 11 films which includes “Gentlemen Desire Blondes,” later told cable network A&E that the photos despatched the studio “wild.” Executives feared the pictures could destroy Monroe’s career and that the movie’s investors could possibly pull out.
Originally, Travilla experienced been tasked with developing the “sexiest, most fascinating, just about bare girl on the display” — a really various search to the now-iconic satin pink robe.
Madonna referenced the ensemble in her 1985 audio online video for “Product Lady.” Credit history: Alamy
“The costume was fishnet hose above her nude physique,” he instructed A&E. “The breasts and the hipline (were) lined with diamonds put with each other by a jeweler. And just as we are ready to shoot the quantity — good lord, the point goes improper. (A reprint of) Marilyn Monroe’s nude calendar hits the market place.”
The original sketch for Monroe’s legendary glance designed by Travilla. Credit rating: William Travilla/Community Area
Even so, the studio’s anxieties above the nude photos were being allayed when the movie introduced in $5.3 million at the box place of work, catapulting Monroe to total-blown stardom.
A further movie starring Monroe, “How to Marry a Millionaire,” was introduced that similar year, raking in yet another $8 million. As creator Aubrey Solomon wrote in his history of 20th Century Fox, “In 1953, Fox’s two finest assets were CinemaScope and Marilyn Monroe, in that purchase.” (Monroe, ironically, was only paid $500 a 7 days for “Gentlemen Like Blondes,” she disclosed in her remaining job interview with Existence Journal in 1962, even though co-star Jane Russell acquired $200,000.)
Subverting ‘dumb blonde’ clichés
Even though it was only 2nd choice, the pink dress has turn into a pop culture phenomenon, promoting for $310,000 at a 2010 auction of Hollywood memorabilia.
Celebs have also paid homage to the scene-stealing outfit and music. Some have emphasized the number’s obvious allusions to materialism, this sort of as Madonna’s 1985 video clip for “Content Woman,” whilst other folks have turned it into an anthem for female empowerment, as Megan Thee Stallion and Normani did on their track “Diamonds.”
Normani wore a tighter, additional revealing edition of the flooring-length robe. Credit score: Megan Thee Stallion/Normani/Atlantic Information
Singers Ariana Grande, Camilla Cabello and Kylie Minogue have all channeled the gown for different performances, even though James Franco even wore a edition of it as co-host of the 2011 Oscars.
And flicks like “Birds of Prey” (2020) and “Moulin Rouge” (2001) have supplied darker references to the scene, with feminine protagonists battling to safe their spot in patriarchal societies. In “Birds of Prey,” the gown is reimagined as a jumpsuit worn by Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) as she hallucinates an eerie version of the well known scene all through a violent interrogation with crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). Sionis vastly underestimates Quinn as a “dumb blonde,” which proves to be his eventual undoing.
In 2011, Franco wore his possess iteration whilst co-internet hosting the Oscars. Credit score: Gary Hershorn/Reuters/Alamy
Shrewdly navigating her vocation, Monroe herself was everything but a “dumb blonde” — as she shown with her handling of the nude photograph scandal. In “Reframed: Marilyn Monroe,” Churchwell points to an unscripted line that Monroe came up with for her character, Lorelei Lee, and insisted on utilizing: “I can be intelligent when it can be important, but most gentlemen will not like it.”