“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” propelled Marilyn Monroe’s career. However, behind the scenes on the set, the Executives of the Fox studio were enraged. The reason ? A series of nude photos taken by the actress resurfaced…
Dorothy and Lorelei are singers. Dorothy, a tall, seemingly cynical brunette, always falls in love with the first comer! As for the blonde Lorelei, she pretends to be stupid to better fathom the fortunes of her suitors. She also has a new victim in sight…
When Fox acquired the rights to the play Men prefer blondesthe film was originally planned for Jane Russell and Betty Grable. But given the success of niagara with Marilyn Monroethe studio finally changed its mind and chose the rising star, who cost a lot less than Betty Grable ($18,000 vs. $150,000).
However, the production had not foreseen the demands of Marilyn Monroe, who constantly asked to return the scenes despite the satisfaction of the director. To questions from Fox on how to speed up filming, howard hawks had proposed “three fantastic ideas: replace Marilyn, rewrite the script to shorten it and change the director”…
Among the film’s memorable sequences is the legendary song Diamond’s are a girl’s best friend. Dressed in her famous pink satin dress, Marilyn’s dancing and singing sequence was widely imitated in the following decades, from Madonna at Margot Robbie in Birds of PreyPassing by Red Mill !to name but a few examples.
Here’s the scene again, for fun..
Embarrassing, but accepted clichés
It turns out that this legendary dress was actually a last-minute change. LThe actress was originally only supposed to wear black velvet bands and rhinestones, recreating the illusion of a river of diamonds on a human scale. An outfit ultimately deemed too daring for the studios. And there is a motivation for this: the scandal caused by Marilyn’s nude photos.
Four years earlier, an actress still in the making of notoriety, she had posed naked in front of a famous pin-up photographer, Tom Kelley. A series of shots, where thShe appeared stretched out in the middle of red silk sheets, intended to illustrate a calendar. A photo shoot that had earned Marilyn the modest sum of $50.
In a four-part documentary aired earlier this year on CNN, Reframed: Marilyn Monroe, the actress says the photographer assured her that no one would recognize her. When the calendar came out in 1952, the actress had started to make a small reputation. She was of course quickly identified as the model on the calendar, causing a small scandal in a still very puritanical America.
The actress had courageously chosen to assume these photos, and to defend herself with great honesty: “A few years ago, when I had no money for rent or food, a photographer I knew asked me to pose nude for an art calendar” she had explained to the journalist Aline Mosby of the agency United Press Internationalwho was the first to report the information on these photos.
The Fox Executives, which were to come out Men prefer blondes the following year, asked Marilyn to categorically deny that it was her in the photos. She refused, as she explained to Mosby: “Oh, the calendar hangs in every garage in town. Why deny it? You can get one anywhere. Besides, I’m not ashamed of it. I didn’t do anything wrong. “
“The sexiest, most exciting, almost naked woman ever seen on screen”
The famous costume designer William Travilla, who worked on eleven films with Marilyn Monroe and created those of Men prefer blondessaid that the series of photos had made the executives of the studio hysterical, who feared not only that the photos would ruin the career of the actress, but that investors would scare.
Originally, Travilla was commissioned to create an outfit for “the sexiest, most exciting, almost naked woman ever seen on screen”, in his own words. In other words, an outfit far removed from the one we see in the film. “The costume was a pink net over her naked body. The breasts and hips were covered in diamonds put together by a jeweler. And just as we were about to shoot the scene, god damn it, things went wrong. A reprint of Marilyn’s naked calendar has arrived on the market”.
If the actress has never been filmed wearing the costume in question, there are however very rare shots of it during fittings.
Here are two:
Costume fitting by Marilyn, back view:
Sweating at the potential prospect of a Box Office fiasco with this cliche affair, Fox studio management ordered William Travilla to throw away the suit. It was there that he had the idea for the pink satin dress, covering the actress’ body very clearly. Be that as it may, the fears of the studio pundits were quickly swept away. Men prefer blondes was a success in theaters, and definitively put Marilyn into orbit.