Hush-Hush says they didn’t want her even in the nude, but is that true?
The story probably fueled ten million fantasies. Marilyn Monroe had stripped naked on the set of her last movie Something’s Got To Give. Monroe was eventually fired, the production was scrapped, and the footage was archived, but if it had been released, she would have been the first Hollywood actress to appear unclothed onscreen since the 1920s. It’s interesting, isn’t it, to reflect upon the effect a minority of prudes had on Hollywood? Because of them, Monroe’s unreleased scene, and Jayne Mansfield’s later nude scene in 1963’s Promises, Promises, merely brought American cinema back to where it had already been four decades earlier.
In the movie Monroe’s character is in a pool and calls up to a window where Dean Martin resides. Martin is married and Monroe is disrupting his life, so when he sees her, he tells her to get out of the water. She complies and Martin realizes she’s nude. It's a standard sex comedy oops moment. Monroe began the filming of the scene in a body stocking, then removed that and wore a flesh-colored bikini bottom. After the scene she posed for some publicity shots for several surprised photographers, and during that period removed even the bottoms. Some sources say she also shot the scene nude, but most say the bottoms came off afterward.
Hush-Hush was not the first magazine to break the story of Monroe’s peel down. Life had done that in June 1962, and included a couple of titillating photos. By the time Hush-Hush told the tale Monroe was two months dead. The blurb MM—Even In The Nude They Didn’t Want Her wasn’t strictly true. The production company Twentieth Century Fox most certainly did want her. A hospital stint prior to production had caused her to shed twenty-five pounds, bringing her to a weight she had never reached in her adult life, despite exercise and dieting. The newly svelte Monroe looked good and Fox was getting her cheap—$100,000.
By most accounts, Monroe knew her career was in trouble. She was making one tenth one what Elizabeth Taylor was making at the time, and was determined to remind people they were still dealing with possibly the biggest sex symbol who had ever lived. She knew that if she stripped she might be falling into the same old trap of making it easy for people to not take her seriously, but if her career really was finished she was determined to go down swinging. In the end her stunt was irrelevant. Her health problems had made her thin, but they lingered and caused numerous costly production delays, causing Fox to finally give up and pull the plug. That was June 1962. Two months later she was gone.
1963 post mortem on Marilyn Monroe’s life and career leaves plenty out but is still worth a viewing.
This nice poster was made for the Yugoslavian release of Marilyn, a 1963 documentary about her life and death. When Monroe died during the filming of Something's Got To Give, this feature was hastily cobbled together and rushed into cinemas to fill the gap that had appeared in Twentieth Century Fox's release schedule. It was narrated by Rock Hudson, which is why he appears on the art, and featured Monore's most memorable screen moments, including her song and dance "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. These days, more is known about Monroe’s life than was the case in 1963, so those looking for tabloid style dish will be disappointed. This is a tribute intended to burnish her legend, rather than a real documentary designed dig into it. But it’s a good movie, not least because it gives a clear portrait of her unmatched stature as a celebrity at that time. Marilyn premiered in the U.S. today in 1963. As a bonus, below are some images of Monroe at her most alluring.
On the Q.T. sees strippers everywhere.
On the Q.T. asks on this September 1963 cover whether Hollywood has gone strip crazy, and they have a bit of a point, for once. In the previous year, more or less, movies that featured stripping as a major plot device included Natalie Wood’s Gypsy Rose Lee biopic Gypsy, as well as A Cold Wind in August, Portrait of a Young Man, Girl in Trouble, Night of Evil, Satan in High Heels and The Stripper, with Joanne Woodward. There were possibly even more films, but you get the drift—Hollywood had indeed discovered strippers and had begun featuring them to titillating effect. But while some of the films were more serious and racy than others, none actually showed any naughty bits, despite the breathlessness of On the Q.T.’s reporting.
Other countries, notably France, had already unveiled the human form in cinema, but the first true nude scene in a mainstream American motion picture (excepting the pre-Code films of early Hollywood) came in Sidney Lumet’s 1964 drama The Pawnbroker when both Linda Geiser and African-American actress Thelma Oliver bared their torsos. Interestingly, the nudity barrier probably would have been breached in 1962 by Marilyn Monroe, who filmed a semi-nude pool frolick in Something’s Got To Give. But the production was scrapped, so we’ll never know whether the scenes would have been released as originally shot. Thus two obscure actresses take the prize, and from that point forward Hollywood’s floodgates were open.
In 1962 Hollywood actresses began showing skin for the first time in more than thirty years.
Today we have a Confidential from October 1962, featuring a rundown of nude scenes by the biggest actresses of the time. The Natalie Wood shot in the little collage they’ve put together is from Gypsy, her biopic of the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, where she showed her back, but did not in fact appear nude. Likewise, Liz Taylor never appeared nude in a film. Ditto Kim Novak, although she posed quite provocatively for many photographers, including wearing only soapsuds in a Life magazine bio, and in a rumored set of explicit youthful nudes. You can find those on the trusty interweb, but the identity of the woman in the shots is certainly open to debate.
Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe were two entirely different cases, though. The Mansfield image above is from 1962’s It Happened in Athens, in which she went skimpy, but not naked. But the next year she went fully topless in Promises! Promises! and triggered a national firestorm, including a ban of the film in several cities. She was the first mainstream American actress to go topless, not counting the several who bared it before the introduction of the Hayes Code back in 1930. In late 1963, Promises! Promises! stills were featured in Playboy, and those too caused a problem, because they showed that Mansfield had actually been fully nude on the set. An obscenity trial for Hugh Hefner followed, but he was acquitted. In any case, Promises! Promises! was a hit. It wasn’t a very good film. But the scenes with Mansfield are indeed extraordinarily sexy.
The Monroe story is equally fascinating. When she was making the film Something’s Got To Give, she was supposed to appear in a swimming scene wearing the usual flesh-colored body stocking to conceal her lady parts. Monroe had caused problems on many sets by then, and her reputation was in tatters. When the time came to shoot the scene, she allegedly did it fully nude, with publicity photographers and crew present.The event caused a sensation, and seemed to signal a renewed focus from Marilyn to reclaim her status as America’s top sex symbol. Sadly, it was the last splash she ever made—she was fired and the film was never finished. But a precedent had been reestablished—for the first time since the Hayes Code, actresses were showing skin. Soon, Hollywood males would be doing the same. In less than a decade the human body would be fully uncovered on film, and there was no putting it back under wraps. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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