Some Like it Hot—Just Not in Kansas

Talk about attention-grabbing fashion. When Some Like It Hot was released on this day in 1959, the Orry-Kelly costumes offended so many puritan moviegoers that it prompted a statewide ban in Kansas and an “adult entertainment” restriction in Memphis, Tennessee. The reason? The film’s plot is centered around the taboo of two men cross-dressing, and star Marilyn Monroe wears a dress that is so revealing that it stops just short of granting the actress her first nude scene.

Veteran director Billy Wilder paired Monroe with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon when all three actors were at the top of their games. The two comedians play Joe and Jerry, musicians who witness a mob murder and then disguise themselves as women to catch a ride out of town with an “all-girl” band. Curtis and Lemmon were given clothes from the stockpile at Western Costume and ended up with hand-me-downs from Debbie Reynolds and Norma Shearer, respectively. The outdated frocks were altered to fit the men and the 1920s setting of the film, though somewhat generously. The baggy, dropped-waist dresses paired with cloche Read More »

Niagara: Bust Out the Firehose, Here Comes Marilyn

Everyone remembers Marilyn Monroe’s billowing white dress from the Seven Year Itch, but the starlet first proved that the right outfit can make a scene in Niagara, the film noir released on this day in 1953. Niagara is darker than Monroe’s usual fare, and she trades in her ditzy blonde routine for that of a smoldering adulteress. She plays Rose Loomis, a woman who has taken her husband George to a cabin overlooking Niagara Falls for some much needed rest and relaxation. Oh yeah, and she plans to have her lover kill him and fake his suicide before the trip is through. The other cabin guests are all dressed as if they came straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting: high-waisted suits on the men and shirtwaists and circle skirts on the women. In her first appearance onscreen, Monroe is naked in bed with fire engine-red lips and a cigarette hanging from her fingertips—so much for a Norman Rockwell-style vacation.

After a successful day of meeting with her lover and convincing the other vacationers that her husband is psychotic, Monroe decides to relax by dressing up and joining the other guests at a nighttime picnic. She exits her cabin in an off the shoulder, body-hugging pink dress with the added double-whammy of a bow on her bosom and a cutout Read More »

Douglas Kirkland’s Night with Marilyn

On this day in 1961, photographer Douglas Kirkland spent just a few hours working with the world’s biggest movie star, Marilyn Monroe, in a small Hollywood studio. In that time, he produced some of the most unforgettable images ever taken of the oft-photographed actress. Of course on November 17, no one could have known that less than a year later, Monroe would be dead, and Kirkland’s results would stand as one of the last collections of images taken of the late star.

Kirkland was just 24 years old on that evening, and a new staff photographer for Look magazine. He had landed a dream gig—jet-setting around the world snapping culture’s most interesting people and happenings—and this night was an apex: Shooting Monroe for the cover of Look’s 25th anniversary issue. As always, Monroe was late—in this case by more than three hours—and Kirkland was antsy. “It was still early on that evening …as my watch ticked off the seconds and I waited for her to arrive,” Kirkland later recalled to Popular Photography. “My nerves were on a razor’s edge. Imagine Read More »

Cinemode: The Seven Year Itch

It only took a few, brief seconds. On June 3, 1955, audiences watched as Marilyn Monroe, in the role of a blonde actress simply credited as “The Girl,” stepped onto a subway grate in a white crepe halter dress and waited for a passing train in the premiere of The Seven Year Itch. Read More »

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