Few people would not recognise this photo.
The beautiful actress Marilyn Monroe,
on location for the movie 'The Seven Year Itch'
in New York City 1954.
But few are aware of the story behind the image.
At the time Marilyn (born Norma Jeane) was married to New York Yankees baseball star Joe DiMaggio. They married 14th January 1954, surrounded by a multitude of press, although they had tried to keep it secret. Their honeymoon in Japan- where Joe was the guest of honour- turned into a disaster for Joe when a crowd turned up to see Marilyn. Then she was invited to perform for the US Army in South Korea. An offer, which to her new husband's annoyance, she happily accepted.
The final straw came in September of the same year. Marilyn spent hours on top of a subway grate in New York, her sexy pout and happy face showing how much she was enjoying the attention of all the photographers and bystanders watching. DiMaggio was angry with the way Monroe would make a spectacle of herself in front of other men.
After the shoot there was a huge argument, leading to their divorce soon afterwards. Marilyn accused Joe of 'mental cruelty'. The crazy part is the actual scene in the movie is cut so much that you don't see anything like the raunchiness shown in this image. Here is the scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slfkiWZ7ozI
I have just finished reading Blonde by Joyce Carole Oates. This is a novel- not a biography- about Marilyn Monroe's life. Oates gets so in depth with Marilyn's character, detailing her life of neglect and abuse by her mentally-ill mother, boyfriend's and husbands, and in particular by the Studio that hired her. The book is a fascinating and absorbing read if you ever get the chance to read it- highly recommended!
Oates portrayal of the white dress scene is how I described it above. (In fact Oates suggests Joe physically abused Marilyn as well.) This is Marilyn's life and she adores to be adored. As Joe comes into the scene you realise he is one of the only characters in the story that recognises how much his Marilyn is being used by her employers. By marrying her, he is trying to save her. But he cannot save her from herself.
The irony is that Joe was there to help Marilyn after her next divorce, when she went into a mental institution. And when Marilyn died (of drug overdose, suicide, murder? But that's another story) Joe sent flowers to her grave several times a week until his own death around 20 years later.
And you thought the white dress image was just a photo shoot?