The story behind Marilyn Monroe's 'subway scene'

Marilyn Monroe's subway scene in Billy Wilder's The Seven Year Itch (which was filmed 60 years ago today) is one of the most iconic scenes in the history of cinema.

In fact, it's regarded as one of the defining images of the 20th century.  

At the time the film was shot, Monroe was at the height of her fame, having recently starred in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Niagara and How to Marry a Millionaire - all of which were released in 1953.

Her sexually charged performances, in tandem with her winning personality, made her a hit at the box office.

Travilla Subway
William Travilla's original sketch for the iconic subway dress

Her ascendance was further enhanced by the discovery of nude photographs she had posed for prior to her big break in 1952, which whipped the media into a frenzy.

In 1953, they were published in the very first edition of Playboy.

To cap things off she married Joe DiMaggio, the biggest American sports star of his era, in 1954.  

In just a few short years, she came from nowhere to become the biggest thing in Hollywood and a household name around the world.

The shoot

Some of the footage was shot outside, on a real subway grate on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street in New York.

The decision to film in such a public spot was allegedly a deliberate tactic by director Billy Wilder to stoke up publicity for the film.

Naturally, the biggest star in the world posing in her underwear led to a huge crowd gathering to ogle proceedings at 01:00 in the morning.

Monroe had to perform the scene multiple times. The ranks of photographers shooting up her skirt enraged the watching DiMaggio who left to drink at a nearby bar.

The row that took place at the St Regis hotel that evening was reportedly audible across the entire seventh floor.

It lasted all through the night. The couple divorced soon after.   

Wilder then went on to film the scene again in the more private environs of the 20th Century Fox studios. Both shoots were used in the final edit.

The dress, designed by William Travilla, is recognised as one of the most famous in history.

It sold for a record $5.6m in 2011.

We have an incredible selection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia available, including this autographed news clipping from 1951.

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