Sixty-three years ago today, one of the most iconic moments in cinematic history happened on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street, above a gritty subway grate. On September 15, 1954, Marilyn Monroe’s white halter dress blew up over her hips while filming “The Seven Year Itch.” The shot was taken after midnight, with thousands of fans looking at the Hollywood starlet standing on the grate, with the uptown 6 train running underneath. While the scene appears effortless, it took roughly three hours to film and 14 takes to get it just right. Despite the multiple takes, the scene was later re-shot in California, with the original shots used just for ads.
Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, screenshot via Wikimedia
Based in Manhattan, “The Seven Year Itch” was a romantic comedy directed by Billy Wilder and starred Tom Ewell alongside Monroe. In the film, Wilder is tempted to have an affair while his family is away with his beautiful neighbor who lives above him, played by Monroe. While reviews of the movie were positive, the white-dress scene is what made the film most memorable.
While the actress made sure to catch the white dress before it went completely over her head, she wore two pairs of white underwear to be extra cautious not to reveal too much to the thousands of onlookers. Allegedly, her husband at the time, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, thought the scene was too revealing and the couple got into a violent argument after the shot at the St. Regis hotel. Monroe filed for divorce shortly after.
As Atlas Obscura learned, the Trans-Lux theatre which served as the backdrop for the famous white-dress scene is no longer there. Instead, the French restaurant Le Relais de Venise sits in its place. The white dress, designed by William Travilla for the Seven Year Itch, was sold at an auction in 2011 for $4.6 million.
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