Marilyn Monroe did few nude shoots throughout her career. There was the time she swam naked in the unfinished film Something’s Got to Give. And perhaps most famously, the time she posed for photographer Bert Stern wearing nothing but accessories in a series of images known as the Last Sitting—aptly named, as it was the last shoot Marilyn participated in before her death.
The scar itself is the result of gallbladder surgery that occurred before Stern’s famous images were taken. He says Marilyn was self-conscious about it, and called upon her hairdresser George for reassurance before shooting. When Stern noticed the scar, he reportedly remembered Diana Vreeland saying to him, “I think there’s nothing duller than a smooth, perfect-skinned woman. A woman is beautiful by her scars.”
Sounds great, but it seems as though Stern ended up removing the scar from many images of Marilyn—and weirdly, it was also removed from images shot during Something’s Got to Give. Here’s an official photo from behind-the-scenes of the film, sans scar:
And here’s the scar completely visible:
Bert Stern/Instagram/Katiekat Kat
Diana Vreeland is right: women *are* beautiful with scars. But she’s also incorrect about women without them being dull. Either way, the sometimes-removal of Marilyn’s scar offers a fascinating insight into beauty standards in Old Hollywood—did she ever truly have agency as to how her body was portrayed?
Ironically, Something’s Got to Give was the first time Monroe was “allowed” to expose her belly button on film—as most of her previous swimwear moments were high-waisted. Before her death, she’s said to have quipped “I guess the censors are willing to recognize that everybody has a navel.”
Guess what? Everyone has scars too—even Marilyn.
Via Marie Claire US