Monday, April 20, 2009

Marilyn Monroe Breaks the Color Barrier

This 1952 photo of Marilyn Monroe and her favorite costumer, William Travilla, you've probably never seen before. That's because the studio she worked for at the time tried everything it could to suppress it. They even went so far as to crop the photo to suit their backwards idea of propriety.

What the studio objected to, apparently, is that their rising star was photographed with a -- gasp! -- black man. How dare she be seen in public with one of them? And to make matters worse, she was photographed in the 5-4 Club in South Central Los Angeles, an all-black club.

If you've ever seen this photo printed anywhere, you saw this cropped version -- with the unidentified black man cropped out. I bet you were wondering why William Travilla was looking off into the distance, as if he was looking at some unknown person out of camera range.

According to the Travilla Tour web site, the story of the photo goes like this:

The story of this photo, as Travilla and Bill Sarris tell it, is that he and Marilyn spent the evening at an almost exclusively black club in Los Angeles - something that just wasn't done in 1952. The studio was outraged, especially after her nude photograph scandal in March of that year, and the fact that she had just been on the April cover of Life magazine and hailed as 'The Talk of Hollywood.' As a result of being 'caught on camera,' they fired Travilla from the film they were working on. But Marilyn - one of Travilla's closest friends - stood up and said 'If he goes, I go.' And of course, they let him stay, but they were successful in keeping this picture out of the press."
"Travilla: The Man Who Dressed Marilyn Monroe" is a show of William Travilla memorabilia touring the country. In addition to Marilyn Monroe, Travilla fitted costumes to a number of stars, including Jean Harlow, Donna Reed, Morgan Fairchild and Judy Garland.

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