Marilyn Monroe is still loved by you. And, it would seem, everyone else.
On Friday, Heritage Auctions
kicked off the first session of its three-day, star-studded Entertainment & Music Memorabilia event by offering more than two dozen lots connected to the woman once known as Norma Jeane, ranging from screen-worn outfits to personal drawings to hand-annotated scripts and personal photos.
Monroes items sold at auction for a combined $1.28 million, led, not surprisingly, by the ensemble she wore as Cherie in 1956's Bus Stop, her first film after studying at the Actors Studio. The Bus Stop outfit, which came from the vaunted collection of Gene London, sold Friday for $399,000.
Of all the Hollywood immortals, Marilyn Monroe continues to stand alone, says Heritage Auctions Executive Vice President Joe Maddalena. She not only endures. Decades later, she grows even more popular.
The two-piece, olive-green-mesh-and-black-satin Bus Stop outfit is such a piece of Hollywood iconography that London loaned it to Madonna, who can be seen wearing it in a Steven Meisel photo that accompanied the March 1991 Vanity Fair cover story "The Misfit," so named for Monroe's final film. Madonna also wore The Bus Stop ensemble on the poster advertising the 1991 documentary Truth or Dare.
The Bus Stop ensemble opened at $150,000 then skyrocketed after a heated round of bidding. That happened again and again during the Monroe portion of the auction, proving, as Gloria Steinem wrote in 1986, that Monroe is still better known than most living movie stars, most world leaders, and most television personalities.
The Bus Stop outfit was but one traffic-stopping ensemble in the Monroe portion of the sale.
The Travilla Polka-Dot Dress she wore in Billy Wilder's 1955 Seven Year Itch, when Monroe's The Girl first meets Richard Sherman's Tom Ewell, sold Friday for $212,500.
Her Pearl-Encrusted Mermaid Gown from 1957's The Prince and the Showgirl went to a new owner who paid $156,250.
And the silk dress she wore to publicize Wilders 1959 Some Like It Hot, one of cinemas greatest comedies, sold for $118,750.
Monroe was responsible as well for one of the auctions most prized possessions: a self-portrait she made during her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller something far more intimate and revealing than any photo of her that appeared in Playboy. The work is titled Myself Exercising and was painted in 1956 during production on The Prince and the Showgirl, which co-starred Laurence Olivier, who appeared in the original stage production of Terence Rattigan's play The Sleeping Prince. Monroe donated the work to the Actors' Orphanage Fund (now the Actors' Children's Trust), which sold it at a charity auction with Olivier serving as auctioneer and Rattigan as the work's winning bidder.
It sold Friday for $125,000.
Her heavily annotated script for The Seven Year Itch sold for $81,250, while a letter Monroe wrote to her acting coach Michael Chekhov realized $36,250. The latter is quoted in her posthumously published, half-finished autobiography My Life: Please don't give up on me yet I know (painfully so) that I try your patience. I need the work and your friendship desperately. I shall call you soon.
But bidders werent interested solely in iconic outfits or handmade mementos or teenage photos or wedding candids. On Friday, a bottle of nasal drops prescribed to Monroe sold for $5,500 and with good reason. The bottle, with her name (Marilyn Miller) on the label, came from Schwabs Pharmacy in 1959. Which means there are two icons in one little bottle, which, like everything else, in this auction, has an amazing story tell.