Despite being one of the most iconic images in American and international pop culture history, as well as one of the most recognizable photographs of Marilyn Monroe, the famous full-length image of Monroe standing with her dress being blown up never actually appears in the film. The shot used in the film is only of her legs, cut with reaction shots, and never shown full-length.
Billy Wilder preferred shooting in black and white, but Marilyn Monroe's contract with Fox called for all of her movies to be shot in color. Monroe always thought that she looked far more attractive and glamorous in color than in black and white.
The classic shot of Marilyn Monroe's dress blowing up around her legs as she stands over a subway grating was originally shot on Manhattan's Lexington Avenue at 52nd Street on September 15, 1954, at 1:00 a.m. Filming took place in the presence of 5,000 onlookers, who whistled and cheered through take after take as Monroe repeatedly missed her lines. Bill Kobrin, then-20th Century Fox's East Coast correspondent, told the Palm Springs Desert Sun in 2006 that it was Billy Wilder's idea to turn the shoot into a media circus, and he even had bleachers set up. This all occurred in the presence of an embarrassed and angry Joe DiMaggio, Monroe's husband at the time. The original footage never made it to the screen; the noise of the crowd had made it unusable. Wilder re-staged the scene on a Fox set replicating Lexington Avenue, and got a more satisfactory result. However, it took another 40 takes for Marilyn to achieve the famous scene.
Not without a distinct ring of irony, the nine-month Marilyn Monroe-Joe DiMaggio marriage officially ended during this shoot. DiMaggio was furious about the filming of the scene where his wife's dress blows up, and the next day, Monroe reportedly required make-up to cover up bruises from the ensuing domestic fight. Three weeks later, she filed for divorce.
Marilyn Monroe's iconic white dress set a record when it was auctioned for $4.6 million in June 2011 (rising to $5.5 million after taxes and fees were included), quintupling the previous record for a movie costume ($923,000 for Audrey Hepburn's "little black dress" from Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)).
In the 1970s Billy Wilder called the movie "a nothing picture because the picture should be done today without censorship . . . Unless the husband, left alone in New York while the wife and kid are away for the summer, has an affair with that girl there's nothing. But you couldn't do that in those days, so I was just straitjacketed. It just didn't come off one bit, and there's nothing I can say about it except I wish I hadn't made it. I wish I had the property now."
After seeing Walter Matthau's screen-test performance in the part of Richard Sherman, Billy Wilder believed he had found his leading man. However, 20th Century-Fox was unwilling to take the risk on a newcomer. That's when Wilder next turned his sights on the actor who had originated the role on Broadway, Tom Ewell -- who is, for some reason, billed as "Tommy" in the opening credits.
Marilyn Monroe's lifelong bouts with depression and self-destruction took their toll during filming; she frequently muffed scenes and forgot her lines, leading to sometimes as many as 40 takes of a scene before a satisfactory result was produced.
Bell Chips, then a West Coast regional brand potato-chip manufacturer trying to go national, sent cases of its products to various movie sets. When Billy Wilder ended up casting them as the chips Marilyn Monroe ate, Bell became famous. However, the company went out of business in 1995.
Adapted from the Broadway play by George Axelrod starring Tom Ewell and Vanessa Brown. When the project moved from Paramount to 20th Century-Fox, Brown was replaced by Marilyn Monroe. Due to the Hays Code, not only was most of the racy dialogue omitted, over the objections of Axelrod and Billy Wilder, Sherman's romance with The Girl became a product of his imagination.
In the early 1980s 20th Century-Fox (which has the film rights) wanted to remake this movie. Al Pacino was rumored to play Richard Sherman and Melanie Griffith was rumored to play the Girl. However, the project was turned down and, as of 2009, remains in development hell.
George Cukor was the original choice to direct the film. He turned down the project and eventually Billy Wilder, whose contract with Paramount ended in 1954 (his last film with that studio was Sabrina (1954)), took it.
George Axelrod brought his script from the play with him to his first meeting with Billy Wilder, and told Wilder he thought they could use it as a guide. Wilder famously replied, "Fine. We'll use it as a doorstop."
Amazingly, Marilyn Monroe's very narrow spike heels don't get stuck or break in the subway grating that she stands on it in the movie's most famous scene, although this was a universal problem, at the time, for the countless women wearing that very popular style heel in New York City in that era.
An important promotional campaign was released for this film, including a 52-foot-high cutout of Marilyn Monroe (from the blowing dress scene) erected in front of Loews State Theater, in New York City's Times Square.
The original Broadway production of "The Seven Year Itch" by George Axelrod opened at the Fulton Theater on November 20, 1952 and ran for 1141 performances. Tom Ewell reprises his role in the movie. The play's author collaborated on the screenplay for the movie version.
Footage featuring Yankees catcher Yogi Berra and pitcher "Steady" Eddie Lopat that was filmed during an Indians-Yankees game on September 1, 1954, was meant to be a part of the gossip sequence when Sherman daydreams about news of his activities with The Girl spreading throughout New York City. Shooting for the film began that Wednesday afternoon. Twelve days earlier Hedda Hopper reported on the upcoming scene in her gossip column, adding that the script for the movie was the "best I've ever read."
Actress Carolyn Jones, who played Nurse Finch in a dream sequence of this film, once said about Marilyn in 1982, "We talked at great length. She was such a sad lady. She was just getting to the stage where she was frightened about losing her looks. It was an all-consuming fear."
Even though he played Richard Sherman 730 times in the Broadway production, and won a Tony Award for his troubles, Tom Ewell said he "never expected to get the part" in the film adaptation. "In fact, I had already taken a house on Martha's Vineyard for a vacation. Needless to say, I'm happy they did choose me."
The New York movie theater that's supposedly showing Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) was really showing the Leslie Caron movie Lili (1953) at the time; the side of the theater visible to viewers had the "Creature" title on the marquee (along with a standee of monster and maiden on top of it), but the front of the theater marque (not visible) was still listing "Lili". A photo of the theater with all "conflicting" marquees visible was tacked up in the Fox photo department for decades.
The air conditioners so central to the film's plot were Emerson units from the 1954 model year--a Custom model for the living room and Compact models elsewhere. The Emerson logo was removed from the living room unit for filming.
In one of Richard's fantasies, Helen says that Kruhulik was really a private detective named Johnny Dollar. This is a reference to a radio drama titled "Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar" that ran on CBS from 1949 to 1962, with a hiatus from September, 1954, to October, 1955.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The first few times that Richard Sherman looks at The Girl's photo in the "U.S. Camera" yearbook, his reaction implies that it is a nude photo. When the photo is finally shown onscreen more than an hour into the movie, she is wearing a white bikini with red polka dots. However, to imply nudity, Marilyn Monroe struck a pose similar to those from her famous 1949 red velvet photo shoot that was featured in the premiere issue of "Playboy" in 1953.