Marilyn Monroe did a 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 (opens in new tab) known as the Last Sitting—aptly named, as it was the last shoot Marilyn participated in before her death.
Though she was famous for her perceived "perfection" and "flawlessness" (all the eye-rolls at the inherent sexism that goes into these terms), Marilyn Monroe had a pretty big scar across her stomach—which appears in both the Last Sitting and in Something's Got to Give.
The scar itself is the result of gallbladder surgery that occurred before Stern's famous images were taken. He says (opens in new tab) Marilyn was self-conscious about it, and called upon her hairdresser George for reassurance before shooting. When Stern noticed the scar, he reportedly remembered (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 in a video containing the same set of images:
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 (opens in new tab) to have quipped (opens in new tab) "I guess the censors are willing to recognize that everybody has a navel."
Guess what? Everyone has scars too—even Marilyn.
Mehera Bonner is a celebrity and entertainment news writer who enjoys Bravo and Antiques Roadshow with equal enthusiasm. She was previously entertainment editor at Marie Claire and has covered pop culture for over a decade.
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