lot n°720: Marilyn Monroe extensive archive of production
and publicity material from The Seven Year Itch
(TCF, 1955) Extensive archive of production and publicity materials representing all facets of the film, The Seven Year Itch. The archive contains significant correspondence and consultations, with 1,000+ individual pieces including Billy Wilder’s 5 pg. contract signed three (3) times and dated June 1st, 1954, author George Axelrod’s 10 pg. contract signed, Billy Wilder’s signed payment agreement, copy of producer Charles Feldman’s letter sent to “Mr. and Mrs. Joe DiMaggio” framing the reasons he, the director and the studio want Marilyn in the film, confidential correspondence between Wilder and Zanuck with heated exchanges at times, a pair of scripts bearing numerous annotations in Darryl Zanuck’s hand, together with extensive collections of copies of legal documents, inter-office memos, and telegrams, intimate exchanges between Zaunck and Charles K. Feldman, as well as other correspondence to and from Harry Sokolov, Irving Cohen, Irving “Swifty” Lazar, Spyros Skouras, and many other studio heads.
Charles K. Feldman (1904-1968) was one of the most powerful agents in Hollywood and had notable creative input as executive-producer on several important films, Pittsburgh, Red River, A Streetcar Named Desire, and notably, The Seven Year Itch. The archive begins with early correspondence regarding George Axelrod’s screenplay being purchased by Feldman and negotiating with Billy Wilder to direct. Lew Wasserman was acting as agent for Wilder and numerous exchanges are present with drafts of agreements including a fascinating dialogue on Wilder having no interest in Tom Ewell or Walter Mathau as the lead, but instead he wanted Jamest Stewart, Gary Cooper or William Holden. Wilder’s 5 pg. contract is present, dated June 1st, 1954, signed three (3) times and initialed five (5) times, as well as his signed payment agreement dated November 23, 1954.
An official secretarial copy of a fantastic 5 pg. letter, dated May 17, 1954, from Feldman to “Mr. and Mrs. Joe DiMaggio” frames the reasons that he, director Billy Wilder and Twentieth Century-Fox want Marilyn Monroe in the film, “When all of us met, you, Marilyn, expressed a repeated and definite desire to appear in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH. I bought the play for over $250,000 and as I would not sell it today for a million dollars, it is conceivable…this film could show profits in the millions – for everyone believes it will be a tremendous hit!” Numerous secretarial copies of typed letters sent to Wilder from Zanuck about the lead male role include a number of insights, “If I had read the script at the time we were casting…I would never have recommended Holden or anybody else except Ewell. No one I can think can play this particular script. I didn’t quite understand at the time but in re-reading I believe that Holden would have been as big an error as Gary Cooper. That is a great play…but I tell you that in spite of the enormous success of this play on the stage it would not be, in my opinion, fifty percent of the picture it will be with Marilyn Monroe. She is an absolute must for this story…nothing would make up for her personality in this subject.” Another telegram from Zanuck states, “Monroe was particularly outstanding. Keep up the tempo of the dialogue…I’m really impressed by everything I saw.”
A pair of Zanuck’s personally hand-annotated scripts are present, one a Temporary Incomplete with 11 pages of annotations with an interesting note during the scene Richard is scrutinizing the cover design for Little Women, where he Zanuck pens, “? The Scarlet Letter – play off the Adultress later.” Another Final script bears 24 pages of handwritten notations with suggestions for cutting the reading scene way down. Another Zanuck TLS to Charles Feldman, dated Sept. 20, 1954, advises against the “voice over” scenes and sends along his 10-page breakdown of differences between the play and the script and 12 pages of annotated dialogue with Zanuck’s suggestions stapled to the margins on small strips of blue paper.
When principal filming began and just after Marilyn and DiMaggio’s divorce, some exchanges become heated between Feldman and Zanuck, including a 2 pg. office memo from Oct. 22, 1954, “There have been tough days – rough days - immediately after the divorce proceedings, the 18-takes have only happened on rare occasions with the girl…For the last two weeks this girl has worked as hard as anyone I have known in my life. Incidentally I don’t know how Kazan worked with you but I can tell you that on STREETCAR, it was a daily occurrence for us to have 25 to 30 takes with Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. This has not been happening on ITCH. In my opinion, and I think you agree with me, Billy is probably one of the most cooperative of all the directors in the business, and he has never been accused, to my knowledge, of taking unnecessary time – certainly not on ITCH.” Five days later Feldman writes to Zanuck reiterating Billy and Marilyn’s hard work, the tightness of the script and requesting some retakes, including the dress blowing scene. There is criticism though, with some correspondence that relates to Wilder taking too long to film scenes and difficulties with Marilyn taking company time to rehearse.
There is a strong concentration of material on the risqué nature of the publicity done for the film, specifically relating to large promotional billboards that featured the iconic billowing white dress scene, “They’re replacing a big cardboard cutout of Marilyn outside Loew’s Theatre in Times Square. It was showing Marilyn with her skirts blowing above her waist. Not good taste…Some papers refuse to accept wind blowing ad because of Kefauver investigation and pressure groups…this is a very delicate situation…sensational business so far at opening.” Much difficulty arose with censors upon the film’s release, including a complete rejection by the Irish Censor & Appeal Board stating, “this film is incapable of cutting without destroying its continuity. It is indecent and unfit for general exhibition.” Even a telegram from Wilder to the president of the Catholic Legion of Decency states, “I do not have the reputation of having ever been connected with pictures of a lascivious character. Obviously, the picture deals humorously with a man’s temptations but they are very human and utterly harmless. As one reviewer put it quote the play has been laundered snow white unquote. Am afraid that additional bleaching will make the picture disintegrate into an incomprehensible nothing.”
All in all, a rich trove and fascinating glimpse into the project’s inception, it’s transformation from stage to screen, all the various legal wrangling between agents, producers, directors and other studio heads during filming, and finally the fallout over the overt sexuality that faced cinema goers after the film’s release. Interested parties are strongly encouraged to view this material in person.
Estimate: $30 000 - $50 000
lot n°726: The Seven-Year Itch German R’65 A-0 oversize
poster by Fischer-Nosbisch
(TCF, 1955/R1965) Executed in the very early style of Andy Warhol’s fashion illustrations (the smaller size German poster for this release is in his full pop-art style) by the husband and wife design team of Fischer and Nosbisch. Distinctive enough to have graced the pages of “In Style” magazine some years ago as a recommended décor suggestion. Near-Mint, unused folded condition, 33” x 47”.
Estimate: $200 - $300