“Isn’t it delicious?” Those are the words uttered by Marilyn Monroe, Playboy’s first cover star in 1953, as hot air from a Manhattan subway grate blows up her uncontainable halter dress on a hotter summer night in The Seven Year Itch. That classic moment is actually a reshoot of scene that was tossed away – and just rediscovered.
On September 15, 1954, Jules Schulback, a furrier and home movie enthusiast, heard Ms. Monroe would be filming on the Upper East Side. He picked up his camera and hurried to Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street. It was 1am and hordes of people, mostly men, were standing around. This is what director Billy Wilder wanted; he was trying to drum up publicity for his new film. Two hours into shooting, the catcalls had escalated and men were greedily shouting, “Higher! Higher!” at Monroe’s skirt.
A breeze generated by a fan below the subway grates, fashioned by the special effects chief did its job, and it rapidly became known as “the shot seen round the world.” It was also seen by Monroe’s husband at the time, Joe DiMaggio, who was among the onlookers and didn’t appreciate what he witnessed.
Monroe and DiMaggio filed for divorce two weeks later, and Wilder didn’t use the footage (because it was just a publicity stunt, the hoots and hollers were too loud, or Monroe thought it was too racy and was trying to appease her then-husband), reshooting the scene on a closed Hollywood lot instead.
Just recently, the husband of one of Schulback’s grandchildren unearthed the original footage, piled with other old film cannisters in the pelt room of Schulback’s apartment: 17 seconds of inadvertent cinematic magic you can see here.