In the summer of 1952, filming began on what would be considered one of Fox’s most controversial masterpieces: Henry Hathaway’s Niagara. The film would be the first film-noir ever to be shot in Technicolor and a ticket to instant fame for a then unknown starlet and now Hollywood Icon: Marilyn Monroe.
Above: A controversial promotional poster for the 1953 Fox masterpiece Niagara.
Niagara, like any other film produced by Fox would not be complete until equipped with the finest actors, actress and wardrobe the studio had to offer. Alongside Monroe, the cast featured fellow Hollywood legends Jean Peters, Joseph Cotton, and Max Showalter. Sets and props were built and arranged by some of the studio’s finest set constructors. In the costume department, Fox sought out the incomparable talents of famed costume designer Dorothy Jeakins, whose unparalleled creations flattered Monroe’s famed figure. Unfortunately, Jeakins’ creations failed to flatter the dreaded Hayes Code censors. Therefore, many of the original design concepts intended to be featured in the film were either axed, altered, or reused altogether for some of Fox’s later projects.
An example of Jeakins’ work that comes to mind is this red linen halter top dress featured below. The intention of using the dress for the film was definite, but for which scene still remains a complete mystery. The dress was dubbed “too revealing”, by the Hayes Code enforcers and therefore was demoted for strict use in photo-shoots sanctioned by Fox to help promote the film:
Above: Monroe posing in the infamous red halter top dress in a promotional photo-shoot for the film Niagara.
Above: Jeakins’ costume sketch for the red halter top dress (Top). Monroe donning the finished masterpiece at a costume test for the film. On the chalkboard (lower left), reads the words “to be spotted,” meaning that the actual scene the dress would be worn in was yet to be decided.
In 1959, when the ban from the Hayes Code was lifted, just six years after the filming of Niagara had ceased, the dress found further use on fellow blonde bombshell Barbara Nichols, who wore the dress in another controversial film by Fox: Woman Obsessed, featuring performances by Susan Hayward, Stephen Boyd and Dennis Holmes.
Above: Barbara Nichols alongside Susan Hayward and Stephen Boyd in promotional photo for the 1959 controversial Fox film: Woman Obsessed.
Above: How the dress appears today. As you can see, the dress was either cut or hemmed at the bottom (perhaps for Nichols’ use or the use of a film extra). The dress last sold at an online auction for an incredible $89,600.
In 1958, a year before the release of Woman Obsessed, Fox brought out the dress again to be used on an extra for a party sequence in the film In Love and War.
Above: An extra (upper left), wearing the red halter top dress for yet another Fox production.
Film fans, can you guess what actress wore the yellow dress (center), prior to its reuse in this film? Stay tuned for next week’s edition of How Hollywood Recycles.