An important, somewhat scandalous piece of film history reemerged this weekend after having been thought lost for decades: Marilyn Monroe’s famous lost nude scene. Filmed as part of 1961’s The Misfits from director John Huston, the scene featured Monroe opposite of screen legend Clark Gable, and would have been one of the first nude scenes by a major Hollywood actress in the sound era of film … had Huston not chosen to cut it.
According to a new book by author Charles Casillo, Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, out via St. Martin’s Press this Tuesday, the footage was saved instead of destroyed by The Misfits producer Frank Taylor, and has been kept in a locked cabinet since Taylor’s death in 1999, where it’s still waiting to be unearthed.
The Misfits was Monroe’s last completed feature film, and not exactly the high point of the star’s career—it was also Clark Gable’s last film. It’s the story of a recently divorced woman who becomes the romantic target of three different men, who vie for her affections, and was written by Monroe’s husband at the time, playwright Arthur Miller. The nude scene occurred, according to Deadline, when “Monroe dropped the covering bed-sheet and exposed her body” to Gable.
Deadline likewise reports that “what will become of the found footage has not been decided,” but suffice to say, it’s certainly worth something—not just as a long-lost memento of a famous American sex symbol, but as a snapshot of a specific point in filmmaking history when the conventions of the 1950s were being stripped away and the spirit of the 1960s was taking hold. One imagines that it was also an attempt by Monroe to recapture a bit of the sex symbol status she enjoyed in the ‘50s—unfortunately it was only a year before her death via barbiturate overdose in 1962.
Regardless, where and when this footage eventually surfaces, it’s sure to be a big deal to the film community.