On the film set, a ‘nude’ actor, say under a bedsheet, generally wore underwear. Such precautions were taken in case the covering should accidentally be whisked off by a prop person. Horrors! Nudity in a town where nudity is unknown!

Or, in a bathtub, the actress (men are rarely seen in baths, usually in macho showers) might be required suddenly to change position or rise abruptly. Horrors again in a town where a soap-covered female nude is a sacrilege! Thus, even in a bubble-bath shot, a few emergency clothing items were worn.

But Marilyn insisted on being nude under the coverings. She wanted ‘to be true to the situation and character’. She called it ‘actor’s truth’. This attitude was instinctive and not as a result of the Method or her tuition from the master teachers Michael Chekhov or Lee Strasberg. She was great on instinct. She asked, ‘Would you take a bath, bubble or not, wearing panties and a bra?’

Nude in real life, nude beneath the suds! While Victor Moore, who played a plumber in The Seven Year Itch, looked on and seemed to enjoy it.

Marilyn Among Friends by Sam Shaw and Norman Rosten

Her witticisms were often steeped in a technical knowledge of the business. During the shooting of a scene at a bar in Bus Stop, she asked director Joshua Logan for a close-up of her. He agreed it was a good moment, but he asked, ‘How could I shoot a close-up in Cinemascope? I would have to crop off the top of your head.’ To which Marilyn replied, ‘That’s all right. In the previous set-up you established that I have a top to my head.’ Even Logan had to join in the laughter.

- Marilyn Among Friends by Sam Shaw and Norman Rosten

[Marilyn’s] performance was startling. The film actress was now ‘on stage’ in a historic debut. Strasberg had high praise for his pupil’s ability to transmit more on the stage than on the screen. Somehow - whether through instinct or desperation - Marilyn found the key to the character.

Those who came to scoff remained to marvel. Kim Stanley, one of the sceptics, thought Marilyn’s performance was “just wonderful. She was wonderful. We were taught never to clap at the Actor’s Studio - it was like we were in church - and it was the first time I’d ever heard applause there. Some of us went to her privately and apologised.” 

- Marilyn Among Friends by Sam Shaw & Norman Rosten