Marilyn Monroe’s Personal Evening Cape
From her personal wardrobe, Marilyn Monroe’s pastel yellow, green and beige silk evening cape, fashioned in a brocade pattern depicting roses and leaves, the interior lined in champagne-colored silk.
An extraordinary item, this evening cape was worn during one of Marilyn’s most glamorous public appearances: The world premiere of the James Dean film, “East of Eden” at the Astor Theatre in New York City on March 9, 1955. Unfortunately, the dress that accompanies the cape is now lost.
This cape was to have been sold originally at the 1999 Christie’s Auction: The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe, and two Christie’s tags are still pinned to the garment. Ultimately, this Marilyn Monroe item sold at the 2005 Julien’s Auction: Property from The Estate of Marilyn Monroe.
“Marilyn consented to be an usherette at the Actor’s Studio benefit and world premiere of East of Eden, starring James Dean. With the news of Marilyn’s participation the benefit was an instant sellout. The magic name of Monroe caused a run on tickets, which were being scalped at triple their sales price. One of the crowd at the Astor Roof who was anxiously waiting to see the usherette was Arthur Miller, who has attended the Actor’s studio benefit with his sister, actress Joan Copeland. Marilyn had been very much on Miller’s mind. He stated, ‘I no longer knew what I wanted – certainly not the end of my marriage, but the thought of putting Marilyn out of my life was unbearable.’
From the Book “Marilyn: The Ultimate Look at the Legend” by James Haspiel:
“Soon came the announcement Monroe would be an usherette at the March 9th world premiere of the James Dean film, East of Eden,
opening at the Astor Theatre. That night at the Gladstone I came upon wooden police horses set up on both sides of the entrance to the hotel, holding back hundreds of Monroe admirers. In addition, there was a long line of people that wrapped around onto Park Avenue, fans who had cameras and autograph books awaiting the Monroe image and signature. With her limousine sitting at the curb, what had been arranged for the more ambitious fans was that when Monroe came down in the elevator these people would be allowed to go one at a time to the elevator door and either take a snapshot or obtain an autograph.
Little by little, finally everyone had been serviced, as it were, and I got on the end of the line and was the last person to reach the door of the elevator. With a feeling of dismay that I didn’t have my camera along, I walked right into the cubicle, looped my arm through hers, and said, ” I’ll take you out to your car, Marilyn.” She was wearing an off-white brocade gown with a fur-trimmed stole, I was dressed in jeans and a black leather jacket. We must have been a sight and a half! As we came through the hotel’s revolving doors, probably seventy-five or so flashbulbs exploded into a virtual sea of bright light, yet I have never seen even a single photograph taken of that moment. I escorted Marilyn into the limo, helped her inside and closed the door. Having just usurped his job, I then noted her chauffeur standing there quite mute. I went around to the other side of the car to look at Marilyn through the window. Although she was to me consistently beautiful, there were few moments, this being one of them, when Marilyn looked so outrageously gorgeous that it was actually hard to look at her. But I did. She went on to the premiere, and the word quickly spread throughout Times Square that ‘Marilyn Monroe is over at the Astor Theatre!’ Soon people in the thousands picked up that information along Broadway. Marilyn was going to a post premiere party at the Astor Roof atop the Astor Hotel, directly across the street from the movie theatre.
By the film’s conclusion, there was no way to move along that block bridging the theatre and the hotel. To one side of the hotel, next to an entrance, was a very large display window with a healthy-sized cement sill that I managed to take refuge on. Side doors to the theatre were opened, and celebrities like Sammy Davis Jr. came walking through the crowd, and were welcomed and shouted at and applauded. One by one the celebrities came across, and then the doors were closed again, with everybody still there waiting for Marilyn. As if on cue, at exactly midnight the doors reopened and you could see about eleven or twelve policemen and a tousled blonde head in the middle of them. It was no small task getting Marilyn across that jammed street. I remember more than one person suddenly pirouetting out of the crowd, screaming hysterically ‘I touched her!’ When she got up close to where I was, heading for the entrance of the hotel, she was out of breath. I gazed at her face and there were tears streaming down her cheeks with joy and exhilaration, the excitement and love that was happening all around her. I didn’t go into the hotel, but someone who did told me there were people in the Ladies Room standing in the line outside the bathroom stall that Marilyn took refuge in, passing papers and pens underneath the stall for her to sign.”
Initial: Christie’s New York: The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe, October 27-28, 1999. Click here to buy your copy of the Christie’s auction catalog for the sale of Marilyn Monroe’s personal items.
Secondary: Julien’s Auctions: Property from the Estate of Marilyn Monroe, June 4, 2005