Between the production of Love Happy in 1949 and its release in the spring of 1950, Marilyn hit her lowest point financially. With no film work on the horizon and few modeling prospects, she could not make ends meet.
Desperate for cash, she agreed to pose completely nude for photographer Tom Kelley on the condition that his wife, Natalie, be present during the session. Kelley had asked Marilyn previously but she had always refused.
On May 27, 1949, Marilyn posed for the calendar photograph that would one day make her a household name. She signed the release form "Mona Monroe" in a halfhearted effort to mask her identity.
Kelley produced 24 transparencies of two basic poses, one a full-length profile of Marilyn lying on a swatch of red velvet, the other a seated Marilyn with her head tossed back and legs tucked beneath her.
Contrary to popular belief, the full-length profile shot -- entitled "A New Wrinkle" -- became the original calendar photo. Only after the girl on the red velvet cloth had been identified as Marilyn Monroe did the second pose turn up.
Titled "Golden Dreams," the second pose became the most exploited of the two, appearing on calendars, decks of cards, key chains, coasters, glasses, and a host of other collectibles. One entrepreneur sculpted a three-
dimensional, rubberized version of "Golden Dreams," which would move suggestively at the turn of a handle. In December of 1953, "Golden Dreams" was used to launch the premiere issue of Playboy magazine.
Though the nude calendar shots are two of the most famous photographs in Hollywood history, Marilyn received only $50 for her efforts. Kelley himself received only a pittance when he sold the two shots to the Western Lithograph Company, but crafty manufacturers and slick promoters made a great deal of money selling bootleg versions of the calendar and other merchandise.
Original sales of the calendar reached eight million copies by the mid-1950s, with millions more sold of the bootleg versions. Some of Kelley's transparencies, which had not been sold for calendar purposes, were mysteriously stolen from his studio in the early 1950s.
Marilyn's career takes an upswing after she meets Hollywood powerplayer Johnny Hyde and gets cast in The Asphalt Jungle. Learn more about her role in the movie on the next page.