It’s late summer, 1954, and Jules Schulback–a New York furrier who fled Nazi Germany in 1938–hears a rumor that Marilyn Monroe will be shooting scenes for her new movie, The Seven Year Itch, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Schulback also has a penchant for taking home movies, and had just shot footage of Monroe only two days earlier. He heads out in the wee hours to a subway grate near Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street. Around 1 a.m., a substantial crowd of newspaper reporters and leering men have gathered around Monroe, director Billy Wilder, and the film crew.
In the scene being shot, Monroe leaves a movie theater on what is supposed to be a hot summer night. As a breeze from the subway grate below blows up her dress, she says, “Isn’t it delicious?” to the married man she’s seducing. In actuality, the night is cold, but the stunt works and they have the shot. Unfortunately, as the story goes, hundreds of catcallers surrounding the shoot began to yell for the dress to blow higher. Monroe’s then husband, Joe DiMaggio, was also there, unhappy about what he was seeing. Monroe wasn’t pleased with DiMaggio showing up, and the two would have a screaming argument at the St. Regis Hotel that night, just three weeks before their divorce. The footage shot that night would never be used (reshoots would later capture the moment), but Schulback would go home with some unique footage of his own.
Of course, Schulback told the Marilyn Monroe story many times to his children and grandchildren. According to his granddaughter, Bonnie Siegler, it was something he liked to brag about every now and then, a major point of pride. That said, up until recently, it was only a tall tale. In 2004, after Schulback was forced to leave his Upper East Side New York apartment at the age of 92, Siegler helped him move across Central Park to a new apartment. She also took on the immense task of packing up his old home. While rooting around her grandfather’s fur room, Siegler, a graphic designer, and her husband Jeff Scher, an experimental filmmaker, found a treasure trove of old film stashed in a plastic bag. Scher would restore the countless film canisters—about 50 rolls of 16-millimeter film and 75 rolls of 8-millimeter film in total. Among footage of family gatherings and parades, they finally spotted the iconic moment. Scher told The New York Times that seeing the famous scene play out “was startling. Like seeing a myth materialize.”
And according to Siegler, from the same Times piece, “There was something so magical about it. For years I didn’t know if it was real. I certainly didn’t believe it wholeheartedly. And there it was. It was like the end of the story.”