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The World’s Most Famous Subway Grate

Jun 12th, 2008 | By | Category: Marilyn Monroe Locations, Movie Locations

The other night in my acting class we were talking about Marilyn Monroe and the movie The Seven Year Itch. One of my classmates asked me if I had ever seen the famous scene of Marilyn standing on top of a subway grate from the movie. I told him that not only had I seen it, I’ve stood on that very subway grate! So, I thought I’d do a little post about it. :) In that famous scene, Marilyn and her downstairs neighbor, played by Tom Ewell, exit the Trans Lux Theatre, which once stood at 586 Lexington Avenue, and walk onto a subway grate. Marilyn is standing atop the grate as a subway passes making her white skirt billow high above her waist as she exclaims “Oh, can you feel the breeze from the subway? Isn’t it delicious?”

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The scene was originally shot on location in Manhattan on September 15, 1954 at 1 O’clock in the morning, with over 5000 spectators and media men watching. The crowd went wild as Marilyn’s skirt flew higher and higher, making the footage being shot completely unusable due to the noise. Director Billy WIlder ended up having to re-shoot the entire sequence at 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles.

The footage that ended up making it to the final cut of the movie was significantly edited down as the scene was considered far too racy for its time. But everyone remembers those black and white photographs taken of Marilyn that September night in Manhattan with her skirt billowing high above her waist, showing off her panties and her long gams. In the actual movie, you barely see Marilyn’s skirt fly up at all, most of what is shown is her face reacting to the subway breeze. You can watch the subway grate scene below:

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On a side note – One of the many people in attendance that September night in New York was Marilyn’s husband at the time, Joe DiMaggio. Supposedly, Joe became enraged that the gleeful onlookers were viewing his wife’s panties over and over again during the filming of the scene. The marriage was already on the rocks at the time and this experience put Joe over the edge. Just a few weeks later he filed for divorce from the starlet, long before the movie ever premiered.

Until next time, Happy Stalking! :)

Stalk It: The Seven Year Itch subway grate is located at the northwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street. The Trans Lux Theatre is no longer there and a large office building now stands in its place.

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9 comments

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  1. Will says:

    It’s my understanding that Billy Wilder planned all along to reshoot later in the studio. The scene in NYC was purely for publicity.

  2. Steve Conlin says:

    Just returned from NYC, accidentally came upon MM “subway grate” on Lexington Ave.

    Later, watching “Seven Year Itch” on DVD, I realized 1954 location of scene had changed completely. The office building at 590 Lexington is contemporary (probably from the 1970′s) and the retail storefronts are very different. The sidwalk has been widened considerably.

    It looks to me like the underground subway ventilation ducts were redone when the new building was
    constructed. The current subway gratings themselves are a dull, continous steel gridwork that stretchs from 51st Street to 52nd St. In the film, and in George Zimbel’s famous photos, there are only a few rectangular steel mesh panels with a cross-weave pattern. MM is standing on one of these as her skirt is blown.

    I believe the original subway grates were replaced in the late 1950′s, so the current grates are the second or third replacements.

    I don’t think anything from the 1954 period remains, except perhaps the subway tunnel under Lexington Ave.

  3. Lindsey says:

    I just got back from NYC a couple of weeks ago. My friend and I also went looking for the famous subway grate but were unsucessful in finding it – we even had a map telling us where it was but I think it was in the wrong area as the road it was shown on had zero grates.
    Next time I’m in NYC I’ll remember where you said it was a visit it myself. Thanx :D

  4. Mike says:

    I went on a quest to find the grate while in NYC recently – just came across your post and thought you might enjoy mine as well. (I wish I had seen this post BEFORE we were in NYC!)

    Here’s mine: http://semorebofus.blogspot.com/2009/03/grate-debate.html

  5. Sat says:

    I am also Sat. I want to know more about this site. In which field it is working
    sbsbhatia@yahoo.co.in


Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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