When Marilyn Monroe filmed a love scene with Clark Gable in The Misfits, she dropped the bed-sheet and exposed her body in what would have been the first nude scene by an American actress in a feature film.
But director John Huston refused to include it, insisting on a retake, and the risqué footage was thought to have been destroyed.
Now, more than half a century later, the author of a forthcoming Monroe biography has discovered that it has survived.
Charles Casillo interviewed Curtice Taylor, son of the film’s producer Frank Taylor, and was taken aback to learn that he has kept the footage in a locked cabinet since his father’s death in 1999.
Mr Taylor said: ‘A lot of times, unused takes were destroyed. But Frank Taylor believed that it was so important and so ground-breaking that he saved it.’
The Misfits, filmed in 1961 and written by Ms Monroe’s then husband Arthur Miller, tells the story of three cowboys vying for the attention of a beautiful woman.
It was her last completed movie, and she died aged 36 the following year from a sleeping-pills overdose.
Conspiracy theories have persisted ever since, but some 56 years later Ms Monroe remains one of Hollywood’s most iconic stars.
Mr Casillo said that, until now, her only nude scene on film was thought to be in her last, uncompleted movie, Something’s Got to Give.
He said: ‘If you read [The Misfits] script… it doesn’t say anything about nudity… When she did the scene, everyone was shocked on the set.
‘Huston sighed and said, “Honey, I’ve seen them before” Gable and others… wanted [it] to be left in. Huston didn’t… because he felt it… was totally unnecessary to the scene.’
The footage, with sound, lasts about 45 seconds. Curtice Taylor, a photographer and teacher, understands why his father was so keen to include it: ‘It’s much more passionate.’
At that time, there were censorship restrictions over screen characters being seen in bed together.
He said: ‘So Gable’s fully clothed. He comes into her bedroom. She’s asleep. He caresses and kisses her neck, turns her face around and gives her a good lip-lock.
‘That exists in the scene in the [final] film – but not to the passionate degree of this one, which is much better.
‘The smile on her face when he’s kissing her shoulder is just sublime.’
After Gable leaves the room, Ms Monroe holds up the sheet to put on her blouse.
Mr Taylor believes that she dropped it partly due to her training as a method actress.
He said: ‘Why would a woman sitting up in bed, with nobody in the room, pull the sheet up and then try to put a blouse on at the same time? It makes no sense.
‘So she just drops the sheet. I think it’s one of the reasons she did this. There are quite a few takes of this scene.
‘Whenever she dropped the sheet, which she did a few times, Huston would say “Cut, remember the sheet, Marilyn”.’
Mr Taylor was surprised that the footage is an edited sequence, and wonders whether the censors had insisted on its removal.
He attended the shoot at just 13-years-old, and said he remembers Ms Monroe talking to him and asking him to do ‘little favours’.
He said: ‘She’d give me $5 to go get something.’
Quite what he will do with the material is yet to be decided.
The Misfits also marked the end of Ms Monroe’s marriage.
In his book, Mr Casillo describes how when Monroe was dependent on pills during the shoot, and was hoping to continue an affair with actor Yves Montand.
He said: ‘The marriage in which she had put so much hope was over. To make matters worse, most of the shooting would take place during the summer months in the scorching Nevada desert.
‘The Millers took a [hotel] suite together, but it soon became apparent that their union was anything but harmonious. Their violent arguments could be heard through the walls.’