One day in 1962, Marilyn Monroe painted her silver Hotpointe refrigerator a deep cobalt blue. She loved the shade, and it matched the vibrant colors of the Mexican tiles in the kitchen of her new house.
There are more than 1,000 items in "Marilyn, The Exhibit" at the Hollywood Museum, a special tribute to the film star that runs through Sept. 2. Draped on a fainting couch is the ivory silk charmeuse gown she wore in "The Prince and the Showgirl" in 1957.
The exhibit features the last sittings she did for photographer George Barris, including some pictures displayed to the public for the first time. Here is Marilyn's alligator makeup case, containing her personal supply of cosmetics. There is the stunningly simple Ceil Chapman black dress she famously wore to entertain the troops in Korea.
Yet it is that refrigerator, featured in the exhibit next to her living room couch and sofa table, that reminds visitors why, 50 years after her death by overdose, she remains so touchingly human.
"It's all about the fact that she finally found a home, she finally laid roots," said Donelle Dadigan, founder and president of the Hollywood Museum.
"It was the first time she'd purchased a home in 36 years, several months before her passing. In 36 years, she had moved 45 times or so."
The special exhibit takes up about 3,000 square feet on one floor of the former Max Factor building on the corner of North Highland and Hollywood Boulevard. Although the museum maintains a Monroe exhibit throughout the year, it has pulled out the stops in honor of today's anniversary.
"The [special] collection belongs to Scott Fortner, Greg Schreiner, Jill Adams and the Hollywood Museum," said Ms. Dadigan. "We're kind of like Switzerland, in that so many have contributed." Ms. Dadigan bought the property and established the museum as a nonprofit in 1994.
The Los Angeles exhibit was curated by Steve Nycklemoe, museum director of operations.
Fans from across the globe, including France, Australia and Japan, have made the pilgrimage this year, and a slate of events held this week, topped by a memorial service.
In Florence, Italy, another large-scale exhibit is being staged by the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo.
"We are thrilled about this exhibit because it's not only about her public life, but her personal life," said Ms. Dadigan, who also credited Johnny Grant with an assist.
Mr. Grant, who died in 2008, was the longtime honorary mayor of Hollywood who helped establish the Walk of Fame and helped guide the transition of the old Max Factor building into a museum.
Others have been happy to lend from their private collections.
"She is everywhere in the world, it's amazing, isn't it?" said Mr. Schreiner. "If you say 'Marilyn Monroe' even young people who have never seen her movies, they know her. They might not know Bette Davis or Joan Crawford."
Mr. Schreiner, a college piano teacher who also presents musical reviews, remembers his parents taking him to see "Some Like It Hot" when he was a boy, "and I just couldn't get her out of my mind."
Eight of his Marilyn outfits are on display in Italy, including William Travilla's original, fishnet-and-rhinestones costume for the "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" number in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Deemed too racy by 20th Century Fox executives, it was replaced by the iconic pink satin dress.
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