Marilyn Brings ‘Power, Glamour, Rebellion’ to Melbourne

The dress worn by Marilyn while performing ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ in Some Like It Hot is on display at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne, as part of a new exhibition, Goddess: Power, Glamour, Rebellion. (Orry Kelly, who won an Oscar for this and his other designs for the movie, was born and raised in Australia.)

“Through iconic stories, characters and moments from over 120 years of moving image history, Goddess celebrates the women and gender-transcending superstars who shaped their own roles, took creative control and fought a system that tried to exploit them.

From the swagger of Mae West and glamour of Anna May Wong to the powerful punch of Pam Grier, this ACMI-curated exhibition salutes the groundbreaking achievements and impact of the screen’s leading gender revolutionists. Too often reduced to the status of bombshell, starlet and screen siren, these goddesses remain far more than stereotypes.

Featuring never-before-seen costumes, original sketches, interactive experiences and cinematic treasures, including iconic outfits worn by Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Geena Davis and Margot Robbie, Goddess honours the artists who challenged narratives, defied expectations and transcended tropes.

Whether it’s Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Michelle Yeoh or Zendaya, today’s goddesses unapologetically occupy spaces and roles that shatter glass ceilings, project solidarity and reframe society through essential stories, singular voices and complex characters. They’ve fought convention and an industry built to confine them with collective power and fearless creativity to embody their own heroes and forge their own paths.”

Another iconic Monroe costume – the pink strapless sheath designed by Travilla for Marilyn’s ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – is also examined via numerous homages and reproductions, including Aussie-born actress Margot Robbie‘s subversive turn as comic-book heroine Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey.

The exhibition, which runs until October 1st, also boasts a number of related events. This month, the Melbourne Cinematheque is hosting a retrospective, Return Fire: Marilyn Monroe, Actor and Icon.

“Monroe was not simply ‘the ultimate embodiment of the desirable woman’ (per film critic Richard Dyer) but, as has become more widely acknowledged in the years since her untimely death at the age of 36, a witty, intelligent and receptive performer who elevated her roles beyond their often ostensible simplicity on the page and craved recognition beyond the objectification to which she was relentlessly subjected. Joshua Logan, who directed Monroe in Bus Stop (1956), said of the star: ‘[She] is pure cinema… Watch her work in any film. How rarely she has to use words. How much she does with her eyes, her lips, with slight, almost accidental gestures.’ This season focuses on the wide range of Monroe’s work in the 1950s, working with major directors of Hollywood’s golden age including Howard Hawks and Fritz Lang, as well as her soulful, final completed film written by her then-husband, playwright Arthur Miller, and directed by John Huston: The Misfits (1961).”