Marilyn’s career also began to take off. Shot in spring and summer of 1952, Niagara was directed by Henry Hathaway. Marilyn starred as a cunning adulteress named Rose Loomis, a character much harsher than those she had played in her earlier films.
The critics may have had their doubts about Marilyn, but the public made her a superstar after the release of Niagara in January 1953. The film grossed over $6,000,000 that year.
In March 1952, Marilyn’s career was rocked by a scandal when her nude photographs (taken by Tom Kelley in 1949) were published on a calendar. Marilyn decided it would be best to admit to posing for the photos, and be honest about why she did it. 20th Century Fox panicked and encouraged her to deny it, but Marilyn refused to lie to her fans. She then gave an interview explaining that she had been struggling for money, and that the photographer’s wife had been present during the shoot. Luckily, Marilyn had made the right decision - the public loved her even more for her honesty.
On her birthday, June 1st, Marilyn was told she had landed the role as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Her co-star Jane Russell earned between $100,000 and $200,000 for her role, whilst Marilyn earned just $1,500 a week, totaling around $18,000 for her work. Aware that she was being taken advantage of, Marilyn insisted on her own dressing room. As she told the Fox executives, “I am the blonde, and it is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”