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Rare Marilyn Monroe PHOTOS: 48th Anniversary Of 'Happy Birthday, Mister President' (PHOTOS, POLL)

First Posted: 05/19/2010 2:37 pm   Updated: 05/25/2011 4:30 pm

Today marks the 48th anniversary of the fateful night when Marilyn Monroe cooed "Happy Birthday" to then-President John F. Kennedy. And we've got a look at rare photographs from the occasion.

Text by LIFE.com and photos by Bill Ray/Courtesy of LIFE.com. Visit LIFE.com to see more.

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On May 19, 1962, screen goddess Marilyn Monroe — literally sewn into a sparkling, jaw-droppingly sheer dress — sauntered onto the stage of New York's Madison Square Garden and, with one breathless performance, forever linked sex and politics in the American consciousness. For the 15,000 spectators there that night, including LIFE photographer Bill Ray, Marilyn's "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy amplified the buzz about an affair between the two. But beyond the titillation, the moment Ray captured in this, his most iconic shot, went on to play a major role in both Marilyn's and JFK's biographies, coming as it did near the end of their short lives. As the 48th anniversary of that legendary birthday party approaches, Ray sits down with LIFE.com to share his photos from that night, most of which have never been seen, and to tell the story of how he overcame countless obstacles — the cavernous setting, tricky lighting, and security "goons" eager to keep the press at bay — to get The Shot.
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