Happy Birthday, Mr. President
"Happy Birthday, Mr. President" is a song sung by actress and singer Marilyn Monroe on May 19, 1962, for President John F. Kennedy at a celebration of his 45th birthday, 10 days before the actual date (May 29).
Monroe sang the traditional "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics in a sultry, intimate voice, with "Mr. President" inserted as Kennedy's name. She continued the song with a snippet from the classic song, "Thanks for the Memory", for which she had written new lyrics specifically aimed at Kennedy.
Thanks, Mr. President
For all the things you've done
The battles that you've won
The way you deal with U.S. Steel
And our problems by the ton
We thank you so much
Afterwards, as an enormous birthday cake was presented to him, President Kennedy came on stage and joked about Monroe's version of the song, saying, "I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way," alluding to Marilyn's delivery, skintight dress, and image as a sex symbol.
The performance was one of her last major public appearances before her death less than three months later on August 4, 1962. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who rarely attended Democratic Party events, spent the day at the Loudon Hunt Horse Show with her children, John and Caroline.
President Kennedy's birthday celebration was held at the third Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, and more than 15,000 people attended, including numerous celebrities. The event was a fundraising gala for the Democratic Party.
Monroe's dress was made of a sheer and flesh-colored marquisette fabric, with 2,500 shimmering rhinestones sewn into it. The dress was so tight-fitting that Monroe had difficulty putting it on; she wore nothing under it. It was designed by Jean Louis.
Monroe was accompanied to the event by her publicist Patricia Newcomb. Peter Lawford was at the event that night to introduce Monroe. He made a play on the actress's reputation for tardiness by giving her a number of introductions throughout the night, after which she did not appear on stage. When Monroe finally appeared in a spotlight, Lawford introduced her as the "late Marilyn Monroe". Monroe peeled off her white ermine fur coat, revealing the dress, and the audience gasped.
Monroe's iconic dress was made by designer Jean Louis and originally cost $1,440.33 (equivalent to $9,508 in 2019). The dress sold in 1999 at an auction in New York City for over $1.26 million (equivalent to $1.85 million in 2019). Canadian billionaire Jim Pattison subsequently purchased the dress on November 17, 2016, at a Los Angeles auction for $4.8 million.
In the 1992 film Wayne's World, Mike Myers puts on a bra and does an impression of Monroe singing the song as his character, Wayne, while his girlfriend Cassandra (Tia Carrere) is on the phone. In 1994, Mathilda (Natalie Portman) reenacts Myer's scene in Leon: The Professional. At the time, she had never seen Marilyn Monroe's performance.
On the January 16, 1993, episode of Saturday Night Live the musical guest, Madonna, parodied the song as "Happy Inauguration, Mr. President", alluding to Bill Clinton's January 20 presidential inauguration.
Spice Girl Geri Halliwell performed the song in 1998 for Prince Charles' 50th birthday celebration, replacing the line "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" with "Happy Birthday, Your Royal Highness".
In a Season 5 episode of The Sopranos, Fran Feldstein (played by Polly Bergen) — a longtime goomah of the protagonist Tony Soprano's late father — informs Tony that she was also a mistress too and had an affair with John F. Kennedy during the "Camelot Era" of his presidency, who invited her to the presidential suite of a hotel with Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason in attendance. After hearing of this, Tony returns to her house and brings a captain hat, he purchased from an auction, that was previously possessed by Kennedy. He lets her wear the hat and she begins to sing Happy Birthday, Mr. President to him in a seductive way, imitating Monroe.
In a 2008 episode of 30 Rock, Claire Harper (played by Jennifer Aniston) — a friend of the protagonist Liz Lemon — begins an affair with Jack Donaghy and follows him without his knowledge to a charity dinner at which she performs a sexy version of Happy birthday to him in spite of the fact that it wasn't even his birthday.
In 2016, a trailer for the second season of the alternate history series The Man in the High Castle shows Monroe singing the song for Adolf Hitler, with the line "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" replaced with "Happy Birthday, Mein Führer".
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