|Oct 1 2009
In 1962 Hollywood actresses began showing skin for the first time in more than thirty years.
Today we have a Confidential from October 1962, featuring a rundown of nude scenes by the biggest actresses of the time. The Natalie Wood shot in the little collage they’ve put together is from Gypsy, her biopic of the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, where she showed her back, but did not in fact appear nude. Likewise, Liz Taylor never appeared nude in a film. Ditto Kim Novak, although she posed quite provocatively for many photographers, including wearing only soapsuds in a Life magazine bio, and in a rumored set of explicit youthful nudes. You can find those on the trusty interweb, but the identity of the woman in the shots is certainly open to debate.
Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe were two entirely different cases, though. The Mansfield image above is from 1962’s It Happened in Athens, in which she went skimpy, but not naked. But the next year she went fully topless in Promises! Promises! and triggered a national firestorm, including a ban of the film in several cities. She was the first mainstream American actress to go topless, not counting the several who bared it before the introduction of the Hayes Code back in 1930. In late 1963, Promises! Promises! stills were featured in Playboy, and those too caused a problem, because they showed that Mansfield had actually been fully nude on the set. An obscenity trial for Hugh Hefner followed, but he was acquitted. In any case, Promises! Promises! was a hit. It wasn’t a very good film. But the scenes with Mansfield are indeed extraordinarily sexy.
The Monroe story is equally fascinating. When she was making the film Something’s Got To Give, she was supposed to appear in a swimming scene wearing the usual flesh-colored body stocking to conceal her lady parts. Monroe had caused problems on many sets by then, and her reputation was in tatters. When the time came to shoot the scene, she allegedly did it fully nude, with publicity photographers and crew present.The event caused a sensation, and seemed to signal a renewed focus from Marilyn to reclaim her status as America’s top sex symbol. Sadly, it was the last splash she ever made—she was fired and the film was never finished. But a precedent had been reestablished—for the first time since the Hayes Code, actresses were showing skin. Soon, Hollywood males would be doing the same. In less than a decade the human body would be fully uncovered on film, and there was no putting it back under wraps.
Hayes CodeSomething’s Got To GivePromises! Promises!ConfidentialPlayboyJayne MansfieldMarilyn MonroeNatalie WoodElizabeth TaylorKim NovakHugh Hefnertabloidnuditysex symbolcinema