Elizabeth Taylor’s ‘Suddenly Last Summer’ was almost forbidden more than spicy white swimsuit, the author reveals



A look back at the Hollywood icons in swimsuits

Curator and photo preservationist David Wills recently published his collection of photos of film icons of the ’30s to the ’70s strutting their stuff on the shoreline with the title ‘Hollywood Beach Beauties.’

Long before the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the stars were stripping.

Curator and photo preservationist David Wills recently published his collection of photos of film icons of the ’30s to the ’70s strutting their stuff on the shoreline with the title “Hollywood Beach Beauties.”

The collection highlights more than 100 vivid color photos of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Sharon Tate, and Edy Williams – just to name a few.


Raquel Welch, circa 1966

(Photo courtesy David Wills Collection)

During his research process, he said that he was surprised at how much of the swimsuit photo’s were not really break, while the stars soak up the sun, but in a studio.

“Back in the day, studios caught on very quick, such as in the years ’30 and ’40, that pictures of stars in bathing suits would sell magazines,” he explained. “And, of course, in turn, they would publish their next films.

“And on top of that, you had the question of bathing suit pin-ups because of the second world War. So a lot of time, these great movie stars did not want to pose on a public beach, because this would only be in the open and they would be put on display. She felt vulnerable, or that they could not be themselves.

“So the studios would actually build a beach – and some of them were horrible, even laughable… They would bring in a little sand in a studio setting. And you will find the right to 1970 they did that.”

Natalie Wood, 1961

(Photo courtesy Independent Visions MPTV)

But there were rules of these actresses who need to strictly follow to stay in good graces with their studios. For starters, show off the belly button was strictly prohibited and swimwear are not permitted to be shown wet.

When Elizabeth Taylor wore a layer of white a piece for 1959’s “Suddenly, Last Summer,” it’s almost got the film banned.

“They couldn’t get out of the water wet,” says Will. “And it was a white bathing suit. You could see her nipples. But that was part of the storyline in time. It was a very controversial film. But there were ways around it. You could not leave the navel. You could be in European films, but it was not until the 1960s that the navel were freed.”

But years earlier, the actress and Frank Sinatra’s future wife Ava Gardner caused a stir when she flaunted her thighs in a laced-up two-piece in 1944.

Elizabeth Taylor, 1959

(Photo courtesy Independent Visions MPTV)

“I don’t believe that is an illusion,” chuckled Will. “I believe that at the sight of her under the side, there is the actual skin. And this kind of natural development of the bathing suit run in a bikini and getting smaller and smaller.”

During the ’50s, actresses had to be careful about the show of cleavage in a bathing suit. But stars like Jane Russell, Mamie Van Doren and Diana Dors popularized the eye-popping bullet/torpedo-shaped bra.

Good Housekeeping previously reported the style was popular during the second world War because of claims that it reportedly offered an extra level of protection for women working on the production lines.

“It was really just to get around the censorship, and sexual as you could get away with,” added Will.

Ava Gardner, 1944

(Clarence Sinclair Bull, Photo courtesy David Wills Collection)

A star was not shy about breaking the rules was the French film icon Brigitte Bardot.

“I think they really pushed people into the dawn of the sexual revolution,” wills explained. “She was really the one who I think popularized the bikini… And I think that many of the women enjoyed the opportunity to show a little bit of midriff. The two-piece was more comfortable… And in the ’60s, fashion was becoming smaller and smaller and smaller.”

And in 1962’s “Dr. No” it was Bond Girl Ursula Andress who had pulses racing in cinemas, easy to Sean Connery as the famous British secret agent.

“She created the look of the Bond Girl”, said Will. “The two-piece with the halter and the knife in? The fully-sold the movie. They emerged from the water, her hair is wet and she has that killer bone structure. He said only one thing — danger. That look is really a new form of sexual animal that really hadn’t seen on the screen.”

Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, 1962

(Photo courtesy Independent Visions MPTV)

But not every star was as keen on stripping for good publicity. While Marilyn Monroe’s popularity as a sought-after pinup before she was a movie star, the blonde bombshell longed to be recognized for more than her appearance.

“I don’t know if she thought much about it at the time, because I know that later in her career she does not want to be associated with that, but it’s certainly helped her get a lot of attention,” said Will. “You look back as early as in 1945, and she was posing in a bathing suit.

“At one time, she didn’t want to do that anymore… So for the last 10 years of her life, which you rarely saw her posing in a bathing suit. Only a couple of occasions, such as taken by Sam Shaw, who in the book… But a professional at a certain point, they just stopped.”

On the other hand, Joan Crawford, who originally launched her career in 1925, used swimsuit photos to boost her image in the later years.

Marilyn Monroe, 1950

(Photo courtesy David Wills Collection)

“I feel she was one of the first women who believed just because your over 50 does not mean that you could not be viewed in a sexual way,” said Will. “She was not afraid to get out there over the age of 50 to her legs, to show her midriff.

“[The time], once a woman was over the age of 35, the studio basically gave her a gold watch, so to speak. And I know that in the case of Joan Crawford, even as late as the 1960’s… she was still playing strong female romantic leads opposite the leading men who are 20-30 years younger than her.”

Will told Fox News his team spent a considerable amount of time and effort in restoring the old images. “I have a very large archive of negatives and slides, many of my previous books are based on,” he said.

“I have always, when possible, go back to the original transparencies. Original studio negatives,” he explained. “A large part of the time, [the] color will deteriorate over the years. Now, we are able to digitally restore and correct a lot of it. A lot of time was definitely spent with the restore of these images and bring them back to their previous lives.”

Joan Crawford, 1949

( Photo courtesy David Wills Collection)

Eventually, Wills hopes that his rare images will display a new side of some of the most beloved women in Hollywood.

“I wanted a fun book, something that captured the spirit of the summer,” he said. “The beaches are a universal children’s playground,… For many of us, a number of the earliest and happiest memories involve playing on the beach. I hope that when people look at the book, they see it as a visual cocktail. I want the readers to go back to their nostalgic, happy time.”

Susan Bernard, 1970

(Photo: Bruno Bernard, Bernard of Hollywood, Photo courtesy of Susan Bernard, Bernard of Hollywood Publishing © Renaissance Road, Inc.)

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