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

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

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close Video Long before the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, stars were stripping down. Curator and photo preservationist David Wills recently published his collection of photographs featuring movie icons from the ‘30s to the ‘70s strutting their stuff on the coastline titled “Hollywood Beach Beauties.”  The collection highlights more than 100 vibrant color photographs of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Sharon Tate and Edy Williams – just to name a few.  During his research process, Wills said he was surprised at how many of the swimsuit photographs were not actually snapped while the stars were soaking up the sun, but rather inside a studio.  “Back in the day, studios caught on very fast, like the ‘30s and ‘40s, that photographs of stars in bathing suits would sell magazines,” he explained. “And of course, in turn, they would publicize their upcoming films.  “And on top of that, you had the demand of bathing suit pinups because of World War II. So a lot of time, these great movie stars didn’t want to pose at a public beach because that would just be too out in the open and they would be put on display. They felt vulnerable or they couldn’t be themselves.  “So the studios would actually build a beach – and some of them were quite horrendous, even laughable… They would bring in a little bit of sand in a studio setting. And you’ll find right up until 1970 they did that.”  But there were rules these actresses needed to strictly follow to stay in good graces with their studios. For starters, flaunting the navel was strictly forbidden and bathing suits weren’t allowed to be shown wet.  When Elizabeth Taylor wore a plunging white one-piece for 1959’s “Suddenly, Last Summer,” it nearly got the film banned.  “She couldn’t get out of the water wet,” explained Wills. “And it was a white bathing suit. You could see her nipples. But that was part of the storyline at the time. It was a very controversial film. But there were ways around it. You couldn’t show the navel. You could in European films, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that the bellybutton became more liberated.”  But just years before, 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.  “I don’t believe that’s an illusion,” chuckled Wills. “I believe you’re seeing her underneath the lace there, actual skin. And this sort of natural progression of the bathing suit turning into a bikini and getting smaller and smaller.”  During the ‘50s, actresses had to be careful about showing 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 gained popularity during World War II because of claims that it allegedly offered added protection for women working on the production lines.  “It was really just getting around the censors and being as ual as you could get away with,” adde
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