The Skinny Dip That (Almost) Made History

Had Marilyn lived to complete Something’s Got to Give, the much-publicised ‘pool scene‘ would have made her the first mainstream actress in Hollywood to go nude onscreen since the introduction of the Motion Picture Code. As things turned out, the distinction went to fellow bombshell Jayne Mansfield in the now largely forgotten Promises! Promises! (1963.) Marilyn’s pool scene was tame by modern standards, even compared to Lawrence Schiller‘s still photos which were plastered across front pages in the summer of 1962 – and indeed, ever since. In a sense, this was a similar stunt to the ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch (1955.)

Over at Refinery 29 today, Anne Cohen reports on a new documentary, Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies, which will be available on-demand from August 18.

“Still, those scenes marked a sharp turning point for an industry that had long been dominated by the strict morals of the Hays Code, in place from 1934 to 1968. But as a new documentary points out — films and nudity have always gone hand in hand, even if it was kept under wraps. (The first mainstream nude scene in Hollywood history is widely considered to date back to 1916, when swimming star and actress Annette Kellerman appeared naked under a waterfall in A Daughter of the Gods.)

It’s no coincidence that the landmark scenes mentioned above feature women. Though male nudity has gotten more common in recent years (hello, Euphoria), it’s still rare enough that it earns headlines nearly every time. But women’s bodies have been used to titillate audiences, and sell tickets for nearly a century. As a result, young actresses were put in situations where they’ve felt pressure to undress in order to see their careers progress.

Today, nudity on-screen is undergoing a much-needed overhaul, as performers and directors start to examine why they’re using it, and at what cost? But in order to map out the future of the nude scene, we have to understand its past. In other words, consider this an essential addition to your film education.”