|Vintage Pulp||Aug 2 2021|
When Mansfield makes a promise she keeps it—and then some.
Check out the poster at top for the infamous Jayne Mansfield movie Promises! Promises! It's so garish it almost hurts the eyes, but we think it's top notch, a framable classic made for an important cinematic landmark. Around the time this film was produced, Hollywood, for both financial and artistic reasons, was pushing the boundaries of censorship. There had been nude scenes prior to the advent of the creativity-strangling Hays Code, but from the mid-30s to 1960s there were no naughty bits onscreen. Europe was well ahead in that regard, with late 1950s films such as And God Created Woman taking advantage of greater freedoms to include snippets of nudity by major stars. In the U.S., low budget nudie flicks were being made, but no legit star had crossed the line. Marilyn Monroe probably would have been the first, but her flash in 1961's The Misfits was cut, and 1962's Something's Got To Give was never completed.
Cue Mansfield—also so garish she almost hurts the eyes—suffering from a career slump and deciding to seize the nude crown with both hands. Promises! Promises! falls into that classic American category of the schlub sex comedy, which is to say, the lead male is an unremarkable everyman miraculously paired up with a beauty. This formula holds true in American movies and television even today—think Big Bang Theory or Ross from Friends. The plot deals with two childless married couples on a cruise who get pregnant but suspect it happened because the husbands cheated with each other's wives. It sounds like a ripe concept, but unfortunately the filmmakers forgot one of the main ingredients necessary for a sex comedy—laughs. Promises! Promises! is borderline moronic.
But bad movies often make a mint. The producers' bet that audiences wanted to see Mansfield nude was correct. Sophomoric as the resulting film was, it was a big hit, though only non-U.S. filmgoers got to see the uncensored version at first. That's the one we watched, and the promise of a skinful experience was fully delivered—and then some. While Mansfield doesn't show her girlfur, she's naked as a Jaynebird from every angle, and her bare segments are also shown as flashbacks several times to let audiences relive those golden moments. To say she broke the censorship barrier is an understatement. She splintered it and stomped the pieces while screaming at them to stay down. So if you watch this you'll not only be flirting with a boner—you'll be watching a legitimate historical landmark. What more reason do you need? Promises! Promises! premiered in the U.S. today in 1963.
Promises! Promises!Jayne MansfieldTommy NoonanMarie McDonaldMickey HartigayHays Codeposter artcinemamovie review
|Hollywoodland||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