History of Sex in Cinema:
The Greatest and Most Influential
Sexual Films and Scenes



The History of Sex in Cinema
Title Screens
Movie Title/Year and Film/Scene Description

Caged (1950)

Director John Cromwell's drama was a grim, black-and-white women-in-prison film.

It starred Best Actress-nominated Eleanor Parker as initially-naive, teenaged newlywed Marie Allen - sentenced for being an accomplice to armed robbery (of $40) of a gas station, and placed in the Illinois Women's State Prison. Her equally-young husband Tom was killed during the crime, and she soon found out that she was pregnant after a physical exam (the suspicious infirmary nurse asked bluntly: "Say, you expectin' company?").

The facility was run by sadistic and corrupt guard/matron Evelyn Harper (Hope Emerson), who read romance magazines and ate caramels. She often exchanged favors and money for hard-to-get items ("little comforts," such as cigarettes, lifesavers, gum, etc.) with the "tramps" (the name for inmates).

There were unstated hints of lesbianism when widowed Marie was introduced to Harper:

"Let's you and me get acquainted, honey. You may be a number to the others, but not to me. Sit down in this chair. It's kinda roomy."

Harper's cruel and heartless sadism was exhibited when she gagged Marie and shaved her head. The lustful guards regarded Marie as a "cute trick."

When Marie's mother refused to take her baby, it was put up for adoption. The film also included the requisite titillating shower room scenes - although tame by today's standards.

The film ended on a down-note, as the increasingly-hardened Marie was paroled, but it was said of her: "she'll be back."

Marie Allen
(Eleanor Parker)

Sunset Boulevard (1950) (aka Sunset Blvd.)

Director Billy Wilder's dark film-noir Sunset Boulevard (1950) told about "behind the scenes" Hollywood, self-deceit, spiritual and spatial emptiness, and the price of fame, greed, narcissism, and ambition.

In the film's plot, B-movie hack screenwriter/narrator-gigolo Joe Gillis (William Holden) with financial problems sought to trade himself for monetary support from an aging silent film queen Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). He lived with her in her decaying mansion in Tinseltown.

After being showered with bribes (clothes, money, flattery and other gifts), he was quickly spoiled and ensnared in her web of delusion - and death trap.

Gigolo-writer Joe Gillis (William Holden) With
Norma (Gloria Swanson)

Young Man with a Horn (1950)

Michael Curtiz' and Warner Bros' black and white musical drama was an incisive morality play, loosely based on Dorothy Baker's novel about 1920s jazz artist Bix Beiderbecke. The noirish biographical drama was one of the first big-budget Hollywood productions hinting at lesbianism.

Kirk Douglas starred as ace trumpet player Rick Martin (based upon Bix Beiderbecke's life). Going down the path of self-destruction, he eventually (and wrongly) married sultry, wealthy and neurotic jazz patroness Amy North (Lauren Bacall in an off-beat role), who was still suffering from her mother's recent suicide. The selfish and depressed Rick also began to drink heavily, further complicating his life and their misguided relationship.

Amy had confused lesbian leanings (a then-taboo occurrence in the early 1950s) and envied the pure heterosexuality of Martin's true love - with wholesome, prim, and pure big-band torch singer Jo Jordan (Doris Day), who admired Rick from the sidelines:

"Jo's interesting, isn't she? So simple and uncomplicated. It must be wonderful to wake up in the morning and know just which door you're gonna walk through. She's so terribly normal."

This cautionary tale warned against wayward lesbian leanings and unspoken affections that could destroy a traditional marriage. Bad girl Amy's subtle emotional feelings for female painter and party guest Miss Carson (uncredited Katharine Kurasch) soon disintegrated their troubled marriage.

When the party disbanded, Rick broke up with Amy (who had an inability to choose one profession). He hadn't attended because of the tragic death of his mentor friend, black trumpet player Art Hazzard (Puerto-Rican actor Juano Hernandez). Rick had been at Art's funeral, where he played his trumpet. When Amy was angry at him for missing the party, Rick cited Amy's lesbianism as a sickness - one of the many reasons to leave her:

Amy: "What could you do for him? He's dead, isn't he? So there's one less trumpet player. So what?"
Rick: "You're drunk, Amy. You're sick. Now maybe a trumpet player isn't much to be, but it's what Art has and was, and that's what I am."
Amy: "You and your alter ego. That cheap brass."
Rick: "You can do a lot of things, Amy, so you don't do any of them. I can only do one. That trumpet's part of me. It's the best part. You almost made me forget that. You're so confused yourself, you got me confused."
Amy: "I'm not confused any longer. I'm fed up with you. I'm sick of you trying to touch me. I'm sick of the sound of brass. I never want to hear a trumpet again. Get these records out of here. I don't wanna listen to them again!"
Rick: "You dirty!... What a dope I was. I thought you were class, like a real high note you hit once in a lifetime. That's because I couldn't understand what you were saying half the time. You're like those carnival joints I used to work in. Big flash on the outside, but on the inside nothing but filth."
Amy: "I hate you."
Rick: "You've always hated me. What a swell combination we were. You said you wanted experiences, Amy. Well, here's one for ya - I'm leaving you."
Amy: "I'd like to kill you."
Rick: "You almost did. You're a sick girl, Amy. You'd better see a doctor."

The film ended with a tacked-on happy ending requested by the studio, in which the loyal Jo helped Rick to recover.

Rick Martin
(Kirk Douglas)

Amy North
(Lauren Bacall)

Jo (Doris Day)
with Rick

Miss Carson (Katharine Kurasch) with Amy

Rick with Amy

The African Queen (1951)

Various elements in the plot of the John Huston adventure film The African Queen (1951), based on the 1935 novel of the same name by English novelist C.S. Forester, were toned down in its story of the unlikely romance and unmarried cohabitation between:

  • Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn), a prim British missionary lady (known for her circumspect statement: "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above")
  • Charlie Allnut (Oscar-winning Humphrey Bogart) a gin-drinking boat captain on his run-down tramp steamer vessel

Negative references to missionaries, gross profanities, and nudity were non-existent. During their implausible love affair, they kissed once - triumphantly happy after avoiding being shot at by guns from a German fort, and for having miraculously navigated the rapids. After their spontaneous embrace and lip-smacking kiss, Charlie loaded fuel into the furnace - his face reflected both skeptical dismay - and then a freeze-frame of pleasurable shock and incredulity.

In the final scene (not in the book), the two were married on the German ship Louisa just before they were to be hanged, in order to avoid censorship.

Their kissing scene couldn't be prolonged or lustful either, although she did express her physical enthusiasm for a ride down the rapids:

"I never dreamed any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!"

Rose (Katharine Hepburn) with Charlie (Humphrey Bogart)

Sophia Loren - in the 1950s and 60s and Beyond

Long before Sophia Loren (earlier credited as Sofia Lazzaro and Sofia Scicolone) became an international star and Oscar-winning actress, she was a beauty pageant contestant. At the age of 16, she owed her future film success to producer Carlo Ponti (her future husband who married her in 1957), who judged her second place in the 1950 Miss Rome competition. See below one of her earliest film appearances as a 17 year-old extra - in Era lui,... SI, SI! (1951, It.) (aka It Was Him... Yes, Yes!) in two versions (semi-nude and clothed).

Sophia Loren as Harem Slave Girl Odalisca
in Era lui, SI, Si! (1951, It.) (Topless, Semi-Nude Version)

Soon after, she starred in a number of low-budget campy foreign language films, and was sometimes required to appear semi-nude. In later years, she admitted: "I can't bear being seen naked. I'm not exactly a tiny woman. When Sophia Loren is naked, this is a lot of nakedness."

Title Screens

Era lui, SI, SI! (1951, It.)
(aka It Was Him... Yes, Yes!)
In director Vittorio Metz's high-camp bedroom farce, Loren was an extra (credited as 17 year-old Sofia Lazzaro), appearing as harem slave girl Odalisca in a dream sequence. It was reported that the director insisted that Sophia and her harem-mates appear topless for the French version of the film.

Two Nights With Cleopatra
(1954, It.) (aka Due Notti Con Cleopatra)
In the bawdy costume drama-comedy, Loren appeared naked in a pool swimming scene. She played a double role as the sultry Queen of the Nile and slave girl Nisca.

Boy on a Dolphin (1957)
Opposite co-star Alan Ladd, Loren established herself as an iconic sex symbol - as poor sponge diver Phaedra on the Greek isle of Hydra, emerging from a dive with a wet, body-clinging dress

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (1963, It.) (aka Leri, Oggi, Domani)
In Vittorio de Sica's Best Foreign Language Oscar-winning film, a sex comedy, Loren performed a memorable striptease (down to a skimpy black bra and panties) as high-priced Rome prostitute Mara for co-star Marcello Mastroianni, sexually frustrating him since she had taken a vow of chastity for one week.

Looking for Sophia (2004) (aka Cercando Sophia)
(TV documentary)

One Summer of Happiness (1951, Swe.) (aka Hon Dansade en Sommar)

Director Arne Mattsson's romantic melodrama was based on the 1949 novel Sommardansen (The Summer Dance) by Per Olof Ekström.

The film was sensationalized by taglines on its posters, declaring: "A Romance of Ecstasy," and "The Picture Everyone Is Talking About." It helped to establish Sweden's reputation as a 'free love', liberated country with erotic summer movies, along with Ingmar Bergman's Summer with Monika (1953, Swe.) (see below).

It was cited as an example of why censorship was important to shield audiences from "immoral" images and candid nudity - because of "a scene where a boy, nineteen, and a girl, seventeen, spending a vacation together, swim and embrace in the nude."

The film revolved around an idyllic summer at the farm of Anders, the uncle of 19 year-old, rich university city student Goren (Folke Sundquist). There, he fell in love with teenaged country girl Kerstin (Ulla Jacobsson) - class-crossed lovers. In the film's most sensational skinny-dipping scene, the two young people were in a wooded area next to a lake, sharing their affection for each other, but worried about his departure in the fall back to school:

Goran: "When I have you all to myself, everything is just fine. Nothing could make me leave."
Kerstin: "But you'll have to."
Goran: "I don't have to. No one can make me." (He kissed her)
Kerstin: "I like it when you look at me like that. No one else can do that. Look at the water, Goran. It's full of silver."
Goran: "Do you want to go swimming? (pause) Don't you want to?"
Kerstin: "I don't feel shy with you. It's as if you are a part of me. Like we've always belonged together. I'll race you in." (They both stripped off their clothes)

Both of them splashed and frolicked in the water, backlit by the sparkling sun shining behind them. Suddenly, they stopped, shared a nude embrace and kissed (she implored: "Goran, don't forget me"), and then he picked her up. The two returned to the shore where she laid down beneath him - with her breasts briefly visible.

He answered her request: "Never, I'll never forget you, darling Kerstin." She reminded him: "But you'll be leaving soon." He promised: "I'm staying here. I'll stay with you forever. Would that make you happy?" She smiled: "Yes, more than I can tell you." Before presumed love-making (off-screen as the camera tracked to the right back to the surface of the water), he cautioned: "Do you know what we're getting into?" Kerstin answered openly: "I care so much for you, Goran...."

In the film's tragic and abrupt ending, after a motorcycle accident when she was thrown from the back of Goran's vehicle and suffered lethal wounds, she succumbed in his arms. After he sent for an ambulance, he returned to her side where she spoke her final words to him: "Don't leave me. Stay here...Come and lay down next to me. Why is it so cold? It's not winter yet. It was summer today." After covering her with his coat, Goran asked: "Are you alive?" She whimpered: "Why is it so dark?" and then died.

After her funeral, Goran sadly sat alone and remembered Kerstin's words to him (in voice-over): "Goran, don't forget me. My name is Kerstin" - as the camera zoomed back from him and the film concluded.

At the lakeside

Kerstin's Death: "Are you alive?"

Film's Ending: (voice-over) "Goran, don't forget me. My name is Kerstin."

A Place in the Sun (1951)

Director George Stevens' tragic romantic drama A Place in the Sun (1951) updated Theodore Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy, and dared to confront themes forbidden by the Production Code: out-of-wedlock pregnancy and oblique references to abortion (a no-no word). In the story, a working-class man (Montgomery Clift) impregnated a co-worker (Shelley Winters) before falling in love with his boss’ daughter (Elizabeth Taylor). Clift’s character was ultimately tried for murdering his pregnant mistress (although it could have been interpreted as an accident), and there were disguised suggestions that she should abort.

In one of the most romantic performances ever filmed, in an extended scene of budding romance, this George Stevens film captured the sensuous and sexually-electrifying romantic interplay between:

  • Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor), a glamorous, rich and privileged socialite
  • George Eastman (Montgomery Clift), a poor factory worker desperate to climb the social ladder

In an electrifying series of images as they danced together and talked intimately with each other, George finally confessed his love to Angela - hers was the promise of the love of an ideal woman which had now been discovered:

"I love you. I've loved you since the first moment I saw you. I guess maybe I even loved you before I saw you."

Breathlessly, Angela was worried that they were being watched, so they retreated to an outer balcony terrace for more privacy, where she began to confess her love for him in kind: "I love you too. It scares me. But it is a wonderful feeling."

They made plans to be together for the entire summer when he wasn't working on weekends, as she told him:

"I'll be at the lake. You'll come up and see me. Oh, it's so beautiful there. You must come. I know my parents will be a problem, but you can come on the weekends when the kids from school are up there. You don't have to work weekends. That's the best time. If you don't come, I'll drive down here to see you. I'll pick you up outside the factory. You'll be my pick-up. Oh, we'll arrange it somehow, whatever way we can, and we'll have such wonderful times together, just the two of us."

George was overwhelmed during these powerfully-erotic moments. Enormous, extreme closeups of their faces filled the screen as they revealed innermost, heightened emotions and inflamed passions, and they pledged themselves to each other.

George confessed: "I'll be the happiest person in the world" - but Angela corrected: "The second happiest." George revealed: "Oh Angela, if only I can tell you how much I love you. I can only tell you all" - and she comforted him: "Tell Mama. Tell Mama all" as they closely embraced and kissed passionately, caught up in an all-consuming relationship over which they had no control.

Angela (Elizabeth Taylor)
and George (Montgomery Clift)

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Elia Kazan's sizzling melodrama A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) was stripped of many of its 'objectionable' elements (i.e., rape, homosexuality, abuse, etc.) by the studio's altering and cutting of dialogue and various scenes (12 cuts and four minutes of screen time) to escape the Catholic Legion of Decency's condemnation rating. A restored version or "Director's Cut" of the film was released to theatres and video in 1993.

In perpetual conflict with each other were the film's two main characters:

  • Stanley (Marlon Brando), a brutish husband
  • Blanche (Vivien Leigh), Stanley's fragile nymphomaniac sister-in-law, a Southern belle slowly going mad

The film was also noted for the sex-related scene of the lonely Blanche pathologically desperate and yearning for sexual attention. She was attracted to a young newspaper delivery boy (Wright King) who came to her door one rainy afternoon. He reminded her of her young husband who committed suicide, and still neurotically grieving, she wanted to subconsciously make up for his death. She caused the bashful young man to linger with small talk, and she seductively offered herself for a maternal kiss.

"Young man! Young, young, young man. Did anyone ever tell you you look like a young prince out of the Arabian Nights? You do, honey lamb. Come here. Come on over here, like I told you. I want to kiss you just once, softly and sweetly [on your mouth]*." *(originally deleted)

But she caught herself after seductively pressing one kiss into his lips, knowing she had a weakness for young males:

"Run away now, quickly. It would have been nice to keep you, but I've got to be good - and keep my hands off children. Adios. Adios."

In another scene, the morning after being ravished by her husband Stanley, Stella (Kim Hunter) was obviously sexually satisfied. However, while Stella was in the hospital giving birth, Stanley overpowered Blanche to complete her degradation, using intimate sexual union to permanently destroy any connection she had with the real world. An ornately-framed mirror was smashed and shattered in the climactic assault. In the reflection of the mirror, it appeared that Blanche fainted in Stanley's arms. [The explicit rape scene was excluded by censors.] The assault accelerated Blanche's descent into madness.

[Note: Brando became a sex symbol, and popularized the T-shirt as a sexy garment (similar to the opposite effect bare-chested Clark Gable had on the industry in It Happened One Night (1934) when he revealed he wasn't wearing a T-shirt).]

Blanche (Vivien Leigh) with Stanley (Marlon Brando)

Blanche Kissing Boy
(Wright King)

Stella (Kim Hunter)

Blanche's Rape

Calamity Jane (1953)

David Butler's lighthearted, rousing Warner Bros' musical was loosely based on historical facts and set in the Old West in the year 1876 in Deadwood, Dakota Territory.

It was created in response to the success of Annie Get Your Gun (1950), MGM's musical western based on the life of legendary sharpshooter Annie Oakley (Betty Hutton) - also opposite Howard Keel as rival marksman and love interest Frank Butler. The film was released on the 50th anniversary of Calamity Jane's death.

The musical starred Doris Day as the Wild West's fast-shootin', tough-talkin', cross-dressin', buck-skinned, tomboyish stagecoach driver/cowboy, in a heterosexualized story about the Golden Garter saloon and her romance with Wild Bill Hickok (Howard Keel). She only drank sarsparilla and hung around saloons.

In a few other scenes with a Sapphic subtext, she sang the Oscar-winning song about "Secret Love," and expressed her physical attraction and tomboyish, lesbian leanings toward a bustier-wearing actress' maid named Katie Brown (Allyn Ann McLerie). Calamity Jane looked Katie up and down and suddenly realized that women had different bodies than men:

"Gosh...you're the prettiest thing I've ever seen. I've never known a woman could look like that. Say, how do you hold that dress up there?"

They moved in together and painted "Calam and Katie" in a big heart on their ramshackle cabin's front door, and eventually Katie made a domesticated 'lady' out of Calamity by getting her to change from buckskins to jeans to a blouse and skirt. Meanwhile, Calamity entered into competition with Katie for the love of Army Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin (Philip Carey) - and soon switched her love (after becoming a well-behaved, real and true marriageable woman by dressing in Katie's finery) to Wild Bill Hickok.

By the 1960s, the song "Secret Love" was something of an anthem for closeted gays, and Calamity Jane became a heroine for gay liberation.

Calamity Jane
(Doris Day) with Katie
(Allyn Ann McLerie)

From Here to Eternity (1953)

Director Fred Zinnemann's Best Picture-winning military drama From Here to Eternity (1953) was based on James Jones' hefty, 859-page smoldering 1951 novel about a number of civilian and military-related individuals and their relationships and circumstances just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although altered to some degree, it still retained ground-breaking subjects including: prostitution, adultery, military injustice, brutality, corruption, alcohol abuse, racism and murder.

It has always been most famous for its bathing-suited, entwined Hawaiian beach embrace and forbidden kissing between two of the central characters. The couple in the nighttime surf scene were:

  • Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster), tough, rugged and cynical military man
  • Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr), an adulterous Army Captain's wife

The churning Hawaiian waves covered them on a summer night on a deserted sandy beach. After their clinch, she rose, pranced up the sand, and collapsed onto their blanket. Warden followed and stood above her, dropped to his knees, and found her lips in his, and then Karen breathlessly spoke:

"I never knew it could be like this. Nobody ever kissed me the way you do."

But their idyllic, iconic love scene immediately turned ugly and combative when he queried: "Nobody?" "No, nobody," she replied. "Not even one? Out of all the men you've been kissed by?" he asked. She responded with a question: "Now that'd take some figuring. How many men do you think there've been?" He asked again: "I wouldn't know. Can't you give me a rough estimate?"

Irritated and insulted by his implication that she was highly promiscuous, she sarcastically replied: "Not without an adding machine. Do you have your adding machine with you?" When he said he forgot to bring it, she told him: "Then I guess you won't find out, will you?"

The scene quickly became one of alienation and conflict, as his probing and hinting denegrated her character. His knowledge of her loose promiscuity and numerable other previous affairs at other outposts nagged at him and produced feelings of ambivalence about her free sexuality.

Subplots in the film involved a 'social club' with hostesses (employee Alma Burke, or "Lorene" played by 'against-type' wholesome actress Donna Reed) frequented by young enlisted man Robert Prewitt (Montgomery Clift).

The Beach Kiss Between Sgt. Warden (Burt Lancaster) and Karen (Deborah Kerr)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

This Howard Hawks musical film starred two of the era's most notorious sex symbols:

  • Jane Russell (as Dorothy Shaw)
  • Marilyn Monroe (as Lorelei Lee)

Portraying two golddiggers on a cruise ship, they sang and danced the opening number Two Little Girls From Little Rock wearing glittering red and white costumes - with a blue background.

One of the film's lines: "The one you call daddy ain't your pa" was censored and changed to: "Men are the same way everywhere."

There was also a notorious choreographed song/dance scene of the sexy Russell in an athletic gym filled with disinterested male body-builders and gymnasts as she sang Anyone Here For Love: "Ain't there anyone here for love?"

Dorothy (Jane Russell) in an Athletic Gym -
"Ain't There Anyone Here For Love?"

She sang, "I'm not in condition to wrestle. I've never trained in a gym. Show me a man who can nestle, and I'll pin a medal on him. Need some chappie to make me happy, and he don't have to be Hercules. Don't anyone know about birds and bees? Ain't there anyone here for love? Sweet Love. Ain't there anyone here for love?" She strutted down a row of exercising athletes on the floor while swinging two badminton rackets - asking:

"Doubles, anyone? Court's free! Two out of three, anyone? Doesn't anyone wanna play? I like big muscles and red corpuscles. I like a beautiful hunk of man. But I'm no physical coach or fan. Is there anyone here for love? Sweet Love. Ain't there anyone, ain't there anyone, ain't there anyone, anyone, anyone, anyone - for love."

She was tumbled into the swimming pool when struck by divers, and ended the song as she was pulled out by some of the athletes. [This scene was referenced in singer Olivia Newton-John's popular Let's Get Physical music video.]

(l to r): Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy
(Jane Russell)


Glen or Glenda (1953) (aka I Changed My Sex, I Led Two Lives, The Transvestite, or He or She)

Oft-maligned auteur Ed Wood's best 'worst' cult film of all time (his directorial debut film) was this low-budget, semi-autobiographical, docu-drama production about cross-dressing (transvestism) and transexuality (identifying with one's opposite birth gender).

This exploitation film was designed to capitalize on the recent headlines about the late 1952 male-to-female sex reassignment surgery of Christine Jorgensen. The film's tagline proclaimed: "I Changed My Sex!" with the additional: "What Am I...Male or Female!, The Strange Case of a 'Man' Who Changed His SEX!"

Wood himself (with the screen name of Daniel Davis) starred as the title character - a transvestite struggling with his addiction to angora cloth, and an aged Bela Lugosi as the narrator (credited as "The Scientist").

After a Young Man and a Young Woman made comments about how the Creator gave us birth as either boys or girls, The Narrator/Dr. Alton (Timothy Farrell) in voice-over responded about how nature can make mistakes. An example of transvestitism was illustrated with the story of conflicted cross-dressing Glen/Glenda (Edward D. Wood, Jr.), shown in women's clothing looking at items in a shop window, and lounging at home:

"Are we sure? Nature makes mistakes, it's proven everyday. This person is a transvestite. A man who is more comfortable wearing girl's clothes. The term transvestite is the name given by medical science to those persons who wear the clothing of the opposite sex. Many a transvestite actually wishes to be the opposite sex. The title of this can only be labeled 'Behind Locked Doors'. Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even the lounging outfit he has on, and he's the happiest individual in the world. He can work better, think better, he can play better, and he can be more of a credit to his community and his government because he is happy. These things are his comfort.

But why the wig and makeup? He dares to enter the street dressed in the clothes he so much desires to wear. But only if he really appears female. The long hair, the makeup, the clothing, the actual contours of a girl. Most transvestites do not want to change their life, their bodies, many of them simply want to change the clothing they wear to that as worn by the opposite sex. Glen is engaged to be married to Barbara, a lovely intelligent girl."

(Daniel Davis/Ed Wood)

The Moon is Blue (1953)

This daring sex farce and romantic comedy was the first major studio-produced film from Hollywood that was released without an approved code seal from the Production Code Administration (PCA). It was deliberately made as a test case by its producer/director Otto Preminger. Despite its lack of a seal of approval and the controversy, it proved to be a major hit film (grossing $6 million). The PCA's Joseph Breen complained about the film's unacceptable, comedic "light and gay treatment of the subject of illicit sex and seduction."

It was subsequently rated condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency for vulgarity, in part because of its offensive use of prohibited words such as "virgin," "seduce," "pregnant," and "mistress" in the dialogue.

Following the Kansas Board of Review of Motion Picture's decision to ban the film, the Kansas State Supreme Court upheld the decision. (Three states, Maryland, Ohio, and Kansas had banned the film.) The state's censorship board had used current state censorship laws to ban the film and release it without a seal of approval.

In the case of Holmby Productions v. Vaughn brought up in a Maryland court in 1953, the blocking of the film's release by the Maryland and Kansas state censor boards was contested. In 1955, the US Supreme Court unanimously overturned the ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court to uphold the film's banning, declaring it unconstitutional. The film's court victory was one more indication that the influence of the Production Code was weakening. A PCA seal of approval was granted to two of Preminger's films in 1961, The Moon is Blue (1953) and The Man With the Golden Arm (1955).

The film's philosophical theme was about the prospect of remaining a virgin, in order to remain respectable, and the efforts of two aging playboys attempting to score in a love triangle with an attractive young virgin - wholesome and chatty 22 year-old heroine and struggling beer-commercial actress Patty O'Neill (Maggie McNamara in her film debut).

The two lotharios were:

  • Donald Gresham (William Holden), a successful 30 year-old architect and wolfish bachelor
  • David Slater (David Niven), Donald's upstairs neighbor, a 41 year-old, divorced, martini-drinking, and charming, the father of Cynthia Slater (Dawn Addams), Donald's ex-fiancee

In her initial conversation with Donald after meeting on the top of the Empire State Building, she admitted she was anxious to get married but was very choosy: "The kind of men I want don't grow on trees...I'd much rather have a man appreciate me than drool over me." Patty was wary when Donald impulsively kissed her, and then invited her to his Madison Avenue apartment for drinks before dinner. During their taxi ride, she asked: "Would you try to seduce me?" When he vowed he wouldn't ("I won't make a single pass at you"), but confessed that he might kiss her, she responded: "Kissing's fine. I have no objection to that." She then added:

"Look, let's face it. Going to a man's apartment almost always ends in one of two ways. Either a girl is willing to lose her virtue or she fights for it. Well, I don't want to lose mine, and I think it's vulgar to fight for it, so I always put my cards on the table. Don't you think that's sensible?"

They shook hands when she agreed with him on how to appropriately behave: "Affection but no passion." When they arrived at his place, she gratefully claimed: "I'm so glad you don't mind...Men are usually so bored with virgins. I'm so glad you're not." However, Donald noted that Patty seemed very preoccupied with sex ("you are always asking if people plan seduction or they're bored with virgins or they have a mistress"). She replied: "But don't you think it's better for a girl to be preoccupied with sex than occupied?"

In the meantime, Cynthia was fuming over recently being dumped by him. She had also called Patty a "professional virgin." Competing with Don for Patty's affection, David spoke about the significance of maintaining one's virginity:

"Suspicion, my child, suspicion. The lurking doubt. Is she or isn't she? Does she or doesn't she? Will she or won't she? Suspicion, the most powerful aphrodisiac in the world."

He made a $600 bet with her to wait 15 weeks before seeing another man. She held out and kept her virginity, and eventually Donald fell in love with her and proposed - again at the top of the Empire State Building.

Patty (Maggie McNamara) with Donald (William Holden)

Niagara (1953)

This melodramatic film-noir thriller by director Henry Hathaway and 20th Century Fox was advertised as "Niagara and Marilyn Monroe: The two most electrifying sights in the world!" with a poster also proclaiming: "A raging torrent of emotion that even nature can't control!" The film's theme was the destructive nature of a femme fatale's alluring, out of control sensuality and lust.

26 year-old Marilyn starred as Rose Loomis, a voluptuous and sexy woman (advertised as a "tantalizing temptress whose kisses fired men's souls!") plotting to kill her depressed and emotionally-unstable, Korean War veteran-husband George Loomis (Joseph Cotten). At the same time, Rose was in an affair with Ted Patrick (Richard Allan) at Niagara Falls (Canada side). Rose and Ted had together arranged to murder George and make his death look like a suicide.

The most memorable scenes featured Marilyn's naked appearance in bed, and two views of her sexy walking (filmed from the rear) in a form-fitting dress.

Her most flaunting appearance was in a pinkish-red dress at an outdoor teenaged dance party. She asked that the DJ play the record, "Kiss" and then sat closeby and listened, telling other guests: "There isn't any other song." She sang along: "With all your heart's protection, This is a moment of thrill. Thrill me, Thrill me, with your charm, Take me, Take me in your arms, And make my life perfection, Take me, Darling, don't forsake me, Kiss me, Hold me tight, Love me, Love me tonight." Her angry husband interrupted the romantic musical interlude by racing from their cabin and destroying the LP with his bare hands (causing a cut).

Sexy Rose Loomis (Marilyn Monroe) Openly Flaunting Herself

George later described the reason for his rage: "Parading around, showing herself off in that dress, cut down so low in front you can see her kneecaps." In another scene, she engaged in a provocative conversation with her husband:

George: "You smell like a dimestore. I know what that means."
Rose: "Sure. I'm meeting somebody. Just anybody handy as long as he's a man...Anybody suits me, take your pick."

The film ended predictably - the jealous and incensed George stalked and murdered the trampish Rose by strangulation in a carillon bell tower.

(Marilyn Monroe)

Two Rear-Views

Adulterous Rose with Ted
Summer With Monika (1953, Swe.) (aka Sommaren med Monika)
Monika: The Story of a Bad Girl (1955)

Legendary exploitation distributor, producer and showman Kroger Babb, after purchasing the American rights to Ingmar Bergman's Summer With Monika (1953, Swe.) (aka Sommaren med Monika), cut out approximately 33 minutes of the film, dubbed it into English, replaced the musical score with a jazzy one by Les Baxter, and renamed it to ready the film for the drive-in circuit - it was now known as Monika: The Story of a Bad Girl (1955).

Babb sensationalized the repackaged film with racy advertisements and taglines such as:

  • "She's 19 - and Naughty but Nice!"
  • "Everybody's Talking About Monika!"
  • "The Devil Controls Her By Radar!"

It was one of the first foreign-language films that made its brief nudity a major selling point for US audiences, and helped create the stereotype that Swedish women were sexually liberated and enjoyed swimming in the nude. [Note: An earlier Swedish film that created the same sensation was One Summer of Happiness (1951, Swe.) (aka Hon Dansade en Sommar) - see above.]

In the story, a young couple (two disaffected rebel teens), both from working class families in Stockholm, ran off to escape their tawdry lives and to experience a brief idyllic romance one summer at the beach on an island in an archipelago:

  • Harry (Lars Ekborg), a 19 year-old
  • Monika (18-year-old Harriet Andersson), viewed as very straightforward, aggressive, earthy, loose and immoral

Everything was sensationalized about their relationship, since they had only one controversial scene of nudity (skinny-dipping) and love-making in the beautiful, sunny outdoors. However, things turned less than idyllic when Monika became pregnant, and the two were forced to marry and live in a very claustrophobic apartment - before they parted ways.

Monika (Harriet Andersson)

First issue of Playboy (December, 1953)

Though not a film, Marilyn Monroe's appearance in the first issue of Hugh Hefner's Playboy magazine in late 1953 was a landmark moment for sex in film.

It heralded that one of the biggest sex symbols in film history had voluntarily appeared nude in a nationally-distributed magazine.

Marilyn Monroe's Calendar Pose
in 1953

It would be a major influence in the loosening of morals in the film industry, although it brought calls for censorship, and at the same time catapulted Monroe to superstardom as a sex goddess and icon.

Marilyn's picture was originally taken for a calendar rather than for the magazine. Playboy would begin to feature various film stars and celebrities in states of undress, and showcase their performances in films, as well as chronicle the development of sex in cinema.

[Note: In a little over a year, Jayne Mansfield would also appear in the magazine in February, 1955.]

Marilyn on Cover of Playboy

Jayne Mansfield (Playboy Centerford/Playmate of the Month in February 1955)
Bettie Page's Burlesque Trilogy:

Cult icon and black-haired pin-up "Queen of Curves" Bettie Page (also credited as Betty Page) starred in this "burlesque trilogy" of "adults only" vintage erotica (with little if any nudity, and mostly 'tease'). These were Page's only three feature films. All of them portrayed the naughty and tawdry world of stripping and vaudeville comedy. The last two films were produced and directed by photographer and mail order blue movie-maker Irving Klaw. Famous 1950s strip-tease artist Lili St. Cyr joined Page in the first two films.

Title Screens

Striporama (1953) (trailer)
The first burlesque strip film made in color, with a brief, basically non-dialogue role for mischievous Bettie Page in a bubble-bath. In a dance sequence, there was also a bit part by future B-movie actress Jeanne Carmen as a smoking bystander. St. Cyr performed gymnastics in a number titled "Cinderella's Love Lesson."

Page's Joyous Bubble-Bath

Varietease (1954) (trailer)
This burlesque show compilation, mostly filmed on a sound stage, starred '50s icon Lili St.Cryr, and Bettie Page ("the nation's No. 1 pin-up girl") as one of the performers - with only one stage act.

Teaserama (1955) (trailer)

Page was one of the many stripper burlesque acts, although the main featured performer was Tempest Storm..

Page also served as an assistant-maid to red-haired statuesque stripper Tempest Storm.

Carmen Jones (1954)

Daring, risk-taking director Otto Preminger's film of passion and obsession was remarkable for its all-black cast and its original and exciting premise. It starred Oscar-nominated Dorothy Dandridge in a career-defining role. [She was the first black woman to be nominated in the category of Best Actress, for her groundbreaking performance.] Georges Bizet's opera Carmen was refitted for the big screen as a romantic musical, transposing the tale from 19th century Spain to WWII-era, with the main cast composed of African-Americans who were stationed at a military base.

For her role in this film, Dandridge portrayed the carnal, red-hot, free-spirited title character, first seen wearing a prominent, low cut black top and orange dress. She was introduced as a "hip-swinging floozie."

The radiantly-beautiful parachute making-factory worker Carmen enticed handsome, honorable military corporal Joe (Harry Belafonte), after her arrest for fighting and held as a military prisoner, to satisfy her own lustful purposes. She stole him from his virtuous, hometown girlfriend-fiancee Cindy Lou (Olga James), who had observed Carmen's ways: "She's what the fellas back home call a hot bundle...Looks like she's on fire just for you." While taking her to jail, she enticed him to kiss her, and they made love after a dissolve. She ran off on him, with a farewell note: "Sorry, honey, Like I told you, I couldn't stand being cooped up in jail. I gotta be free to come and go or I'd just die. Don't hate me, Joey, 'cause I love you like I loved no man before." He was subsequently court-martialed for letting his prisoner escape.

During another brief encounter with her at Billy Pastor's jive cafe, Joe told her that he had to take a bus to attend flying school 400 miles away instead of staying the night with her. Angry about his offer of "love on a pass," the fiercely-independent Carmen demanded that he demonstrate his love for her. He took out from his left-breast uniform pocket a dried up rose that she had thrown his way earlier (that he had saved), telling her: "That's been with me all the time. Right here, where you are."

When she questioned his sincerity: "That don't ring so true," he took her in his arms and kissed her: "I swear it's true." Then she enticed him:

"Joe, if you loved me truly, you know what you'd do...You'd come to Chicago...Joe, I want to go someplace where you're the last thing I see at night, first thing I see in the morning."

Angered by his reluctance to go AWOL, she rebuffed him:

"Boy, if you ain't a lover red-hot for Carmen. You just burnin' up with passion. You sizzle like a fish on ice...You know what? You too chicken for me to waste my time on!"

Instead, Carmen decided to accept an offer to accompany Joe's Sergeant Brown (Brock Peters) for the evening, inciting Joe's angry and jealous lust for her. After a fatal fistfight with Brown, Joe deserted his regiment and went AWOL to avoid the MPs and took off with the sultry Carmen on the train to Chicago.

Their ill-fated affair soon declined when Carmen quickly tired of him and became involved with heavyweight prize-fighter Husky Miller (Joe Adams), who offered her clothes and diamonds - leading to a tragic ending.

Carmen (Dorothy Dandridge) with Joe (Harry Belafonte)


The French Line (1954)

After producer Howard Hughes' earlier conflict with the Production Code over his sexy western The Outlaw (1943), he ran into further difficulties over using his same busty starlet Jane Russell. The film was originally made in 3-D, and came with the provocative RKO taglines: "J.R. in 3-D - and What Dimensions!", and " It'll knock BOTH your eyes out."

The film was denied a seal because it was considered "sexually immoral, obscene and indecent" - but the PCA promised to approve it if the final sexy dance number was removed. The entire dance sequence ran into trouble with censors - the Production Code of America (PCA) claimed that the "costumes were intentionally designed to give the bosom peep-show effect beyond even extreme de'colletage."

Ultimately, the controversial film was released without a seal of approval, and declared 'unfit' for audiences and 'condemned' by the Catholic Legion of Decency. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese called it "a mortal sin" and asked for copies to be confiscated. The film reportedly had two versions, however: one cut version with little breast exposure (and a Production Seal), and one with lots of flesh showing (in the uncensored, unapproved version).

The light-weight musical comedy, a Technicolored RKO film, was set on a ship bound ultimately for Gay Paree. Russell starred as Mary 'Mame' Carson, a Texas oil heiress on her honeymoon cruise (without her latest beau) - looking for a husband who would love her and not only for her money. Traveling incognito and switching identities with model Myrtle Brown (Joyce Mackenzie), Mary began an affair with suave Frenchman Pierre DuQuesne (Gilbert Roland), although in the plot with identity confusion and misunderstandings bound to occur, he had been hired by her business partner Waco (Arthur Hunnicutt) to trail 'Mary Carson.'

The most controversial scenes, often excised, were:

  • the opening 'bubble of excitement' bath scene
  • and the teasing bump-and-grind (performed tongue-in-cheek) dance number "Lookin' for Trouble"

During a fashion show in the film's conclusion, Mary (or 'Mame') was revealed in a sparkling, silver-beaded black, bikini-like costume (with strategically-placed cut-outs), while delivering this suggestively-spoken dialogue:

"All I need is a man, any type, any style. Just so he's a man. Now he can be short, tall, or e-long-gated. He can be thin, muscular, obese - that's fat, you know. Any direction will do. He can be sweet, sensitive, intelligent, a little coy, but not a boy. Now don't get me wrong. 17 to 70 will do. It ain't the age. It's the attitude! However, there is one requisite I must make. He has to be breathing. So bring him on. Stand back and watch my own private chemical reaction start to work!..."

Mary 'Mame' Carson
(Jane Russell)

Garden of Eden (1954)

By claiming to be an 'educational' naturism documentary, this 90-minute film by Hollywood 'B' movie director Max Nosseck skirted the anti-nudity film restrictions of its time. It faced legal battles and was banned as obscene (or "indecent") after its controversial release - until 1957 when the NY Court of Appeals ruled in its favor that the film (depicting nudism in existing nudist camps) was neither "indecent" or "obscene" and therefore not subject to censorship.

There was a wave of inexpensive-to-make naturist (nudist camp) exploitation films following the 1957 decision, shot in the outdoors with either models (pretending to be nudists) or using real nudists at the camps. Films in this sub-genre included eight films by Doris Wishman (see details here), including these first five:

  • Hideout in the Sun (1960)
  • Nude on the Moon (1961)
  • Diary of a Nudist (1961)
  • Blaze Starr Goes Nudist (1962)
  • Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls (1963)

[Note: There were also two Florida-based films by Herschell Gordon Lewis (Daughter of the Sun (1962) and Nature's Playmates (1962)).]

Garden of Eden (1954) was the first naturist film shot in color and the first nudist camp film since the 1930s. Although female breasts and both sex's buttocks were visible, shots of genitals were obscured, not visible or concealed by various objects - volleyballs, beachballs, guitars, and towels. It featured lush outdoor Everglades photography, as well as the requisite volley-ball games, swimming, and water-skiing in the nude.

The exploitation film had a dubious plot about gorgeous young, red-headed war widow Susan Lattimore (Jamie O'Hara) who vowed to escape an evil father-in-law, conservative East Coast businessman Jay Randolph Lattimore (R.G. Armstrong). Her plan was to vacate his house, move to Miami, and resume her modeling career. Outside of Tampa, her car broke down in a remote area, and she took refuge in a "member's only" nudist camp, known as "Garden of Eden" with her six year-old daughter Joan (Karen Sue Trent). She awaited car repair by a professional mechanic at the resort.

When Susan was asked if she was going to be swimming, her excuse ("I haven't a bathing suit") was dismissed by a sun-bathing nude female: "Well, as a matter of fact, none of us do. It's not allowed here. It's so nice not to get into a soggy suit." She called her naked uniform "nature's clothing - clothes are artificial."

During an elaborate romantic dream sequence, Susan fell asleep and imagined herself disrobing and skinny-dipping. In the unlikely scenario that developed, her late husband's father located her, was morally outraged by her actions until he visited the camp himself to bring her back, and decided to adopt the naturist lifestyle. He saw how innocent, friendly, and natural the nudists were and converted ("Get comfortable. Get out of your clothes. Do you a world of good").

Susan Lattimore (Jamie O'Hara) with daughter Joan

Susan's Dream Sequence

Nudist Camp Activities

Johnny Guitar (1954)

Director Nicholas Ray's unconventional, bizarre, off-beat cult Western from Republic Pictures has sometimes been called a 'lesbian western', because it reversed traditional gender roles while providing commentary on the early 1950s McCarthy era. In the bold-colored (Trucolor), perverse melodrama replete with Freudian sexual symbolism, the two main stars were aggressive females who hated each other:

  • Vienna (Joan Crawford), a mannish, strong-willed, drag-queen-looking, deserted Arizona saloon-owner
  • Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge) - a bull-dyke, spinster rancher, the blood-lusting, mean-spirited, sexually-repressed leader of intolerant, hate-mongering 'good guy' vigilantes wearing black (mostly cattle ranchers who opposed the coming of the railroad and Vienna's support of it - Emma called her a "railroad tramp")

The gun-toting Vienna often wore a black shirt, a string tie around her collar, pants, and boots and was described by her saloonkeeper Sam (Robert Osterloh) as masculine:

"Never seen a woman who was more a man. She thinks like one, acts like one, and sometimes makes me feel like I'm not."

Vienna's intention was to wait for business - soon to come after the railroad was built nearby: "All I have to do is sit here and wait for the railroad to come through. And that is my intention." She knew how lucrative it would become: "The railroad's sending in people by tens, twenties, hundreds, and thousands! You can't keep them all out!"

During Vienna's 'love scene' with ex-lover Johnny Guitar/Johnny Logan (Sterling Hayden), a reformed Albuquerque gunslinger that she had hired, he tried to rekindle their relationship from five years earlier - in the past, he wasn't ready for marriage. He asked Vienna, "How many men have you forgotten?" She answered: "As many women as you've remembered." He asked for her to tell him something "nice" - "Lie to me. Tell me all these years you've waited. Tell me...Tell me you'd have died if I hadn't come back...Tell me you still love me like I love you." When she was forced to comply (without feeling), he briskly said: "Thanks. Thanks a lot." Vienna claimed that she struggled on her own to build her saloon, and that life was now different: "Once I would have crawled at your feet to be near you. I searched for you in every man I met." He claimed that they could still be married: "It's your wedding day." She said she had waited for him, and was finally relieved for his return: "What took you so long?" and she sobbed in his arms as she kissed him.

Vienna commented about unscrupulous, suspected stage-robbing outlaw Dancin' Kid's (Scott Brady) effect on Emma, who had a crush on him but wouldn't admit it:

"He makes her feel like a woman and that scares her."

After Dancin' Kid's gang robbed the town's bank, the town's cattle ranchers believed that Vienna had aided them, and eventually Emma vindictively burned down her saloon.

The Final Showdown Duel Between Vienna and Emma

In the film's finale, the lynch-happy Emma (and her posse of vigilantes) challenged Vienna (and Johnny) when they took refuge in the gang's hideaway cabin. On the porch, they faced a one-to-one pistol duel, and although Vienna was wounded, she shot and killed Emma. Johnny carried Vienna away for a new life, as Peggy Lee sang the title song with the words: "There is no one like my Johnny."

Vienna (Joan Crawford)

Emma Small
(Mercedes McCambridge)

Vienna with Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden)

Rear Window (1954)

Hitchcock's voyeuristic thriller Rear Window (1954) implicated its audience as 'Peeping Tom' viewers of apartment neighbors - sharing in the voyeuristic surveillance by the film's protagonist: a photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies (James Stewart) with a cast on his broken leg (symbolic of his impotence) and a 'phallic' telephoto camera to peer at his Greenwich Village neighbors. His rear window view into other apartments across the courtyard kept him preoccupied.

He demonstrated his lack of commitment and avoidance of commitment to beautiful and sexy fiancee -- fashion model designer society girl Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly). During a reddish Manhattan sunset as the wheel-chaired photo-journalist dozed, the courtyard outside his rear window buzzed with activity. A shadow slowly rose up Jeff's face as Lisa (in close-up) approached. She was a stylish vision of beauty - elegant, lovely, affluent, and blonde. She bent over, and then lovingly kissed him. She roused and awakened him from his sleep. She whispered suggestively as she asked:

Lisa: "How's your leg?"
Jeff: "It hurts a little."
Lisa: "And your stomach?"
Jeff: "Empty as a football." (She kissed him again.)
Lisa: "And your love life?"
Jeff: "Not too active."
Lisa: (smiling) "Anything else bothering you?"
Jeff: "Mm-hmm. Who are you?"

As she flicked on the apartment's lights one-by-one, she told him her name, disjointedly:

"Lisa - Carol - Fremont."

Later, she emerged in his doorway wearing an elegant white silk nightgown - a "preview of coming attractions" for an intimate evening/sleep-over.

Lisa Fremont
(Grace Kelly)

Sex in Cinematic History
History Overview | Reference Intro | Pre-1920s | 1920-26 | 1927-29 | 1930-1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934-37 | 1938-39
1940-44 | 1945-49 | 1950-54 | 1955-56 | 1957-59 | 1960-61 | 1962-63 | 1964 | 1965-66 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969

1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989
1990 | 1991 | 1992-1 | 1992-2 | 1993 | 1994-1 | 1994-2 | 1995-1 | 1995-2 | 1996-1 | 1996-2 | 1997-1 | 1997-2 | 1998-1 | 1998-2 | 1999-1 | 1999-2
2000-1 | 2000-2 | 2001-1 | 2001-2 | 2002-1 | 2002-2 | 2003-1 | 2003-2 | 2004-1 | 2004-2 | 2005-1 | 2005-2 | 2006-1 | 2006-2
2007-1 | 2007-2 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020

Index to All Decades, Years and Features

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