Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

The Screen's Beauties From the Year 1

Cleveland Press April 23, 1965

There have been film clip anthologies before, treasures exhumed from some vault or other, but none quite so interesting to watch as this. For, as the title suggests, this is a survey of the actresses who reigned for various periods as so-called love goddesses. It is a history of sex in the movies.

This is less sensational than its title suggests. It is, rather, a treasure of nostalgia evoking moments, a reflection of the times as Hollywood mirrored them.

The narrative goes so far as to suggest that wars, depressions and other social phenomena affected the sex mores of the films, and attempts to document the thesis almost year by year. Some of these are broad generalizations passed off a mite too glibly, but the narration is more sensible, less arch than in most of these collections.

IT IS A MOVIE for film buffs. It demonstrates that there is nothing really new in the movies, that the old timers who complain of the excesses of the '60's have forgotten the early DeMille and Griffith spectacles that must have left dozens of actresses with severe chest colds.

Even in the 20's Hollywood was filming two versions of its gamier motion pictures -- one for local consumption; another, more daring, for export.

The early love queens were almost mid-Victorian in their outlook. But, as the narrator testifies, some one had to do what the good girls couldn't and hence the vamp.

Today we deplore the combination of sex and sadism in the James Bond films, but the early silents combined sex with violence -- a sneering Sessue Hayakawa even uses a branding iron on his leading lady.

LATER CAME THE WIDE-OPEN days of the early '30's, the Harlow years, the lingerie scenes, the irreverent musicals. Comedy with sex was personified in Mae West, striding across a room, commanding in her husky voice: "Peal me a grape, Beulah," or inviting Cary Grant, on the other end of the phone, to "come up and see me."

The film moves to the depression and a tightening in values and Shirley Temple, Deanna Durbin were the big stars. World War II changed things and Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and Betty Grable ruled the screen.

THE FILM IS A MIXTURE of exotic and erotic, of faces long forgotten, of others who have outlived their glamour roles but have remained in the business. There's a young Bette Davis stripping while the camera stays discretely at shoulder level.

If this was an era of censorship, it's amazing the things the censors let through.

The movie may have left out some of your favorites but there are many that you would expect to find -- Marlene Dietrich in "Blue Angel," Hedy Lamarr in "Ecstasy" and one you'll not expect -- Greta Garbo, wearing a ridiculous bathing suit, in the Swedish film, "Peter the Tramp."