I may be the only American not utterly fascinated by the late pinup Bettie Page, but I will usually read articles about her as I find them, because they often contain fascinating looks at life in midcentury America.
I may be misremembering some of the key details, but there was something about the Klaws, the brother-sister photography team who promoted her career. They ran a company that sold stills from Hollywood pictures, which people collected back then. They wondered why they couldn’t keep certain Tarzan stills in stock — the ones that featured Jane or some other woman tied to a tree. Then they realized there was a market for bondage photos. (Many featuring Bettie.)
I thought of that when I read this rather marvelous Jezebel piece on spanking in old movies.
Spanking doesn’t appeal to me erotically, but I certainly know it’s a Thing, and it’s pretty damn obvious there’s a rather large segment of the population who is totally into it. At least, if you could up all the actresses who were turned over men’s laps and swatted with hands, shoes and whatever else was at hand:
In early 1946, a woman from Carmel, California wrote the Hollywood fan magazine Screenland to say how much she had enjoyed the recent Christmas release Frontier Gal—not just for its lovely performers and dazzling Technicolor vistas, but for saving her marriage by teaching her husband to spank her.
After he’d returned from the war, she’d struggled to warm up to him again, she wrote, which caused a problem—and here was the solution. “In desperation, after seeing the show, he tried little Beverly’s philosophy,” wrote Mrs. J.B.M. “Daddies spank mamas because they love them. While this old-fashioned approach probably wouldn’t work in all cases, it did for us, and I would appreciate an opportunity to publicly thank Universal and Frontier Gal.”
The letter is mysterious—is it describing erotic play, or spousal abuse?—but the context is less so. Frontier Gal was one of at least five movies with scenes of women being spanked released in 1945 alone. Though the movie culminates in a minute-long spanking of its star Yvonne De Carlo, the plot device was so unremarkable as to not even make the reviews. From the beginnings of cinema up through the 1960s, a spanking was just a routine part of a certain type of screen romance: watch the supercut below.
It’s a wonderful exploration, with lots of GIFs and stills and that long supercut. It’s easy to see the visual appeal for a movie audience; the actress gets to poke a shapely butt skyward and wiggle a pair of even shapelier calves in protest, simultaneously throwing her mop of shiny curls around. Ooh la la, eye candy. That this stuff skated past the Hays Office is odd, that it was reflected in the larger culture is even odder. It turns out mom and dad may have been into all sorts of kink while we were sleeping in our flannel jammies.
More bloggage? This is what I’m going to be doing early mornings in Iceland. You won’t be able to keep me away with a machine gun. (Which basically don’t exist there, anyway.) It’s a piece on the great, public swimming pools/hot tubs of that country. I’ve already planned where I’ll be going, of course.
Haiti, cholera and the U.N., from Slate.
Now to take my non-stinging behind off to bed.