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Note the nude actress in an early American motion picture, before the Hollywood Motion Picture Production Code of film censorship. The actress Kay Laurell wearing a bodystocking in s image. Nudity has almost universally not been permitted on stage, but sheer or simulated nudity may have been. Devices used include use of skin-tight flesh-colored bodystockings to simulate nudity or vital parts to be covered by long hair, for roles such as Lady Godiva.

She is nevertheless seen with her top covered in surviving stills of these sessions. At least one later topless photograph of the young Bernhardt made in survives.

These nude sessions were not meant for outright public viewing but for the encouraging of theatrical employers or personal guests. Thus nude photos of women like Menken and Bernhardt are known only to scholars and perhaps theater buffs.

The photos would then be played one after the other giving the illusion of movement. Sometimes the same sequence would be filmed using several cameras. The first films containing nudity were the early erotic films. Production of such films commenced almost immediately after the invention of the motion picture. Schwarzer formed his Saturn-Film production company which between and produced 52 erotic productions, each of which contained young local women fully nude, to be shown at men-only theatre nights called Herrenabende.

These films were promoted as erotic and artistic, rather than pornographic, but in , Saturn was dissolved by the censorship authorities and its films destroyed. In depicting tormented souls in hell, there are frequent glimpses of nude male and female actors including the first male frontal scenes.

Remade many times, the U. Inspiration , a silent film released in , is believed to be the first American motion picture with a leading actor in a nude scene. Munson appeared nude again in a similar role in the film Purity. A feature of these films was that Munson was a tableau vivant , not being required to move, and only her backside and breasts were in view.

A couple of her films from , thought to have been lost, have been rediscovered in Australia. Several early films of the silent era and early sound era include women in nude scenes, presented in a historical or religious context. One such film was the anticlerical Hypocrites , directed by Lois Weber , which contained several sequences with a nude Margaret Edwards appearing uncredited as a ghostly apparition representing Truth.

Her scenes were created using innovative traveling double exposure sequences which made her appear as a semi-transparent spirit. Gordon Griffith appeared as a young naked Tarzan in Tarzan of the Apes , making him the first child actor to appear naked on screen.

Fox produced The Queen of Sheba in starring Betty Blythe , who displayed ample nudity even when wearing 28 different diaphanous costumes. There is also a brief moment in D. Is Your Daughter Safe?

A compilation of medical documentary films and stock footage of nude scenes dating back to the s, it was presented as an educational film about the dangers of venereal disease, white slavery, and prostitution.

Hula is a feature film of this period in which then-popular star Clara Bow does a nude bathing scene. Exploitation short subjects three to 15 minutes in length with comedic plots and frequent nudity were also produced in the silent era.

A few have survived to the present such as Forbidden Daughters 13 minutes, , directed by prominent nude photographer Albert Arthur Allen , Hollywood Script Girl three minutes, , and Uncle Si and the Sirens eight minutes, c.

These were the forerunners of the "nudie" comedy feature films that emerged in the late s. Years later, when the Hays Code came into force, these films were considered too obscene to be reshown. Most of these films are now lost. In France in the s, short-subject films were made of a topless Josephine Baker performing exotic dance routines. The film was banned in the U.

The Russian film Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov featured nudity within the context of naturism , including live childbirth. Several Hollywood films produced in the s and s, which contained only brief nudity, created controversy. Various groups objected to these features on moral grounds, and several states set up film censorship boards, arguing that such content was obscene and should be banned.

The Code was adopted in , and began to be effectively enforced in At the same time, the Catholic Legion of Decency was formed to keep an eye on the morals conveyed in films and indicate its disapproval by "condemning" films it considered morally objectionable theaters would not show a condemned film until this system was defeated in the s.

In , the New York Court of Appeals ruled, in the context of prohibition of screenings of films, that a film that merely contains nudity was not obscene. From its early days the presence of nudity in a film has been controversial and even today its presence is invariably noted by critics and censors.

Until the s, male nudity was rarely shown on screen. Though female nudity was routinely treated with respect and solemnity, male nudity, when it finally found its way onto the screen, was generally treated humorously and mockingly. Today, though nudity in film is much more common, its presence in dramas is still expected to be justified on artistic grounds.

Pre-Hays Code Hollywood, [ edit ] Main article: Pre-Code Hollywood The silent film era came to an end in In , the Motion Picture Association of America drew up theMotion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, to raise the moral standards of films by directly restricting the materials which the major film studios could include in their films. The code authorized nudity only in naturist quasi-documentary films and in foreign films.

However, the code was not enforced until After the end of silent films, movies with sound that included brief glimpses of nudity appeared as early as with All Quiet on the Western Front.

DeMille , later known as a family entertainment specialist, included several nude scenes in his early films such as The Sign of the Cross , Four Frightened People , and Cleopatra The "Dance of the Naked Moon" and orgy scene was cut for The Sign of the Cross in a reissue to comply with the production code.

Other filmmakers followed suit, particularly in historical dramas such as The Scarlet Empress which, among other things, shows topless women being burned at the stake and contemporary stories filmed in exotic, mostly tropical, locations. Under the pretense of being an educational ethnographic film, producers could justify showing half-clad natives in jungle epics and South-Sea-island documentaries.

This was often done by editing in stock footage or fabricating new scenes with ethnic-looking stand-ins. Examples of docufiction include Ingagi , notorious for its fake scenes of semi-nude "native" girls filmed on a back lot. Forbidden Adventure in Angkor is a Cambodia documentary with scenes added, for dramatic effect, of two explorers and a dozen topless female bearers, incongruously played by African-American women.

The Sea Fiend , re-issued as Devil Monster , is a low-budget South-Sea drama spiced up with stock footage inserts of half-dressed native girls. Due to the diaphanous or sheer nature of s and s fashions, female body parts or virtual nudity, or both, can be on display even when the performer is fully clothed.

As a result, when the Hays Code came into force in , studio wardrobe departments had to attire actresses in more conservative as well as contemporary dress.

It has also been called the first on-screen depiction of a female orgasm. The restrictions of the production code were strictly enforced from until the early s to restrict nudity in films produced by the studios.

United States produced films were also under the scrutiny of moral guardians, such as the Catholic Legion of Decency, which had an influence on the content and subject matter of films in the s and s. They were also subject to constraints of state censorship authorities. These bodies followed inconsistent guidelines through which the film producers had to navigate; with some films being exhibited in cut versions in some states.

The Hays Code was so strict that even the display of cleavage was controversial. Producer Howard Hughes created controversy by his emphasis on cleavage, especially that of Jane Russell , first in the film The Outlaw and also in the film The French Line. Independent film producers i. However, they were subject to state censorship regimes and could be excluded from so-called "family" theatres.

These films claimed to be educational and dealt with taboo topics such as drug parties, prostitution, and sexually transmitted infections. In the course of presenting the message, nudity at times made an appearance. These films, which emerged in the s, were obliged to play in independent theaters or traveled across the United States in "roadshow" fashion.

They were normally low-budget, and described as sensationalized exploitation films. Using this framework, brief nude scenes of women appeared in Maniac and Sex Madness , and nude swimming sequences in Marihuana and Child Bride Child Bride was controversial because it included a topless and skinny dipping scene by year-old Shirley Mills , which was described by Allmovie as "gratuitous child nudity", [19] though in some versions the topless scene was cut out. Exploitative films with pseudo-ethnographic pretensions continued well into the s.

For example, Mau-Mau , presented as a documentary of the violent nationalist uprising in Kenya, played the grind-house circuit. Fabricated scenes filmed in front of a painted backdrop of an African village show nude and semi-clad "native" women being raped, strangled, and stabbed by machete-wielding maniacs.

Other films containing nudity were the early underground 8mm pornographic films and fetish reels which, due to various censorship regimes, had only limited usually clandestine means of distribution and were only shown in private until the s. Nudist films[ edit ] Nudist films first appeared in the early s as documentaries and docu-dramas promoting the healthy lifestyle of the naturist movement in Europe and the U.

Earliest examples include This Nude World , a narrated documentary filmed in the U. Throughout the thirties, nudist films like Why Nudism? The nudist-camp movie was revived in the s with Garden of Eden , the first naturist film shot in color.

Changes in censorship laws led to a flood of films such as Naked Venus directed by Edgar G. Friedman , and Herschell Gordon Lewis. Edward Craven Walker the inventor of the lava lamp was a major figure in the naturist movement. He made three nudist films under the name Micheal Keatering. They were mainly shot in naturist resorts, but augmented by attractive glamour models. There was uninhibited exposure of breasts and backsides though.

The acting and technical production standards were not very high and the outlets for their exhibition were very limited, as was the size of the audience interested in these films, and many films were re-released several times under new titles, to trick patrons into seeing the films additional times. What audience there was lost interest in these films by the mids and production ceased.

Teas directed by Russ Meyer was the first of such films. In that film, the context for the presentation of female nudity was the fantasies of the main character involving nude women.

A feature of the film was the use of larger-breasted women, which became a feature of this genre. The film is widely considered the first pornographic feature not confined to under-the-counter distribution, and the film was commercially successful. For the next few years a wave of such films, known as "nudies" or "nudie-cuties", were produced for adult theatres in the United States sometimes called grindhouse theatres. There were very many other similar films and sequels.


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