By Tad Standoffish
This article is for entertainment purposes only.
The words "I'm ready for my close-up" were of course spoken by the lovely Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd.
A friend prominent in the SK hierarchy often expresses his appalled disagreement to my eroticizing these black-and-white beauties. Mr--- notes that "they don't look like women." Indeed they do not; they appear like goddesses. I quote again the past-her-prime Ms. Desmond: "They had faces then." Indeed they did. They also had breasts, buttocks, and vaginas.
I first became a "Garbo bachelor" back in about 1989. I was your average thirty-two-year-old college freshman, sitting alone in a revival house watching the 1936 classic Camille. When I saw the doomed Greta Garbo wearing that mink stole, I could not help thinking of the softer fur beneath that it represented. When Garbo spoke in 1932's Grand Hotel the immortal phrase "I vant to be alone," this author had to quickly be alone. The Queen's words to her doomed lover were immortal; my immediate thoughts and actions were immoral. In order to preserve the practices of the period, I greased my hands with Shumway's liniment, as did so many of my long gone fellow Garbo bachelors.
Garbo speaks--Anna Christie (1931); Garbo laughs--Ninotchka (1939); Tad Standoffish cums. In Queen Christina (1933), the sexually ambiguous Garbo plants a kiss on the lips of a young female page. I do not believe this clip can be found as yet on Mr. Skin. With no doubt, the girl/girl scenes in films from Gemini Affair (1975) through Gia (1998) may be viewed. In terms of the raw erotic power of forbidden love, those flash-in-the-pan bits of vaginal tripe hold no candle to what classics like Ms. Garbo offered.
The lovely Miriam Hopkins is all but forgotten today. I first fell in love with her some months ago when I caught Ernst Lubitsch's Design for Living (1933) on late-night public TV. (As long as there is late-night public TV, I'll never need levetra.) As I recall, the film dealt with three bohemian artists living hand to mouth in Paris. Being Lubitsch, of course it was a light romantic comedy. In spite of that, Ms. Hopkins's near-diaphanous blouse ensured that I needed to keep a box of tissues by my side. In this film Ms. Hopkins played the object of Gary Cooper's interests. Ms. Hopkins's time in the limelight was short; she never developed staying power as an object of the movie-going male's desire. Her being a free spirit was seen as distant, perpetually ill at ease. The male portion of a Yale graduating class of the mid '30s voted Ms. Hopkins the woman they would "least like to spend time on a desert island with." I disagree with my long-dead contemporaries; I've always loved a gypsy. Ms. Hopkins had a long-standing feud with Bette Davis, which was the other major factor in the decline of her popularity.
Myrna Loy, born in1905, is a starlet who made the transition from '30s sex kitten to home matron and caregiver, most nobly in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Much has been written about Ms. Loy's role as Fu Manchu's daughter in 1932's The Mask of Fu Manchu. In one scene Ms. Loy appears to climax as her father's lash repeatedly hits the back of his captive. I admit to a long-standing crush on Ms. Loy. When I watch her beside William Powell as Nick Charles, my Thin Man sure stands at attention. During a recent Christmastime marathon of Thin Man movies on my local PBS affiliate, I could swear it damn near sprouted a pencil-thin mustache.
Another beauty of the early '30s was Fay Wray. Having worn out my used mattress dreaming of Fay Wray, I'm one of the few that can answer what happened to her. Ms. Wray retired from cinema in 1958. The curvaceous Ms. Wray was last seen in the 1980 TV film Gideon's Trumpet, no doubt tempting a new generation of men with her wrinkled goodies. Mr. Skin fans, of which I count myself, can find the famed censored scenes from King Kong (1933) on this site. The beast Kong truly had soul, though imagination he would not need, as those lovely black-and-white coconuts are there for all to see. I sit at my computer fancying that I'm Ms. Wray's lover at the time, Errol Flynn. When Ms. Wray's top comes off, it's sure not my chest that gets pounded. Ms. Wray was still lovely and radiant when she died last year at the age ninety-seven. Before her death she attended a gala for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Empire State building; she was the only star of King Kong at attendance. I suppose the rest were busy that day.
Any discussion of sizzling black-and-white beauties would need to include Penny "Blondie" Singleton. Ms. Singleton's flowing golden locks and plunging necklines sure gave me Dagwood. I've often thought that the burning question of 1938, apart from looming world war, was "Could those golden locks be found down south?" One would have to have the libido of Mr. Dithers not to entertain such an erotic query. Ms. Singleton shuffled off her lovely mortal coil in 2003, her salutatory role having been the voice of Jane in Jetstons: The Movie (1990).
The first screen starlet to send young men from Maine to California scrambling to their outhouses was Theda Bara. Ms. Bara had become America's first overtly erotic sex symbol by 1915. By 1920 the public had tired of her. Ms. Bara was offered to the public at about the same time as erector sets became all the rage for American boys. This silent sloe-eyed star of Camille (1917) has always been this boy's portable erector set. Ms. Bara's schtick was being carried about Hollywood by a cadre of Nubian servants of truly royal blood. There's a 1916 film presently lost to us titled The Eternal Sappho, and my blood boils thinking of what Cleopatra's antics must have been. This was of course very pre-Code Hollywood, and my imagination runs wild. Ms. Bara introduced the line "Kiss me you fool" in A Fool There Was (1915). A fool for that I will always be. To me, Theda is as ageless and exciting as a William Hart western. In Ms. Bara's day psychiatry still considered masturbation a mental disease. Doc, hand me a towel, because I sure don't want to be well.
I came to write this article at the behest of a close friend from college, an editor at Mr. Skin. Needless to say, we have some differences regarding female beauty. I recall one dateless Saturday night in the late '80s when my friend, acting to help me, attempted to provide some exposure to "normalcy". He gave me an "adult" videotape, the name I do not recall. My friend told me that there was a scene where two young ladies sharing a dildo become so excited, one rode the other like a horse. I open-mindedly watched the film. After much yawning, I offered my humble opinion that the most exciting lesbian scene in film was from Morocco (1930). The scene to which I refer, of course, has lovely Marlene Deitrich entertaining in a bottomless tuxedo. The scene and I culminate with Deitrich kissing a young woman from the audience on the lips. I further stated that from the origins of cinema I adored sexual ambiguity. I related that I never missed Little Lord Fauntleroy (1921), in which Mary Pickford plays the title role under a head full of locks. My friend responded by repeatedly slamming my head between a wall and a steel door. The incident is behind us and we've learned to maturely agree to disagree on what is a turn-on.
My slow-witted friend seems to have trouble with understanding the power of imagination in the kindling of libidinous male fires. It was certainly Betty Grable's legs in Moon Over Miami (1941) or Sweet Rosie O'Grady (1943) that helped get us through the good war. One must understand that, under the surface, our fighting boys were thinking of what it was that was between Betty Grable's legs. To understand this is to have power. When I saw the golden beauty in Mother Wore Tights (1947), my knickers sure felt like tights.
Who could be drawn to some silly redheaded nymphet like Lindsay Lohan when there is an ample celluloid record of the worldly voluptuousness of Tallulah Bankhead? My friend and I do agree about redheads. For this portly shut-in there is no sexier film redhead than that brought to life by Bette Davis in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), in which Ms. Davis plays the virgin queen. Seeing Ms. Davis's form fill out those Hollywood-styled Elizabethan garments made this virgin till he was twenty-nine scream. Oh, to be her consort, Errol Flynn, in that role. There is no aphrodisiac like power. There has never been.
The only heartthrob today that has the raw sexual energy of pre-antibiotic days is Hilary Swank. I would have knowledge of her with gusto. Her body would be like the aficionado's ear upon the playing of a Vangelis tune.
I fear I was just born too late. I know of no shop on Hollywood Boulevard where a gentle soul can purchase a Jean Harlow pocket-pal. Until my next rambling I sign off, closing my eyes dreaming of dear Marilyn singing happy birthday to me.