Memorial Day heralds the unofficial beginning of summer and getaways, and with it comes the debut of beach bodies in bathing suits that exposed more and more flesh over the decades.
Curator and photo preservationist David Wills has shown the evolution of ‘seaside couture’ in Hollywood through a series of stunning colorized photos in Hollywood Beach Beauties: Sea Sirens, Sun Goddesses, and Summer Style 1930-1970, published by Dey Street, an Imprint of William Morrow.
Among the photographed beauties are stars Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Natalie Wood, and Sharon Tate.
Some were sent to Santa Monica beach to be photographed in the sun to promote a new film while others posed in front of beach front with sand.
But Wills reveals how the vintage photos have been edited with some Hollywood magic.
‘The Hollywood fantasy is the gift that keeps on giving,’ he writes.
‘This is a photographic sampling of all the Hollywood beaches where notable women have played and tanned and posed and been rendered younger and more beautiful than they really are’.
Bette Davis, 1932
Bette Davis 1932. Bette Davis made a bid for bombshell status in rare cheesecake publicity for her role in the 1932 pre-Code crime melodrama Three on a Match.
Rita Hayworth, 1938
Rita Hayworth was 19 in 1938 and on the verge of Hollywood stardom. She became Hollywood’s ‘Love Goddess’ and in 1948, was being pursued by Ari Onassis and the Shah of Iran after her marriage to Orson Welles failed.
Ava Gardner, 1944
Clarence Sinclair Bull, Ava Gardner starred in her second film the same year she married actor Mickey Rooney and declared she was a virgin. ‘We screwed each other silly for the whole year we were married. I was making up for lost time,’ she said.
Ava Gardner, photographed here in 1944, became one of the most seductive women in Hollywood and married three of her leading men — Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra.
Joan Crawford, 1949
Joan Crawford, on Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, 1949, was considered the perfect image of a movie star by director George Cukor. You could photograph her from any angle and the face moved beautifully.
Marilyn Monroe, 1950
Marilyn Monroe was considered a ‘hot tomato’ in 1950 after signing a contract with 20th Century Fox. She had just appeared in The Asphalt Jungle and was about to become Hollywood’s ultimate sex goddess.
Janet Leigh, 1950
Janet Leigh, best known for being hacked to death in a motel shower in Hitchcock’s thriller, Psycho, in 1960, was one of Hollywood’s busiest actresses appearing in six movies in 1949 alone. Photo circa 1950.
Audrey Hepburn, 1951
Audrey Hepburn on the beach at Rottingdean, East Susses, England, circa 1951. She was on loan that year to Associated British Pictures Corp and appeared in three movies but received little attention. She was still an unknown in 1951.
Ann Blyth, 1952
Blyth, at age 89, is one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood and made unremarkable films before being cast as Joan Crawford’s daughter in Mildred Pierce in 1945. Circa 1952.
Marilyn Monroe, 1952
Marilyn Monroe lusciously bathes in the Pacific Ocean in the Fritz Lang film, Clash by Night, 1952. This was the first film where Monroe was credited above the movie’s title. It was also during the shoot that nude calendar photos of the star surfaced distracting the filmmakers.
Grace Kelly, 1955
Grace Kelly starred in To Catch a Thief, 1955, the year that propelled her into the pantheon of Hollywood film stars, onto the best-dressed list and ultimately Monaco’s royal palace.
Marilyn Monroe, 1959
At the time, her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller was crumbling and she was pregnant with his child and preoccupied with gaining weight as well as losing the baby.
Elizabeth Taylor, 1959
Elizabeth Taylor in the film, Suddenly Last Summer, 1959, was asked by her cousin to wearing an alluring white tank bathing suit to attract his would-be lovers. The bathing suit became one of the most iconic swimsuits in the history of film.
Natalie Wood, 1961
Natalie Wood played Maria in the musical West Side Story, a box office and critical success for the actress in 1961 who began her film career as a child.
Ursula Andress, 1962
Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder. She was the original Bond Girl in the 1962 film Dr. No. ‘This bikini made me a success,’ Andress is quoted. ‘My entrance in Dr. No wearing the bikini on that beautiful beach now seems to be regarded as a classic moment in cinema.’
Annette Funicello, 1963
Annette Funicello in Beach Party, 1963. Her career segued from Mouseketeer in the mid-50s to beach party movies when surfing exploded on the scene in music, television shows and commercials in the 60s.
Tina Louise, 1964
Tina Louise as Topaz McQueen in For Those Who Think Young, 1964. Tina Louise appeared in the beach movie in 1964 but she’s best known for her role as Ginger Grant in the classic TV show Gilligan’s Island as well as many other TV appearances.
Raquel Welch, 1966
Raquel Welch bikini-ed her way to super-stardom in the 1966 fantasy One Million Years, B.C.
Welch was ‘the indelible image of a woman as queen of nature. She was a lioness: fierce, passionate and dangerously physical,’ stated Camille Paglia. 1966
Sharon Tate, 1967
Sharon Tate acted in the 1967 sex farce, Don’t Make Waves that inspired the toy company, Mattel, to produce Malibu Barbie based on her film character.
Edy Williams, 1968
Edy Williams was best known for acting in the films of her husband at the time, Russ Meyer, the self-styled ‘king of the nudies.’ Many of her film appearances involved nudity. 1968
Susan Bernard, 1970
Susan Bernard, actress, model, author and businesswoman, appeared in Playboy in December 1966 and is believed to be the first Jewish Playmate of the month.