Cinema #32: Actresses on Nude Scenes

Lord knows there's a lot of attention put on nude scenes, but I thought it might be interesting to take a different perspective.  In this post, we'll look at the words from the actresses themselves - their own opinions and experiences doing them in cult movies.  For whatever reason, I found this rather interesting - and I hope you do as well.

Note: For each actress, I will list a few of their movies (in case you don't recognize the name), and the corresponding snipped from the magazine article where they speak on the subject of on-screen nudity.

Also note that most of these are "cult movies" - and by "cult" I mean vintage genre films, but don't get caught up in semantics.

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb, The Spy Who Loved Me, Carry On Matron

"I did three movies where everyone was naked except for me. I kept my clothes on, which was quite bizarre. I lost a lot of work by not disrobing completely. I think it was shyness. I built a wall around myself and became unapproachable- it was the only way I knew how to handle my lack of confidence. An uncle of mine once said to me, 'You know Valerie, I never ever thought of you as sexy,' and he was probably right because it was nothing more than a well-fabricated image."

And Hammer executives were dismayed with Leon. "I refused to show too much in any of the publicity shots that I did," she says. "I was a disaster on the Hammer 'glamour queen' front because I didn't bare all. I've always believed suggestion is more erotic than showing everything anyway."

Return of the Living Dead, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Creepozoids 

"It's part of life. Guys go to the beach to see girls in bikinis. It's just guys being guys. It doesn't make a difference if I'm wearing a bikini or not." And, more often than not. Linnea's not wearing anything. Quigley has probably logged more screen time out of her clothes than in them, prompting one major movie periodical
to report she has the best breasts in horrordom. "At least they didn't say 'the worst,'" she laughed. "I take
it as a compliment. What are they going to say -'Her acting is like Meryl Streep?' Nudity is a big part of a lot of my films. The guys get upset if they don't see some breasts.''

Quigley realizes where her appeal lies, and she knows her audience isn't there for her acting; as a result, watching her creatively disrobe has become a ritual in all of Quigley's films. She has, however, refused to appear completely nude. "To me, it doesn't look good on screen," she explained. "It looks less silly. Usually if I'm nude, there's not a sex scene-it's just silly stuff going on. Full frontal nudity takes away from that.\When you're watching a movie and you see a pubic hair, it's not fun anymore."

The Howling

Elisabeth Brooks was very vocal in her objections to scenes that required full-frontal nudity. In an US magazine article entitled "Elisabeth Brooks is Howling Mad," she said "I was signed to do the movie on my acting ability alone. I was told the sex shots would be smoke-screened by a bonfire and that you wouldn't be able to see anything."

Playboy published the nude footage, without Elisabeth's approval, in the magazine's annual "Sex in the Cinema" retrospect. With no beat waves nor smoke, she disrobed near the embers of a modest blaze. Elisabeth was further quoted, " In the past, I've always refused to do nude magazine work because I believe in the Bible and have morals."

Halloween, Death of a Centerfold, Trading Places, Prom Night

INTERVIEWER: The TV movie DEATH OF A CENTERFOLD was a career breakthrough for you in several ways-a lead in a drama, and the first time you did nudity. Were you nervous?

CURTIS: Nervous? I was terrified! I asked them to refrigerate the set. I wanted it cold if they were going to be shot, standing up straight. That's funny, cold makes them stand up, but with men, cold ... nevermind. It was done well; the set was cleared in one take. I thought I'd take it better than I did, 'cause I was shaking like a leaf. Strangely enough, there was another scene where she's got this towel around her and her husband says, "C'mon, we're going to do those other shots now ... I was topless in front of the camera crew, because I'd have to take off the towel, but they shot me from the shoulders up. And that wasn't so traumatic. What could I do, put tape on them? They're breasts. Everybody has 'em. I wasn't nervous in front of the crew. But in front of the camera, it was terrible. I went back to my room and had a good cry.

Dracula has Risen from the Grave, Frankenstein Must be Destroyed

I sort of sailed away from the business. It wasn't just my husband, but at that time there was more sex coming into the movies, more nudity, and I just didn't want to be a part of it. In art school, nude models were everywhere. But I'm not a voyeur. I admire beauty and good looks in a dispassionate way. If I wanted to sunbathe nude, though, I'd do it where no one could see me. except maybe a passing helicopter- and then I'd run for cover.

Sorority Babes in the Slime Bowl-A-Rama, Nightmare Sisters, Puppetmaster III

Since various roles may require nudity, Bauer's ''body maintenance" is a professional obigation. "I work out, run, and try to watch my diet, but it's never easy on a shoot with the junk food that's around all the time," she said. Aside from her own roles, she has doubled for stars who decline nudity (including Margaux Hemingway and Judy Landers).  Though fans welcome her "clothes dispensing" scenes, B film quotas of bare skin and blood-letting have raised some thorny issues with Bauer's family.

"They're basically split," said Bauer. "After a while, my parents praised the funny and dramatic sides of my performance and stopped chastising me about the nudity and violence. Some of my siblings, however, are still not supportive of my work and, at times, that hurt. I accept parts that I think are challenging and fun. When people criticize my work, I tell them that they are entitled to their opinions, but that doesn't mean they're right. I believe in myself and my work and, what other people say just doesn't upset me."

Bauer, however, said she refuses to take part in any films that graphically portray rape and gore.  "I hope the blood splashed scenes are taken tongue in cheek, and the sex scenes are funny and always as tasteful as possible,", she said.  "I've turned down parts that had brutal sex in them like in ROLLER BLADE WARRIORS . And I'm not a fan of the FRIDAY THE 13TH series either.  I'm aware of the impact these films can have on a younger audience and I really believe that there's a difference between campy sex-violence and raw sex-violence.

Bachelor Party, Hot Moves, Deathstalker II, Chained Heat

Gabrielle's father, a nudist, inspired his offspring to adhere to a "continental" attitude.  Thus, she admits having few qualms when B-roles require the obligatory disrobement scenes.  "I feel fine about nudity.  In my mind, it's clean and there's no problem.  Europeans think we're so uptight about nudity and sex, which most Americans are.  When people suggest that sex or even nudity is "dirty" it creates problems which is why we have perverts, rapists, and child molesters.

"But what I'm really against is violence. I walked out of the Cape Fear remake.  The violence was too realistic for me.  yet I can see Terminator because that's fantasy, a comic book.  What's really hypocritical about this rating system is a movie depicting graphic violence usually inflicted upon women, may get a soft rating.  But if a woman bares her breast or removes her clothing, a film is usually branded with an R rating."

Howling II, Reform School Girls, Attack of the 50 ft. Woman, Warrior Queen

Danning's uninhibited sexual confidence a roused a fair amount of criticism from those who viewed nudity as
nothing more than exploitation of women. Danning disagreed. "People have asked, 'Does a strong woman take her clothes off? Aren't you being exploited yourself?' I think being a strong. intelligent woman takes a level of maturity, which includes experience and independence," explained Danning. "That doesn't mean I have to run around in pants and a shirt buttoned up to my neck, wearing glasses. I'm a woman . And being a woman means being sexy beyond everything else I've mentioned. I don't think there's a woman in the world who doesn't want to be sexy. If she says she doesn't, she's being untruthful with herself."



  1. Interesting.
    I think the pendulum will eventually swing back toward movies without nudity and profanity.
    The clever sexual suggestion and witty dialogue of films from decades ago seem to have a longer-lasting appeal.
    I recently saw an interesting cult horror film where the nudity was always blocked by a well-placed tree branch or prop, and I think it actually worked out better than if the nudity had been shown outright.

  2. And that's why moviemakers were jailed on obscenity charges, because they didn't please the ivory tower aesthetes who preferred more subtle eroticism?
    As long as I'm ranting, why the Eighties Ladies? You could have found one or two from the previous decade...

  3. I've worked with actresses who would never do nudity, some who would only do it if it was vital to the story, and some who would get naked at the drop of a hat.

    I've never been nude on screen, but I've been nude in two different plays. To me, it's just another tool in my box. And it's kinda fun. Except when my parents came to the show.

  4. "When you're watching a movie and you see a pubic hair, it's not fun anymore." Um....I don't think that's true...

  5. Very interesting - I'd love to read more comments like this.