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Marie Prevost--Bathing Beauty #1
by David for group historicalziegfeld Feb 7, 2012

Mack Sennett is usually credited with making the bathing beauty an American cultural icon. When the antics of the Keystone Kops began to pall on audiences, Sennett decided to intermix bevies of girls dressed for seaside diversion. This display of pulchritude stimulated Sennett's odd assortment of male misfits--the wall eyed mustachioed chinless bald bumpkins with protruding Adams apples--into all sorts of destructive antics, usually involving new model cars, trains, or monocoque airplanes. Of all the girls Sennett enlisted for his bevy, two vied for supremacy, blonde Phyllis Haver and brunette Marie Prevost. Haver was demure, girly, and willing to play dumb. Prevost was athletic, pouty, and often aggressive. Prevost was the more authentic representative of the bathing girl ideal in the early 20th century. We should not forget that the ur-bathing girl was diver-long distance swimmer Annette Kellerman, a physical culturist with a feminist streak, and a conviction that the human body was the temple of splendor. She was a heroic exhibitionist who invented the unitard bathing suit so the people could witness perfection incarnate. Ziegfeld as early as 1908 incorporated bathing scenes in the Follies referencing Kellerman, and Kellerman became a Broadway headliner in 1911 in "Undine". Kellerman went into the movies and lensed in 1915-1916 "Neptune's Daughter" and "Daughter of the Gods" famous in their day for their episodes of nude naturist romping. Sennett's bathing beauties followed almost immediately upon Kellerman's blockbusters. While the figure was featured, Sennett took care to keep to current fashion. A flounce skirt, bare knees, and bathing shoes were standard Sennett equipment. Nelson Evans, who sometimes shot stills for Sennett, was given charge of doing publicity shoots of the bathing beauties. The earliest of these were taken on the California shore. The Prevost shoot recorded below is interesting because it is a poolside scene. At a time when polio inspired fear about swimming pools, Hollywood determined to bolster the romance of the estate swimming pool. Prevost, after her stint with Sennett, would enjoy a lively career in Hollywood, culminating in Cecil B. DeMille's "The Godless Girl." Her tragic end, brought on by poverty and an eating disorder, prompted the organization of charity support for Hollywood performers in the late 1930s. David S. Shields

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  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    gilesnemeton wrote on Feb 8
    These are great David---thank you


    kittyinva wrote on Feb 8
    These are so sweet. I have always liked Marie Prevost. Thanks for sharing. Kathie
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