History of Sex in Cinema:
|Movie Title/Year and Film/Scene Description|
Belle de Jour (1967, Fr.) (aka Beauty of the Day)
Luis Bunuel's groundmaking film about repressed sexuality, his first color film, told about bored, repressed, blonde upper-class Parisian newlywed housewife Sévérine Serizy (Catherine Deneuve). The carnal film ended ambiguously and tragically when her escapades as a part-time prostitute in a chic brothel brought sexual fulfillment (she told her husband, "Every day I love you more") - but also physical (and emotional) harm to her husband.
She was unhappily married to respectful society surgeon Pierre Serizy (Jean Sorel), in an unconsummated and frigid relationship. She frequently experienced imaginative daydreams (of gang-rape, masochism - whippings and bondage, and eroticism). These vivid imaginings led her to hire herself out to brothel Madame Anais (Genevieve Page), who told her: "My girls have to be polite and very cheerful. You have to enjoy your work."
Enjoying part-time suburban prostitution during afternoons only, she took the "very simple and very cute" name - 'Belle de Jour' - "easy to remember."
She soon experienced a variety of strange clients - some of whom enjoyed role-playing. In one scene, she was tied up while mud was thrown at her and she was called "Old whore," "Maggot" and "Pig."
During her major masochistic fantasy, an erotic dream sequence involving her husband, she was driven in a carriage into the woods where her husband Pierre instructed the coachmen (Michel Charrel) to gag her, tie her hands, and bind her to a nearby tree. Her dress was torn and her bare back was whipped (pleasurably), before he also told the coachman: "She's yours now...Go ahead" - before a presumed scene of rape between them.
The scene cut back to Severine's bedroom where she sat in bed with her husband and refused to pay attention to him.
Severine with Anais
Severine with Pierre
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Arthur Penn's definitive film of the sixties Bonnie and Clyde (1967) was one of the most talked-about, volatile, and controversial crime/gangster films of all-time, combining comedy, terror, love, and ferocious violence. It romanticized violence in its tale of an infamous criminal couple who proclaimed: "They're young...they're in love...and they kill people." Both tragic outlaw figures exemplified 'innocents on the run' who clung to each other and tried to function as a family.
The film opened with a colorful closeup of red, luscious lips (that were being licked after lipstick had been applied). The immense lips belonged to blonde Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) - a bored, beautiful, and sexually-frustrated, Depression-era Texas cafe waitress who was naked and narcissistically primping in front of a mirror. Her teasing and nude appearance at her bedroom window occurred as Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) eyed her Mama's car out front. She quickly dressed and descended the stairs to join him. One of the film's lobby posters described their first auspicious meeting: "They met in 1930. She was stark naked, yelling at him out the window while he tried to steal her mother's car. In a matter of minutes they robbed a store, fired a few shots, and then stole somebody else's car. At that point, they had not yet been introduced."
This film illustrated the sexy interplay between the two. Soon after, Clyde showed off his gun and bounced a wooden matchstick between his teeth (shot at an upward angle as a trembling phallic symbol), although he was later revealed to be impotent.
The film's overall impact was heightened by its open examination of the gallant Clyde's sexuality-impotence and the link to his gun-toting violence. To fulfill heartthrob Warren Beatty's image as a sex-symbol, he was finally able to consummate his love for Bonnie by film's end, although it was dubiously historical. Afterwards, Bonnie assured Clyde: "You did just perfect," after which he complimented himself while chuckling: "I did, didn't I? I mean, I really did. I never figured on that. Damn." In the next bedroom scene, they discussed their relationship, although they were soon doomed to die:
Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde (Warren Beatty)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Director Stuart Rosenberg's moving character study Cool Hand Luke (1967) told of a non-conformist, anti-hero loner, "Cool Hand" Luke (Paul Newman) who bullheadedly resisted authority and the Establishment. The film's theme was about the outsider-protagonist who transformed the occupants of a Southern chain gang institution and tragically sacrificed himself at the end.
This chain-gang prison film contained the titillating scene of the prisoners digging a ditch by the roadside in the scorching hot sun -- when a blonde-haired, shapely, well-endowed and sexy young woman (Joy Harmon) in a nearby house prepared to wash her car. Her provocative activity sent the men into a voyeuristic, frustrated frenzy.
She brought out a radio and turned it on, signaling the beginning of her sexual act. As she opened up the nozzle on her watering hose, a particularly-apt phallic symbol, the men perked up and attentively spied "the scenery." One of the prisoners couldn't endure the lustful suffering she was creating: "Oh man, oh man, I'm dyin'."
She proceeded to wet down the car and then lathered and caressed white, frothy soap suds over the car's surfaces. She tempted and stimulated the men even further in the symbolic simulation of the sex act. She looked into the car's rear view mirror and into one of the tire's shiny hubcaps to look back to see how the men were being pleasured. Her loose-fitting blouse with well-endowed breasts began to open up and taunt them. Gambler (Wayne Rogers) observed:
The men dug more vigorously as she heightened her own cleansing activity. Dragline (George Kennedy) prayed to the heavens to sustain his eyesight just a little longer for the girl he named Lucille: "Hey Lord, whatever I done, don't strike me blind for another couple of minutes. My Lucille!... That's Lucille, you mother-head. Anything so innocent and built like that just gotta be named Lucille."
Knowing that she had a ripe and attentive audience, the blonde rubbed the car harder and harder. In the most blatantly sexual act of all - the orgasmic conclusion to her show - she squeezed the white foam out of her sponge and rubbed the soap suds across her abdomen.
Luke knew what she was doing: "She knows exactly what she's doin'. She's drivin' us crazy and lovin' every minute of it." She gently drank from the end of the penis-shaped hose and then while washing the roof of the car, her soaped-up, ample breasts were squeezed as they rubbed back and forth across the car's window.
The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) (aka Dance of the Vampires or Pardon Me...But Your Teeth Are in My Neck)
In director Roman Polanski's vampire horror spoof, two vampire hunters (Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and his assistant Alfred (Roman Polanski)) attempted to destroy an undead nobleman, while rescuing a maiden.
The young, innocent and buxom innkeeper's daughter Sarah Shagal (Sharon Tate, director Polanski's soon-to-be-wife in her debut feature film appearance) bathed in a tub in one of the more sensual scenes of the film. The semi-nude shot heavily publicized was not in the film, but in promotional materials, including a March 1967 Playboy pictorial shot by Polanski.
When vampire Count Von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne) descended through the ceiling, he flared his fangs at her before biting her. She flailed around in the tub as her neck was bitten.
The Fox (1967, Can.)
Director Mark Rydell's first feature film was a stark adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's 1923 novella of lesbian love. The candid and controversial drama was originally rated R in 1968 (for its scene of nude masturbation and mild scenes of sexuality, lesbian and heterosexual), but then was re-edited and rated PG in 1973.
It examined the lives of two female lovers on an isolated, snowbound farmhouse (a self-sustaining chicken farm) in Canada, who shared the same bed in a sublimated lesbian relationship:
There were tasteful and discrete scenes of sexuality:
The arrival of a third person - self-confident merchant seaman Paul Renfield (Keir Dullea) - symbolically and metaphorically, the predatory 'male' fox (who challenged the coop and killed the real-live fox), disrupted and changed the relationship between the two women within the tense love triangle. In one telling scene after his arrival, Paul asked Jill why she had never married:
By film's end, the bisexual character of March, who originally decided not to abandon Jill for Paul, chose to start a new life with Paul after Jill was killed by a falling tree. Jill had stubbornly refused to heed Paul's warning and move out of the tree's possible path when it was about to be chopped down by Paul. [As in many films of this kind, code restrictions demanded that deviant sexuality had to be punished - this time by a crushing phallic symbol.]
Ellen (Anne Heywood)
with Jill (Sandy Dennis)
Paul with Ellen
The Death of Jill
The Graduate (1967)
Mike Nichol's award-winning, milestone film of the 1960s The Graduate (1967) was a bold social satire film combining adultery, nudity, and anti-establishment subject matter. It featured an average-looking newcomer named Dustin Hoffman in the lead role as young graduate Ben Braddock who would experience an illicit and sexy seduction (and awakening) by older, provocative and predatory married female - Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) - the frustrated wife of his father's law partner.
She quizzically asked him: "You want me to seduce you, is that what you're trying to tell me, Benjamin?" (with his befuddled reply-question: "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me? Aren't you?"). She assaulted him in her own home by exposing her breasts to him (seen in split-second, jump-cut flashes but first reflected in the picture of her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross)) in her bedroom, and by blocking his exit.
At the same time that he entered into an affair with her, Benjamin dated the more appropriately-aged Elaine. On their first date, he deliberately tried to put Elaine off by being offensive. Without communicating with her (wearing his sunglasses at night), he drove recklessly in his sports car and then marched ahead of her into a tawdry strip joint to humiliate her. The stripper (Lainie Miller) twirled the dangling tassels on her bare, rotating breasts directly behind Elaine's head, while Ben asked:
He removed his sunglasses [his barrier] as he saw tears forming in her eyes, and stopped the tawdry show. Disgusted and humiliated in shame, Elaine ran out. In the climactic scene, Benjamin interrupted her marriage at a church and took her away on a city bus to an uncertain future.
Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) with Mrs. Robinson
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
Stanley Kramer's and Columbia Pictures' socially-conscious message film explored the touchy issue of inter-racial romance.
This progressive film (though dated now) was the first truly mainstream Hollywood film to portray an interracial couple's romance that turned out optimistically.
The mixed couple were:
Except for one brief revolutionary view of the couple kissing (seen in a cab driver's rear view mirror on their way to the city of San Francisco from the airport), other scenes of their physical intimacy were edited out.
A Guide for the Married Man (1967)
Based upon Frank Tarloff's book of the same name, this dated, misogynistic, humorless sex comedy (directed by Gene Kelly!) was of the opinion that sex and infidelity could freely be discussed, without being very visually explicit.
This foul, light-hearted sex film was typical of a number of films of the 'sexual revolution' of the late 60s, with little in the way of nudity due to Production Code restrictions still residually in force, but with lots of leering views of stacked and teasing bombshells clothed with hip-swinging, tight outfits. In the film's trailer, the narrator promised to give viewers some "pointers" - with the shot of the bouncing chests of four nubile women strutting down a sidewalk, a busty look at the decolletege of a waitress bending down and serving tea, and the "low-down" (a view of the swinging backside of a shapely female).
The picture's gimmick was that it featured many notable cameos from Art Carney (with Lucille Ball), Jack Benny, Louis Nye, Phil Silvers, Joey Bishop, Sid Caesar (with Karen Arthur), Wally Cox (with Maureen Gaffney), Terry-Thomas (with Jayne Mansfield), Carl Reiner (with Linda Harrison as Miss Stardust), and Polly Bergen.
It preached the philosophy that cheating and adultery could be taught to any husband. Bored business investment counselor Paul Manning (Walter Matthau) had been married for twelve years to Ruth (sexy and gorgeous Inger Stevens), who was undeniably gorgeous and sexy. In their bedroom, she performed breast-enhancement exercises, stripped off her leotard, and attempted to entice her disinterested husband into noticing her with a see-through nightgown.
Paul was taught how to cheat by self-proclaimed, expert philanderer - his friend and neighbor Ed Stander (Robert Morse) who was married to Harriet (Claire Kelly), and cheating on her. Paul was instructed in a series of vignettes about the "do's and don'ts" of successful and failed affairs. Part of the reason for Paul's roving eye was due to his shapely and provocative married neighbor Irma Johnson (Sue Ann Langdon).
In one of the lessons (scenarios) on how not to get caught, Charlie (Joey Bishop) was found by his enraged wife (Ann Morgan Guilbert) in bed with a naked woman. When confronted ("What are you doing?") with lots of questions, he calmly denied all of the charges she asked of him, while they both dressed:
He wasn't even ashamed of himself, and when she had accepted his story, she asked: "What would you like for dinner?"
The final resolution of the film came with Paul ready to cheat with striking rich brunette divorcee Jocelyn Montgomery (Elaine Devry) wearing only a sexy black bustier, and with him in a room of the Happy Hour Motel. He had second thoughts when he heard a commotion and photographers across the way, and was fearful of getting caught. He fled the room with her and quickly returned to his beloved wife. Then he found out that the authorities had arrested Ed with Mrs. Irma Johnson - who ended up with a divorce.
I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967, Swe.)
Sweden's landmark, avante-garde, mock-documentary film (shot with mostly hand-held cameras) allegedly included 'offensive' sexual scenes that challenged existing boundaries.
US Customs seized the film in 1968, and the courts (and the Supreme Court) originally determined that the movie was 'obscene.' It was subsequently banned for its pornographic content, although this verdict was eventually overturned after appeal. Many Supreme Court battles ensued before it could be distributed. It became a benchmark film for free-speech advocates.
After it was cleared and released in the US in 1969, it became a blockbuster hit, although it was often picketed. It garnered $5 million in six months (a much higher figure when adjusted for inflation). The Swedish import soon became the highest-grossing foreign film (at $20 million) released in the US for decades (a record that stood until Il Postino broke the mark in the mid 1990's), although most who watched it considered it boring and pretentious.
But by today's standards, it is considered tame, but it helped to open the floodgates toward hard-core pornography that exhibited penetration and ejaculation, such as the X-rated Best Picture Midnight Cowboy (1969), the porno chic Deep Throat (1972), and Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972).
The radical, experimental film-within-a-film of sexual politics told the dull and pretentious story of liberated, plumpish 22 year-old Lena (Lena Nyman), an aspiring sociologist who was investigating Swedish social and political conventions. She was curious about political issues in late 60s Sweden, with endless soul-searching, lengthy street interviews with common people about the class system, newsreel footage, scenes of protest regarding the Vietnam War, scribbled on-screen slogans, her cataloguing of information, etc.
Sexual interludes also pushed the boundaries of love-making between Lena and car salesman Börje (Börje Ahlstedt) (mirrored in the film and real life by a tumultuous triangle with director Vilgot Sjöman). The scenes were shot frankly and realistically. There were scenes of full frontal nudity of both sexes (at 38 minutes into the film), simulated rear-entry intercourse, and the kissing of the male's flaccid penis (over a full hour into the film) and stroking of pubic hair.
Valley of the Dolls (1967)
This successful Fox film from director Mark Robson was based upon Jacqueline Susann's top-selling novel of 1966. It became Fox Studios' top money-maker hit for 1968, although it was severely criticized by most film critics.
It was a trashy, kitschy, and 'it's-so-bad-it's-good' soap-opera about three aspiring starlets who had been 'corrupted' by Hollywood:
The campy classic included scenes of their sexual dalliances (never very explicit) and their failings due to pill-popping (pills=dolls) and drinking. Most of the sex (filmed in silhouette), scandal, and drug abuse seem tame by today's standards.
In particular, Patty Duke was miscast with an over-acting portrayal of bitchy Neely O'Hara as she pranced around in her bra and panties after catching designer Ted Casablanca (Alex Davion) cheating on her by skinny-dipping with a young female in their pool. She screamed out:
She was soon fired from her job, and now down and out (and completely strung out), she stumbled outside of a number of topless bars and adult theaters in the Bowery (where Jennifer's 'cutie nudie' picture "The Flame of Montmartre" was showing at the Lyric), where she exclaimed:
She was forced to dry out at a sanitarium.
The film was also noted for various sequences including:
Weekend (1967, Fr)
Writer/director Jean Luc-Godard's prescient, nihilistic and politicized black comedy was a critique of the bored and selfish bourgeoisie.
Its title derived from the fact that an upper-class, murderous Parisian couple were about to take a weekend car trip to her parents' place to acquire inheritance money from her ailing father:
The two venal marrieds both had other lovers and were secretly plotting to murder each other.
It started with an unusual, sexually-graphic menage a trois scene monologue (with loud organ music accompaniment often drowning out the most provocative and offensive words). An obscured Corinne, silhouetted and dressed in her panties and bra and sitting on the edge of a desk, offhandedly and monotonously described to a fully-dressed Roland a recent bizarre orgiastic sexual encounter. [It borrowed from a similar scene in Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966).]
She told about a threesome orgy between herself and a couple (Paul and his wife Monique) that was explicitly detailed as the camera shifted left and right, and zoomed in and out. In a monotone voice, she hesitantly described a perverse sexual encounter involving food and sex (foreshadowing a more depraved sex act of rape in the film's finale). She described the three ending up in the kitchen, with instances of oral sex, masturbation, intercourse, the cracking of an egg between buttocks, and the act of sitting naked in a cat's bowl of milk. Afterwards, she was asked by Roland:
The trip began with a bizarre, mammoth traffic jam of battered, burning cars, and mangled, mutilated bodies (famed for its lengthy tracking shot) and encounters with social unrest.
One in-joke about American prudishness showed Corinne discreetly taking a bath below an erotic painting - the breasts of the painting's female were clearly visible, but Corinne's real breasts weren't in plain view.
The film concluded with the brutal murder of Corinne's mother (her father had died and left everything to the wife), and the hostage-taking of Roland and Corinne by a cannibalistic group of gun-toting revolutionary terrorists led by Le Chef du Front de Libération de la Seine et Oise (Jean-Pierre Kalfon).
At the group's base camp, the cook Ernest (Ernest Menzer) raped one of the other female hostages before he planned to cook her. He forced her to strip, then broke some eggs onto her crotch and inserted a large dead fish into her vagina (like the apple in a pig's mouth). Roland was murdered when he tried to escape, and he was disemboweled. Corinne joined the leader when his femme Valérie (Valérie Lagrange) was killed in a shootout.
The film's last scene was Corinne feasting on stew, created from Roland's flesh/bones and the remains of other hapless hostages:
The film ended with the title card "The End--Of Cinema."
Corinne with Roland
History Overview | Reference Intro | Pre-1920s | 1920-26 | 1927-29 | 1930-1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934-37 | 1938-39
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Index to All Decades, Years and Features
- History of Sex in CinemaA year-by-year look at the films, scandals and changing laws.
- History of Erotic FilmsEverything you ever wanted to know from the first sex symbol to the birth of porn.
- Movies That Challenged RatingsA ranked movie list of 10 milestone sexy films that challenged the ratings.
- Sexy Hollywood BombshellsA brief history of Hollywood's sirens including Monroe, Mansfield, and Mamie.
- Top 100 Controversial MoviesMany of these included controversial sex and violence.
- Sexiest Films of All-TimeOver 75 of the hottest films in movie history.