Mack Sennett´s “Bathing Beauties”

According to laphamsquarterly.org Mack Sennett gave Chaplin, Arbuckle, and Mabel Normand their first breaks, and was one of the founding patrons of comedy. But Sennett was also responsible for the concept of the “Bathing Beauty”—and, by extension, filmic eye-candy as we know it today.

The “bathing beauties,” themselves, were a  a group of young starlets who appeared bare-legged in Sennett’s comedies. They were particularly popular and became pin-up girls for the soldiers of the First World War. They included Gloria Swanson, Marie Prevost, Phyllis Haver, Juanita Hansen, Claire Anderson, and Mary Thurman.

The sex appeal of these young actresses raised the ire of some temperance activists, and Sennett received hundreds of letters protesting his exploitation of these women’s bodies. Despite such protests, the bathing beauties remained quite popular.

The Sennett Bathing Beauties would continue to appear through 1928.

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Marvel Rea, 1919

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Bathing Beauties

Credit: Collection of Dave and Ali Stevenson

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 Carole Lombard and Mack Sennett; far right, with a white hat and dark suit. It was taken during a seaside shoot in 1928, while Lombard was part of Sennett’s troupe.

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