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.
1. VALERIE LEON
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.”
2. LINNEA QUIGLEY
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.”
3. ELISABETH BROOKS
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.”
4. JAMIE LEE CURTIS
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.
5. VERONICA CARLSON
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.
6. MICHELLE BAUER
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.
7. MONIQUE GABRIELLE
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.”
8. SYBIL DANNING
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.”
9. PHYLLIS DAVIS
Love American Style, The Choirboys, Terminal Island, Knight Rider, Magnum PI
“I was modeling in New York and making more money doing that, but I came out to test for another part and wound up with SWEET SUGAR. I had signed a ‘no frontal nudity’ agreement and when I got to Costa Rica, all of a sudden I had to go nude. So I called the union and said I refused, and they said I’d get sued. They weren’t helpful at all, I always remember that. I had to hire a lawyer, myself, and I was only making scale starring in this film. He went down there, so I wouldn’t have to do full-frontal nudity. It was kind of sad because one girl jumped out of a building, and it was just one mishap after mishap.”
“TERMINAL ISLAND was fun except, again, I had signed a ‘nofrontal nudity’ contract. No big deal .. .I mean, it was just a low budget film. I wouldn’t mind being nude in a good film [laughs]. So I jumped in a river nude, and they were supposed to shut the camera off when I came out. Seven or eight years later, it shows up in a magazine- me, standing nekkid. They had sold the rights. I wouldn’t have complained, but it was a terrible picture. I sued ’em but after so many years, your contracts aren’t good anymore.”
10. BETSY RUSSELL
Cheerleader Camp, Private School, Avenging Angel, the Saw films
“I didn’t really want to do more nudity. I didn’t want to do B-movies and be taking my clothes off…. “If BASIC INSTINCT came my way, I’m sure I wouldn’t have turned it down. It depends on who’s in the movie, what kind of part it is, what the movie’s about. But, you know, I’m not getting those types of offers or scripts anymore, so I’m not worried about it.”
11. ANNETTE O’TOOLE
48 HRS, Cat People, Superman III, Stephen King’s IT
“I’ve always looked at nudity like it’s just part of it,” shrugs O’Toole. “You read about it when you fIrst get the script; if you have any problem with it, then you don’t go in for the part. To me, this happens to be my costume for the scene .. .it’s just a little colder than normal. The crews I’ve worked with-and I’ve done quite a few of these scenes are very cool about it. They’re there with the robe at the beginning and the end of the scene. They usually have very few people on the set. I’ve never been all that concerned or worried about it. Your initial reaction, when you take off the robe, is, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing?’
“I remember the very first nude scene I did was with Jack Lemmon. We did a film called THE ENTERTAINER, which was a musical adaptation of a John Osborne play. Laurence Olivier performed the title role in an acclaimed 1960 British movie. But my version was Americanized, musicalized and put somewhere in California. It was one of the first things after SMILE. We did a cut for American television, and a separate one for European film release. Of course, for the European one, we had to be naked and that was the hardest one because it was my first love scene. Jack Lemmon was as sweet as anybody could be. He didn’t make a big deal about it. This man was just so wonderful. I remember before the scene, I was sitting thinking, ‘In two hours, this will be over. You can do it!’ And then when I got to the scene, it was as natural.as anything. Maybe that’s why I don’t have that big a problem, because it’s just another scene.”
12. MADELEINE SMITH
Vampire Lovers, Live and Let Die, Frankenstein & the Monster from Hell
”The one thing that was difficult for me was the lesbian aspect of it. I really couldn’t be less lesbian than I am. I mean, I am totally disinterested in females. In that way, I really felt it was distasteful. I hated doing that, loathed doing it. Ingrid did too. THE VAMPIRE LOVERS was very steamy and I can remember Michael Style running around saying, ‘The audience is going to fall asleep if you don’t inject something in to it! At that time, I was still very innocent and I didn’t know what to inject into it.
I recounted my conversation with Derek Whitehurst, the film’s assistant director, who told me that some of the crew members were a bit embarrassed by the nude scenes. “Oh, no, I think they enjoyed them!” laughed Smith. “I mean, there were these two lovely girls in bed. Why shouldn’t they enjoy it? I think possibly Derek was a bit embarrassed. He’s a good friend of mine, he lives just around the corner from me. He’s the dearest, sweetest man you’d ever want to meet and he may have been embarrassed. I don’t think the rest of the crew were.”
13. JENNIFER TILLY
Embrace the Vampire, Bullets Over Broadway, Bound, Remote Control, Johnny Be Good
“Most of the women you hear running down Demi Moore have done nude scenes or sex scenes. People say, ‘Sharon Stone got to be a star because she showed her genitalia.’ I don’t think that was it. I think she gave a tremendous performance in BASIC INSTINCT. I don’t think it was that half a second of film that gave everybody the idea, ‘Let’s put Sharon Stone in our next movie.”‘
14. LYNN LOWRY
They Came from Within, The Crazies, Cat People, Sugar Cookies
“Dealing with all the nudity was very difficult in the beginning. Just the idea of being nude in front of all these people is hard. But after you’ve done it, and by the first night you’ve spent 14 hours nude–nobody cares anymore… Nobody looks at you anymore, you’re laying on the floor and crew people are stepping over your nude body. After a while, it’s just like you’re in clothes.”
15. WENDY SCHUMACHER
Fugitive Rage, Star Hunter
“How do you acclimate your strength and personal convictions to the t&a scenes that are mandatory for low budget thrillers?”
“It’s a tough business. I used to be fifty pounds heavier. I was the gal who didn’t get the date in high school, so now that I’m being asked to play sexy roles it’s kind of a personal triumph for me. I remember when I was nineteen years old; I was working as a nanny, eating ice cream out of the carton, watching Oprah Winfrey and dreaming of things like this. I never thought it would happen, but it has. The hardest part is that people assume that if you have breasts, you don’t have a brain-and that’s just not true.”
16. DANA GILLESPIE
The Lost Continent, People that Time Forgot, Jesus Christ Superstar
I do remember when THE LOST CONTINENT (1968) first came out, I went to the premiere. But I thought I’d go and see the film again sort of anonymously in the local ABC in the Fulharn Road. And I went in and sat up the back to watch it and, the moment when I come on with these balloons on my shoulders, the whole audience fell about with laughter. Then I realized there’s no point ever being taken seriously in the film world. But you know, if you’re born with a particular shape, you’re judged on how you look. It’s a nuisance, and that’s why I’ve always preferred music for my profession- because it really doesn’t matter what color or
shape or size you are.”
“There’s nothing I regret doing. There are a few things that I regret other people didn’t do; namely, being able to see beyond the visual in my case. It’s always been odd for me that people judge me on how I look. I know I’m dealing in a business where we’re judged by what’s skin deep and not underneath it all. But I don’t judge men like that…”
“I’ve never understood how men- I’m talking about 25 years ago-treated me. It was very much physical. And I think people are a bit peculiar…. Somehow, if you started off on that game of being those ‘breathe-in and smile’ girls, you got stuck with it and the only way I was able to get out was because I had a voice.”
17. LYSETTE ANTHONY
Krull, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Dark Shadows, Husbands and Wives
“I was just meant to be there, with my tits hanging out, looking ridiculously glamorous. And, no, I didn’t find it offensive being that sort of sexy foiL Lucky me just to have spent a few months working with Mel, one of the comic greats of our time. Love him or hate him, he’s one of the founders of what this generation finds
18. HAZEL COURT
Curse of Frankenstein, The Raven, The Man Who Could Cheat Death
“Yes, I did a nude scene… well, just my top part for the European version (of The Man Who Could Cheat Death). I was being sculpted by Anton Diffring, who played an artist-the title role, in fact. It was one of the first scenes of its kind to be shot in England. They cleared the set and had just a skeleton crew. Well, the movie warranted my nudity. The character did have to be sculpted, that was part of it. If it hadn’t been warranted, I would have objected … but it was beautifully done. It was a shot that no one could object to. There I am, front and back!”
19. Caroline Munro
Star Crash, Dracula AD 1972, Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter
“I didn’t want to do it. We discussed it beforehand, because I didn’t feel it was really necessary. But they wanted it to appear nude, so we came to a compromise. My hair was a lot longer in those days-the locks covered my upper chest-I actually used some sort of gaffer’s tape to stick it down, so I felt quite secure
in that sense. And then I donned a pair of flesh-color knickers and I was all right, it was like being on the
“Oh, I suppose that was the way films were going in general, so– I sort of came in at the end of it. I always feel my time would have been more in the ’50s, when it was more in the imagination than like now. These days, you can see everything-sadly, nothing is left to the imagination.”