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Figure Foibles

A friend of mine, a photographer, whose business it is to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative of some of Hollywood’s most famous beauties, quoted me this little jingle when I asked him to describe the figures of the fabulous females on the screen: “They’re either too thin or too flat. They’re either too big or too flat.”

He was kidding, of course, but the perfect figure is as hard to come by as a sure-fire formula for the proper way to react to a kiss in the dark. But when either is achieved, the results can be devastatingly rewarding.

As for instance—and I can’t think of a better for instance—let’s look at Marilyn Monroe. Mmmmonroe chose to emphasize her assets all down the line, and though Marilyn’s figure isn’t perfect by any means, she handles her torso as though it were—more so, than even her famous calendar.

Marilyn believes that the human derriere is the handsomest thing in the whole wide, wide world. This is her figure foible. And while everyone else was concentrating on the front. Marilyn attacked from the rear and made it pay—big dividends. No matter if her gowns are high-necked or plunging, they all have one thing in common. They hug her lower region with an almost frenzied grip. When Marilyn walks, her dresses walk right with her, and the wiggles they leave behind are calculated to attract the attention of any male within 20-20 seeing radius. Even when she doesn’t walk, her dresses seem to move.

Mamie Van Doren, another blond with the wherewithal to provoke wolf whistles even when only sheep are around, was smart enough to make capital of Monroe’s “way back here” method of reaching success and reaping publicity. Mamie developed her own crazy, up-and-down sidle that was almost, but not quite, a carbon copy of her more famous sister under wraps. Having achieved her purpose, which was to attract notice, Mamie is now changing tactics and stressing the for* ward look rather than the backward glance.


Practically every femme star in town has a figure problem—or thinks she has, which can be the same thing—but which she succeeds in hiding, usually by the oblique method of clever camouflage, or the equally effective means of drawing attention to her most outstanding attributes, leaving the fault in the boudoir or bedroom. to be discovered by her husband.

Eva Gabor, who describes herself as “the youngest of the Gabor sisters” and “the Gabor who can act,” has a very beautiful upper torso but her lower limbs don’t quite measure up to the waist and up. Sister Zsa Zsa is the first to call this fact to your attention. Not long ago she called to invite me to a party at her house (this was between feuds). She ended the invitation with this sweet little reminder:

“Sheilah, darling, we are changing from short dinner dresses to long formal dresses. Eva prefers long dresses, so I’m asking all the women to wear them so she won’t be embarrassed.”

Eva isn’t the only one with something she thinks she has to hide. Of the old-timers, Myrna Loy and Norma Shearer were practically never photographed below their waists. and of the younger stars today. Jean Simmons takes extreme care to hide her legs from view. That’s the reason she prefers long blue jeans for daytime wear whenever she can get away with them, and full-skirted evening dresses for nighttime gamboling. I’m sure they are all exaggerating a mild figure imperfection, I but you can’t convince them.


Weight is probably the most bothersome problem of “the most beautiful girls in the world.” They either have too much of it or not enough. The constant shifting of poundage entails a complete overhaul of physical equipment and even personality.

Anne Baxter is a prime example of this. Anne used to be plump and dowdy. In fact she was definitely on the matronly side, even though she was only in her early twenties.

Then came the evolution. Anne won an Oscar for “The Razor’s Edge,” but cried as she cuddled her statuette to sleep. As an artiste she was delighted, but as a woman, she was shattered at the blousy blimp she and the Academy audience had seen on the screen. She decided to lose weight and acquire a cigar instead. What a murderous diet poor Anne suffered through. But today, Anne’s figure is as sleek and slim as any glamour queen could hope for and she’s acquired the personality to match it. I have to admit that the change makes for a much more exciting woman.


When Janet Leigh arrived in Hollywood as the protege of Norma Shearer, she was a ball of fluff and a bit of fat. Janet soon gave up peanut butter sandwiches (a particular passion with her), pastry and soft drinks and reduced her figure down to where the camera said it should be. She learned how to do her hair so that it flattered rather than fattened her face, and because her upper lip is a little thin, she gave herself a thicker one. She changed the tone of her make-up to better highlight her cheekbones and put emphasis on her eyes.

Then, with all of this accomplished, Janet went to the other extreme. For no discernible reason, she dieted too strenuously and lost an alarming amount of weight, weight that she could use today. However, unlike most of us gals, Janet managed to lose weight in every place but her bust, which remains a formidable 37. Now she is trying to bring the rest of her to match.


Jan Sterling’s attempt to achieve what she considered the proper figure dimensions for a glamour girl caused her to have her nose bobbed. And she makes no secret of the schnoz surgery.

“I weighed one hundred forty pounds, in over-round figures, when I first started acting,” Jan told me. “I took stock of myself and decided that something had to be done. So I went. on a diet. I finally got down to a good weight for me—one hundred fifteen pounds, only to find that the nose that went so well with a full-cheeked face looked big and out of proportion on a face that was now thin and slightly hollow. So I had it bobbed to proper size. Now I can’t afford to put on weight again, or my nose will look ridiculous.”

Incidentally, Jan is a girl who believes that every woman should make the most of what she has, and if what she has gets a little saggy around the edges, something should be done about it.


“When I feel I need a face lift,” Jan said, “I’ll have one. I’ve only got one face and one body, and I’m going to make ’em last as long as possible—and look good while they’re lasting.”

Shelley Winters has always had a weight problem, and with only a little help from a mashed potato or two, can add pounds by the minute.

“But I don’t order mashed potatoes,” Shelley protested. “Whenever I eat out, I order the barest minimum that’s on the menu. Horrible things like cottage cheese and hard-boiled eggs.”

What Shelley fails to add, though, is that she eats exactly as I do. She pays no attention to the food on her own plate, but takes it from other plates around her. She’s a confirmed “food snatcher.” Before the end of a meal, Shelley will have cleaned up every plate within fork reaching distance, while scarcely touching what’s on her own.

“But I’ve finally discovered a foolproof method for losing weight,” she bubbled. “I go out and buy dresses that are two sizes too small for me, then diet like mad until I can get into them.”

On the opposite side of the table is Vera-Ellen. Everything she eats turns to thin. No matter how she tries, she can’t seem to gain an ounce. Fortunately for her, she looks well in high-necked, full-sleeved dresses that successfully cover any bones that might look too thin uncovered.

“It’s my dancing that does it,” complained Vera. “I’ve got to practice every day, and I use up all my food for energy. It’s a vicious circle that I can’t seem to get out of.”

She’s out of it now, though only momentarily. Since she married Vic Rothschild, Vera’s given up her daily dance practice, but she still uses her energy in playing tennis and swimming. And with each stroke, oops, there goes another ounce. But I believe that in time as Vera gets more relaxed, she’ll be able to wear what she eats in nice firm flesh on her quite gorgeous shape.


When it comes to all-time near-perfect figures, Betty Grable’s is my choice to head the list. Oddly enough, what’s bad for Vera is good for Betty.

“I’ve never had any trouble keeping in shape,” Betty told me recently on the set of her 20th Century-Fox picture, “How to Be Very, Very Popular.” “Dancing and exercise do it. My measurements haven’t changed in fifteen years.” Then she added: “I’m thirty-nine, and I’d like to see any girl of twenty-five come up and stand next to me and look better.” None of the girls took up her challenge, because the shape that Betty’s in should happen to all of us.

For years, June Allyson considered herself too skinny to wear evening gowns that revealed anything more than her neck, and she considered herself too unattractive to be a movie star, even after she’d become one.

Actually, June has a very good figure. Her legs are well-shaped, her body nicely, though not sensationally, curved. And her attractiveness to moviegoers has been proven by the fact that June is now the Number One feminine star at the box-office. It has only been recently, though, that she’s felt brave enough to wear off-the-shoulder, bare-topped dresses, and I think she looks wonderful in them.


Amazingly enough, in a town where a good curve is the shortest distance to the front page, Kathryn Grayson is a nonconformist. Katie, who has been abundantly blessed by nature with what makes the body beautiful, chooses not only to play it down, but to almost ignore it completely.

At one time Katie told me: “I think I have a better figure than Lana Turner’s and yet nobody realizes it.” But, when realization dawned, Kathryn wouldn’t allow anything to be done about it. “I don’t want my bosom to be the focal point of interest,” she’d tell photographers who were always asking her to take a deep breath. Actually, Kathryn, who has a wonderful, lusty sense of humor, is shy about this gift with which nature has endowed her, shy almost to the point of embarrassment.

One of the most fantastic figures in all of Hollywood history still belongs to the original hour-glass girl, Mae West, and she makes every minute of it count. I have it on the word of the woman who designs Mae’s lingerie, Juel Park, that she has the figure of a twenty-year-old girl, and believe me, Mae isn’t twenty, or even three times twenty. I asked how she does it, and was told, “Bar-bells. She exercises every day with bar-bells.” If she can do it, I can too. One-two-three-four, one-two-three-four. (I’m exhausted already!)

Elizabeth Taylor is considered to be the ultimate in natural brunette beauty. “She has a figure that matches her face, and you can’t do better than that,” a male friend of mine exclaimed. “Everything about her is just right. How can you beat that combination of beauty and build?”


I admitted I couldn’t, but Liz almost did. After she married Mike Wilding and became pregnant, she gained and gained and gained. She put on thirty-five pounds, twenty of which remained after her son was born. Under normal conditions, Liz could have gotten back into proper shape within six months, but her studio didn’t give her that much time. They gave her three weeks to report before the cameras. Consequently, Elizabeth had to plunge into steam baths, massage, and appetite-curbing pills. Finally the fat melted away and her waist came into view once more.

When Liz had her second baby recently, she didn’t have the same problem. She had watched her calories, and it was just a matter of days until she had her figure lines down pat. Even the beautiful Liz had to learn the hard way that perfection doesn’t come naturally. It needs some help.

Terry Moore and Mitzi Gaynor are two girls who almost lost their glamour by putting on more curves than are called for. They had ’em where they shouldn’t be, and it was hip, hip, away—away out to there. It was Mitzi’s husband, Jack Bean, who took her in hand and put her on a strenuous diet that left her hungry* but slender.

Terry didn’t have the help of a loving man to spur her on, only her own will power that commanded: Push the table away more often. Being on the diminutive side, Terry is inclined to get roly-poly unless she foregoes the pleasures of sweets and starches. But it’s the only way. Terry’s curves today are those she wouldn’t want to lose under any circumstances.

Debra Paget is one girl who’s always experimenting with her figure and her face. One day she wears brunette hair shoulder length. Next day it’s red and short. With amazing rapidity she shifts from seductive sheath dresses that actually breathe with her body to demure skirts and blouses. But beneath whatever she wears is a manufactured body, manufactured to the strictest dimensions that Debra herself demands.

Of course Debra had something to work with originally. But what she had and what she made of it are two different figgers. Debra’s entire family is inclined to be hefty. Her mother approaches the 300-pound mark and approaches it willingly out on the kitchen range. And Deb would travel that-a-way too—but for her career.

“I live to eat,” murmured Debra wistfully at lunch with me the other day. “I could eat and never stop.” But she does stop. Her lunch consisted of sliced tomatoes, a small patty of hamburger and half a grapefruit. If she ever lets herself go, though, watch out.

Columbia studio’s new find, Kim Novak, who was born with what most girls have to acquire through hard and diligent work, used to have one complaint about herself.

“I thought I was too tall,” she insisted. “I always wanted to be at least three inches shorter than I am.” Kim is five feet, seven, but nobody else complains about her height. Why should they, when she measures a neat 37-22-37 in the places where it counts the most.

“I used to try to hide my height by slumping,” Kim confessed. “Then I lost a modeling job because I didn’t have good posture. Since then I’ve been standing straight.”

There’s a nasty rumor going round that a figure to be exciting must conform to certain rigid standards of proportion; the bust and hips must be exactly ten inches larger than the waist. No one that I know of could be farther from the supposed norm than Jane Russell, who appears to be lopsided when you put her measurements down in black and white, ‘out when you put them in a low-cut, figure-hugging gown, they’ve earned her several million dollars. From top to bottom, Jane reads 38, 22, 37. “What a top!” echo fifty million red-blooded American males, including husband Bob Waterfield.

This may come as a bit of a shock to some, but the world’s most famous bathing beauty, M-G-M’s water nymph, Esther Williams, believes she hasn’t got enough of what Kathryn Grayson is so shy about and Jane Russell is so rich with. Fortunately, Esther can take care of this oversight, if any, on the part of nature, with one of her own sponsored swim suits. But I’ll take a bet now that Esther worries over nothing.

Besides, who was the poet who penned that beauty to be truly so should have at least one minor flaw?




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