Paul Newman’s 2 Days In A Nudist Colony!
When I reported to the set of M-G-M’s “The Prize,” I wasn’t a bit nervous—until a man asked me to take off my clothes. And just when I had finally composed myself, I learned that not only would I be naked, but that my scene would be with Paul Newman—who was the film’s star. It was enough to give a girl goosepimples—anywhere you looked at them! It all started when my agent called to ask me if I could speak any Swedish. I was born in Vienna. I am half Viennese, one-quarter French and one-quarter Swedish. I came to the United States ten years ago, and although I speak what I believe is good English, I still have an accent. I told my agent I could say enough Swedish to get along.
Then he asked, “Now I want to be Sure of a couple of other things. Your card says your measurements are—Bust: 37, Waist: 21, Hips: 36, Height: 5‘4“, Weight: 113. Are those figures still correct?” I said they were and he told me to report to M-G-M Studios the next morning. . . . There were many girls there that morning, all very beautiful. I didn’t think I was going to have a chance for whatever the part was. But after a while some of the girls simply disappeared. There were twenty of us left when I was told to go to the office of the producer, Pandro S. Berman. Mrs. Berman greeted me and said, “Ah, you seem just perfect. I will call my husband for you.” She called Mr. Berman and he came in wearing slippers and carrying his shoes. Mrs. Berman introduced us, but when I tried to shake hands with him, he laughed and said, “No room. I am carrying my shoes.” That’s how nervous I was. He looked me over very professionally and nodded to Mrs. Berman. “Maria will do nicely,” he said.
A few days later a director’s assistant called and told me to report on the set the following Monday morning at 8:30 for makeup—with a bikini. Such calls are not unusual in Hollywood, so I did not think much of it. I had been chosen for a scene with five other girls, all of us to have speaking parts. I was pleased about that because it means better pay when you have lines. We made up, then waited for a while. Finally the assistant came in, looked us over for a moment and then Said: “Okay, take off your clothes.” We stared at him as though he were crazy. “What?!” I said. He said, “You are going to appear in a scene that takes place in a Swedish nudist camp and you simply can not wear clothes. We’ve already passed up a hundred girls for one reason or another, but mostly because they just haven’t got underneath what it looks like they’ve got from the outside. I’ll put it very bluntly, but I am serious. We don’t think any of you girls are wearing falsies, but we’ve simply got to know for sure, since you will be seen naked.” I thought it was pretty sneaky not to tell us about that at the very beginning, but then I realized that if we had known of it all along, we probably wouldn’t have shown up. He saw the doubt on our faces and he added, “Look, girls, this is strictly legitimate, but I understand how you feel.
Now why don’t you talk it over among yourselves for a few minutes. I’ll come back and get your answers. But please decide as soon as you can, because we are already falling behind schedule. I’ll be back in ten minutes.” He left. The girls were silent. I don’t know what they were thinking, but I now considered it very carefully. As I mentioned before, although I have been in this country for years, my philosophy toward life is still very strongly European. It was only when I came to America, for example, that I discovered that the nude body of a woman—in the flesh or in pictures—is generally considered indecent by a great majority of Americans.
This is very difficult for a European to understand because nowhere on the Continent is anything bad ever thought of the naked female—unless it is displayed obscenely or in very bad taste. So you must understand that I have never felt anything shameful looking at a nude man or being nude myself as long as the circumstances were not evil. On the Riviera, for example, hundreds of thousands of Europeans swim in the Mediterranean completely naked, with the sexes mixed, and no one gives nudity a second thought. Yet, I was in America and I did not want to do anything wrong. Since all this was to take place at one of the world’s great movie studios, I could just tell that it would be all right. But I vowed that if there was one single instant of what Americans call “hanky-panky,” I’d walk off the set.
It was not quite as easy for the other girls. We talked for all the ten minutes and although their decisions were more reluctant than mine, they finally agreed.
The assistant was very pleased. He gave me a number of pages from the script and told me I was to speak the lines in Swedish. I saw that I would be shouting at a man and that I would have to yell, “Tell him to shut up! . . . Be quiet! . . . Throw him out!”
That was fine until I saw that the man I was to shout at was Paul Newman! And he would be standing right next to me with nothing on but a towel.
Another thing I was worried about was that one of my customers—many of them are actors—would be in the picture with me. You see, between parts in movies, I work as a waitress in the famous Schwab’s Drug Store on the Sunset Strip. I could just imagine going to a table and having one of the men say, “Ah, Maria, I almost didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.” Now I really was nervous!
The set was a little hall in a nudist camp and we were all to sit on wooden benches. Running through the center of the rows of benches was a small aisle. Down this aisle was to come the naked Mr. Newman.
We started rehearsals.
At first someone suggested that we wear very brief bikinis, but the tops would show on the film and that would, of course, completely eliminate any belief from the audience that it was a nudist camp.
We gave up the bikini bras. But we were allowed to wear flesh-colored briefs. It helped in another way, too. The benches were cold.
There is a law that breasts cannot be completely uncovered. So we had to wear “pasties.”
They are the worst things ever invented. I would rather have gone without them. You see, you really paste them on very gently, but you cannot use paste. They fall off. You must use, not a special glue, but real glue. And that darn stuff hurts!
Frankly, I felt more embarrassed with the “pasties” on than I would have without them, because you are still nude and because the “pasties” are flesh-colored they give a very unnatural appearance.
Shortly after we took our seats I heard Paul Newman’s voice from the back of the set and the next thing I knew he was rushing down the aisle with a towel around his waist.
Now you must realize the tension of the situation. It was definitely not an everyday affair.
We are all in the center of this big set. Some one hundred members of the crew, all with their clothes on, are standing and watching. In the middle about a dozen men and we six girls, everyone naked, sitting close together, with other naked men and girls on the fringe of the group.
Everyone, even Paul, tried to relieve the taut atmosphere. When he first came in, he said, with a big smile, “Okay, girls, you don’t laugh at me, I won’t laugh at you.” Naturally we all laughed at each other. It helped to ease the tension.
Atmosphere of nudity
One of the men in the scene suddenly jumped up and began dancing around flexing his muscles and saying, “Man, it’s good to be free! Look Ma, no clothes.” Actually he did have on a very tight bikini-like pair of trunks. But the atmosphere of nudity was in the air.
“Man, it’s great to be back to nature!” the man continued.
One of the girls, very bravely asked, “What nature do you mean?”
“Guess, Baby, guess,” he said and his remark brought down the house.
Now one of the things I had to do in my role, and the camera comes right in on me, is to stare at the towel Paul is wearing as he comes down the aisle.
I get very angry in the scene. Paul stops and says, “What are you staring at?”
Then I say, “Clothes! You are wearing clothes!”
It took two days to do the nudist scene. At first, even the most sophisticated of the cast experienced obvious embarrassment at appearing naked. Then, without realizing it, as everyone became concerned with his part and job, there was nothing to it.
In a way, the man who jumped up was right. There was a marvelous, clean, crisp feeling of freedom. I was no longer hampered by clothes and it was much like the sensation you get when you step out of the shower or have taken a long luxurious bath.
Except for those darn “pasties!” We all complained about them, but there was nothing we could do.
In the middle of the second day I went into a dressing room and saw that one of the girls was practically in tears.
I asked her why she was so unhappy.
She told me that she was afraid her husband was going to find out what she had done. I said, “You haven’t done anything.” She shook her head and said, “He will divorce me if he ever finds out. He is very, very proper and if he learns that I’ve been appearing nude like this before half of Hollywood he’ll go out of his mind.”
I said, “Why, then, are you doing this?”
She said, “We need the money.”
“Well,” I said, “it’s very simple. Just don’t ever let him go to see ‘The Prize.’ ”
She thought for a moment. “I hope they cut out all the scenes I appear in,” she said sadly. “I love him very much but he would never understand.”
It was the first time I ever heard an actress pray that they would cut her entirely out of a movie!
All in all, everyone involved behaved themselves beautifully. To assume that anything really wrong took place or that any of the scenes were in bad taste would be completely erroneous and an unfair accusation.
For I was there all of the time and I assure you that the studio people, the cast and the crew were perfect gentlemen. But the happiest moment of all for me was when director Mark Robson told me, “Miss Schroeder, you were just fine.” A compliment like that from the director is worth everything.
When you go to see “The Prize,” I don’t think you will be in the least embarrassed at the nude scenes. As a matter of fact, I think you will enjoy them heartily and perhaps have even as much fun as we all did in making the movie.
—as told to WHIT PRESTON
See Paul and Maria in “The Prize,” M-G-M. Paul is also in “A New Kind Of Love,” soon to be released by Paramount.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 1963