Pinup art reached it’s peak during WWII and many art experts believe it will never quite be the same. A Pinup is a poster that represents every man’s dream of the perfect woman. WWII’s American soldiers displayed many pinups in their bunk rooms because it gave them something sexy and alluring to see and help them get their minds off of the graphic violence of war that they had to experience every day. Army Air Corps pilots developed “nose art” that was painted on the outsides of their fighters, bombers, and cargo lift planes. In 1947 when the Army Air Corps officially became the US Airforce, nose art continued to grace the outside cockpits of the fastest and best aircrafts in the world. But 30 years later, with the beginning of awareness of the exploitation of women and sexual harassment, nose art was banned and the rare form of pinup art vanished. This art form is only seen now in museums illustrating the lives of servicemen from years before.
One major Pinup starlette of the 30’s and 40’s is Betty Grable. She had a long and fulfilling acting career but is better known for her famous Pinup photo peeking over her shoulder in her bathing suit. It was actually widely rumored that the particular pose and angle of the photo were specifically chosen to hide the fact that she was pregnant at the time of the shoot. That photo made her the number 1 pinup girl of the WWII era. That photo even prompted her studio to studio to eventually insure her perfect legs for over a million dollars. That photo was even later included in Life Magazine’s “100 Photos that Changed the War.”
Many felt that Betty was the official “Pinup Queen of WWII” and the term ‘pinup’ was born with her famous photo. However, Life magazine coined the term “pinup” in the July 1941 special issue on National Defense in which they appointed Dottie Lamour as the nation’s first Pinup girl. But it was very evident that her fame far surpassed that of Dottie. Betty was a representation of the girl-back-home for thousands of homesick soldiers. She was company on a cold night, comfort in times of pain and for some GI’s the last woman they ever lusted after, loved or adored. As quoted by Life Magazine, “It was more than the sexy picture that enamored them of her; there was a magical wholesomeness and substance they saw beyond the curves of her figure. It was her very essence that was loved.”
Second to Betty during the pinup era was Rita Hayworth. Born Margarita Cansino, the vivacious, young brunette Latina gained the attention of Hollywood and her career began to pick up quite quickly. She was born into dance and performed with her father in a Latin dance team in Vaudeville. After a string of nondescript movies, she changed her name to Rita Hayworth. The studio knew she was a candidate for stardom, but it wasn’t until they put her through an intense makeover that she arose as a beauty. They raised her hairline through electrolysis and dyed her beautiful brown hair to a fiery, flaming red. Her image of “The Love Goddess,” as she was to be known, was born. The US Navy named her “The redhead we would most like to be shipwrecked with.” She was so loved that there was actually a record released with the sound of her heartbeat. One of the most famous films from this time was “Gilda” where she sang in a Black strapless gown and the image of her has become positively iconic.
Rita immensely helped the war effort by selling war bonds, being in broadcasts of the radio show specifically for servicemen “Command Performance,” appearing quite often at the Hollywood Canteen and taking part in many USO shows. Five million copies of the photo of her in the satin and lace nightgown that appeared on the 1941 Life Magazine cover were sent to soldiers, sailors and marines fighting in the war. This sassy redhead was not particularly fond of being named a sex symbol, but if her alluring photos gave a war weary solider courage and helped him remember what he was fighting to come back home to, she was all for it.
These women have changed the glamour industry forever and have reinvented the face of beauty. Pinups from this era have since passed, but their memory will live on through their photos forever.
Tags: Pinup Photography