Sunday, March 15, 2009

An Enduring Sex Appeal

In 1997, I was at a Borders book store looking to buy a copy of The Best Years of Our Lives (on VHS!) and as I was perusing the video section, there were two girls also browsing. They were no more than 14 years old. One of them was in the classic movie section when she saw the cover for A Streetcar Named Desire with Marlon Brando on the cover. The girl said to her friend, “Wow, he’s hot!” I was pleased that a nearly fifty-year-old picture of Brando could still elicit that reaction, even if the man himself was by 1997 the size of a streetcar. Anyway, I said to myself, “Now if only they’d give the movie a chance.”

Fast forward (keeping the VHS theme) ahead twelve years to last week at my job. A few colleagues and I were discussing movies—a conversation I instigated, naturally—and somehow Raquel Welch got mentioned. I boldly declared that if she were a young star today, that she would be the world’s biggest star. I expected silence or resistance to my claim, but instead I received universal agreement! Stories were told about how so and so’s father thought she was great back in ‘68 and that Raquel still looked amazing. Another victory! Unfortunately, I couldn’t think to myself “Now if they’d only watch One Million Years B.C.", as that would defeat my purpose in getting people into watching old movies!

It’s not surprising that young women today (or twelve years ago) would find someone like Brando attractive. He was the embodiment of youth, was “dangerous”, and was completely different than any movie star before him. Those girls didn’t know that, but the sex appeal was still in evidence and it got a favorable reaction. Maybe it’s because 1950s icons like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley have been marketed and advertised so intensely that their look has become the norm for what defines sexy. After all, the youth culture took root in the 1950s and movie stars like Brando, Dean, and Monroe as well as rockers like Elvis left all that was popular before it in the trash heap, for better or worse. Raquel Welch was in her heyday during the sexual revolution of the 1960s and is remembered by a generation, especially Vietnam War veterans (this includes my own father) for her appearances with Bob Hope in those USO tours. Her cavewoman bikini outfit is iconic for its camp value but more so for its sex appeal. We as classic movie lovers should be thankful it isn’t all forgotten. The media believes that the general public can only handle a few things at once and so our collective memory is strictly short term. Yet the instances where old movie stars still resonate are causes for celebration because in a world where anything older gets forgotten so quickly, I have to be happy that at least a few things from a time I spend a lot of time immersed in can still have a powerful effect on a largely indifferent and unknowing general public.

Okay, sermon over-- I’ve got a date to watch Raquel in
100 Rifles.

37C-22 1/2-35 1/2: Raquel Welch in her 1960s prime.

5 comments:

  1. 100 Rifles... one of my top ten favorite Jerry scores!

    It is so neat when people surprise you like that with positive comments.

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  2. They were no more than 14 years old. One of them was in the classic movie section when she saw the cover for A Streetcar Named Desire with Marlon Brando on the cover. The girl said to her friend, “Wow, he’s hot!” I was pleased that a nearly fifty-year-old picture of Brando could still elicit that reaction, even if the man himself was by 1997 the size of a streetcar.

    LOL!

    A few years ago when I purchased the DVD set of the Thin Man films, I swooned over how great, handsome and debenair William Powell was. Never mind that the man is dead and decades older than me. His charm is still sexy.

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  3. Great post! A Streetcar Named Desire was one of the first films I bought (on VHS), and I got my not-so-interested-in-old-movies friend to watch it with me. Then we saw it again. And then she showed it to another friend. And another. (Success!)

    When I finally bought the film on DVD I gave my VHS copy to her. She has it in her book case, with the front towards the room. (The picture on the VHS case is that one you chose for your post.) We still drool over him.

    And... I have a competition on my blog!

    http://lolitasclassics.blogspot.com/2009/03/competition.html

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  4. Have you seen Kansas City Bomber? THis is a film Raquel made in the 70's that got beat up by the critics pretty bad but it has aged well and while it is not cinema classic it definitely worth watching.

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  5. I love Raquel Welch. I've been a fan of her since I was a kid. My dad introduced me to her movies back them. I fell head over heels in love and lust for her. She's still the epitome of female beauty to me. I would definitely take her over all the so called Hollywood It girls of today. Great post.

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