[CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT ★★]
HOLLYWOOD’S FIRST NUDE STAR
(P2) She sat naked on a tree branch, her arms stretched upwards, but her hair largely covered her breasts.
(P3) It might not seem very RISQUE today, but this scene, from a film released in 1916, was an important event in the history of film. Annette Kellerman is regarded as the first star – male or female – to appear nude in a MAINSTREAM Hollywood production.
(P4) The fantasy drama A Daughter of the Gods featured her as a character called Alicia who falls in love with a prince. No copies of the film are thought to exist today, but at the time it caused a SENSATION.
(P5) The film was a first for Hollywood but just one of a remarkable series of events in the life of Kellerman – a CHAMPION swimmer, swimwear designer, stuntwoman, businesswoman, and health-and-FITNESS promoter.
(P6) “She represented the fit, active, and spectacular female body, and urged other women to become fit and healthy,” says Angela Woollacott, professor of history at Australian National University.
(P7) Born in Marrickville in Sydney, Australia, on 6 July 1887, the daughter of two musicians, Kellerman started swimming to OVERCOME weakness in her legs. By 15 she had won her first swimming race.
(P8) By the early 1900s, Kellermann became the holder of all of the women’s world records for swimming. She starred in shows in which she swam with fish in an AQUARIUM and performed high dives at Melbourne’s Theatre Royal.
(P9) In 1905, Kellerman moved to the UK. She attempted, but failed, to become the first woman to swim the ENGLISH CHANNEL.
(P10) She became a VAUDEVILLE star in London and the US, developing a form of underwater BALLET combined with high diving. By 1914, she was earning $2,500 a week for her shows, the equivalent of around $60,000 (£41,000) today.
(P11) Kellerman was an INNOVATOR in swimwear. She felt a skirt would prevent her from swimming effectively, so she created a one-piece swimsuit. This is considered the beginning of 20th Century women’s swimwear.
(P12) Kellerman designed her own line of swimsuits which became popular.
(P13) Kellerman began starring in short films. In Neptune’s Daughter of 1914, she wore a flesh-coloured body suit for underwater scenes.
(P14) Two years later came A Daughter of the Gods, described as Hollywood’s first million-dollar-BUDGET film.
(P15) Kellerman’s fame by now was enormous.
(P16) Her final film, Venus of the South Seas, shot in New Zealand, came out in 1924. It was one of the first films to be shot in colour.
(P17) Kellerman continued to promote herself, LECTURING on health and fitness, offering “physical instruction by mail”, as well as producing fitness books and films and running a HEALTH FOOD store in California. But she remains best known for taking her clothes off.
(P18) She later returned to her native Australia, living by the beach near the Great Barrier Reef. In 1952, MGM released a film of Kellerman’s life, Million Dollar Mermaid, starring Esther Williams.
(P19) Kellerman died in 1975, at the age of 88. In later life she described A Daughter of the Gods as the “best thing” she’d ever done.
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- Does nudity in films make you uncomfortable?
- Are you a good swimmer?
- Have you ever seen a silent film (from before 1930)?
- What do you do to improve your health and fitness?
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- English Channel
- Health food