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America’s entrance into World War II back in 1941 triggered

the golden age of pinups, pictures of smiling women in a range

of clothing-challenged situations. The racy photos adorned

lonely servicemen’s lockers, the walls of barracks, and even

the sides of planes. For the first time in its history, the US

military unofficially sanctioned this kind of art: pinup pictures,

magazines and calendars were shipped and distributed among

the troops, often at government expense, in order to ‘raise mo-

rale’ and remind the young men what they were fighting for.

The heyday of the pinup was the 1940s and 50s, but pinup art

is still around. To this day, pinup fans emulate the classic style

in fashion, merchandise, photography, and even tattoos.

Rita Hayworth

Rita Hayworth’s famous pose in a black negligee quickly

made its way across the Atlantic in 1941, as troops brought the

picture with them on the way to war. It ended up as the second

most popular pinup picture in all of World War II. Hayworth,

whose two brothers both fought in the conflict, didn’t just pose

for pictures: she also was involved in selling war bonds, and

appeared in USO shows.

Hayworth’s famous strawberry-blonde hair was actually an

act: her real hair was jet black, but she dyed it red and even

altered her hairline after she became concerned about being

typecast in ‘Hispanic’ roles.

Ava Gardner

Back in the 1940s, the studio system still ruled Hollywood,

and actors and actresses were usually contracted exclusively to

particular studios. Gardner was an ‘MGM girl’, discovered by

the studio at age 18 after a photograph was spotted by talent

scouts. A surprised Gardner quickly relocated to Hollywood.

Her early pinup work was typical for the time, involving shots

of her on the beach or in bathing suits. Later in her career,

Gardner became famous as a siren and a femme fatale, and

switched to a less ‘innocent’ image, posing in heels and long

black dresses. Gardner married Frank Sinatra in 1951 and

although the marriage lasted only six years, she later said that

he had been the love of her life.