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’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.
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.
MAGAZINE - APRIL 2017