How to be notorious without showing an inch of naked skin…well, barely

This Czechoslovakian production wasn’t the first non-pornographic film to depict sexual intercourse, but it is the first movie to feature an actress, Hedy Lamarr, in her star-making role, simulating an orgasm onscreen. Lamarr’s non-sexual nude caused censorship, bans and denouncements of the film from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Adolph Hitler and Pope Pius XII. However,  the close-ups on the facial expressions of a woman in bliss were certainly as objectionable, if not more so, for the time.

Watch the odalisque infinity in Ecstasy  (1933) by Gustav Machaty.

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Below is Blessed Ludovica Albertoni by Gian Lorenzo Berinini, in which the Baroque master depicts in marble the nun on her deathbed, her earthly sufferings as well as religious ecstasy.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “How to be notorious without showing an inch of naked skin…well, barely

  1. Speaking of Ecstasy: one seldom sees lips parting so erotically…

  2. While the eroticism is not lost upon me, the use of light is fascinating, giving her skin an alabaster glow. I love the contrast with the marble nun whose skin takes on the same glow.

  3. Call me a bitch but I think acresses show more emotion un these horrific times. Heddy’s betrayal showed more good bone structure than emotive volatility. Not good just because it’s old footage.
    But I know it was shooking for the times. Curmudgeon Carol

    • Andy

      Carol, I don’t know how old you are, but you know nothing about deep sensuality. Not long after Ecstacy was made, the Hayes Office in Hollywood banned any such display of sensuality, so we had to wait for the present-day explicit sex scenes to watch a woman’s orgasm like Heddy’s. Problem is, all that explicit sex may be easy to interpret, but it lacks all the emotional punch and intimacy of watching Heddy simmer in Ecstacy. Only modern scene I know of that comes close: The scene in The Piano when Harvey Keitel, hiding under the table, touches the bare patch of skin showing through the hole in Holly Hunter’s stocking. Such unfulfilled, desperate sexual longing, and her shuddering response.

  4. pk

    It’s a pity that puritan American values caused cinema to become more, not less conservative in the Hays Code era.

    Ernst Lubitsch, the German master of comedy, certainly got away with a lot more than you would expect from the time. For example, a classic double-entendre in Monte Carlo (1930):

  5. jsaralan

    Lamarr actually did appear nude in this film, just FYI. She goes for a swim after leaving her clothes on her horse, loses the horse and has to chase it through the woods. She showed backside and breasts, the latter quite clearly and unambiguously. That was why the movie was censored, though the love scene didn’t help.

  6. Jose

    The erotic scenes are superb, but not only that, the film shows a noteworthy cinematography, a sober yet intense narrative… Well acted, It was Lamarr at its best…

  7. Pingback: She invented onscreen orgasm, but the 1930s actress also invented Wi-Fi, cellphone and GPS. | i vision China

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