Ecstasy pretty much invented the entire concept of celebrity nudity. Oh,
there had been still pictures circulating around that were rumored to be
stars, and maybe they were, but in this 1933 film, there was no question.
There was Hedy Lamarr, stark naked, skinny dipping, then running after her
runaway horse, her breasts up there on the screen, each of them about 20
feet in circumference. Her pubic area was seen for several frames, and her
buns were glimpsed briefly.
Even more daring for the time, the film portrayed female
pleasure during sexual relations. That statement may seem quaint by
today's standards, but believe me when I say that was a major source of
controversy in that age. Many religious families even raised their
daughters to feel sinful if they experienced pleasure during sex. The
story about how the director got Hedy Lamarr to deliver the correct facial
expressions during sex is a showbiz legend. While the cameras rolled, he
told Ms Lamarr to stay in character no matter what happened, then
unexpectedly stuck pins in her butt. He got what he wanted in one take!
Film nudity was certainly a rarity in 1933, but it was not unknown.
There was some nudity in talkies shown in America in the
early 1930s, specifically from 1932 to 34. There were the notorious Fay
Wray scenes in King Kong (1933), Claudette Colbert's breasts in The Sign
of the Cross (1932), Myrna Loy's bath in The Barbarian (1933), full
frontal and rear underwater nudity from Maureen O'Sullivan's body double
in Tarzan and his Mate (1934), and the foreign-made Ecstasy (1933).
That was a brief period of leftover 1920s hedonism, which
ended abruptly because of two historical forces which aligned in 1934:
1. The Catholic Legion of Decency was formed.
2. The movie industry started to enforce the
Hays Code. (The code had been adopted in 1930, but
was not treated as dogmatic until the Legion forced the issue.)
The Code and the Legion came to dominate the content of
filmed entertainment for decades, and dealt a double death-blow to nudity
in American films for three decades, lasting from 1935 until 1966, when
the first version of the current MPAA rating system replaced the Hays
Code. It is very difficult to find any nudity in mainstream American films
made from 1935-1966, although some minor exceptions were starting to creep
in by the early 60s.
Hedy Lamarr film clips
Sample captures below.