Those who came before us -- those glamorous movie stars of the past -- lit up the screen with their sex appeal and, of course, their sexy vintage lingerie and costumes!
In the early 20th century -- when silent films were all the rage -- there was very little censorship with no nationwide censorship protocols, so femme fatales like Theda Bara were seen, well, in almost nothing in movie palaces across the USA! With Theda Bara, the first movie star and sex symbol, the term “Vamp” had its genesis from her role as the Vampire in in A Fool There Was (1915). "Vamp" has commonly come to identify a woman who saps the last sexual energies from middle-aged respectable men, making them no more than slaves crawling at her feet.
The content of American films has been a hot topic since the early days of film. Some citizens were outraged by what they saw on the silver screen and, in an effort to protect the innocence of their youth, local towns invoked their own censorship rules. Directors and producers often had to please police, then the town council, the mayor, and, shall we go on? (Note that they, of course, watched every salacious frame of these films!)
It was a crazy system that was full of inconsistencies and often, almost insurmountable challenges. But the film industry prevailed, and were celebrated for their risqué costumes, sexy stars, and provocative themes. In 1930, the industry finally adopted a national strategy, the Production Code, a "moral blueprint", in an effort to appease the outrage of the Catholic Church.
The Code wasn't really enforced until 1934. (Oh, if they only knew the future of cable television and our steamy streaming services!) But fortunately for us, bits and pieces of those early provocateurs of early film still exist!
A provocative scene from Cecil B. DeMille's 1932 film, The Sign of the Cross. Audiences were outraged, and so was the daughter of the original playwright, Wilson Barrett! Other films that were considered immoral and obscene include The Blue Angel (1930) starring Marlena Dietrich, Frankenstein (1931), and The Kiss (1896), an 18-second film that re-enacted a kiss from a stage play.