Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beach Bathing, Flapper Style

While recently researching Venetian mermaid motifs created during the Renaissance, I came across this history about the first bathing suit to hit the silver screen. Go figure.
These lovely "mermaids" are frolicking at Three Arch Bay in Southern California for the 1912 film "The Water Nymph" by Mack Sennett, a famous slapstick director of the day. Sennett's paramour, Mabel Normand, was the first actress to put on a bathing suit for film. She was one of Sennett's famous "Bathing Beauties." (Normand was also the first actress to throw a cream pie in someone's face, that of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle). Thanks to Steve Turnbull at for this enchanting photo.
Here, Marvel Rea and Peggie Cloud flank Chester Conklin for a 1919 production by Sennett, wearing, naturally, their oh-so-glamorous bathing suits. Thanks to for posting this photo. 
And here is another Bathing Beauty, named Myrtle Lind. Photo from from
Lind again (from She is my favorite "Bathing Beauty." In his book, "King of Comedy," Sennett says of the Bathing Beauties' swim attire, "I went ahead and put the girls on film in the most abbreviated suits possible ... When the studio received hundreds of letters of protest from the women's clubs, I knew I had done the right thing."


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