updated 05/06/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 05/06/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT
What's sarong with this picture? "I'm grateful for that little piece of cloth," says the actress, who has the surprising distinction of being the nation's first official pinup. LIFE magazine, which coined the term in 1941 to describe the photos that lovelorn soldiers had affixed to their footlockers, declared Lamour the "No. 1 pinup girl of the U.S. Army" by a 3-1 margin (over actresses Lana Turner and Ann Sheridan). "I was thrilled," says Lamour, now 81 and living in North Hollywood. Hundreds of soldiers wrote weekly "saying they were in love with me, that I was the most beautiful woman they'd ever seen." Her first sarong is in the Smithsonian.
BETTY GRABLE, 1942
Grable's million-dollar legs (actually insured for £1 million by Lloyds—or $2.8 million in 1949) prompted 3 million World War II requests for this 20th Century Fox publicity shot. "I am fighting to keep something as lovely as you free and safe," wrote one soldier. The 5'3", 110-lb. actress, who made more than 40 films before her death, at 56, of lung cancer in 1973, boasted that "my legs made me," but credited genes: "I owe it all to Grannie."
BO DEREK, 1979
Only 23 when she emerged from the surf a perfect 10, the 38-22-36 Derek calls pinup fame "a credit card. It opens up doors that can't be opened by political power or money or anything else." Though she was onscreen for just 20 minutes, sales of her posters soared to 300,000 copies. "It's amazing," says Derek, who lives with husband John on a Santa Ynez, Calif., ranch. "People still send them to me to sign."
YVONNE DE CARLO, 1945
Here's Lily Munster as you've never seen her before! "The glamor gal thing was a dilemma when you went for character parts," says De Carlo, 74, who, like many actresses, posed for pinups as a rite of passage. The chestnut-haired Canadian, who plucked her eyebrows in a lazy S line, trained as a dancer and toured in musicals. "I was certainly seen as a sex symbol," she says. "But I was able to act also, and that's why I endured."
CARROLL BAKER, 1964
As the sensuous child bride in Baby Doll, she stunned millions in the '50s. "Being typecast was a problem," says Baker, 65. "I was so anxious to get away from the image that I even played a nun in one movie [The Miracle]." But after her next sexy turn in 1964's The Carpetbaggers, "I started to have fun with it," she says. "It was so easy to shock people that I went out of my way to shock them."
RITA HAYWORTH, 1941
LIFE crowned Hayworth "Goddess of Love of the 20th Century" and proclaimed this photo of the 22-year-old actress on her own bed "the best girl picture ever taken"—running it no less than six times. Said Hayworth, who died of Alzheimer's in 1987: "I never thought of myself as a sex goddess. I felt I was more a comedian who could dance."
FARRAH FAWCETT-MAJORS, 1976
Poster company owner Ted Trikilis was planting trees on his Medina, Ohio, farm when a college student neighbor suggested, "You ought to make a poster of Farrah Fawcett-Majors. The guys at my dorm buy magazines just to clip out her picture." Trikilis knew he had a winner when his wife's 92-year-old grandfather saw the poster of the then-29-year-old star and said, "I want two." It appeared two months before the TV debut of Charlie's Angels and sold 8 million at $2 a copy.
JAYHE MANSFIELD, 1957
"The quality of making everyone stop in their tracks is what I work at," said Mansfield, who was proud of taking "the pinup road to success." With her astonishing 40-19-35½ measurements, she posed in the skimpiest bikinis and negligees. "I have a very photogenic figure," explained the actress, who died at 33 in a 1967 car accident. "There's no reason for covering it up."
ANGIE DICKINSON, 1961
This publicity shot shows why Dickinson received the 1962 Golden Garter Award for Hollywood's greatest gams. Now 63, TV's Police Woman, who once measured in at 35-23-36, says she doesn't believe in competing with her own past: "I prefer having the attitude, 'Gee, I was really something in my day.' At some point you stop vamping. There comes a time when you've got to cover up. I still go to rock concerts, but I don't dress like the kids do."
JANE RUSSELL, 1943
"I went down to the studio to do a layout, and there was a big stack of hay," Russell, 74, remembers. The smoldering publicity shot for The Outlaw—and her 38-26-36 figure—so captivated moviegoers that she won a "favorite actress" poll before the movie was even released. "Being a pinup didn't bother me," she says. "I've had an awful lot of red carpets rolled out because of it." Last year one of her Outlaw posters sold for $3,450.
TERI HATCHER, 1994
Cyberspace beauty Hatcher, who plays Lois Lane on ABC's Lois & Clark, hit the Internet like a speeding bullet. Ten photos of the 5'6", 106-lb. former model have been downloaded some 144,000 times (easily outpacing Demi Moore, Elle Macpherson and Sharon Stone). "I hope it's not one guy with a computer and 4,000 pictures of me," the 31-year-old actress has joked. She also confessed, "I didn't have a single request for my wallet-size photo in high school."
RAQUEL WELCH, 1967
Ads for One Million Years B.C. promised, "Raquel Welch wearing mankind's first bikini." The leading pinup of the Vietnam era had a 37-22-35 figure, 27 bikinis and a repertoire of 20 poses. But modeling was no day at the beach. "It was extremely uncomfortable for me to pose in those kinds of outfits," says Welch, 55. "I cooperated because it was required of me professionally. It made me very self-conscious. But I looked like I was having a blast."
DOROTHY DANDRIDGE, 1954
She was Hollywood's top African-American beauty in the '50s; Lena Home called her "our Marilyn Monroe." But Dandridge had trouble finding roles after 1954's Carmen Jones and died of a drug overdose at 41 in 1965. Now, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson are slated to play her in two biopics.
MARILYN MONROE, 1954
TWO thousand onlookers cheered Sept. 14, 1954, at 4 a.m. on Manhattan's Lexington Avenue as a wind machine lifted the 28-year-old actress's skirt for this famous moment in The Seven Year Itch. (Husband Joe DiMaggio, furious at her display, fled the scene.) But the 5'5½", 118-lb. Monroe dazzled in print years before burning up the screen. Asked what she had on for her famous 1951 calendar shot, she saucily replied, "The radio." Monroe said that she kept her 37-24-37 body in shape with dumbbells. "I lift weights to fight gravity," she explained. "Gravity makes you sag."