AT CHRISTMAS A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO, I met my sister’s boyfriend, who was two generations younger than I. Not understanding what his tastes in anything were except that he liked good-looking women, my present to him was a book, Swingin’ Chicks Of The ’60s. It’s a collection of photos and biographies of 101 women famous for their beauty decades ago.
The book is well written and author Chris Strodder provides lots of little-known details about each woman’s life and career, including their activities after their ’60s heyday. When Jon removed the gift wrapping, he stared at the cover. On it were photos of Goldie Hawn, Ann-Margret, Audrey Hepburn, Jane Fonda, and Twiggy.
These women meant next to nothing to a man his age; only Fonda remains a prominent Hollywood presence and now in roles as an older woman who rarely attracts the attention of young men.
Swingin’ Chicks Of The ’60s is a fun book where readers will see photos of 101 pretty faces and almost as many beautiful bodies.
After Jon paged through the book and gave it more attention than I expected, he observed, “They don’t have big boobs, but they’re all gorgeous.”
As someone who came of age in the ‘60s, I have always seen these women as gorgeous. Back in the ’60s, whether they were well-endowed or hardly endowed had never meant much to me.
Even at the height of Playboy’s sales and Hugh Hefner’s influence, the size of their “endowments” apparently hadn’t mattered to the other males of that time either: We dreamt of Jeannie, Mrs. Peel, and Agent 99 equally!
But Jon’s remark put a few things into perspective, primarily that “big boobs” are what several generations of Americans have grown up associating as a necessity to female beauty and allure. That mammoth mammaries are often not a gift from God but the work of a talented mortal seems irrelevant to younger men.
Jon had come of age after it had become requisite for female celebrities to have enhanced figures and faces. It surprised him to see so many unquestionably lovely women with the “normal” boobs that had been allotted them at birth.
The memory of that Christmas returned when I was unpacking some boxes and found my copy of the Strodder book. So I thought I’d share the book here and maybe titillate a few Medium readers into reading it.
According to the publisher’s blurb, Swingin’ Chicks Of The ’60s is “an affection3ate tribute to the women who waged a cultural revolution, this book offers photos, profiles, and little-known details of the lives of 101 defining divas of the decades.”
A few observations
Several of the swingin’ chicks did not come close to realizing the promise they originally showed back then. Several others reached heights few would have predicted back then. Had anyone told me in, say, 1972, that twenty years later we would almost unanimously agree that Cher, Sally Field, Goldie Hawn, and Barbara Hershey (woefully missing from Swingin’ Chicks) would be among Hollywood’s finest actresses, I would have demanded the name and number of their dope dealer!
Several of the women listed below belong in a book about the ’60s but not necessarily in a book about what the term “swinging sixties” conjures to most of us. They would be those who achieved their initial, if not their greatest, success in the ’50s (or even earlier).
So, the list below includes the thirteen sections from the book, each devoted to a different “type” of “girl.” I also used the same titles for each section as those in the book.
Each section includes a quote from the book, meaning they are Chris Strodder’s observations, not mine. I edited some of these quotes, so read the book to read the author’s complete statements.
Finally, for the actresses below, I listed a movie or television series that they starred in that is associated with the ’60s.
Aside from making beach movies, Donna Loren was the Dr. Pepper girl from 1963 through 1968. She also released a solo album (1965) and appeared on such popular shows as Batman in 1966 and The Monkees in 1967. (Image: personal collection)
The beach girls
“The fun, light-hearted side of the ’60s was best expressed in the gentle, frothy waves of beach movies that rolled into drive-in theaters across the country throughout the decade. The formula was simple: Let wholesome kids frolic on sunny sands, throw in a few splashy musical numbers, and voila, the audience is on Spring Break for an hour and a half.”
Annette Funicello (Beach Party)
Donna Loren (Beach Blanket Bingo)
Chris Noel (Beach Ball)
Deborah Walley (Gidget Goes Hawaiian)
For full frankness, the statement above should read, “Let wholesome middle-class white kids frolic on sunny sands.” Like most Hollywood movies and almost all television shows, most muscle beach blanket bingo movies were almost completely devoid of color.
Honor Blackman (top) was unknown to most American filmgoers when she was given the most ridiculous name of any Bond girl, Pussy Galore. While there were many memorable moments in Goldfinger (1964), Sean Connery’s pronunciation of her name was perhaps the slyest. Blackman had already established herself in the spy genre as Cathy Gale, the original female foil to Patrick Macnee during the second and third seasons of the British television series (1962-1964).
The Bond beauties
“There were certain requirements for actresses who wanted to be Bond Bombshells. They had to be born outside the US and prepared to die since grisly deaths often awaited them.”
Ursula Andress (Dr. No)
Claudine Auger (Thunderball)
Daniela Bianchi (From Russia With Love)
Jacqueline Bisset (Casino Royale)
Honor Blackman (Goldfinger)
Shirley Eaton (Goldfinger)
Diana Rigg (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
Mie Hama (You Only Live Twice)
Most of the women in the ‘60s Bond movies were effectively expendable (if lovely) props. Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore was certainly an exception—and Pussy Galore should have been used as an ongoing character—and Miss Moneypenny, ably played by Lois Maxwell.
In 1962, Ann-Margret starred in Bye Bye Birdie, a ridiculous musical based on Elvis’s induction into the US Army. In 1963, she starred opposite the real thing in Viva Las Vegas. Although Elvis had played opposite some sexy actresses, the screen sizzled when he faced off with Ann-Margret. Immediately after playing with Elvis, Ann-Margret starred in Kitten With A Whip. She played a psychopathic killer opposite veteran actor John Forsythe, then coming off of a five-year hitch as the star of the television series Bachelor Father. For this movie, Ann posed for a series of playfully sex-kittenish publicity photos with this kitten.
The Elvis girls
“Elvis Presley starred in twenty-seven movies during the ‘60s. This prodigious output demanded an enormous bevy of beautiful actresses for Elvis to chase, dance with, sing to, or rescue. With these wonderful women as allies, the King was takin’ care of business, indeed.”
Ann-Margret (Viva Las Vegas)
Yvonne Craig (Kissin’ Cousins)
Shelley Fabares (Girl Happy)
Anne Helm (Follow That Dream)
Mary Ann Mobley (Girl Happy)
Julie Parrish (Paradise, Hawaiian Style)
Priscilla Presley (married what’s-his-name)
Juliet Prowse (G.I. Blues)
In the bland-on-bland musicals that Elvis made in the’60s, he was allowed to slice a little sand with a pretty girl on the beach and even grab a backwoods baby by the hand. But he wasn’t allowed to actually, you know, “do it” with them. In that sense, the characters he played in those movies were not so much innocent as immature, if not sexless parodies of adult human males. That changed in 1968 with Live A Little, Love A Little, where it was very obvious that he was sharing a bed with the very beddable Michelle Carey.
According to the publisher, “Quant by Quant is the gay, outrageous, wildly successful career of Mary Quant—Britain’s top designer of mod gear—from the opening her first shop in London’s swinging Chelsea district to the day when Seventeen discovered her way-out style and started her on the skyrocket to success.” (Headline Publishing Group, 2011)
“When people think fondly of the ’60s, it’s often the fun fashions they’re remembering. Never before had such unconstrained, unconventional, unabashed creativity been expressed so uniquely on the world’s fashion runways.”
Patti Boyd (model)
Anita Pallenberg (model)
Edie Sedgwick (model)
Jean Shrimpton (model)
Victoria Vetri (model)
Mary Quant (fashion designer)
The “scene” in swingin’ London was much closer, much more intertwined, than any scene in any American city: Patti Boyd married George Harrison, divorced him, and the married Eric Clapton. Anita Pallenberg hooked up with Brain Jones, dumped him, and then hooked up with Keith Richards.
Jeannie Shrimpton dated fashion and celebrity photographer David Bailey, who was the basis for the photographer in ultra-hip movie Blowup (1966). The lead was played by Terence Stamp, Jannie’s next big affair.
Jeannie’s sister Chrissie Shrimpton, was another top model—and should have been a part of the Swingin’ Chicks book—who was Mick Jagger’s steady before he found Marianne Faithfull.
In 1967, Jane Fonda made Hurry Sundown and Barefoot In The Park and a star was born, In 1968, she made Spirits Of The Dead and Barbarella and that star was almost snuffed out. The latter was a camp, soft-core-porn take on the soft-core-porn comic strip of the same title. Fonda survived these two and rebounded by making They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? in 1969. She never had to look back after that.
The movie stars (all-Americans)
“Some glittering new screen stars emerged in the ’60s, bringing new attitudes, and fresh looks to Hollywood. On screen, women were stronger and more sexual than they’d ever been since the pre-Code ’30s.”
Carroll Baker (Harlow)
Dyan Cannon (Bob & Carol & Red & Alice)
Angie Dickinson (Ocean’s Eleven)
Faye Dunaway (Bonnie And Clyde)
Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s Baby)
Jane Fonda (Barbarella)
Linda Harrison (Planet Of The Apes)
Tippi Hedren (The Birds)
Goldie Hawn (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In)
Janet Leigh (Psycho)
Shirley MacLaine (Irma La Douce)
Jayne Mansfield (A Guide For The Married Man)
Marilyn Monroe (What’s there to say?)
Katherine Ross (The Graduate)
Stella Stevens (The Silencers)
Sharon Tate (The Valley Of The Dolls)
Mamie Van Doren (Sex Kittens Go To College)
Raquel Welch (Fantastic Voyage)
Tuesday Weld (Wild In The Country)
Natalie Wood (West Side Story)
Jill St. John (Batman)
The pre-Code ’30s refers to the “brief era in the American film industry between the widespread adoption of sound in pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines, popularly known as the Hays Code, in mid-1934.” (Wikipedia)
These “racy” early movies were rarely shown on television in the ’60s, so those of us growing up then were unaware of them. This ignorance of the past only heightened the perceived daring of ’60s movies. This included the boundary-breaking sexiness of some of the actresses.
In 1967, Julie Christie starred with Terence Stamp in Far From The Madding Crowd. The movie inspired Ray Davies of the Kinks to write “Waterloo Sunset” where “Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station, every Friday night. But I am so lazy, don’t want to wander, I stay at home at night.” This is considered by many fans and critics to be one of the loveliest recordings of the ’60s.
The movie stars (British Invasion)
“In April of ’66, a Time magazine cover story joyously crowned London the city of the decade. In the ’60s, all things English were all things swingin’. The actresses profiled here all burst from the British Isles in exciting, exuberant explosions of color and creativity.”
Jane Asher (Alfie)
Julie Christie (Darling)
Vanessa Redgrave (A Man For All Seasons)
Elizabeth Taylor (Butterfield 8)
Strodder’s statement that “all things English were all things swingin’ ” only applied after the Beatles and the invasion of British beat groups in 1964. Prior to that, England couldn’t bribe an American audience to buy a record by one of their pop stars or watch one of their movies—or, believe it or not, Life On Mars and Downton Abbey lovers, any of their television series!
In 1965, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion was released, in which Catherine Deneuve played a woman losing her sanity. That same year, she posed for this beautiful portrait in St. Tropez for photographer Milton Greene.
The movie stars (les internationales)
“The great European auteurs—legendary filmmakers like Federico Fellini, Vittorio de Sica, Francois Truffaut, Ingmar Bergman, and Roger Vadim—swept into theaters. Along with these men came their preferred actresses [who] were often more sensual—and less dressed—than their American counterparts.”
Brigitte Bardot (Contempt)
Capucine (Walk On The Wild Side)
Claudia Cardinale (8½)
Catherine Deneuve (Repulsion)
Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita)
Olivia Hussey (Romeo And Juliet)
Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast At Tiffany’s)
Sophia Loren (Two Women)
Elke Sommer (A Shot In The Dark)
Actually, the theaters that these European directors swept into were what used to be called “art house” theaters, of which there were very few in America in the ’60s outside of a few large cities. I grew up in Wyoming Valley in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The population then was around 350,000 but we didn’t have a theater showing European films until new ownership took over a small second-run theater in Wyoming in the mid-’70s (which is where I saw all of Lina Wertmuller’s movies).
Tina Turner has been big enough long enough that many people—including those in my age bracket—have forgotten that she was largely unknown outside of the R&B charts and the black touring circuit until the early ’70s. The photo of a rather conservatively dressed Tin was taken in 1964.
“The music of the ’60s was as varied as the fashions and just as revolutionary. The ’60s redefined the form and function of popular music. The decade that gave us Dylan and Hendrix and Beatles and Beach Boys also gave us remarkable female artists.”
Too many missing to mention but I will nonetheless mention Aretha Franklin and Jacquie DeShannon.
If you didn’t grow up in the ’60s, you probably have no idea how non-integrated television was at the time. Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura was one of the first black female characters who played a key role in an ongoing dramatic series. Nichelle Nichols was the perfect combination of brains and beauty that allowed millions of young males across America to have a crush on their first black actress. Like fellow Star Trek actors William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, Nichols was offered a recording contract because of her new-found television fame. Unlike Shatner and Nimoy, she could actually carry a tune!
The TV stars
“Though the ’60s didn’t surpass the ’50s in television excellence, at least the ’60s were pushing television’s boundaries. The TV actresses profiled here were trailblazers, bringing new kinds of characters to the airwaves and helping us to see television in brand new ways.”
Judy Carne (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In)
Diahann Carroll (Julia)
Donna Douglas (The Beverly Hillbillies)
Patty Duke (The Patty Duke Show)
Barbara Eden (I Dream Of Jeannie)
Barbara Feldon (Get Smart)
Peggy Lipton (The Mod Squad)
Sally Field (The Flying Nun)
Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family)
Tina Louise (Gilligan’s Island)
Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched)
Mary Tyler Moore (The Dick Van Dyke Show)
Julie Newmar (Batman)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek)
Melody Patterson (F Troop)
Pat Priest (The Munsters)
Inger Stevens (The Farmer’s Daughter)
Marlo Thomas (That Girl)
Dawn Wells (Gilligan’s Island)
Despite the fondness we old farts have for our favorite shows from the ’60s, few of them hold up as anything but nostalgia and springboards for theses for sociology students. Even the quality of such well-regarded genre series as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Star Trek was inconsistent and their reputations are based on a few killer episodes in each season.
When The Jetsons debuted on television in 1962, I was 10 years old. Despite Swingin’ Chicks Of The ’60s including these two listings, I don’t ever recall having any kind of crush on any cartoon character as a kid. But then, as an adult, there was Jessica Rabbit. (Image: personal collection)
The TV stars (cartoon cuties)
“We couldn’t end a presentation of ’60s actresses without mentioning a coupla fictional TV trixies who gave us reasons to get up early on Saturday morning.”
Judy Jetson (The Jetsons)
Veronica Lodge (The Archie Show)
Chris, yeah, we could have ended the presentation without mentioning cartoon characters. But if we’re going to, where’s Ann-Margrock? (On her, I might have had a crush.)
The February 19, 1968, issue of Sports Illustrated featured a cover story on Peggy Fleming. She was the 1968 Olympic Champion in Ladies’ Singles and a three-time World Champion (1966–1968). She was also one of the first female athletes to attract the attention of us guys, ho normally only paid attention to other guys in sports. (Image: personal collection).
“Thanks to the sharp surge in TV sports coverage, athletic achievements could be witnessed live all around the planet. After the ’60s, women’s athletics were never the same again.”
Peggy Fleming (figure skating)
Cathy Rigby (gymnast)
And I can use this entry as an excuse to say congratulations to US Women’s Soccer Team and their fourth World Cup win. Keep on keepin’ on and don’t take no guff from nobody!
I don’t recall having a crush on Angela Cartwright in her role as Penny Robinson in Lost In Space. That’s probably due to the fact that y the time the series hit television in 1965, I had discovered real science fiction and thought that LIS was crappy science fiction. The only real science fiction on the glass teat back then were occasional episodes of Outer Limits and Star Trek.
The young stars
“With the emphasis on youth in the ’60s, it’s only natural that young actresses would achieve stardom. The girls shown here enjoyed long, full careers before they reached adulthood.”
Angela Cartwright (Lost In Space)
Hayley Mills (The Parent Trap)
Sue Lyon (Lolita)
Where is Colleen Corby? Arguably America’s first “supermodel,” she did her first cover shoot in 1959 when she was 12 years old and was only 17 at the apex of her career in 1964 when the was the cover girl for Seventeen magazine five times.
Gerri Hirshey’s biography of Helen Gurley Brown is titled Not Pretty Enough, a description that should be ironic because prettiness does not necessarily equal attractiveness to millions of men.
The guiding light
“Watching, commenting, and guiding was Helen Gurney Brown. Many important, memorable writers championed sexual liberation and women’s rights in the ’60s, but none was as fun as Helen.”
Helen Gurley Brown
While Hugh Hefner’s effect on the male culture of America as the publisher of Playboy for the past fifty years is rarely challenged, it’s possible that Brown’s influence as editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan may be as great as Hef’s, it not as widely mentioned.
Unforgivably overlooked in Swingin’ Chicks Of The ’60s was teenage supermodel Colleen Corby. Although she is most often associated with Seventeen magazine, where she was a regular cover girl, Colleen was all over teen fashion in the ’60s. Until Twiggy, she was probably the best-known model in America. (I will address her career in a separate article.)
Spring follows winter
The period known as “the sixties” (1964-1972?) was a breath of much needed fresh air that cleared away the lingering stench of war and death and deprivation. It was spring to a very long, difficult winter. The colorful movies and silly television shows—most of which are eminently forgettable decades later, even by those of us who were glued to the tube at the time—showed us that the man-in-the-gray-suit of the ’50s was making room for a more colorful, more dandified type of man.
Swingin’ Chicks Of The ’60s is a fun book; it is not a profound book. Readers will see photos of 101 pretty faces and almost as many beautiful bodies. The biographies will awaken a few memories and also inform them of things about each chick did after their fifteen minutes of fame.
But it is not a profound look at anything of interest to sociologists or cultural historians—unless it’s to study why big boobs have become an obsession in the United States since the heyday of these swinging chicks.
FEATURED IMAGE: Conspicuous by their absence in Swingin’ Chicks Of The ’60s are Diana Ross, Flo Ballard, and Mary Wilson, otherwise known as the Supremes. The trio from Motor Town USA was as fabulous to see as they were to hear and had a huge impact on the way young (if mostly black) American women appeared at the time. The photo above features Diana Ross, Flo, and Mary looking, well, fabulous some time in 1966 or 1967. (Photo found on the Last.FM website.)