You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

National Bikini Day Salutes Hollywood, From Raquel Welch to Judi Dench

It’s National Bikini Day on July 5, celebrating Louis Reard’s 1946 invention of the swimwear (of course it would be in France!). The swimsuit wasn’t an immediate hit, though, due to 1940s standards of modesty. But pop culture helped bring it to the masses, thanks to such early-1960s icons as Brigitte Bardot, Ursula Andress, and Raquel Welch.

In 1960, the novelty song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini,” sung by Brian Hyland, became a No. 1 hit in the U.S. and the record company said bikini sales boomed as a result. And in 1962, Andress emerged from the water in the James Bond “Dr. No,” while Bardot appeared in “A Very Private Affair,” both in small white two-piece suits. And nothing was the same after that.

In 1964, American International Pictures released “Bikini Beach,” the third of its “Beach Party” movies starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. “Bikini Beach” featured surfers, bikers, a chimpanzee, Beatlemania, Boris Karloff, and a musical performance by Little Stevie Wonder. In the July 1964 review, Variety said that the screenplay, attributed to three writers (William Asher, Leo Townsend, Robert Dillon), “is mostly a series of gags tied together with a frayed string of logic.”

That movie helped establish the fact that a snappy title was more important than a tight script, and in the next two years, AIP released “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini,” “Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine” (which against all logic, even had a title song), and “The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.” The word became an important marketing tool. A very early Bardot film, “La fille sans voile,” had been titled in English as “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter.” But after she and the bathing suit became famous, the film got a U.S. release under the new title “The Girl in the Bikini.” Mon dieu.

Welch wore a bikini in many of her early films, most famously her fur suit in “One Million Years B.C.” but also including “Fathom,” “Lady in Cement,” and “Biggest Bundle of Them All.” It became a rite of passage for every pretty young actress to pose in a bikini. That long list includes such eventual Oscar winners as Jane Fonda, Shirley MacLaine, Rita Moreno, Faye Dunaway, Jodie Foster, Halle Berry, and, yes it’s true, Helen Mirren and Judi Dench.

But they were in the film world; TV was more prim.

NBC wouldn’t let Barbara Eden show her navel in her harem outfit on “I Dream of Jeannie” (1965-1970); in those days, tight bathing suits for women were okay on TV, as long as they were one-piece. But among the fast changes in the 1960s: NBC’s “Laugh-In” debuted in 1968, and Goldie Hawn, Chelsea Brown, and Judy Carne could do their go-go dancing in bikinis (though often body paint distracted from their navels).

Carrying on the AIP bigscreen tradition, there have been decades of films like “Bikini Car Wash Company” (1992), “Bikini Drive-In” (1995), and “Bikini Car Wash Massacre” (2017), titles so vivid that plot goes out the window.

Amid all this, there was only one actor bold enough to remind people that a man could be memorable in a two-piece bikini: Jim Carrey, in Fox’s sketch comedy “In Living Color,” which began in 1990.

More Film

  • Photograph by Svetlana Cvetko

    Blitz Films' Eryl Cochran Talks About Indie Film in Challenging Market

    Eryl Cochran heads production & development at production and financing shingle Blitz Films, where she works alongside company founders, filmmakers Nikolay and Sergey Sarkisov. Blitz, launched in 2018, is carving out a niche in the indie world with an eye for emerging talent. Blitz’s slate includes “Show Me What You Got,” directed by cinematographer Svetlana [...]

  • Echo in the Canyon review

    Film Review: ‘Echo in the Canyon’

    Arguably the most sturdily crafted and entertainingly anecdotal documentary of its kind since Denny Tedesco’s “The Wrecking Crew,” a similarly nostalgic celebration of artists who generously contributed to the soundtrack of the baby boomer generation, Andrew Slater’s “Echo in the Canyon” offers a richly evocative and star-studded overview of the 1960s Laurel Canyon music scene. [...]

  • Alain Berliner To Direct Cannes-Set ‘Second

    ‘Ma Vie en Rose’s’ Alain Berliner Directs Star Cast in ‘Second to Nun’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Page Three Media and Artemis Productions, which backed “The Danish Girl,” announced in Cannes “Second to Nun,” a new feature from Golden Globe winning director Alain Berliner. Berliner’s decades-ahead-of-its-time “Ma Vie en Rose,” the tale of a young transgender girl with dreams of growing into a mature woman and marrying the boy next door, was [...]

  • Artist Andrew Levitas Tackles Corporate Greed

    Artist Andrew Levitas Tackles Corporate Greed in Johnny Depp Starring 'Minamata'

    Andrew Levitas has carved out a unique place in the art world, having used his considerable skills across multiple creative platforms. A filmmaker, painter, sculptor, producer, writer, actor and photographer, Levitas is also the founder of Metalwork Pictures, a media production company that develops and produces original content, including his 2014 directorial debut, “Lullaby,” as [...]

  • Oliver Laxe

    Cannes: ‘Fire Will Come’s’ Oliver Laxe on Classicism, Avant-Guard, Egos

    CANNES  —    Spain’s Oliver Laxe returns to Cannes for the third time with“Fire Will Come” (O Que Arde), competing in Un Certain Regard— the first time a Galician-language film is selected for Cannes. He has pedigree. His first time round, in 2010, Laxe snagged a Fipresci nod for his Directors’ Fortnight title “You All [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content