Women of the jazz era, and in silent films, were always presented as flat chested with no hips.  Thankfully Mae West was the first full figured woman to grace the screen, and in the 30s her biggest rival was Betty Boop. All the 30s had to offer was a cartoon character and a woman in her 40s. But all that changed in 1941 with Howard Hawks’ discovery of 19 year old Jane Russell. Hawks cast her in his current project with Howard Hughes, The Outlaw, and put a week’s worth of film in the can before leaving to direct what turned out to be the biggest hit of his career, Sergeant York.

This left Howard Hughes to complete the film on his own and to exploit Jane Russell’s body, in a battle with the censors that finally saw a very limited release in 1943, another limited release in 1946, and a wider release toward the end of the decade.

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Then a new girl named Marilyn Monroe arrived in Hollywood, and working her way up, within a couple of years she was the second female lead in Howard Hawks’ Monkey Business at 20th Century Fox. Their follow up together gave Hawks the chance to finally make a film with his discovery, Jane Russell, and along the way it made Marilyn Monroe a superstar.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes premiered July 1, 1953 with a wide release in August, and at the end of the year it was listed as the fourth biggest box office hit of the year.  In December 1953 Marilyn was then featured on the cover of the first issue of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Magazine, and there’s been no looking back ever since.

Soon thereafter Jayne Mansfield, Mamie van Doren, Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg, and many other women were all filling up the newly wide screen. Nowadays a full figure is a necessity in show biz, but the continued presence of big tits should not be taken for granted.