Follie

The Sennett Bathing Girls

Producer Mack Sennett of Keystone Studios had a brilliant idea while reading the newspaper in 1914. He noticed that a minor car accident had a big spread in the paper. A photograph of the exposed knees of the lovely lady in the accident had something to do with it.⁣ This gave Sennett a brilliant idea! He decided that a way for him to get his pictures in the papers and free promotion for his films was to show pretty women with their knees exposed. And so began Sennett’s Bathing Girls or Bathing Beauties. ⁣

The original three Bathing Girls started in 1915 were Evelyn Lynn, Cecile Evans & Marie Prevost. The women would wear modern (at the time) bathing suits which caused a sensation in the press. These photographs would be used for all types of promotional materials such as magazine spreads, newspapers ads and postcards. They would also participate in the Venice Beach Beauty Contests and on promotional tours for Keystone films.⁣

In films, they would be used in the background and would be doing silly sporty beach activities. There was a large revolving cast of beauties and some went on to have film careers of their own. ⁣

While Gloria Swanson swore she was never a Bathing Beauty, she was in Sennett’s films in a bathing suit so… Two of his other Beauties, Mabel Normand and Marie Prevost, went on to have successful careers (although both would have tragic endings). Other notable stars were Carole Lombard, Juanita Hansen, Phyllis Haver, Alice Day, Vera Steadman, Thelma Parr and more that I’m sure are known but not be me. ⁣

The Bathing Girls were copied by others studios including Christie Studios’ Bathing Beauties and Fox Film Corps’ Sunshine Girls.⁣ With so many copycats, and the novelty wearing off, Mack Sennett tired of the Bathing Beauties and retired them in 1928.⁣

Phyllis Haver and Mack Sennett’s Bathing Beauties
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