There are message boards that specialize in girlie pix, and even in sections of girlie pix, one of which (never you mind) was offering this stirring photo of Carole Lombard from here down:
The description hinted that there was something risqué about the full photo, which of course I immediately sought out:
Her partner in crime here is John Barrymore, and this turns out to be a publicity still for Columbia’s 1934 comedy Twentieth Century, much of which is set on the fabled 20th Century Limited train between New York and Chicago. The key number here is 1934, that being the year that the Production Code was first enforced, and needless to say, the Hays Office would have had a problem with this sort of thing. This image wasn’t in the actual film, though, so it fell under the jurisdiction of the Advertising Advisory Council, headed by Joseph I. Breen, later the Production Code’s chief enforcer. An explanation, plus a larger version of the photo:
One wonders which more drew the wrath of the moralist Breen: the acres and acres of lovely Lombard leg on display, or the hint of a nipple just above Barrymore’s hand. Maybe both were equal opportunity offenders. And perhaps Carole and John knew this picture wasn’t going to pass muster anyway, so instead they decided to milk it for all its worth, sort of along the lines of Jean Harlow flashing a topless display “for the boys in the lab” at the end of her rain barrel scene in Red Dust two years before.
Oh, my, yes, Red Dust (MGM, ’32). Even in the surviving footage, the normally unflappable Clark Gable seems seriously flapped.