World War Two helped to give a push to the pin-up industry which coincided with the Golden Age of Hollywood.
For the first time, the government of the United States gave permission to soldiers to display racy pin-ups in their bunkers. planes or anywhere else.
The Most Beautiful Pin-ups (Video)
The pin-up boom was quite evident in the 1940s and the 1950s. The pinups have a very interesting history and some popular pin up models had a significant impact on American culture, especially Marilyn Monroe who was considered to be the first pin up girl.
To the average person, a pin-up girl is nothing more but a scantily clad or nude woman who is sometimes featured on a piece of paper that can be taken out of an album and displayed anywhere.
Such as college dorm room walls, famous pin-up girls hung from fighter bombers during WWII to show your troops you love them. A pin up girl was used for propaganda during World War II. American soldiers in World War II had pin up girl posters on the walls in their barracks.
In the golden age of pinups, there were many magazines dedicated to this sultry genre including Pep, Titter and Wink. Most vintage pin ups from the ’40s and ’50s featured buxom, glamorous female models showing off their curves in corsets, vintage panties, and vintage lingerie.
In this article, I have compiled a list of the top 15 vintage models of all time.
1. Betty Brosmer
Betty Brosmer is a household name, and she was the highest pinup model in the 1950s. She started her modeling career at the young age of 13 and is known to have won over 50 beauty contests. She was also a trailblazer and appeared on about 300 magazine covers. Her career as a pinup model began when she started working with the pinup photographer Keith Bernard. Now Betty Brosmer wasn’t Keith’s first high profile client; he also worked with legends such as Jayne Mansfield as well as Marilyn Monroe. She got the title “The most gorgeous body of the 50s” due to her amazing body measurements, 38-18-36 (inches), and 95-45-91 in centimeters.
She was born on August 2 in 1935, in California. Her first magazine photo-shoot was for the Sears and Roebuck magazine in the 40’s. From then on, she appeared regularly in the magazine advertisements, roadside billboards, milk cartons, and even trade catalogs. She actually became the first model to get a piece of the earnings whenever her picture was posted. She was the international standard of beauty well before Marilyn Monroe came onto the scene. Her career as a pinup model was short-lived and didn’t go past the 1950s, but that was in no way the end of her career. She later married a successful bodybuilder Joe Weider, who was also the creator of Mr and Ms’ Olympia. Betty wrote many books on bodybuilding and fitness and is still a leading figure on the topics.
2. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe is a pivotal part of the Golden Age of Hollywood. This Hollywood legend did not have the easiest life, and it ended in her tragic death at the age of 36. Marilyn Monroe, previously known as Norma Jeanne Mortenson, was blessed with exquisite features and was loved by both men and women. Her modeling and Hollywood career began after the army photographer David Conover noticed her when he was covering the ammunitions factory to showcase women in the war effort. He was mesmerized by her beauty and used her in many of her photographs.
Soon the beauty left her husband and signed a contract with Twentieth Century Fox. She started off with low key films but then got leading roles in movies such as Niagara, All about Eve, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire. She soon becomes an iconic figure of Hollywood fashion as well as glamour. After being cast again and again as a bombshell, Marilyn wanted something more serious, and so she pursued method acting. She was later nominated for the Golden Globe Best Actress Award for her highly acclaimed film Bus Stop in the year 1956. Those who have met her state that she carried light inside her, that she seemed to glow at all times despite the difficult life she had. Marilyn Monroe captivated hearts all over the world with her beautiful smile, her sensual figure, and her sweet personality. She will forever be remembered for her grace and charm.
3. Brigitte Bardot
Brigitte Bardot is a singer, actress and animal activist that was quite popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Bardot is remembered as the first liberated women in the post-war era in France. She lived a highly controversial life, and her career started in 1949 when she landed the cover of Elle magazine at the mere age of 15. Every woman wanted to look like her, and all the men drooled over her beauty, Bardot became an international sex symbol as soon as her career as a model and actress took off.
During her career, she appeared in many films such as Viva Maria and Contempt, but her career as an actress was short-lived, and she retired in the 1970s. She then devoted her life to becoming an animal activist.
Bardot was known to push the limits, and her sexually liberated young character in the film, And God Created Women in 1956, was a trailblazer. The sensual dynamic sand daring nudity became popular among the public, and she was catapulted into stardom. Bardot became famous for her free-flowing and naturalistic sensuality, and she soon became the top actress in Europe.
Bridgette Bardot’s status as a global phenomenon and an icon of beauty is still celebrated by many in the field of fashion and art.
4. Jayne Mansfield
Jayne Mansfield was a popular American actress that was known for her bombshell looks. She was a household name in the 1950s and 60s. The actress was born on April 19, 1933, in Pennsylvania. Mansfield was well known for her well-publicized publicity stunts such as wardrobe malfunctions and personal life.
Her pinup career, as well as her Hollywood career, catapulted in the 1950s, and she was offered dozens of roles in movies such as The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, Kiss Them for Me, and It Takes a Thief. She has a short-lived acting career, but she had many box office successes, and she even won a Golden Globe as well as a Theatre World Award.
Promises! Promises! was the first movie that ever showcased a nude actress, and Mansfield played the lead. The movie was so controversial at that time that it got banned in some states. Mansfield followed in the footsteps of Marilyn Monroe and was the Playboy Playmate of February in 1955. Mansfield was more than just a beautiful face; she was also a classically trained violinist and pianist.
Jayne Mansfield garnered nationwide publicity when her top mysteriously fell off in the pool at the media gathering if Underwater in Florida film. This conveniently happened in front of dozens of journalists. Even though she worked in many films, Mansfield was more famous for her photos rather than her movies.
5. Gina Lollobrigida
Gina Lollobrigida was a professional photographer and an Italian Actress who was known for her onscreen sexual persona. Lollobrigida was called the Mona Lisa of the 20th Century. The Italian beauty was born in Italy and studied sculpting and painting. She was the daughter of a carpenter and won dozens of beauty contents even before she became a star. Lollobrigida spent most of her teen as well as the early twenties modeling and came third in the Miss Italia Pageant.
She denied Howard Hughes offer to work in America, but she was a part of many American movies that were shot in Europe. Her acting chops in the 1953 film Bread, Love and Dreams were awarded a BAFTA nomination for which she then won the Nastro d’Agento award. This catapulted her career to international stardom. Her career spanned over five decades, and she became known as the Most Beautiful Woman in the World as well as Beautiful but Dangerous. Throughout her career, she has been nominated for the Golden Globes three times, one of which she won in 1961. She also has six David di Donatello awards under her belt.
She has claimed many times that she became an actress by mistake, but once her career began, the industry was never the same again.
6. Raquel Welch
Welch is an actress that was considered a sex goddess in the 1960s and 1970s. The beauty did appear in a dozen films, but she is more famous for her buxom pinup. Welch was born as Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940, in Chicago. She took many modeling jobs during her teen years and won dozens of beauty contests. She appeared in the fictional film One Million Years: BC that changed her life.
Her first mainstream appearance was in a bikini on the cover of Life Magazine, and after that, she began working on the ABC series Hollywood Palace. Her first major movie role was in Roustabout that also starred Elvis Presley; next, she appeared in the movie A House Is Not a Home, in which she played a prostitute. She later signed a contract with 20th Century Fox. Welch appeared in many movies, and some of them were hits. Nevertheless, she has proven herself as a durable figure in the constantly changing world of Hollywood and has made a name for herself.
Welch, like most pinup models on this list, also appeared in the Playboy magazine and became a sex symbol. Contrary to popular belief, Welch never actually did a nude scene in a film or even a photo-shoot. In order to escape her bombshell persona, she even titled her autobiography ‘Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage.’
7. Yvonne De Carlo
Yvonne De Carlo was an American actress, singer, and dancer of Canadian descent. She is most famous for her role as Moses’ wife in the Ten Commandments as well as her role as the vampire matriarch in the series The Munsters. A beautiful brunette with blue-green eyes and curvy figure, Yvonne De Carlo was one of the most recognizable famous in the golden era of Hollywood. She spent most of her teens and her early twenties performing in various night clubs.
She began her Hollywood career in 1941 with a role in a movie called Harvard, Here I Come. She acted in many movies, and her work in B grade western films garnered her stardom. Her role in the drama Salome Where She Danced and Song of Scheherazade in 1947 helped launch her career to great heights. The beauty received two separate stars on the Hollywood walk of fame for her work in films and TV.
After her work in the Munsters, she rose to fame again in 1971 when she portrayed an aging bombshell in Follies, a film by Stephen Sondheim. In the final stage of her career, she appeared in movies and shows like Here Come the Munsters and American Gothic. Her career lasted half a century, and she died of heart failure on January 2007.
8. Ava Gardner
Ava Gardner was an American actress who was born on December 24, 1922, in North Carolina. She was famous for playing sultry, femme fatale roles, and her marriage to the Hollywood legends Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rooney, and Artie Shaw. Gardner went from rags to riches and became famous in the 1950s as one of the most beautiful women in the World. She was a remarkable combination of not just beauty but sultriness, men lusted after Ava.
Ava Gardner’s striking dark hair and green eyes caught the eye of MGM’s biggest star Mickey Rooney when she was just a teenager. Rooney and Gardner married, but unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last, and they divorced a year later. After acting in bit parts, Gardner finally got a hit in the 1940s film The Killers. She then worked with co-stars, just as Clark Gabel and Tyrone Power. In 1953 Gardner earned her only academy award for the film Mogambo, the following year, she starred in The Barefoot Contessa, which was a box-office success and is said by many to be her signature film.
Her relationship with Frank Sinatra was one of the romances of the century, according to Peoples Magazine. It was her third and last marriage. She later moved to England, and that was the end of her career. In 1999 she died due to pneumonia at the age of 67.
9. Rita Hayworth
With her sultry moves and her exotic features, Latin bombshell Rita Hayworth became one of the biggest stars of the 1940s and one of the most popular pin-up girls of world war two. Rita Hayworth was a successful dancer before she was an actress; she really did have it all. Hayworth had looks, she had skills, and she had acting chops.
Margarita Carmen Cancino was born on October 17, 1918, in New York City and changed her name to Rita Hayworth to help her start her acting career. Columbia had a big hand in creating Rita Hayworth to some extent, they raised her hairline, they made her go through painful electrolysis and they hanged her hair color but with all that you need to deliver with talent and Hayworth did.
After co-starring with Carrey Grant in the 1939 film only angels have wings, Hayworth was dubbed the great American Love Goddess by Life magazine and became the sex symbol of the time. The Life magazine picture of Rita Hayworth kneeling on the bed in black lingerie was a striking image, and it became the most popular pinup image of the day for the GIs serving overseas. From 1944 to 1947, she was considered the top box-office broads in the World. She later left Hollywood and married Prince Ali Khan and caused a media frenzy. Hayworth went through five marriages and just couldn’t find the right person. Hayworth died in 1987 after suffering from substance abuse and Alzheimer’s.
10. Betty Grable
Betty Grable was a singer, dancer, model and pinup girl who was born in 1916. She did more than forty films in the 1930s and the 1940s, and she was in the top 10 box office stars for 12 consecutive years. Her mother helped her get into Hollywood, and Grable was soon involved in many Hollywood projects.
Her career actually started out with a lie when her mother lied about Garble’s age in order to get acting jobs. This helped Garble many minor roles in movies such as New Movietone Follies, Whoopee!, Happy Days and Let’s Go Places. Her first substantial part was in the film By Your Leave in 1934. One of her biggest roles was in a film called College Swing.
During her career, world war two was at its peak, and Hollywood was making escapist films. Garbles’ beauty and freshness attracted GI’s, and her posters were one of the most sold pinups at that time. She didn’t tour outside the States, but she did donate her things for the troops. In 1942 she sent about 54.00 autographed photos to the soldiers at Camp Robinson; this was in reply to the letters she had received by them. A slogan popular among the GI was “I want to marry a girl just like the girl that married Henry James.”
Her contract with Fox ended in 1953, right around the time when Marilyn Monroe stardom was rising. She later divorced her husband and kept working in TV and stage until her death in 1973 due to cancer.
11. Jane Russell
Jane Russell was an American actress that came to fame in the 1940’s when her curvaceous figure came under the limelight during the publicity campaign for her movie The Outlaw. Russell also has the honor of starring alongside the Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe in the film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.’
Russell was born on February 21 in 1921, and she started her acting career when Howard Hughes cast her in the film The Outlaw, she was just a teenager at the time. Most of her movies were either musicals or westerns; her most notable movie was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Russell did numerous movies and had the acting chops, but her size 38D chest was what she became famous for. In a 1943 U.S Navy poll, Jane Russell was chosen as the girl that they would like to have waiting for them in every port. She worked on many other projects after The Outlaw, such as The Paleface, Young Widow, Montana Belle, and she returned for the sequel Son of Paleface.
Jane Russell was unable to have biological kids, and she stated that it might be due to the back alley abortion she had in her teen years. So she adopted three children and was also married three times. The beautiful actress passed away in 2011 due to respiratory-related illnesses.
12. June Haver
June Haver was a sunny blonde actress that was said to be the next Betty Garble. The beauty was born on June 20, 1926, in Illinois. Haver was also dubbed as Hollywood’s sweetest star, and on some occasions, her friends even asked her to turn down the cheery attitude.
Haver started her career with four musicals shorts at Universal, one of which was called the Trumpet Serenade and involved the Tommy Dorsey orchestra. She later signed a contract with Fox, and she made her first appearance as a hat check girl in the musical The Gang’s All Here in 1943. After that, she got a role in the film Home in Indiana, where she starred with two other newcomers, Lon McCallister and Jeane Crain.
In 1945 she was cast by Fox in The Dolly Sisters in which she played Betty Grable’s younger sister. Later the beauty did a couple of fanciful biopics such as I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now, Irish Eyes Are Smiling, You Beautiful Doll, and Look for the Silver Lining.
Haver has a rather brief career, and she didn’t get a chance to showcase her true talents. She dies on the 4th of July, 2005, at the age of 79.
13. Sophia Loren
After world war two, Italy was ravaged; Sophia Loren at that time was just 14 years old and was desperate for money to feed her sister and her mother. Wearing a dress made from window curtains, she entered a local beauty contest and was crowned Princess of the Sea; the prize was a ticket to Rome, some wallpaper, a table cloth with matching napkins, and about 35 dollars.
After that, she moved to Rome and found work as a movie extra and entered other beauty pageants, and then she met the producer that would change her life. That producer didn’t like her nose or even the fullness of her hips, even so, Carlo Ponti invited her for a screen test, and after that, her film career exploded. Just within a decade, she vowed Hollywood, winning an Oscar in 1961 for her performance in Two Women, this was the first Oscar awarded to a Foreign Actress and in a Foreign Film.
Loren stated that sex appeal is 50 percent what you got and 50 percent what people think you got. Her fans thought that she got 100 percent of what it takes to be a superstar and a sex symbol. The Italian Bombshell was born in 1934 and is still going strong at the age of 85.
14. Mara Corday
Mara Corday was an American singer, showgirl, and actress who was a pinup sensation in the 1950s. The beauty queen was born on January 3, 1930, in California. She became a part of the Hollywood industry at a very young age and found work as a showgirl at the East Carol Theatre. Her physical appeal helped to land a role as a showgirl in the movie Two Tickets to Broadway in 1951.
Corday signed a contract with Universal-International Pictures, and she was given roles in B grade television series and movies. She met her future husband Richard Long in 1954 at the set of her film, Playgirl.
In her early years, all her roles were small, and she starred opposite actors such as Leo G Carroll and John Agar. She later worked in a few Cling Eastwood films. The actress also worked in a few western films such as Taw Edge and Man without a Star.
Corday had more luck as a pinup model than an actress. She was featured in numerous men magazines and was also the Playmate of October in the 1958 issue of Playboy along with the popular model Pat Sheehan. When it came to television, she has a recurring role in the television series Combat Sergeant that ran on ABC.
15. Anita Ekberg
Anita Ekberg was a Swedish Actress who was considered a sex goddess because of her beautiful golden locks, luminous skin, and blue eyes. She rose to stardom when she played the role of Sylvia in the film La Dolce Vita in 1960.
Ekberg was born on September 29, 1931, in Malmo Skane. She was the sixth of seven children. She worked as a model in her teenage years and entered the Miss Malmo beauty contest in 1950. She won the beauty pageant and then went on to become Miss Sweden. In 1951 she went to the United States and competed in the Miss Universe competition. Unfortunately, the beauty did not win.
She later signed a contract with universal studios as a starlet and received lessons in dancing, elocution, drama, fencing, and horseback riding. She missed many of her drama lessons, and Universal dropped her in just six months.
Ekberg’s curvy figure and her well-publicized romances with Hollywood bigwigs such as Frank Sinatra, Rod Taylor, Tyrone Power, and Errol Flynn attracted gossip magazines such as Confidential, and so she became a prominent pin-up star of the 1950s and appeared in many men magazines like Playboy. She also took part in her fair share of publicity stunts. She later did many films and was even called Paramount’s Marilyn Monroe. The starlet later died at the age of 83 in 2015 after suffering through a complicated illness.