I continue to venture through pre-Code movies made in Hollywood, to see what might be of naughty interest there. This week I came up with Search for Beauty (1934).

Our heroes are Olympic athletes Don Jackson (played by Buster Crabbe) and Good Blond Girl Barbara Hilton (played by Ida Lupino). Their antagonists, a trio of grifters: two rather dim con artists and a not-so-dim Bad Brunette Girl Jean Strange. Jean, who is played by Gertrude Michael) (who we last saw on ErosBlog singing “Sweet Marihuana”), fronts for a racy “fitness” magazine, and then takes over a “health hotel.”

The opening of the movie contains not just stock footage of the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics but both men’s and women’s locker room scenes. The men’s scene contains the earliest guy-butt shot I know of in a mass-release Hollywood movie.

bare male butts in the locker room

Leading man Buster Crabbe was an All-American swimmer in real life. He would go on to become the first cinematic Flash Gordon as well as Buck Rogers. This movies dares not just to ask, but also to answer, the question “what does he look like in the shower?”

Pretty good, as it turns out.

Buster Crabbe naked in the shower

The big gag about the “health hotel” is that manly Don combs the world for the best male and female athletes from the United States and the British Empire to serve as “instructors,” and we all know what our trio of grifters hope that will lead to.

(Cranky digressive rant: In the mind of whoever wrote this movie, “The British Empire” apparently meant only the United Kingdom and the pre-war Dominions (i.e. Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand), and the only athletes worth looking at anywhere were white. This in spite of the fact that India, at least, though part of the British Empire in 1934, sent its own teams to the 1932 Summer Olympics. Their mixed race (to the best of my ability to tell, by reading its roster) field hockey team took home gold medals. But there’s nary an athlete of visible African or Asian ancestry to be seen herein. Internal response to cranky digressive rant: Dude, it’s 1934. Do you really expect both racial enlightenment and guy butts in the same 77-minute movie?)

Anyway, once all the beautiful young people are assembled, they’re obliged to put on a gratuitous Art Deco style musical number, so carefully coordinated that one wonders if it didn’t inspire Leni Riefenstahl. The homoerotic element is not neglected, naturally.

guys exercising

The plot of the movie cranks forward from there, given a bit of crackle by the fact that it’s largely a battle of wits between Good Blond Girl and Bad Brunette Girl. Good Blond Girl wins in the end, with a bit of legal trickery that probably violated local Blue Sky laws (but hey, who’s counting), winning both corporate control of the health hotel and the heart (and excellent pecs) of Buster Crabbe. All ends happily for our heroes. They even get a bad visual pun to end the movie with.

the end of the movie

But perhaps that’s not my favorite detail. That would be the pair of shots depicting the fate of Bad Brunette Girl, who is forced to “exercise” at the end of the movie. Take a close look at one of her “instructors” in the background.

exercise scene

No, a closer look:

vintage camel toe

Even in the pre-Code era, movie studios had censors. All I can say about whoever watched this movie is “dock that censor a day’s pay for napping on the job.”

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