Bell, Bare and Beautiful

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Bell, Bare and Beautiful

Bell, Bare and Beautiful
Type: Film
Country: United States
Release date(s): September 13, 1963[1]
Running time: 64 minutes
Language: English
Company: Griffith Productions
Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Starring: Virginia Bell
Produced by: David F. Friedman
Written by: Leroy C. Griffith
Music by: L. W. Ellington
Cinematography: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Editing by: Carroll Wurkes
Websites and databases

Bell, Bare and Beautiful was a late-era "nudie-cutie" film directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis and starring Virginia Bell. Lewis' last effort in the sexploitation genre, his breakthrough film Blood Feast (1963), the first splatter-film, was being written and planned during the shooting of Bell, Bare and Beautiful. The film is also significant as the only starring feature role of Cincinnati stripper Virginia Bell.[2]

Plot synopsis

Rick Bradshaw, a millionaire, visits his psychiatrist and tells him that he has a recurring dream of a beautiful, busty woman. The psychiatrist recommends having an artist sketch the woman and printing the sketch in national newspapers. Rick receives many responses before the dream woman's photo is finally found. The photo is found to have been submitted by the manager of Gina Adair, a Miami stripper. Rick goes to Miami and visits Gina's favorite nudist colony hoping to meet her there, but fails. He next attends one of Gina's strip shows. The manager prevents Rick from meeting Gina, who is working off a large debt owed to him by her father. Later Rick meets Gina at the nudist colony and pays off the debt. The manager sends a henchman to recover the loan note, but Rick instead turns him over to the police. Rick and Gina leave to discuss wedding plans.[1]


  • Virginia Bell: Gina Adair[1]
  • Thomas Sweetwood: Rick Bradshaw
  • Joy Hodges: Betty
  • Sunny Dare: Elsa
  • Dave Friedman: Barney
  • Al Golden: Dr. Everett
  • Roland Porter: Roland
  • Harry Shurgin: Gangster
  • Leroy C. Griffith: Theatre manager
  • Ben Melton: Mickey
  • Jerome Eden: Artist
  • Craig Maudslay Jr.: Bellboy
  • Huntington Hall: Doctor
  • Cindy Craig
  • Sheryl Nichols
  • Barbara Taylor
  • Fraiah Payne
  • Joyce Lewis
  • Sandra Sinclair


Poster to Herschell Gordon Lewis' first successful "nudie-cutie" The Adventures of Lucky Pierre (1961)

During the 1950s, future "Godfather of Gore" Herschell Gordon Lewis had made his living by making industrial and government public relations films, television commercials and other work-for-hire in Chicago.[3] Noticing the thriving exploitation film genres of the era, Lewis decided to make his own feature film debut in the softcore sexploitation "nudie-cutie" film genre which Russ Meyer had inaugurated with his very successful The Immoral Mr. Teas in 1959.[4][5] Lewis managed to gather the large-- by exploitation film standards-- amount of $100,000 to make The Prime Time (aka Hell Kitten, 1960).[6] This film, and his second sexploitation feature, Living Venus (1961) were box-office failures.[7] Lewis' first commercial success was The Adventures of Lucky Pierre (1961), a "nudie-cutie" made with producer David Friedman. After this first popular work, the two continued to make successful nudist and nudie-cutie sexploitation films together for the next two years, with such titles as Daughter of the Sun (1962), Nature's Playmates (1962), and Goldilocks and the Three Bares (1963).[8]

These films were shown throughout the U.S. in theaters which combined a live burlesque show with a sexploitation film. While their latest sexploitation hit, Boin-n-g! (1963), was being shown on the distribution circuit, theater owners Eli Jackson and Leroy Griffith suggested producing a film starring Jackson's wife, the well-known exotic dancer Virginia Bell.[9] Lewis recalled, "I had never heard of Virginia Bell, but other people assured me she was a big star in the burlesque circuit. Eli and Leroy wanted to shoot this film in a hurry, and the reason was that Virginia Bell was pregnant."[9]


Herschell Gordon Lewis gave the film the title Bell, Bare and Beautiful as a pun on the name of the star of the film and a take-off of the popular Jimmy Stewart film, Bell, Book and Candle (1958)[2] Not a fan of large busts himself, director Lewis commented, "Virginia Bell had, as her primary asset, a 48-inch bosom. She was also three months pregnant, and I could only hope, while we were shooting the picture, that she wouldn't trip and fall on me."[10] In later years David Friedman always maintained that Bell had no sex appeal at all off-stage.[11]

Most of the film was shot in three days at the Spartan Tropical Gardens in Miami, Florida, the same nudist camp location that Lewis and Friedman had used for two previous films.[2][12] Some scenes were shot at night at the studio in Miami which was being used for the television series, Flipper.[13] Some of the scenes that did not involve the nudist camp were filmed at Leroy Griffith's home, also in Miami.[13]

In addition to the urgency in filming created by Bell's pregnancy, the dancer had an upcoming burlesque engagement which necessitated greater haste in filming. The cast and crew worked day and night, with one session lasting 40 hours.[13]

After Bell, Bare and Beautiful

Stanford Kohlberg had financed Lewis and Friedman's Boin-g-g!, their film prior to Bell, Bare and Beautiful, and was happy with the return on his investment. When, while Bell, Bare and Beautiful was in production, Lewis and Friedman asked him if he would finance a third film, Kohlberg agreed enthusiastically. During the planning of Bell, Bare and Beautiful, Friedman and Lewis were already planning this next film, and decided that it had to be something so extreme the major studios could not compete with their product. Lewis was becoming bored with nudie films, and predicted that the end of the genre was near. Actually, in various incarnations, including the "roughie", sexploitation films continued to thrive throughout the 1960s, until the advent of hardcore pornography.[12] Not sure what direction to take for their following film, Lewis remembers, "We eventually narrowed our choices down to two. We could either do a film that was so loaded with sex as to be almost unfilmable, or we could do a picture that was so loaded witih horror as to be equally unfilmable. And since there was an overabundance of nudie pictures, we opted for the horror angle. We decided our picture would be the ultimate grotesque horror film."[12]

With that decision, Lewis and Friedkin used all their free time while filming Bell, Bare and Beautiful writing and planning their horror film. This would be Blood Feast, which critics consider the first of the "splatter film" genre. Blood Feast established Lewis' reputation as the "Godfather of Gore". He would continue making spectacularly gory films for another decade. After the dissolution of their partnership, David Friedman would continue making prosperous films in the sexploitation genre throughout the 1960s.[12]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Krafsur, Richard P. (1976). "Bell, Bare and Beautiful", The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures; Feature Films 1961-70. New York & London: R.R. Bowker Company, p. 77. ISBN 0-8352-0440-5. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Briggs (2000).
  3. Palmer (2000). p. 13.
  4. Frasier, David K. (1998). Russ Meyer : The Life and Films : A Biography and A Comprehensive, Illustrated, and Annotated Filmography and Bibliography. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co, p. 5. ISBN 0-7864-0472-8. 
  5. Palmer (2000), p. 14.
  6. Palmer (2000), p. 15-17.
  7. Palmer (2000), p. 21.
  8. Palmer (2000), p. 27-32.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Palmer (2000), p. 35-36.
  10. Palmer (2000), p. 27.
  11. McDonough, Jimmy. Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film. New York: Crown Publishers, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-5044-8. p. 82.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Palmer (2000), p. 36.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Palmer (2000), p. 37.