Bodybuilders and the Movies: A Rambling Post

It's probably common knowledge to James Bond fans that Sean Connery entered and lost the Mr. Universe contest in 1953. I discovered the fact while reading this interview featuring Bill Pearl, the winner of the bodybuilding contest that year.

From IFBB Professional League

The author of the article wistfully remembers the famous Charles Atlas muscleman ads (like a bobbysoxer swooning over the latest Sinatra ballad) and laments the decline of bodybuilders as icons, stating that they are now considered "preening misfits." 

Trade the word "bodybuilders" for "actors" and you can hear the same lament from any classic movie blog out there (including this one).

What am I saying here? I don't exactly know.

Sean Connery and Arnold Schwarzenegger  are perhaps the most famous bodybuilders-turned-actors. [Enlighten me. Are there any more?] But there seems to be another one who went on to sword and sandal epics: Steve Reeves (not related to the other superman, George Reeves).

Dick Dubois, Reynolds and Reeves
Reeves appears in the first non-epic film featuring a bodybuilder that I recall watching - Athena (1954). It's an MGM musical featuring some of  the studio's hottest young stars of the time - Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell, Vic Damone and Edmund Purdom.  It was a flop.

The film follows a family of physical culture fans who loosen up two uptight guys (Purdom and Damone). I think it also involves the family being evicted from their home or something. (It's been a while since I've watched it.) Anyway, the family's stable of fit guys includes actual Mr. Universe contestants.

There's even a physique competition with (Gasp! Shock! Horror!) half naked men, which made it past the censors. If the film had been made a year or so earlier, perhaps this would have been Connery's first movie.

You can watch the trailer here.


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