In the 1940s the panoram jukeboxes which played two to four minute musicals had a second big use in adult bookshops & arcades, showing not music but "nudie cuties" & "strip shows."
Such as these had been around since the days of Thomas Edison -- films like Fatima Couchie-Couchie Dance (1896) & Trapeze Disrobing Act (1901) -- so that the first very nickelodians had a bad reputation as mens-only entertainment.
The panoram era ended in 1947, & since music had to be very contemporary, these pictorial jukeboxes migrated more & more to adult arcades, where men would be invited to plunk in their quarters for private viewings, sometimes silent, sometimes with sound. Well into the 1970s these were still in use but always with old black & white product, until machine by machine they just all wore out.
The panoram stripper films sometimes continued to be distributed in the home-movie market, but most just vanished until a combination of vintage film collectors uploading to the net, & Something Weird Video's dvd line, brought these "innocently" vulgar films back into the marketplace.
These are usually so innocent even kids could watch them, & some may wonder that they were ever considered "dirty." Well, in reality, they never were considered dirty, & men who honestly thought they were paying a quarter for a sex film would be severely disappointed. Most already knew it was about the imagination.
Product did exist that showed actual sex acts, but that was the stuff the FBI would periodically confiscate, destroy, & put the vendors in jail. So the vast majority of arcades stayed within the law, & that, rather than "changing times," explains the naivete of the films. Not wanting to go to jail was a motivating factor.
The five minute adult arcade panoram movie Goldielocks Goes Glamorous (1940s, mispelling Goldilocks as on title card) opens on a woodland scene of of blonde gal strolling through the woods.
A narrator sounds like the sort of guy who might've been a cigar-chomping gangster or stagehand in a burlesque house fifty or sixy years ago. The bit being conveyed was probably developed in the declining years of vaudeville-burlesque, as if revamping a tale by Damon Runyan.
Goldie breaks into the California mansion of the Three Bears. She wants to use the pool & tries on momma bear's bathing suit, but it was ugly, so she tried on poppa bear's swimsuit, which was full of moths. Finally she tried on Baby Bear's bikini & it was just right.
The narrator notes that he could tell how Goldielocks went in the house & used the beds & ate the porridge, but he'd rather let her keep prancing about out back by the pool.
The visuals are strictly "girlie film" material falling short, of a blonde beach babe enjoying the pool, no nudie cutie scenes, nothing burlesque. It ends with a poorly presaged sight gag.
In all, it's not a particularly well done story, but it has to be given some credit for trying to have an imaginative narrative line for its largely ordinary bathing beauty shots.
The comedy panorama featurette Grandma Strips (1940s) runs two & a half minutes. It begins with an image of a burlesque stage & the master of ceremonites apologizing that the stripper was unable to come, but she sent her grandma to fill in.
He then helps the old lady get started. She saunters or half wobbles her way to tables to get men to help her out of some of her old granny clothes. Then from the stage she takes off her old lady hat as part of the act of stripping.
It's pretty obvious this isn't really an old lady, & as more of the costume comes off, the more is revealed of the young beauty. Judging by her grin, she's having a great time.
The music she's stripping to is "Little Old Lady" composed by Hoagy Carmichael: "Little old lady passing by/ You have such a charming manner, sweet & shy."
She's wearing as many layers as actual little old ladies often did, & near the end of the act, the stripper says to one of the guys at a table, who had helped her unbind layers: "Now you know what grampa had to go through." When she's really down to a lot of skin she does a bit of bump & grind.
This little film strikingly conveys the marriage of Burlesque & Vaudeville. Comedy was always as important as stripping, & today's mistaken notion that burlesque houses were only about strippers does injustice to a whole array of other sorts of burlesque entertainers who relied on laughs.
Other standard fare at the burlesque houses the master of ceremonies, the so-called baggy-pants clown were were often as big a draw as the strippers, & the "talking woman" who was either a blue humorist who didn't strip or a straight-woman to a baggy-pants clown. Comedy was so important to burlesque that many a stripper would not want to be left out as just a tease-act, & so worked her striptease around funny stuff, & this is what Grandma Strips significantly preserves.
Another comedy panoram soundie for the adult arcades was How to be a Stripper (1940s).
To a vaudeville piano beat a narrator raps about a little girl from the country who came to the big city to learn to be a striptease artist. Many today will find it hard to believe, but in fact the burlesque audiences consisted predominantly of couples, not dirty old men as stereotype would have it, & many a well-known stripper taught stripping to young brides & housewives on the side.
Mostly the students wanted to learn the art for private moments with boyfriends or husbands. But some of these students, if they wanted, would "graduate" publically at the burlesque theater, on amateur night. So once again, the fuller context of one of these little films is more strongly placed culturally than modern viewers inevitably realize.
Dressed in a bumpkin costume that makes her look saggy-breasted & pot-bellied, the alleged country gal is reading an instruction manual on how to strip.
The piano rift turns into "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain When She Comes" then "Turkey in the Straw" as the bumpkin dances the clumsiest possible bump & grind completely out of time to the music.
She never really gets round to stripping & so we never find out there's a shapely maiden under the ridiculous costume, though if performed live in a burlesque house, that'd obviously be the direction of the gag.
Hollywood Pinups (1948) is panoram silent peepshow no more risque than any home movie. It shows beautiful young women in bikini's playing catch with a football in the back yard.
They do manage a few pin-up poses & occasionally will bend way over to pick up the ball so the photographer can get classic sexy-shots of their butts. One girl even gets beaned in the butt with the ball.
Eventually they do some sunbathing for sleepy pin-up poses & panning shots of their legs & bodies. There's nothing "adults only" about it other than what's strictly inside the viewer's brain. It might be "sexist" entertainment for "objectifying" the female body, but it's also rather sweet, rather than seedy or vulgarly hostile.
Panoram adult arcade four & a half minute short Gorilla & the Maiden (1940s) spoofs the recurring image in B horror films & thrillers wherein the heroine is menaced by a great ape.
Looking much more like sasquatch than a gorilla, a guy in an ape suit runs center stage carrying a limp burlesque queen, so we got action immediately.
The ape lays her on the floor & paws at her unconscious body for a while, even patting her butt with his foot. Since she won't move, he rips off some of her clothes. He roles her about & finally she starts writhing as though regaining consciousness, however slowly.
At last she stands up & begins an acrobatic dance with the ape, who knocks her down, lets her dance, picks her up over his shoulder, lays her on the floor & removes more of her costume, then lets her dance in pasties & g-string.
She embraces him & they roll on the floor. She finds a knife & turns Queen of the Jungle fighting him & stabbing, but even wounded he is able to drag her off stage.
Though very silly, the striptease artist is quite good, & the contrast between a skillful burly-q & a talentless guy in a monkey suit can't help but entertain.
The attempt to be funny with a "twist" ending (which is actually the only psychologically well founded moment in the five & a half minute film) doesn't save Co-Ed Secrets (1960s) from being generally foolish.
It can be viewed as a guy's lesbian recruitment fantasy, but it is more properly a male masochism piece in which the male viewer is supposed to identify with the female victim because it is only "all right" to have masochistic feelings if you're a girl.
It allows the male audience for such films to get off on the fantasy without accepting any responsibility for their feelings. "Crush" films are the most extreme of this psychological bent, with girls in high heels shown stepping on kittens or turtles, the identification being with the injured helpless animal as erotic fantasy.
This adult arcade film was for the fetish crowd rather than burlesque. As a broad generality, when watching striptease films, there's an off chance of seeing an authentic artform that a lot of women took seriously. But the fetish films tended to be scripted by & for men, & it's a great rarity to see one convincingly acted, original, or interesting, unless of course it touches upon a specific deviant response.
In the example of Co-Ed Secrets we get a commonplace scenario of sorority sisters breaking in a new recruit. No one's trying to act or make any aesthetic gesture in any of it, they're just doing what the guys producing the film paid them to do.
Two girls in their undies drag a third girl also in her undies into a room. One of the girls has a braided bullwhip of the kind that doesn't hit hard & which won't in any case be used for any whipping. The girl who has the whip uses one end to tie the downed girl's wrists together, then holds onto the wooden handle at the other end of the whip.
The "victim" is next laid face down, tied to the table, & given a spanking with a really moronic looking paddle.
The spanking is tedious. Fetish films are notorious for their lack of imagination. Eventually the girls untie their victim, move her to another location onto a bed, tie her again, this time face up. The cameraman obviously directed her to "writhe" but instead she just sort of bounces. Her tormenters then tickle & wack her.
Finally the two punishers untie her, give her a spanking paddle, & force her to spank them. All this is sadly not interesting outside the bounds of spanking & bondage fetish.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl