In 1971, a year before Last Tango in Paris was released in the US, Bette Davis went on The Dick Cavett Show to dish on a career’s worth of onscreen kisses. Four decades on, when access to Netflix is all that’s required to enjoy a visual intimacy bordering on the gynecological with Halle Berry or Maria Bello, Davis still captivates. Watch the above excerpt and don’t feel ashamed if you spend the rest of the day trying to guess the identity of the actor who—in Cavett’s words—“was so repulsive that you just couldn’t stand to do it.”
Whoever he was, she cashed her paycheck and took one for the team, just as she did in 1930, when under contract to Universal, the self-described “Yankee-ist, modest virgin that ever walked the earth” was pressed into service as a “test girl.” This involved lying on a couch as a succession of 15 auditioning actors demonstrated their passionate kissing abilities.
That session was filmed, but evidence has yet to surface on the Internet. Fans will just have to content themselves with sneaking onto a three-acre private arboretum in Massachusetts for a glimpse of an Anna Colman Ladd fountain featuring four frolicsome nudes. Word has it a certain modest virgin Yankee served as the model for one of these figures while still in her teens. Or so a legendary actress revealed to Playboy at the age of 74.
Ayun Halliday recalls Lauren Bacall shilling for a lip augmentation procedure in No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late. Follow her @AyunHalliday