I said it last time, but it bears repeating: beauty queens don’t get spanked.
You may think that a great missed opportunity…
But even so, it’s an unavoidable cultural fact. The beauty queen is selected to represent a feminine ideal, which means that, in the mainstream, she is a woman to be looked up to, not slapped down. Unless of course she’s the beauty queen of a country where a smacked bottom is a recognized token of admiration rather than disapproval, like Miss Czech Republic 2013, Gabriela Kratochvílová,
who got the usual Easter tribute:
But wherever you are, the beauty queen is the result of a process of selection, and it is in the nature of such contests that only one of the contenders is destined to be accorded ‘royal’ status and the associated privileges and immunities. And, as the saying goes, there’s the rub.
What I’m driving at may be clarified with reference to the 1975 Miss Great Britain contest, which was won by the future game show hostess Susan Cuff.
The result was widely suspected of being a fix, and there was such indignation among the disappointed hopefuls that twelve of them stormed off the stage in protest, leaving only eight girls present for a depleted closing ceremony.
The runner up, Christine Owen, another future game show hostess, gave the press a forthright opinion about Susan Cuff:
‘She’s a lovely girl and deserved to win. The girls who kicked up a stink and walked off want their bottoms spanked.’
She may not have meant it literally, and it was never actually going to happen, but it is a fact that, on the rare occasions when a beauty contest throws up a spanking scenario, it is not usually the winner who gets spanked.
But even elected beauty queens can end up deposed, most notoriously in the case of Miss World 1973, who was stripped of the title after a free approach to dating put her in breach of contract. But a more relevant case is that of Margaret Hughes, Miss Australia 1949:
Like all the other unsuccessful contestants, she signed an agreement that, should she win, she would be accompanied on the Miss Australia world tour by a chaperone selected by the competition promoters. Awkwardly, the person they chose had made a mildly offensive remark to Margaret on the occasion of her victory, and she flatly refused to travel with that person. Faced with a lot of bad international publicity for Australia, the promoters denounced her attitude as ‘childish and farcical’, and it brought her close not only to losing her throne but also to being unable to sit on it, when the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Councillor J. S. Disney, made a public statement about her behavior:
‘If the disgraceful Miss Australia mix-up has been caused by any pettiness on the part of Miss Margaret Hughes, she should be turned up and spanked.’
Margaret’s response was, ‘Let him try!’, along with a rebuke to Disney for making ‘undignified’ remarks. And though she wasn’t spanked, so far as we know, the affair ensured that there was no further Miss Australia contest until 1953.
Here’s a lady you might not expect to lose a beauty contest, unless there was some very stiff competition: the striking blonde actress Veronica Lake.
But that’s a prospect she faced in Thomas Phipps’ television play Better Than Walking, broadcast live in the NBC Goodyear Playhouse strand on October 26, 1952. And we know what the consequences might be!
She plays Leni de Bourlie, the French entry in the International Film Festival’s beauty contest. The problem is that she’s not French and her name isn’t Leni de Bourlie, so she has entered under false pretenses. And she might have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for a meddling future night stalker. Tex Odell, played by Darren McGavin, arrives on the Riviera in pursuit of some money she owes him, and threatens to get her disqualified by revealing that she is actually all-American Judy Howard. Their confrontation leads to an outcome that is as satisfying for him, and pleasing to us, as it is unwelcome to her: he puts her across his knee and spanks her.
And, incidentally, that wasn’t to be the only time Veronica Lake was spanked…
Three years later, she played the lead in the 1955 touring production of The Little Hut, which nightly featured what one reviewer called ‘a sound spanking administered to Miss Lake’s shapely posterior’.
Sadly, there’s no known visual record of either scene (though we may hope one day to see a kinescope of Better Than Walking); but we are better served by another tale of beauty contest disappointment from a few years later. Here’s the lady in question:
Here she is appearing onstage a few years after the event:
And also bare-bottomed on film:
All of which goes to show that she was a very good sport. And that’s just as well, because here she is with her co-star (and real-life boyfriend) Dirch Passer, the king of the Danish movie spankers:
She’s Judy Gringer, and the stupendous spanking she gets in Poeten og Lillemor og Lotte (1960) is well known and well liked; but it’s not often appreciated in its overall context in the story – even though it’s because of that context that it has some of the features that make it such an extraordinary and appealing scene.
The film is the second in a series based on a long-running Danish comic strip about the rural home life of a cash-strapped poet and his wife, known as ‘Little Mother’ (Lillemor). Dirch Passer plays the nameless, middle-aged village baker who falls for his lovely young bakery assistant Lise (Judy Gringer). Their May-to-December (well, alright, October) romance leads in the first film, Poeten og Lillemor (1959), to some amusing moments, notably this comedy jitterbug,
which gave Judy an early opportunity to show off her…
Well, obviously, her ‘good sport’ credentials!
Come the 1960 sequel, the baker has married Lise and proceeds to spoil her on the ‘my wife isn’t going out to work’ principle. She gets to loaf about in bed all day,
while he waits on her hand and foot and attends to her every need and desire with absolute, uxorious devotion.
The trouble is, as you can see, that she’s bored – desperately, intolerably bored. She craves some excitement, and finds it in the prospect of competing in a local beauty contest (first prize: 10,000 kroner, and healthy career prospects).
Alas for Lise, she is not destined to be a beauty queen, for reasons that are obvious from the title she covets: Miss Spring. Since she is now Mrs Baker, a married woman, she is disqualified. And who is going to get the blame for that, do you think?
As she arrives disconsolately home, he rather sweetly asks whether she won – never for a moment doubting the outcome, because obviously she is the most beautiful girl in the world. When she tells him what happened, his sympathy proves misplaced: she flings back in his face that he has ruined her life. Her ambitions – getting in the newspapers, getting a job as a model, making movies, becoming ‘world-famous in Denmark’ and ending up in Hollywood – have all been destroyed, simply because she is married to him. And so, to quote the original publicity, ‘he must fix the problem with a firm hand’.
What’s often overlooked is the way the whole scene is intercut with footage of the beauty contest in progress. Obviously most people who write about the film (or at least this part of it) are more interested in the spanking, but let’s acquaint ourselves with a few of the other beautiful girls (with a few more to come shortly).
Among them is a young actress who later became a Danish star in her own right, Helle Hertz:
And Miss Spring is…
But while she is being chosen, Lise is being spanked, in two extended shots, plus a cut back to the beauty contest in the middle. The whole thing lasts for nearly a minute, with 27 onscreen smacks:
That’s an uncommonly sound spanking by cinematic standards, where (as I’ve pointed out before) it was more usual to have something fairly brief and perfunctory because fundamentally symbolic. What’s more, the two shots were taken with two completely different camera setups,
which means we’re actually looking at two separate spankings for Judy Gringer, whose ‘good sport’ award is growing more and more exalted all the time.
Part of that first shot’s impact lies in Jørgen Skov’s cinematography. When the spanking starts, it’s a wide shot:
And then the camera gradually tracks in, so that the shot ends with her bottom in medium closeup right in the center of the screen:
And when we cut away to the beauty contest, guess what part of the girls is being appraised…
For one of them, it’s her only closeup!
The film is setting up a symmetry (or ‘rhyme’, if you like) between the beauty contest Lise wanted to be part of and the spanking she gets instead, both of which involve the display of her bottom – by choice in one and unwillingly in the other. And since the contestants are parading in their bikinis, the same symmetry requires that Lise must be spanked on her panties: physically the same as bikini bottoms, but culturally the complete opposite, which is also why they’re pink and frilly – to emphasize that they are her panties, the secret garment rather than the one that bathing beauties and would-be beauty queens proudly sport in public. So the logic of the whole sequence might be summed up visually like this:
Two types of similar, but different garments; two types of similar, but different hand actions. But paradoxically, the outcome is the same either way: Lise may have lost out on becoming Miss Spring, but she is still the baker’s beauty queen… and a soundly spanked one, too!