Pamela Green, who has died aged 81, was postwar Britain's best-known pin-up girl and the first woman to appear naked in a British feature film.
Karl Bohm and Pamela Green in a scene from Michael Powell's 1960 film Peeping Tom
Photo: ANGLO AMALGAMATED/KOBAL COLLECTION
She was reckoned the most beautiful nude model of her day. In the 1950s there was scarcely a barrack-room locker, mess deck or grimy garage workshop unadorned by one of the thousands of cheesecake pictures of her, topless and often stark naked, her hourglass figure inspiring the accolade "Queen of Curves".
For "glamour" shots, she would model under her own name, or as one of her two alter egos – a flame-haired nightclub singer named Rita Landré, or the dusky Princess Sonmar, for which she applied Max Factor's Pancake Negro, boot polish and baby oil.
Her career in films began with 8mm black and white glamour shorts designed for home projection by men in grubby raincoats. These led to a cameo part, for which she stripped down to a G-string, in Michael Powell's notorious classic Peeping Tom (1960). Pamela Green played one of the victims of a murderous photographer (Karl Böhm) who impales young women on the leg of his camera tripod.
Powell, famous as the director of The Red Shoes, had spotted Pamela Green in the pages of Kamera, a discreet little publication launched in 1957 by George Harrison Marks, one half of a clapped-out comedy act who had taken up photography and who, in 1953, had become her Svengali. Having been cast by Powell as a model called Millie, Pamela Green turned up at Pinewood to shoot her two short nude scenes for Peeping Tom to find the studio suddenly thronged with lookers-on, including the entire ogling cast of a Carry On film being shot next door.
Her naked appearances in Peeping Tom were the first to be included in a full-length British feature film. She followed it the next year as the star of Naked As Nature Intended, one of Britain's first "sexploitation" films, directed by Marks, which managed to avoid being censored for indecency on the strength of his entirely spurious claim that it was "a genuine film about British naturism".
Shot in 35mm on locations no more exotic than a gravel pit at Gerrard's Cross, the film featured Pamela Green and four other girls scampering heroically for the camera, waving to each other and playing with a large beachball, which kept being blown away by the wind. There was no script. The single line of dialogue was: "Hello, do you come here often?"
In 1964 she appeared in an obscenity trial, charged with corrupting a schoolboy in Alloa through her performance in her short film The Window Dresser.
The youngster had confessed to his father: "I cannot tell a lie. I am a ruined boy forever." But after thrice viewing the film, the judge dismissed the case and asked for a copy of the film to take home for his own son.
Pamela Green was born on March 28 1929 at Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, into a family in which nakedness bore no shame. Her father was an enthusiastic artist who liked drawing nudes, and who later carved a naked figure of his daughter in wood. During the Second World War her parents moved so frequently that by the time she was 14 Pamela had attended as many schools and refused to start at another. So in 1945 she enrolled at the Gloucester School of Art, shedding any adolescent inhibitions by drawing her first nude from life.
Back in London in 1947, when she enrolled at the St Martin's School of Art, Pamela began earning her rent by working as an artist's model. By night she appeared semi-nude in Norman Wisdom's comedy revue Paris To Piccadilly, London's answer to the Folies Bergère, at the Prince of Wales Theatre. She was still only 17 when she got a start as a photographic model.
In Greek Street, Soho, she knocked at the studio of a photographer (and former Dambuster), Douglas Webb, telling him she was looking for glamour work. This led to work with Webb and other leading photographers such as Bertram Park, Bill Brandt, the American, Weegee, and Angus McBean, who cast her in a conch shell to recreate Botticelli's Birth of Venus.
At night she performed in nude revues, including some at the famous Windmill Theatre, where the girls appeared in motionless tableaux. "Nudes were not allowed to move on stage," she noted. "Move, and they closed the show." Nightly at 10.30, she caught the last train home from Marylebone to her mother at West Wycombe.
After a brief failed marriage, Pamela Green fell in with Marks, a chronic alcoholic and failing theatrical photographer with a beatnik's beard, showing him how to pose and light shots of nude women, setting up the backgrounds and retouching the prints. She also became his business manager, and encouraged him to sell postcards of herself nude, in sets of five, discreetly wrapped, in local bookshops and under the counters of Soho newsagents.
Friends admired her dedication: she dieted strictly; took care not to wear tight underclothes, thus avoiding unsightly pressure marks; and joined a nudist camp to get an even tan, topping it up on the roof of Marks's studio in Gerrard Street to applause from men at the neighbouring post office.
After the negatives of Pamela Green's back catalogue were lost in the wake of a studio bankruptcy, Douglas Webb spent 15 years re- photographing her in her most famous poses. Hoping to raise enough money to publish a selection of the images in book form, the veteran of the Dambuster raids auctioned his Distinguished Flying Medal for £5,600 at Christies, but it proved insufficient to cover his costs.
A full-length video feature Never Knowingly Overdressed, chronicling Pamela Green's career in front of the camera, includes some of her 8mm strip films and more than 500 still photographs. "I can't understand why a woman should be embarrassed or degraded by looking at a nude body," she once told the BBC's Woman's Hour. "We've all got one."
Pamela Green, who died on May 7, married, in 1951, Guy Hillier, a stagehand she met while working as a dancer, but divorced him a month later. She lived with George Harrison Marks for eight years until 1961, and with Douglas Webb, with whom she shared a modest Victorian villa on the Isle of Wight (where she was a member of Yarmouth Women's Institute) until his death in 1995. There were no children.