Slate history blog The Vault has unearthed a fascinating old Hollywood artifact: Photoplay magazine’s 1931 “Best Figure in Hollywood” contest. “To a modern viewer sensitive to body issues this article seems abhorrent,” The Vault’s Anne Helen Petersen writes. Beside a chart of 21 leading ladies’ ages, weights, and measurements, four judges discuss each actress’ best and worst parts.
“Like many Scandinavians, Miss Garbo has a large frame. Undoubtedly, her bones weigh heavily. Already, as a matter of fact, her measurements exceed what generally is considered perfect for her height,” one judge notes. “Nevertheless, I am satisfied that Greta Garbo is an exception and that she would be far more beautiful, beautiful to the point of being glorious, if she were heavier. I see her as a goddess, a golden Juno.”
The judges conclude that 26-year-old Mexican crossover actress Dolores Del Rio had the best body: “Her selection definitely establishes the superiority of the roundly turned, warmly curved figure. She is a far hail from the straight up and down type.” According to Photoplay, Del Rio was 5’$2 4.5” tall and weighed 120 lbs. Her measurements were 33–25–36.5.
Though jarring in its frankness, the “Best Figure in Hollywood” assessment also contains a pseudo-scientific explanation about “health” that resembles the concern-trolling body judgments of modern tabloids. Photoplay quotes doctors on the actress’ target weights and explains,”Beauty is what it always has been and always will be, the result of health.”
A major player in the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, Dolores Del Rio started as a silent film actress then transitioned to talkies. She was married three times, but her most famous relationship was a famously romantic four-year affair with director Orson Welles.