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What was the first sex scene in a movie?

·2-min read
Hedy Lamarr and Aribert Mog on the set of ‘Ecstasy' (Glasshouse Images/Shutterstock)
Hedy Lamarr and Aribert Mog on the set of ‘Ecstasy' (Glasshouse Images/Shutterstock)

Almost nine decades ago, the first known sex scene in modern movie history made it to the big screen.

The sequence can be found in Ecstasy, an erotic romantic drama released in 1933 by Czech filmmaker Gustav Machatý.

Starring Austrian-born actor and inventor Hedy Lamarr, the scene is generally recognised as the first documented sex scene in a mainstream film.

Lamarr stars as Eva, a young bride who, stuck in a loveless marriage with an older man, seeks a divorce.

After going for a naked swim in a countryside lake, Eva is forced to chase after her horse, which runs away with her clothes. A young man catches the runaway animal. After spotting Eva crouched in nearby bushes, he tosses her her dress, and the two strike up a conversation, during which he seduces her.

The two eventually meet up again for a night of passion, which is depicted in Ecstasy.

The scene in question is rather demure by modern standards. It lasts just a bit more than a minute. The audio consists solely in classical music; the camera remains trained on Lamarr’s face.

At the time, though, the scene was considered scandalous. According to the Middle Tennessee State University’s First Amendment Encyclopedia, Ecstasy in 1935 became the first film to be blocked by the US Customs Service from entering the country, on grounds that it was considered obscene.

A re-edited version was allowed into the US in 1936, although it was still banned in some locations. It wasn’t until 1940 that Ecstasy was granted a proper approval for distribution.

Lamarr herself decried the impact the scene and its legacy had on her career. For years, she was – as a 1938 Life article put it – “famed through Europe and America as the Ecstasy girl”.

In the same article, she told the publication visitors at her film studio would sometimes gawk at her “like I am something in a zoo”.

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