In the early 50s nude photography was in its infancy. Men’s magazines were sold under the counter in brown paper bags. The photo model was not held in the same regard as the models of Titian or Rubens. Censorship did not recognize fine art and DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was still banned in Britain more than a quarter of a century after it has been first published privately in Florence in 1928. The double-standards of Victorian England were still hanging over a country decimated by World War Two.
Perhaps, it was the fact that for Pamela Green, nudity never held any social taboos, or the fact that she always possessed the support of understanding parents, but whatever the reason, her career would have a strong impact on the social and sexual mores of 50s London. And while it may be said that Pamela’s stunning figure was the secret to her success, the truth remained that her longevity and success as a model rested on her drive, acumen and artistic creativity. All of which have forged her continuing status as one of the world’s most admired exotic models. The work of models like Pamela, Bettie Page, June Wilkinson and Lili St Cyr although regarded as risqué throughout the 50s and 60s are now regarded as an art form to be admired, and these models are now regarded as legends in their film, much as the pioneers of rock’n’roll, jazz and pop art have joined folklore. Time is kinder to pioneers than their contemporaries.
The internet age has restored the past to new generations more than any other media format. While film records our history, the internet has brought all forms of historical minutiae to the finger tips of any person on the planet possessing an internet connection. In a matter of seconds one can view photos, stories, films or music files of just about anyone of note who ever lived, or who has an admirer to record their history. Thus great models like Pamela Green will endure for generations and indeed their legend will grow exponentially because their images and histories will be at the fingertips of billions. When Pamela Green was professionally photographed nude for the first time back in 1953 by Harrison Marks, she would imagine that perhaps a few hundred (or maybe a few thousand readers) would admire her photos. Now, literally millions of people will view Pamela’s photos, watch Peeping Tom on DVD or download it from the Web, each and every year. This has also led to Pamela probably signing more photos for fans now than she did during her entire twenty-five year modeling career.
As I noted earlier much of this success is due to Pamela’s own groundwork. Unlike many models, who simply arrive at a shoot and leave when it’s finished, Pamela would take a much more hands-on approach. When you look at the backdrops in Pamela’s photos, particularly those of her alter-egos Rita Landre and Princess Sonmor, you have to understand that most of these were designed (and also often built) by Pamela. Every facet of set design, costumes, including the continuity of photo scenes were often all down to Pamela. Even much of the work in the handful of strip films she made in the late 1950s was a result of Pamela’s careful planning and hours of hard work.
You have to remember that Pamela began as an artist herself, spending seven years studying Art & Painting including the last four years at St Martin’s School of Art in London. During the late 50s when the magazine, Kamera created by Pamela and Harrison became hugely successful, Pamela would be busy finding and training other models to appear in the magazine. Later in her career she would advise other models and actresses about using make-up, lighting and costumes. She would often work behind the scenes with her life partner, Doug Webb on British films and TV. One of the original Dam Busters, Doug worked as a Stills photographer. You can see his work firsthand in The Killing of Sister George, Krull, Perfect Friday and The Promise among several other films.
Indeed when Pamela was auditioned for the role of Millie in Michael Powell’s film, Peeping Tom in 1959, she did so at her own studio, which meant Michael had a firsthand experience of the type of sets and costumes Pamela had created for many of her most famous shoots with Harrison. Michael Powell was so enamoured of her Rita Landre persona that he later incorporated several of Pamela’s images and designs into the fabric of his film. Much of what you see in the film during Pamela’s scenes are her own creations and were used in Kamera magazines and Calendars. And Kamera is now very much a collector’s item along with the early postcards.
Pamela would reissue these postcards during the 1990s and they were again hugely successful and she is still keeping busy with various projects. From her home in the Isle of Wight, Pamela still attends various shows, and meets and greets fans. She still hopes to one day publish a book of Doug Webb’s brilliant photography. Funnily enough, Doug only began taking shooting his wonderful nudes of Pamela when he noticed her trying to shoot her own photos using a camera that she had specially mounted with a mirror so that she could shoot nude photographs by herself. This, for me, sums up the wonderful ingenuity, the drive and the creativity of this beautiful lady. Now in her early seventies and the same natural beauty as she was when she first shed her clothes in that cold Art Studio back in 1949, you an only marvel at her brilliant career. She is indeed a girl for the keeping.
For more about Pamela Green, Doug Webb and his stunning photos you can catch her website at:
I recently had the great good fortune to interview the totally vivacious Pamela…
David: G’day Miss Pamela. So how does a beautiful teenage girl feel in postwar, 1949 London doing her very first nude sitting?
Pam: I was at Art School in London. To pay for the Art School I began to model for the Life class for money, 1 pound 5 shillings per day. Eventually, I found out that photographers paid 1 pound per hour, so I banged on Doug Webb’s door (his studio was near the Art School) and asked him if he used Figure models. He said yes, but that he wanted to see my figure. I stripped off and he booked me the following day. The nude body means nothing to me. At Art School I drew nudes every day.
David: What effect did Doug Webb have on your early life and what is the funniest or most unusual moment you remember sharing with him? And later on, how romantic was his proposal of marriage?
Pam: Doug and I were never married. In 1953, after I finished at the Follies Bergere, in the Prince of Wales Theatre, I had been photographed by George Harrison Marks for the theatre programme. I modeled for Harrison and we got on well together. We became working partners and started a limited company, G Harrison Marks Ltd. We eventually started the magazine Kamera, and in 1957, the big book, Kamera on Location.
In 1967, I left our studio and met Doug (I presume Miss Pamela that this was a second meeting after the one back in 1940-50), who was working as a Stills photographer in the Film Industry. The best nude pictures of me were taken by Doug from 1968 to 1976. Some of these are on my website. There are also many of Harrison Mark’s work where I dressed up as Rita Landre, a redhead and Princess Sonmar, a Moroccan girl. The latter was with very dark make-up. And, of course, I also modeled as myself, Pamela Green, a blonde.
I would love to do a big book of Doug’s work. Perhaps one day, but I would want to find a printer and publisher good enough to do justice to Doug’s work.
David: Do you recall the date and circumstances of being asked for your very first autograph?
Pam: My very first signing was in the Follies, at the Stage Door. Since then I have signed and I am still signing as Pamela Green, Rita Landre and Princess Sonmar.
David: Do you collect any memorabilia or autographs yourself and if so what are some of your treasures?
Pam: Yes, I do collect and have signed photos of Jean Simmons, Margaret Lockwood, Patricia Roc, Yvonne de Carlo, Hedy Lamar and Peter Cushing.
David: What was your worst experience during a photo shoot?
Pam: Working in corsets that were too tight or too large and pinned together with bulldog clips. Also I was to be put in a cage with a panther, which I refused!
David: What question are you most often asked by fans?
Pam: Fans always ask me about the difference between Rita and Sonmar.
David: Director, Martin Scorsese much admired the film, Peeping Tom and was instrumental, I believe, in having it restored and made available on DVD. In this film you have two pivotal scenes, but I wondered whether Michael Powell filmed you in any other scenes which were later deleted, as is often the case when filming? If so can you tell us anything about the other scenes which you may have filmed?
Pam: Nothing was cut out of the film. In England, the Watch Committee cut one short of the nude scene, for the North and the Midlands. For the rest of the country, and other countries the film is unabridged.
David: If you had to nominate your favourite book, movie, actor and song which ones would you choose?
Pam: There are so many to choose from. Gerald Durrell, My Family and other Animals (Book) War & Peace (Film) Peter Cushing (Actor) and any song by Dido.
David: Over the years, which models have you admired the most?
Pam: No models, but as a person I admire Brigitte Bardot.
David: Is there anything you would change from your life?
Pam: Yes, I am 5ft 4ins, but would have liked to have been 5ft 9ins.
David: What brings you the greatest joy?
Pam: Mastering my computer and my digital camera.
Article copyright David Priol 2006
Photos copyright Pamela Green