The 'Best Figure in Hollywood' in 1931

Photo: Corbis

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. 

Click to enlarge. Photo: Public domain

"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' 4.5" tall and weighed 120 lbs. Her measurements were 33–25–36.5.

Del Rio got her start as a dancer. In the late '40s she befriended Eva Peron. Photo: Corbis

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.