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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Royale Studios 17 - The Soldier-Sailor Set (FJSS) - 1

The FJSS set is a fairly typical example of what we might call Royale Studios 'Uniform' work - they also published a lot of conventional beefcake pictures featuring prominent bodybuilders. These military themed pictures seem quaint and artificial at first sight but closer investigation reveals a strongly erotic content can be as thrilling today as it was then.
The opening shot shows the two models posing naked apart from their footwear. The sailor (on the left) is ironing his uniform (yes, with an unplugged, cold iron!). This is studio print and you can immediately see how good the quality of the photography was. Also how well-built the models were, just look at the sailor's back and the soldier's thigh development.

Royale Studio - Soldier-Sailor 1

This nudity would have been a problem in 50's Britain. Muscle posing in swimwear was OK but just putting two nude men together like this, in a pseudo-domestic situation without any pretence of classicism was risky. The positioning of the iron contrives to conceal the naughty bits but this would be regarded as smutty rather than artistic. 
Royale tried to disguise the erotic nature of these pictures, but the police could hardly fail to notice the positioning of the sailor's grasping hand, right in front of the soldier's groin and the focal point of both men's gaze. I suppose they might just have missed the erotic significance of the iron's pointed shape and the curious resemblance between the lower part of the handle and a man's scrotum, but seen with the right eyes this picture is simulating a jerk-off, plain and simple.

Publishers did seek to wriggle out of prosecutions with the argument that “evil is in the eye of the beholder” but it didn't work very often, not least because the artifice is very obvious once it is spotted. 
The first picture is the only one in Royale's catalogue sheet for this set which shows the models naked where it counts. It's a bit of an 'odd man out'. From the second picture onwards they are both wearing trousers.

As an amateur Royale sleuth , the first picture also stands out to me in another way in that both model's gaiters (the ankle strappings) are light coloured whereas from picture 2 onwards, the soldier's gaiters look dark (as they should do, army gaiters being coloured khaki rather than white, that is for the Navy uniform). It makes you wonder if the first picture really belongs in a different set, but having said that, the ironing table does appear in both pictures 1 & 2, so maybe it's just a trick of the light.

Royale Studio - Soldier-Sailor 2

Picture 2 is taken from the catalogue sheet, so it's fuzzy but this is another great picture. The high waisted trousers show off the sailor's tapered torso rather well but the beret (a tricky garment to wear sexily) is less helpful for Fred's soldier image, try covering the rear overhang with your finger and you'll see what I mean. 
At first glance it all seems quite respectable, the pose is intimate in nature but has a classical ancestry in studies of the hero being readied for battle. Movie buffs will also recognise the female equivalent (maid dressing mistress) from numerous frivolous comedies of this era. So it's actually a commonplace image. Naturally the implied master-servant relationship would appeal strongly to British sensibilities at this time'! 
But if you think this picture is just naïve beefcake, look again! John the sailor's trousers are so tight that his balls are clearly outlined and his relaxed open pose seems to offer them up, unguarded, to Fred. A shadow cast by the soldier's arm looks like a cock which Fred is grasping, which the viewer knows he can do, if he undoes the button in his hand and lowers the flap at the front of the sailor's trousers. Clever stuff.
I have heard that Royale tailored garments to individual models to ensure this revealing fit. The soldier's shorts look as though they have had this treatment too. Royale also soaked them in water to make them cling to body contours, the vertical creasing below the sailor's knee and lack of volume where they tuck into the gaiters suggests this is the case here. 
The preparation for these sessions must have entailed considerable work and would have made an erotic movie in it's own right! The thought of innocent new models being put through all this unexpected intimacy and awkwardsness just to earn a few pounds is sexy too. That's a theme I follow up in my “Naive Models” series (which can be viewed at the mitchmen archive - see Gallery Hub for link).
Royale Studio - Soldier-Sailor 3
In picture 3 the 'dressing' roles are reversed with the sailor adjusting his buddies belt. The wet tight clothing shows off his behind, and Fred's also looks good, you can also see some nice musculature in their backs and thighs. The sailor's profile is attractive too, you even get a sense of how sexy the fashionable, quiffed hair was at this time. 
Fred's pose is a bit stiff and distant, possibly deliberately so, to fend off any criticism of intimacy. There's an element of lens distortion in this picture which increases the separation effect. Royale were probably on safer ground with this one although in the context of the whole set the proximity of hand to bottom is still suggestive, particularly with Fred's backward glance seeming to say 'what are you up to?' There are the makings of a very sexy image here.
To be continued
For earlier articles in this series click on the GIU/Royale label below

1 comment:

geller said...

I love these retro pics. Also a fan of your art, mitch. Thanks for sharing.