Friday, October 30, 2009

Dagmar and the front end of 1950s American Automobiles -- when the sensual and auto design merged

My thanks to Ed Garten for bringing this topic up for conversation. Both Dagmar and Ed are native West Virginians!

Ask any old guy about Dagmars, and the early 1950s Cadillacs are sure to come up, with their front bumpers. And ask any real old guy, and he will be sure to remember Dagmar as one of the first stars on Television during the early 1950s. Who was Dagmar?

Dagmar declined to give her birth date, although it is listed as November 29 in 1920, 1921, or 1927. She was born in a small town in West Virginia, and her real name was Virginia Ruth Egnor. Before marrying a Naval officer by the name of Lewis in 1941, she worked in a drug store, and as a waitress in Huntington, West Virginia. In New York City she fell in to a number of small parts in burlesque and theater. Her character was that of the dumb blond with obvious physical attributes up front.

Beginning in 1950 she appeared on television, as she was featured in Broadway Open House and with Jack Paar. She was voted the most photogenic girl on TV by a nationwide poll of editors and she appeared on the cover of Life magazine. In 1952 Dagmar starred in her own TV show, Dagmar's Canteen. A flash in the pan, she went though at least two other husbands during the 1950s and faded off the scene -- but her attributes was forever etched in the American Memory. She died on Oct. 9, 2001.

The linking of this woman and her breasts with the grill and front end in the early 1950s was one of the most powerful examples of the merging of the automobile with sexuality and sensuality in the immediate post-war period. Perhaps the only other aspects of cars that held a similar connection were a number of luxury car hood ornaments of the pre-WWII era that featured beautiful flowing female profiles.

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