Marilyn Chambers, Porn’s First Superstar, Has Died

marilynchambersMarilyn Chambers, star of the 1972 groundbreaking porno film Behind The Green Door, was found dead in her home in Canyon Country in northern Los Angeles County on Sunday, April 12, 2009. She was 56.

A struggling model/actress, with only a bit role in the Barbara Streisand film The Owl And The Pussycat (1970) to her credit, Chambers almost walked out of her audition for Behind The Green Door once she learned that the film was to be a porno. However, directors Artie and Jim Mitchell, noticing Chambers’s resemblance to actress Cybill Shepherd, convinced her star in their film, even granting her request for a $25,000 salary and a percentage of the film’s gross receipts. It was only after the film was completed did Chambers reveal to the brothers that she had a fairly visible public image as the box model for Ivory Snow. Capitalizing on that, the Mitchell brothers were able to secure a larger than normal distribution for their film by billing Chambers as the “99 and 44/100 per cent pure” girl.

Because of its promotion, Behind The Green Door would become of the first of several films that led the short-lived “porno chic” movement. Along with such films as Deep Throat and The Devil In Miss Jones, Behind The Green Door briefly made it fashionable for people to openly go to porn theaters and discuss the movies they saw there not just on a prurient level but as film. Writers such as Roger Ebert and publications such as the New Yorker magazine covered these films. Behind The Green Door even entered the mainstream public conciousness to the point where they would be referenced in jokes in the films Kentucky Fried Movie and Cannonball Run.

Chambers continued to work in porn, long after the porn chic boom went bust. Her fame helped land her the lead in an early David Cronenberg film- 1977’s Rabid. However,she would fail to find work with the major Hollywood studios, who were afraid of any controversy that could erupt from casting her in a mainstream film. More recently, Chambers has found work in a handful of small, independent pictures including Stash and Solitaire.

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About Rich Drees 7153 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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