Francis Ford Coppola: The Godfather of Skin Flicks
The dirty secret of Francis Ford Coppola‘s long and otherwise impressive career is that his first few films were nudie pictures.
Coppola grew up in an artistic family that had long been involved with the music and film industry. His father played the flute professionally and his mother was an actress. When he was nine, Coppola got sick with Polio and was bedridden for a year. As he recounted many times after, it was during this time that he realized his love for storytelling. Coppola would watch television for hours and play around with puppets.
This passion led him to enroll in Hofstra University, where he planned to become a playwright. (He later confessed that an added incentive for him to pursue theater was because that’s where all the pretty girls were.) He majored in theater arts and wrote several musicals there including one called The Delicate Touch, which was about a school for pickpockets. But one day, Coppola saw a silent movie called October: Ten Days that Shook the World that impressed him so deeply that he decided to switch from screenwriting to film making. He entered UCLA’s film school and was soon behind the camera… making his first skin flick. These films were mainly a way for Coppola to support himself in his early years. Coppola’s first full feature film was a nudie picture called Tonight For Sure, which came out in 1962 when he was just 22 years old. According to Variety, this movie has more nudity in it than most of the other adult-only pictures coming out in that period. Meanwhile, they describe the storyline as completely “ridiculous.” The movie takes place in a Hollywood burlesque house and features “two definitive dirty old men who fashion themselves as moral crusaders.” Essentially, the film is a commentary against Puritan censorship of so-called indecent behavior. And naturally, the movie is loaded with strippers.
Besides this film, Coppola also wrote a cute script for a skin flick called The Peeper. The main character in the movie tried many tricks to see girls naked (like buying a telescope), but each time, his plans were somehow foiled. Later, two producers came up to Coppola and offered to buy the rights to The Peeper if he would mix it into a more questionable film they were working on. In this movie, a cowboy had fallen off his horse, hit his head on a rock and somehow every time he looked at a horse or cow thereafter, he would only see a naked woman.
Coppola, always in need of money, agreed and this film actually led to his next and final skin flick, Bellboy and the Playgirls. “This German sex comedy centers on a bellhop who prepares for his dream job of becoming a detective by spying on half-naked [showgirls] through a keyhole,” according to The New York Times. Coppola was brought on to add some 3d scenes featuring nude women to make the film even more eye-catching.
While Coppola largely avoided discussing these early films in later years, it’s still worth noting that this gave him his first taste of professional film making experience. And he only had to wait a few more years until he got the chance to write the screenplay for Patton and won his first Academy Award.
Here is a clip of Coppola (briefly) discussing this stage of his career on Inside the Actor’s Studio. To see an excerpt from the Bellboy and the Playgirls, click here. But be warned: not only is it low quality film making, but the footage itself is ripped from an old VHS.