“I don’t think anyone knew I could act until I put on a bathing suit,” Deborah Kerr said, after the 1953 film made cinema history. Indeed, given the British star’s reputation as chilly and prim, Kerr was playing against type as the adulterous Karen Holmes, who becomes embroiled in a torrid affair with Sgt. Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster). Lancaster and Kerr shot their characters’ illicit clinch at Halona Cove on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, a location that became a tourist destination after the movie made it famous.
At first, the pair shot their kiss standing up, but it was reportedly Lancaster’s idea to reshoot it lying down. The result was so steamy that the MPAA banned the use of still photos of the scene in ads for the movie, and many moviegoers saw a shortened version of the scene because projectionists would snip a few frames as souvenirs. Parodies (notably, on TV’s Your Show of Shows and in the movie Airplane!) have made it clear how uncomfortable and soggy such a tryst might be in real life, but they’ve done nothing to diminish the iconic power of the original scene.
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