jean harlow

Are you one of those people who love mentioning that Marilyn Monroe was a size 8/10/12/some other size that would be deemed overweight in Hollywood today? Get ready to be very depressed.

Our friends at our sister site Blistree found an article in a 1931 issue of Photoplay which cites the sizes of various actresses (like Marion Davies! Or Jean Harlow!). They’re all still slim by today’s standards. Blisstree notes:

The magazine lists the heights, weights and measurements of her contemporary female stars, such as Clara Bow, Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard and Greta Garbo. It’s pretty fascinating. The average height of the 21 actresses listed is 5’4″ (only one, Kay Francis, reached 5’7″). The average weight was 112.5 pounds, which would give someone 5’4″ a (healthy) BMI of 19.2.

The heaviest of the actresses listed was Irene Rich, though at 5’5″ and 134 pounds, she falls about smack dab in the middle of the healthy BMI-range. Alice White weighed just 98 pounds, but then again, she was only 5 foot tall (which puts her in a healthy BMI range, too).

So, okay, that may not live up to the kind of dream of old Hollywood that we have where it is a place where it is okay for women to be voluptuous.

This is sad.

However, I do think it’s interesting that most of the actresses cited from that period do have healthy BMIs. That’s not necessarily the case with actresses now. For instance, Angelina Jolie, who is often held up as being an example of extreme beauty, has a BMI of 17.9, and is 5’8 and 118 pounds. It seems a bit surprising that, while the height of actresses has certainly increased from 5’7, we’ve expected them to maintain approximately the same weight.

We should probably stop doing that.