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The Tragic Life and Death of Marilyn Chambers, Ivory Snow Girl & Adult Actress

Marilyn Chambers was an adult film actress during the “porno chic” era of the 1970s and 1980s. Often called the “The Golden Age of Porn” because adult films during this time had higher artistic value and many achieved mainstream commercial success. In this video, we’ll take a look at the details of Marilyn Chambers’s life. From Ivory Soap Commercial Girl to adult film icon.

            Early Life & Family

Marilyn Chambers was born in 1952 in Providence, Rhode Island. Her birth name was Marilyn Ann Briggs. She’s raised in Westport, Connecticut. Her mother was a nurse and her father worked in advertising. She had two older siblings, a brother and a sister. Her brother was the keyboardist in the 1960s band, The Remains. Who opened for the Beatles in their final US tour in 1966.

            As a teenager, Marilyn dreamed of becoming an actress and started modeling at the age of 16. She would fake her mother’s signature to get out of school so she could ride a train into the city for auditions.

            When she was still in high school, she landed several small modeling jobs and a minor role in the 1970 film The Owl and The PussyCat. Starring Barbra Streisand who played a part-time prostitute in the movie. We’ll take a look at the details of Marilyn Chambers’s life, from Ivory Soap Commercial Girl to adult film icon.

            Ivory Soap Girl

            During her early modeling career, her most successful and memorable job was modeling as the “Ivory Soap Girl” on the Ivory Snow soap flake box. On the box, Marilyn posed as a mother holding a baby in order to sell the soap as a “mild and gentle soap for diapers and baby clothes.” There is a certain amount of irony about Marilyn the face of purity for the Procter & Gamble’s “Ivory Soap” brand. An irony that celebrated later on in her porn films. Almost every adult film she made featured a cameo of her Ivory Snow box.

            Behind The Green Door & The Golden Age of Porn (“Porno Chic”)

            After her small role in The Owl and the Pussycat, Marilyn struggled to land more roles. That year, she moved to San Francisco where she worked as a topless model, while continuing to seek acting jobs. In 1972, she saw an advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle about a casting call for a major motion picture. It’s not until she showed up to the audition that she realized it was for a pornographic movie called Behind the Green Door. The producers, Artie and Jim Mitchell (known as the Mitchell Brothers) noticed her resemblance to Cybill Shepherd and offered her the role on the spot.

Marilyn was unsure if she wanted to accept a role in an adult film, worrying that if she did, she would never be able to land a role in a mainstream movie. But she liked the plot of the movie and intrigued by the idea. So decided to accept the offer on the grounds that she received a hefty salary, 10 percent of the film’s gross, and that every actor be tested for venereal disease. The Mitchell Brothers initially surprised by her request but believing Chambers the wholesome blonde they needed for the role. They eventually agreed to her terms.

In the movie, Marilyn played a wealthy San Francisco socialite who is kidnapped and taken to an elite North Beach sex club where she partakes in a varitey of sexual experiences. Including lesbian acts and what is possibly the first interracial sex scene in a feature-length hardcore film. Oddly, however, it wasn’t a speaking role and she didn’t have a single line of dialogue in the film. Marilyn, however, saw this as a good thing because she had to rely completely on facial expressions, which she felt demonstrated that she could act.

It wasn’t until after the filming concluded that Marilyn informed the Mitchell Brothers that she was the girl on the Ivory Snow box. The Mitchell Brothers used this information to their advantage and billed her as the “99 and 44/100% impure girl,” in reference to Ivory Snow’s popular tagline “99 and 44/100% pure.” The advertising industry shocked and after discovering her new life as an adult film actress, Procter & Gamble quick to remove her image from the soap boxes.

But the fact that Marilyn’s image so well known boosted ticket sales and the film became a huge success. It made Marilyn into a star and Behind the Green Door, along with Deep Throat that released the same year, ushered in the “porno chic” era of adult films.

            The Golden Age of Porn or the “porno chic” era had started  in 1969 with Andy Warhol’s artsy adult film, Blue Movie. But both Behind The Green Door and Deep Throat starring Linda Lovelace, solidified porn’s newfound popularity in mainstream culture. During this time, that lasted until the early ‘80s, sexually explicit films received positive attention from mainstream movie theaters, movie critics, and the general public. The adult films in this era were plot-driven, had artistic filmography and good quality acting. We’ll take a look at the details of Marilyn Chambers’s life, from Ivory Soap Commercial Girl to adult film icon.

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Mainstream Crossover

After Behind the Green Door, Marilyn continued to work with the Mitchell Brothers on another adult film called The Resurrection of Eve. While the film wasn’t as big of a hit as Behind the Green Door, it did establish Marilyn’s all-American girl-next-door persona. The Mitchell Brothers became her manager but Marilyn was soon anxious to move on from adult films and into more mainstream work. She left the Mitchell Brothers and took up with Chuck Traynor who became her manager and later her husband. Traynor had recently divorced Linda Lovelace, the star of Deep Throat who he also managed. We’ll take a look at the details of Marilyn Chambers’s life, from Ivory Soap Commercial Girl to adult film icon.

Marilyn set her sights on achieving success as an actress outside of the adult film industry. She hoped that her celebrity status after Behind the Green Door would help her achieve this. Sadly, however, her success as a porn star only hurt what potential she had as a mainstream actress. She claimed she’s blackballed from Hollywood and despite the fact that Behind the Green Door a high-grossing film. Many people in Hollywood still saw it as nothing but a dirty movie. She labeled as a porno star and that label prevented her from ever taken seriously by Hollywood. 

Throughout the 70s, she was up for several big roles, but they all fell through. Apparently Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel talked to her about a potential role in the 1978 film Goin’ South. But during the interview all they did was ask her for cocaine and grilled her about intimate details concerning Behind the Green Door. She was so angry, she stormed out of the interview. Then, it seemed hopeful that she would cast in the film Hardcore opposite George C. Scott, a movie where she would have actually playing a porn star. But the casting director believed Marilyn looked too wholesome cast as a porn queen. She said they wanted someone who looked more cliche.

Though she never achieved the success as a mainstream actress that she had originally hoped for. She did have successes in a variety of roles outside of the adult film industry.

 Marilyn starred in several theater productions including The Mind With the Dirty Man in Las Vegas. She received favorable reviews for this show and the play ran for 52 weeks which. At the time, was the longest-running play in Las Vegas history. Accordingly, the mayor gave Marilyn a key to the city. She also starred in a short-lived musical revue off-broadway and a one-woman show in Vegas called Sex Surrogate in 1979. Which caused a good deal of controversy because it featured full-frontal nudity. A few years later, the play spun off as a 26-part television series called Love Ya, Florence Nightingale which broadcast on several cable TV channels including the Playboy Channel.

Marilyn Chambers also moved onto the music industry and had some chart success in 1976 with the disco single, “Benihana.” She was also the lead singer of a country and western band called Haywire that played gigs around Las Vegas. We’ll take a look at the details of Marilyn Chambers’s life, from Ivory Soap Commercial Girl to adult film icon.

In 1975, Chambers wrote an autobiography called My Story and in 1977 co-authored Xaviera Meets Marilyn Chambers with Xaviera Hollander. She also wrote several sex columns throughout her life and in 1981 she published two books. One called Sensual Secrets which contained her own personal sex tips and another sex manual called The Illustrated Kama Sutra.

Return to Porn Industry and Final Exit

Despite her endeavours to break free from her porn-star image. she returned to the adult film industry in 1980 with the film Insatiable. She felt she wasn’t getting as many projects as she had hoped. And decided to embrace her porn star status and return to the adult film industry. Insatiable was the top-selling adult video in America from 1980-1982. The film followed by a sequel. In the early 1980s, Chambers also wrote the scenarios and dialogue for a direct-to-video series called Marilyn Chambers’ Private Fantasies. Where she acted out her own personal fantasies with other famous porn stars of the time.

Shortly after, she left the porn industry again due to the increasing fear of the AIDS epidemic and wouldn’t return to it until 1999 in the film Still Insatiable.

Strip Club Career and Arrests

After leaving the adult film industry, she moved back to San Francisco to perform at the Mitchell Brothers’ O’Farrell Theatre in the Tenderloin neighborhood. In 1985, while she performing her nude act at the theater. She was arrested and charged with committing a lewd act in public and soliciting prostitution. The undercover police officers claimed she was allowing audience members to touch her during her act. The charges were later dropped.

However, that same year, she was arrested again in a strip club in Cleveland. This time, police claimed she was nude except for her shoes and was having sexual contact with an audience member.

Marriages & Addiction

Marilyn was married three times. The first to Doug Chapin in 1971. Who she met in San Francisco when he’s playing the bagpipes on the street. They divorced in 1974 and as we mentioned earlier, she married Chuck Traynor, her manager. They were together for 10 years.

            By the mid-80s, Marilyn consuming large amounts of alcohol and cocaine daily when she met the man who would become her third husband, William Taylor Jr,. A truck driver and recovering heroin addict. He encouraged her to also give up drugs and she entered Narcotics Anonymous shortly after they started dating. They married in 1991 and had one daughter together before divorcing in 1994.

Final Years and Death

            After retiring from adult films, she often participated in autograph shows and conventions where she was a popular attraction for fans.

In 2004, Chambers ran for vice president on the personal choice party ticket, a libertartian political party. And in 2008, she ran again as Charles Jay’s running mate as a write-in candidate in several states.

            While during much of her career, she defended her lifestyle choices and embraced sex positivity. Towards the end of her life, she seemed to have a different perspective. In a 2004 interview she called the adult film industry heart-breaking and said, “My advice to somebody who wants to go into adult films is: absolutely not!…It leaves you kind of empty. So have a day job and don’t quit it!”

            On April 12, 2009, Chambers was found dead by her 17 year old daughter in her home near Santa Clarita, California. The autopsy revealed that she had painkillers and antidepressants in her system but not enough to cause death. It was concluded that she died of a cerebral hemorrhage and an aneurysm related to heart disease. She was 56 years old.

            Despite her many hardships later in life and her failure at ever making it big as a mainstream actress, Marilyn Chambers remains an icon for her work as an adult film star. Do you think adult film stars during the porno chic era like Marilyn Chambers should have received more credit as serious actors and artists?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this video, make sure you give it a like and subscribe to our channel if you haven’t already.

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