To attain stardom is a dream many people nurture and that was the case of beauty queen Simone Silva who vowed she would “do anything to be a star” including baring her boobs for the press in the 1950s – a conservative era.
At the Cannes Film Festival in the spring of 1954, Simone saw her opportunity and took it.
Posing on a beach at the Festival, her naked boobs in her hands and Robert Mitchum, Hollywood’s hottest idol, behind her, the beaming beauty knew this was her moment. The flame-haired 26-year-old smiled for the cameras and gave her raunchiest pose, sticking out her buttocks, while photographers and members of the press jostled for position to take the perfect shot.
She had spent eight years, plus her wealthy husband’s fortune, chasing fame and her moment has come so she did not hesitate to whip off her her bikini top when the time came. Photographers went crazy In the ensuing scuffle, one photographer broke his leg while another fractured an arm, but the pictures made newspapers around the globe in that spring of 1954.
Sadly for Simone, the scandal that ensued proved disastrous and rather than give her the stardom she deserved, led to her being kicked out of Cannes for her “vulgar” stunt. She did not give up, instead, tried to capitalise on the notoriety it gave her.
That would have been the stuff of dreams for Simone, the most fame-hungry wannabe of the 1950s. Her Cannes’ picture, reappeared in the Mirror yesterday, again receiving the exposure for which she yearned. She failed in that too and had to return to Britain broke, divorced and disillusioned. Two years later, she died from a stroke, at the age of just 29, her body ravaged from constant crash-dieting in search of a film star figure.
When Simone was found dead in November 1957, Donald Zec, Daily Mirror’s showbiz writer, wrote an article on her, headlined: “Tragedy of a poor little rich girl.”
It read: “She was the starlet who never became a star . . . the girl who tried to buy fame and failed, because she lacked the one thing money can’t buy, TALENT.”
But recent occurrences have shown that Simone’s problem wasn’t exactly a lack of talent but that she was born 60 years too early, before the time of reality TV, social media, blogs and vlogs, which all helped to make it possible for talentless people like her to become celebrities. The exact same stunts Simone pulled which led her nowhere are the same things producing stars in this era.
Sixty-three years after Simone’s stunt, two other beautiful young women used the Cannes Film Festival and a very similar photo to get attention online, something Simone would have given anything for. Model Bella Hadid, 20, grabbed the boobs of her pal Emily Ratajowski, 25, at a yacht party on Wednesday night – a pose similar to Simone’s pose years back. And the raunchy Instagram image went viral, giving credence to the conclusion that Simone’s failure had not been as a result of her method but was because of the time in which she was born.
Simone did everything that made Kim famous today, yet she never attained fame. She exploited her hour-glass curves in endless photo shoots, but also took acting classes, like a Fifties Kelly Brook. She harnessed her sizzling sex appeal, like a latter-day Kim Kardashian, wearing provocative transparent dresses, boasting:
“I’m out to be the sexiest thing on two legs.”
On a chilly night in November 1951, she stepped out in a cut-away, bra-baring gown similar to what celebrities wear in recent times that gets them a nod of approval. Simone also changed her name, like most stars do, from Silver to Silva, explaining:
“I thought it would be less strain when writing autographs.”
Simone was born in Egypt to French-Italian parents but moved to London at the age of 18 when she married a very wealthy man, Jimmy Silver. They lived in an elegant apartment in posh Kensington and Jimmy showered her in jewels, mink coats and designer dresses but none of them made her happy. She desperately wanted to be a movie star and began posing for pin-up mags and entered beauty contests.
In an interview in 1951, the then 22-year-old told Daily Mirror’s Zec: “My husband knows that only stardom will make me happy. I know I have sex appeal and am exotic. I know I have talent to act, sing or dance.”
When she failed to get signed by big studios, she blamed “bad luck”, but she did land a small role, as a beauty pageant contestant in Lady Godiva Rides Again. However, that was not good enough for her.
“I would give anything to prove that I can be a star,” she said at the time.
The year after, she got a part in a raunchy film called Street Of Shadows. Reports have it that she was “a little over-enthusiastic” in a bedroom scene, prompting a red-faced cameraman to tell her:
“Miss Silva, the nightdress has dropped into the X-rated category.”
In 1954, Simone’s husband divorced her over an affair with actor Bonar Colleano and that was the same year she went to the Cannes festival and struck the famed pose. She had moved out of her husband’s big house and lived in a smaller flat but her major concern was her physical appearance. She told Zec:
“I shall have to economise now — but not on my hairdos or my manicures. This is more important to me than food. I am all the goods I have to sell. I must look after them properly. I’ll get there – with luck.”
That day, Zec left her reading a book by a Hollywood director called It Takes More Than Talent. Soon after, she went to America on a tourist visa and was offered a contract by an independent filmmaker. But in June 1954, US immigration found she was working and had not shown the “unusual ability, talent or professional attainment” to get herself an employment visa. She was booed out the following year, despite lodging appeals and her ex-husband paid for her boat fare home. Zec wrote that upon Simone’s return, she was “angry, disillusioned and almost penniless” and he urged her to do some heart-searching about her future.
He said: “She thought she could bulldoze her way to stardom using the Marilyn Monroe technique — hips, bust and boomps-a-daisy. But she became the pin-up on the barrack room wall . . . she got nowhere very fast indeed.”
But Simone could still not give up on her dream. Two weeks before she died — alone in her flat with just her fur coats, glamorous gowns and less than £2,000 to her name — she tried her luck to reach stardom one last time. She took part in the ITV amateur talent show Bid For Fame, a 1950s version of Britain’s Got Talent, where she flirted with the host before singing two songs. Sadly, she failed again as viewers voted in favour of a schoolboy magician. That last failure is believed to have broken her heart and she died days later.
Simone’s Cannes’ picture, reappeared in the Mirror yesterday, giving her the exposure she desperately yearned for while she was alive but never got.