Saturday, 21 May 2016

Smouldering Sirens: Sabrina

In which G.M. Norton remembers one of the biggest stars of the 1950s.


I’m afraid that if you were to search the internet for ‘Sabrina’, most of the results will be for a teenage witch from the 1990s. 

If you’re from an older generation or like me, have an interest in previous eras, then Sabrina will bring up something altogether quite different in the ‘search result’ of your mind.
If you’ve never heard of her before, Sabrina was one of the most famous British pin-ups of the 1950s, with an impossibly-proportioned 42½-18-36 figure. With those frankly absurd curves and flowing golden locks, Sabrina was what one might call a ‘blonde bombshell’, following in the dainty footsteps of Marilyn Monroe, Diana Dors and Jayne Mansfield.
Alive and kicking and residing in North Hollywood, on Thursday, Sabrina turned 80. Given this momentous occasion, I thought it was only right to induct her as a Smouldering Siren.

Born in Stockport in 1936, only a few miles from where I reside, Sabrina’s real name was Norma Ann Sykes. 

As a child, she was terribly poorly with polio, so spent more time eating hospital food than school dinners. 

By all accounts, when Norma did go to school, she became a champion swimmer, specialising in the breast stroke, of all things. 
At the age of 16, Norma travelled down to London to seek her fame and fortune. Of course, modelling was the obvious first step. A couple of years later, aged 18, she received her big break; a role on the Arthur Askey television programme, Before Your Very Eyes. The somewhat caricature Sabrina was born.
With her voluptuous figure beamed into homes across the country, I can only imagine that Sabrina became the talk of the nation. Indeed, she became the talk of The Goon Show, with regular mentions on their radio programme. “By the measurements of Sabrina!” being my personal favourite. 

Soon, film roles followed, including Blue Murder at St Trinian's. Such was her appeal that Sabrina was given equal billing to the one and only Alastair Sim in the St Trinian's promotion (to be fair, Sim only appeared in two scenes). Disappointingly, Sabrina wasn’t given a single line in the film. In fact, her role simply involved reading a book in bed. 
Unsurprisingly, Sabrina received attention wherever she bounced. Rumour has it that Frank Sinatra wanted to date her. Well, who could blame him? 

With her showbiz career centred on the twin assets of her 42.5-inch chest, Sabrina apparently insured them for the princely sum of £100,000. 
After failed attempts at carving out a career in Hollywood, she met a wealthy gynaecologist who quickly took her up the aisle in 1967. They divorced ten years later.

Sabrina is a true icon of British culture and should never be forgotten. Thankfully, there’s a Sabrina fan site which passionately pieces together every facet of her existence. It’s worth a look if the charming Sabrina has caught your attention.


G.M. Norton
Protagonist of 'Norton of Morton'


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2 comments:

  1. By the sweaters of Sabrina!

    I did her as one of my 'forgotten bombshells' a few years back, it's so strange that she's faded from cultural memory. The Audrey Hepburn film 'Sabrina' had to be renamed 'Sabrina Fair' in the UK so as not to disappoint cinemagoers expecting the blonde bombshell.

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    1. It is very strange indeed! Perhaps it's the increasing political correctness. Given Sabrina's impact, she deserves to be remembered. I will see out your 'forgotten bombshells' - splendid! Fascinating fact on Sabrina Fair too. I'd wager that St Trinian's cinemagoers were more than a little disappointed.

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