Big Girl Blues
In the realm of enormous breasts, she had no equal. But there is more to this grindhouse icon's enduring qualities than oversized boobs... or is there?
When one glances at the hierarchy of blond bombshells, she is nowhere to be found. One reason may be that her platinum locks looked more dishwater than dreamy. As an actress she was awkward and artificial. She couldn't hold a winded candle to Marilyn Monroe, and made both of Norma Jean's wicked wannabes Mamie Van Doren and Jayne Mansfield appear positively majestic. Perhaps the only title she had a legitimate claim to was queen of the natural rack, since her size 77FF breasts literally defined the concept of a human oddity. Yet even with an endowment the size of a Harvard academic chair, a young scrumptious upstart named Uschi Digart robbed her of that tantalizing tit title at least in the hearts of most exploitation fans.
What is it, then, that makes Chesty Morgan such a lasting presence? Certainly it must be more than her mammoth mammaries. She remains a fabulously disastrous pop icon, a mesmerizing example of exaggerated excess as an ultimate, idealized female. Granted, such sexual stunt casting was par for the carnal course in the world of the grindhouse, but Chesty has managed to endure beyond her behemoth bosom, obtuse onscreen presence, and limited cinematic canon. She had the strange ability to transcend her tawdry trappings and gain the audiences' empathy. However, it was based more in morbid curiosity over her startling skin sacks than anything within her emotional control. The continued fascination with her incredibly fun film failures comes partly from her gigantic jugs. But there is also the enigma surrounding this short-lived carnal commodity, a factor that feeds directly into our desire to know more about the woman behind the jugs, knockers, or whatever your favorite word for boobies might be.
Morgan only made four films that anyone knows of, and while her cameo in Fellini's Casanova was more for her physical surreality than thespian prowess, her other efforts have been surefire stumbling showcases of supersized skin designed as softcore male fantasies. Yet they remain a lasting legacy to a time when marketable personal attributes were all one needed for a big screen career. Thanks to exploitation diva Doris Wishman, and her knowledge of the fabulous flesh freak shows that could be created using Chesty, this poor orphan from Poland became an instant idiosyncratic icon.
Much of this intriguing lady's early life is shrouded in mystery. What little that is known only amplifies the curiosity surrounding this accidental actress. Born Ilana Wilczkowsky in 1928, she lost her parents in childhood. When World War II broke out, she was sent to live in a kibbutz in Israel. Some time after the defeat of the Axis, Morgan made it to America and found fame flouncing her amazing chest at paying club patrons. Wishman first became aware of Chesty from her reputation on the striptease circuit. While no dancer in fact, lumbering would be a kind way of describing Chesty's level of limberness men still paid handsomely to see er, her.
Wishman, one of the few ladies to make a living in the man's man world of the grindhouse, saw substantial dollar signs in Ms. Morgan's mounds, and immediately sought to star her in one of her films. Upon meeting her, however, Doris learned the awful acting truth: Chesty was a lox. She had a Slavic accent thicker than a bowl of Solyanka and a screen presence that evoked fossilized rock. If one looked carefully, you could actually watch Morgan's performance fizzle and drift into the ether like the aroma of Jean Nate mixed with acetone. Still, with a pair of breasts that literally demanded male attention, Wishman prepared her first feature.
With a title lifted directly from the film's premise, Deadly Weapons starred Chesty as Crystal, a glamour gal living the swinging life of a successful '70s ad executive in oversized platform shoes and ill-fitting blouses. Crystal's business acumen seems directly linked to the fact that she has breasts the size of advertising blimps. When not "landing" a big client, she cares for her aging father, and sexes it up with her fiancé, who looks like he drinks Vitalis on the rocks. When a mob boss decides to bury some of his surplus ammunition in the chest of Ms. Morgan's maturing man friend, our blank faced bag of boobs decides to get revenge by using her gargantuan gazangas as knocker nanchakus. After bust smothering several henchmen, including a thankfully panted Harry Reams (one of the stars of the infamous Deep Throat), Chesty uncovers the startling truth about the kingpin's identity.
It's crucial to note that a great deal of Chesty Morgan's sexually legacy both then and now lies within the sawdust and sideshow elements of her carnality. Breasts may represent motherly comfort and obvious erogenous desire, but when they go from handfuls to humongous, something startlingly asexual occurs. It happens every time Chesty appears on camera. For some men, such epidermal excess becomes an erotic Everest. They want to climb those mountains, simply because they are so obviously "there" and lay claim to their corporeal glories. For others, it's Norman Bates time a chance to be horrified once again as memories of how their 'smother' emasculated their manhood. Morgan was the perfect combination of both. Her cleavage was a canyon for the typical male libido to get lost in for good and for bad.
Naturally, none of this was addressed outright in the movies Chesty made. In fact, director Doris Wishman's cinematic style can be best described as mise-en-mess, and Weapons captures this stream of unconsciousness disorder exquisitely. As a movie, it still remains a real hooter-esque hoot. The campy dialogue and flaccid plot are just an excuse to get Chesty in and (mostly) out of her clothes. Granted, Ms. Morgan remains an odd choice for a starlet, since she cannot speak intelligibly and has difficulty with involuntary motor functions, like sitting. Still you've got to love a gal whose idea of a sensuous ensemble is to wear panty hose over a girdle.
Wishman's point-at-anything-and-shoot style amplifies the weirdness, delivering moments where dialogue is accompanied by shots of an ashtray, or random peeks at outrageous interior decorating. With a thick-accented faux-leading lady whose only selling point is her enormous chest, Deadly Weapons is often all theatrical thumbs. The revenge plot never truly takes off, but serpents around until it lands on an ending. Chesty also has a few beauty "issues" overall; there is a harsh, war torn look to her facade, like she just finished a stint in the Gulag Archipelago hemming the Iron Curtain. Still, this is a movie high on campy unintentional humor and filled to the celluloid brim with unbelievably goofy non-acting. And, of course, there are the gigantic boobies.
Along with capturing a hyper-sensationalized view of skin, intended to amplify both male curiosity and desire, a Chesty movie lowered the already substandard bar of bad movies. Amazingly incompetent and narratively nonsensical, the films demand as much attention as Ms. Morgan's overripe melons. Hoping to strike while the flesh fire was good and engorged, Wishman dragged Chesty into another improbable performance. This time our stacked starlet plays Double Agent 73, also known as Jane, an undercover spy who is given the choice assignment of breaking crime boss Toplar's "low grade" heroin ring. In order to get the goods on the goon, she has a camera implanted in her teat, which she operates by the simple act of lifting and separating.
For some vague, incoherent reason the camera also contains a bomb. After thwarting a post surgical assassination attempt, and sporting a kicky new wig, it's time for secret agent super stupid to crack the case. The remainder of the film has Jane readily finding all the necessary drug connections, thwarting drug dealer advances (and superior motor skills) and stripping down to her trusty pantyhose and girdle to lift her tit and make like Annie Lebowitz (not Sprinkle). There is also an ephemeral subplot involving a guy named Tim (who may or may not be involved with the syndicate) who falls for our lady in eye lacquer. But just like Chesty's various hairpieces, it's sloppily tacked on.
Realizing that Deadly Weapons had too much plot, Doris Wishman decided to boil down it soil to its bare ass essentials. That means lots and lots of shots of Chesty Morgan topless. Granted, this will thrill those who thought the previous Wishman/Morgan epic too coherent and well acted. Still, Chesty's ample assets are an effective and priceless motion picture marketing device, like bullet time in The Matrix, or Sophia Coppola in Godfather III.
Unfortunately, Chesty looks even more bored, lost, and confused here than before, as if she knew that it was her rack, alone, that was carrying the picture. Her line delivery, even overdubbed, is pure monotone. Truly, there is no other reason to watch this movie than to see Chesty waddle painfully from one disconnected scene to another, simply to drop blou and let those mammoth mammaries undulate and sway. Alas, Chesty is a mountain in a world of molehills. As an actress, screen presence, and sex object, she's more Charles than Mamie Van Doren. This is either hilarious or pathetic take your pick. For many exploitation fans, it's the former that keeps them coming back, and the latter that leads them to love this lady.
Indeed, one of the chief reasons Chesty remains such a crazy kitsch icon is that her onscreen persona appears so sad and pathetic. Unlike other actresses in exploitation who appear to groove under the grindhouse lights, Morgan often appears utterly uncomfortable and downright distracted. Some could argue that it was merely her back giving her over the shoulder boulder holder fits, but the truth seems significantly more distressing. Chesty must have spent a horrible life being the center of sexual attention, men constantly milling about her like sharks, hungry for their next horny repast.
While avoiding such obvious issues would be next to impossible, one would assume that a certain truce with her invariable titillation tendencies would have been reached. After all, Chesty wasn't shy about using her gargantuan gifts when called upon Wishman found her in the bawdy burlesque circuit, after all. But film is forever, and you can read that realization all over Ms. Morgan's hound dog expression. Even in the throws of supposed ecstasy, Chesty looks like she's just been diagnosed with shingles.
It makes sense, then, that our reluctant reprobate left the business. Rumors spread of glamour fits while on set (so much so that a proposed third film in the Morgan/Wishman collaboration was made without the big-busted star) and her marriage to baseball umpire Dick Stello was causing Chesty to consider settling down. After an appearance in something called Third Hand (a made-in-Asia unknown) those fabulous flapjacks disappeared from the silver screen forever. While many actresses in the adult industry have followed her example and elephantined their breasts for the sake of some gimmicky shock value, Chesty remains the gold standard in enormous knockers.
As websites worship her and new fans flock to her films, it is clear that this fragile foreign femme will remain an enigma long after her fellow bottle blondes drop out of the cultural consciousness. True, her continuing allure is rather front loaded, and does derive from the incredible ineptitude of Wishman's work, but Chesty Morgan is more than just her bustline. She represents a spirit of survival that few in her position ever entertained. Had she continued on in films, she might have been even more of a lamentable laughing stock than she is now. Yet all post-modern mockery aside, Chesty and her 'charms; are one in a million and that's very rare in the world of the wanton. It's what keeps us coming back. It's what makes Ilana Wilczkowsky a pseudo-superstar.