HOLLYWOOD, June 18 (UPI) -- Imagine, if you can, the following:
Ingrid Bergman in a thong bikini.
Katharine Hepburn disporting her navel.
Greta Garbo in a nude sex scene.
Bette Davis displaying her undraped behind.
Audrey Hepburn topless.
Doris Day sporting a nose ring and tongue stud.
Grace Kelly doing a strip tease.
Vivien Leigh with a tattoo on her buttocks.
Norma Shearer in her bra and panties.
These classic actresses were prominent in the American Film Institute's greatest movie love stories of the past century when romance turned on the feminine mystique.
Compare those memorable romantic stars with today's foxes, sex kittens and babes who occupy the nation's screens in "There's Something About Mary," "Dumb and Dumber," "Me, Myself and Irene," "American Pie," "Unfaithful," "Basic Instinct" and "Shakespeare In Love."
Not that Hollywood films have stepped up sex and nudity, but young actresses, rock stars and wannabe babes are letting it all hang out.
Madison Avenue has plunged into nude exploitation with exhibitionist models peddling everything from feminine hygiene products to SUVs, frozen food, depilatories and most particularly diet nostrums.
No two ways about it, a nude or seminude female is perhaps the No. 1 attention-getter in America today. And perhaps that's always been the case.
Now the combination of women's liberation, accent on youth, waning puritanical morality, liberal attitudes and a growing sense of personal freedom is conducive to fewer restrictive taboos about nudity.
Take the belly button -- heretofore an anatomical feature long disassociated from libidinous agitation. It suddenly has assumed sensual significance.
It's getting so TV's tabloid shows, commercials and ads fasten more and more attention to starlets, actresses and rock stars who display their navels as readily as their boobs and backsides.
Today's fashion statement appears to be lowing-riding jeans or slacks considerably south of the navel and tops that barely cover breasts, leaving a broad expanse of female flesh historically hidden from public view.
There is no moral question here and there's no denying the style looks cute on post-adolescent females providing they border on the anorexic.
For those young women less blessed by nature the results are even less pleasing than short shorts worn by not so blessed teenage visitors to Disneyland.
What seems to be missing among today's most visible performers in Hollywood is elegance and the neglect of femininity, including the ages-old feminine mystique.
Filmmakers of the past produced movies with leading ladies wearing exquisite gowns and appealing wardrobe from neck to knee that covered the essential treasures inherent in females the world over.
Clever designers allowed audiences a hint of the curves, planes and arcs of the female form without revealing the basic designs of nature.
As every woman knows, and has known since Adam and Eve, a female's greatest physical asset is in the minds of men who only imagine what lies beneath their outer garments, be they the bearskins of prehistory or today's Armani silk.
Yes, men and boys will goggle at Britney in outfits that barely cover her essentials, leaving little to anyone's imagination.
Even Marilyn Monroe's nude calendar photograph that set the world on its ear did not approach Marilyn's pose above the subway vent on a New York street, billowing her skirt above her waist as she strove (perhaps not too successfully) to retain her natural female modesty.
By today's skinny standards of the ideal feminine form divine, Marilyn may be adjudged somewhat over-pulchritudinous.
As we approach the 40th anniversary of her death at age 36 (Aug. 5,1962) it should be remembered that Marilyn, the greatest sex symbol in Hollywood history, knew very well that what made her appealing was what she projected as a sensual woman, not altogether her physical attributes.
In one of her best remembered quotes, Marilyn incorporated personal thoughts that should be memorized by today's publicity stars peeling for photographers:
"In Hollywood a girl's virtue is much less important than her hairdo.
"You're judged by how you look, not by what you are. Hollywood's a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul.
"I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents."
Perhaps that's why Hollywood's foremost glamour girl and perennial sex object is remembered and revered today.
She kept the world at arm's length by maintaining an inborn and magical mystique.