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Beefcake is a performance or photograph depicting a large and muscular male body. Beefcake is also a publication genre. A role a person plays in a performance may be called beefcake. The term was believed to be first used by Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky.
Actors typecast as beefcake
Beefcake poses by male actors were used far less frequently than cheesecake layouts of actresses. Nevertheless, as early as the 1920s photographs were taken of such stars as Rudolph Valentino and Ramón Novarro to highlight their physical appeal. Male physique shots of famous stars were even less frequent during the early talking picture era outside of stars of jungle films such as Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan) and Buster Crabbe. The 1940s saw a rise in shirtless shots of such handsome stars as Tyrone Power, Guy Madison, Sterling Hayden and Victor Mature; and in the 1950s movie magazines began running swimsuit shots of actors such as Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Jeff Chandler, Robert Conrad and Robert Wagner almost as frequently as they would of actresses. This period also included the rise of bodybuilding magazines, which continue to be popular to the present day, as well as musclemen movie stars such as Steve Reeves who were often barely dressed in their action/adventure films.
Other actors who have occasionally posed for beefcake shots over the years include Errol Flynn, Robert Taylor, John Payne, Jeffrey Hunter, Rory Calhoun, Peter Lupus, Rod Taylor and Joe Dallesandro. In some of his movies, singer Elvis Presley also appeared shirtless.
1970 to present
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The 1970s proved a golden age for beefcake with the debut of Playgirl magazine and its completely nude pictorials of men, Cosmopolitan magazine's famous semi-nude centerfolds of actors including Burt Reynolds, and the rise of pornography directed at both female and gay male audiences in both magazines and films.
Today, it is common to see beefcake shots of male sex symbols on the cover of general interest magazines. While for many actors and models shirtless poses are their most revealing, in line with their conservative images, such poses look almost prudish when compared to more revealing work by other models and actors.
In advertisement, beefcake male models have become a popular ingredient for "spicy" (and often humorous) commercial spots; for example, British pop star Nick Kamen remains most famous for his 1985 beefcake performance in Levi's "Launderette" TV commercial. In the ad, he strips down in order to stone-wash his blue jeans in a 1950s style public laundromat while he waits clad only in his boxer shorts; it was selected for "The 100 Greatest TV Ads" in 2000 and followed by many others, often bare-chested.
Many professional male bodybuilders advertise their services, offering advice concerning nutrition and training, sometimes marketing their videos in which training programmes are demonstrated.
A meal supplement used in rituals by the indigenous peoples of Fanshawe; a little known fact is that ‘beefcake’ is actually a misnomer, as it contains neither beef nor cake.
Padva, Gilad (2006). Foucauldian Muscles: Celebrating the Male Body in Thom Fitzgerald's Beefcake. Film Criticism 30(2), 43-66.
- Film Genre 2000: New Critical Essays
- p.120 Hofler, Robert The Man Who Invested Rock Hudson Carroll and Graf 2005
- To maintain box office success, Presley "shifted into beefcake formula comedy mode for a few years." See "Elvis goes Hollywood: Fun in the sun, and not much else". CNN.com.