Andy Warhol, the American born pop artist who created some of the most recognizable portraits of our time, immortalized Sally Todd in the 1972 film “Heat.” Although the film was unauthorized, starring Sylvia Miles in the role of Sally Todd, Warhol’s characterization of her places Sally Todd’s status among the Hollywood icons of her time. To understand Warhol’s intent, it is important to consider his installation of the twenty-four Marilyn Monroe portraits, defining his obsession with celebrity and death. We see her vibrant beauty change with each image, until she is faded to shades of grey. On so many levels we understand Marilyn’s tragic life, a stunning, talented woman hiding profound sadness and fragility. So, Warhol also portrayed Sally Todd.
The film “Heat” has a cult following, especially among the LBGT community; however, had Sally Todd known about her characterization, she would have denied the use of her name. She was not caught up in sensationalism of the great artist, who was as controversial as his work. Even after her retirement from the entertainment industry, Sally Todd protected her image and reputation, having won her film and television roles, without the need to make use of the casting couch. As Carol Lombard had done before her, Sally infamously turned down even the great studio head Harry Cohn. For the gorgeous Hollywood starlet, it was a decision that earned her the respect and admiration of some of the most powerful people in the movie industry.
In 1956, at the age of twenty-one, Sally Todd was signed to a contract with 20th Century Fox and the studio immediately offered the starlet the sex symbol roles, which Marilyn Monroe had begun to refuse. She nearly set the nations television and theater screens aflame with her gorgeous blonde looks and the kind of killer shape for which the term “Dangerous Curves” was created, and her image would forever burn in the imagination.
One of the few models appearing fully clothed, in Playboy magazine pictorials, Sally was so popular with readers, that she was chosen as the February 1957 Playmate of the Month. Refusing to appear completely au naturel, Sally chose a sexy, over the shoulder shot, glancing discretely in a full-length mirror, at her shapely derrière. Sally’s gorgeous figure was also featured on major album covers and magazines of the day. Throughout the 1950’s, her immense physical appeal was displayed on television in The Untouchables, 77 Sunset Strip, M Squad, Rescue 8, and in 1960, with Elvis Presley, in G.I. Blues.
To describe Sally Todd’s personal life, she was notoriously a woman ahead of her time, living life to the full, fulfilling her dreams. Passionate, romantic and committed to her artistry, she recognized greatness and attracted great men into her life. Among her admirers, of note are the legendary James Dean, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Frank Sinatra and President John F. Kennedy. Truly she was a screen goddess, loved and admired by all who appreciated her depth, courage and beauty. What better way to define the phenomenal woman, then the woman who inspired such passion? She is today, still a Hollywood icon. -by Alicia St. John