Chili Williams — The Polka-Dot Girl

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   Known as "The Polka Dot Girl" of World War II pinups, Chili Williams (born Marian Sorenson Uhlman in 1922) was discovered by a modeling agent in 1943 at Fire Island in New York. The modeling agent's photographer, Ewing Krainin, took her picture while she was frolicing in the Atlantic Ocean surf, and a series of photos appeared in the September 27, 1943 issue of LIFE Magazine. Krainin had stitched together a black-and-white polka-dot dance-set (which would later come to be known as the "bikini") for her. The photos were so well received, that 100,000 fans sent in letters requesting copies. The pinups eventually found their way into the hands of homesick GIís fighting during the final phases of World War II. She signed a movie contract later in 1944 and moved to Hollywood, California, where she appeared appeared in 17 films, including the wartime favorites "Girl Rush" (1944), "The Falcon In Hollywood" (1944), "George White's Scandals" (1945), "Johnny Angel" (1945), "Wonder Man" (1945), and "Having A Wonderful Crime" (1945). Chili died on October 17, 2003.

   Reprinted below are the photos and text from an April 10, 1944 LIFE Magazine article on the "art of camouflage." Just like a cheesecake shot of Betty Grable had been used to capture the attention of men being trained to read maps (by overlaying a grid over her photo), Chili posed for a series of photos designed to convey the basic principles of camouflage to servicemen who might have been otherwise bored with a typical lecture about such a subject.
Speaking of Pictures ... Chili Williams is working for the Army.

   Chili Williams is the girl whose photograph in LIFE (September 27, 1943) brought a record-breaking deluge of over 100,000 requests for her picture, [and] made her No. 1 pinup girl of the armed forces. On [the] strength of this, Miss Williams won a screen test in Hollywood, and has been languishing there ever since.

   But she has not been altogether idle. In need of a dramatic device to stimulate what they call their "visual aids" teaching methods, the Army Engineers, who are renowned for their inventiveness, enlised Chili's help. The camouflage section at Ft. Belvoir, Va had photographer Ewing Krainin make the pictures on these pages for their lantern-slide lectures on camouflage. By thus using Chili, says the Army official release, "vital principles are impressed in the minds of camouflage students in a most effective manner." Honor students are awarded copies of the photographs.

   In Hollywood, the best that the movies have been able to do with Chili were the poses shown on the next page. Challenged by Army engineers, Hollywood may now do something worthwhile with Chili Williams. Above: IN CAMOUFLAGE, Natural Materials Break Up Characteristic Shapes ... .

   All text and photos are © LIFE Magazine.

Above: IN CAMOUFLAGE, Quick Opening Covers Must Work ... .

Above: IN CAMOUFLAGE, The Air View Must Be Considered ... .

Above: IN CAMOUFLAGE, Blend Your Truck With Other Shapes & Shadows ... .

Above: IN CAMOUFLAGE, Shadows Reveal Or Conceal ... .

Above: IN CAMOUFLAGE, Maintain Disguise To Elude the Enemy ... .

Above: IN CAMOUFLAGE, Dress To Fit Your Background ... .

Above: IN CAMOUFLAGE, Decoys Divert the Attacker ... .

   A series of Chili Williams' poses, stunts, and love scenes is played out below with Warner Bros.' Stephen Richards ...

  — click on Chili's polka-dot bikini to go to the top ...