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Seven Must-See Bathtub Moments in Cinema

From mermaids to melancholy, we examine some of the best bathing scenes in film’s history to mark National Bubble Bath Day

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Pretty Woman, 1990(Film still)

The ‘IRL’ bathroom is usually a place reserved for peace, self-care and reflection. However, on-screen it takes on a very different purpose; more often than not as a cinematic fixture it represents turbulent relationships, carnal desire and bloodlust (thank you, Alfred Hitchcock, for forever rendering the shower curtain a thing of terror).

Today is National Bubble Bath Day, so we thought it fitting to revisit some of film’s best bathing scenes: from Daryl Hannah as a mermaid with prosthetic fins, to Natalie Wood losing her mind, and Julia Roberts affectionately calling her fellow cast and crew members “fuckers”. Enjoy!

1. Pretty Woman (1990)

Pretty Woman’s Vivian (played by Julia Roberts) singing a discordant version of Prince’s Kiss surrounded by soapsuds is arguably one of the most famous bathtub scenes in history. Brilliantly, as Roberts submerged under the bubbles in response to being offered $3,000 to spend a week with Edward Lewis, (played by Richard Gere), director Garry Marshall played a trick on the actress by having the entire cast and crew leave the set. This resulted in an outtake with Roberts resurfacing, realising the prank, and screaming: “Where did you go?! Everybody left, you fuckers!”

2. Fatal Attraction (1987)

The concluding scene of Fatal Attraction, in which Alex ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ Forrest is drowned and then shot in a bath, almost had an entirely different outcome. The original ending would have seen Michael Douglas’ character framed for murder, with Forrest coming out on top. Yet, the director insisted that the audience would want to see justice being served for the boiled bunny, amidst the other foul deeds that Forrest had committed as revenge for being slighted by her lover Dan. Close was absolutely horrified by this decision, exclaiming, “You can take me in a straitjacket, but you can’t make me do it,” siding with critics of the film for its sexist portrayal of women. If that wasn’t bad enough, Close ended up catching an eye and nose infection as a result of having her head dunked underwater more than 50 times. Where is the justice in that? 

3. Some Like it Hot (1959)

In his book Some Like it Hot: Me, Marilyn and the Movie, Tony Curtis – who played Joe/Josephine in the 1959 rom-com directed by Billy Wilder – recalls how Marilyn Monroe was feeling rather fragile on the day they shot the scene in the bathtub, having been sick the day before with a fever of 102. “It took all day to get a two and a half minute scene of her talking to me in the bathroom,” he writes. “It wasn’t because she was bad, she was more than good, but when she was in a close-up, with the emphasis on her, the responsibility on her, something happened.”

4. Barry Lyndon (1975) 

Anyone familiar with the work of Stanley Kubrick will be aware of his obsession with the bathroom. Lolita (1962) is his first film that subtly used the space as a representation of carnal, human desire and bodily functions, followed by A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999), to name but a few. One of Kubrick’s cinematographically groundbreaking films is Barry Lyndon, a 1975 British-American period drama based on the 1844 novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Thackeray. Lit entirely by candlelight, with the set inspired by William Hogarth paintings, Kubrick shot multiple takes of every scene. This was a particular source of discomfort for Marisa Berenson, who played Lady Lyndon, during the scene in which she sits semi-clothed in a bath. Of course, the water grew cold during the long hours of filming, with Kubrick allowing it to be replaced with hot water only if the level stayed precisely the same.

5. Girl, Interrupted (1999)

The metaphor of the bath in cult 90s drama Girl, Interrupted denotes that Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) – an institutionalised teenager diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder – has the ability to help herself, unlike many of the women she resides with at Claymore Psychiatric Hospital. Nurse Valerie, played by Whoopi Goldberg, throws Susanna in a tub of cold water in an act of tough love; all she has to do is get out if she so chooses, just as she has the ability to snap out of her spell of depression and pattern of self-destructive behaviour. Despite Kaysen’s vile racial slurs, the two reconcile later in the film after the death of Daisy, who commits suicide by hanging herself from the shower of a powder-pink bathroom suite.

6. Splendor in the Grass (1961)

Winona Ryder must have taken notes from Natalie Wood’s bathtub-based performance in Splendor in the Grass, where her sexually repressed character Deanie Loomis soaks in hot water before breaking down in hysteria over questioning about the state of her virginity. In a shocking move for the time and for a mainstream actress, Wood had agreed to be filmed nude in the scene. Although these shots were censored by Hollywood in the final cut, she does bare her naked wrist for the first time on-screen; Wood normally wore a chunky bracelet or long sleeves to hide a jutting bone which she thought to be unsightly.

7. Splash (1984)

Splash is the hit 1980s interspecies love story between a mermaid and a human, played by an ethereal, bleach-blonde Daryl Hannah as Madison and Tom Hanks as Allen, who she saved from drowning as a young boy. In a scene that sees Madison transform from woman to fish, she runs an early morning salt-bath in Allen’s apartment, and her prosthetic fins slowly emerge. The fins in questions took eight hours to put on, so Hannah rarely ate or drank on set, so as not to cause herself any inconvenience. The film was such a commercial success that as well as the soundtrack release on both vinyl and cassette, T-shirts, badges – and even bath towels – were created as promotional merchandise. 

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