The Yale Posture Photos: James Franciscus

The fabled Ivy League nude posture photos have been written about but seldom seen. Incoming college students were photographed fully nude to gauge posture, detect scoliosis, and address other correctable body issues… all while emotionally scarring the participants. Talk show host Dick Cavett joked about it in his early stand-up routines but had a much darker view of the experience 50 years later in a New York Times Op Ed piece.

In recent years, the Yale photos have garnered the most press, with tongues wagging at the possibilities of seeing our country’s best and brightest in the buff. The photos in question were so rare that most online articles on the subject did not actually feature any of them, opting to show similar medical textbook illustrations or military posture pics such as the WWII-era St. Mary’s College Navy Pre-Flight School photos, which I have written about here and here.

In the past year, choice examples of the photos featuring male freshman Yalies from 1937-1960 have begun to trickle out on eBay. It was only a matter of time before some familiar names began to pop up. Writer Calvin Trillin‘s photo went for a little over $100, while the pic of late actor James Franciscus pulled in a whopping $1,225.

Younger readers might not remember Franciscus – the dashing star of half a dozen television series and over 30 films. There is a fan site that dubs him The Patron Saint Of Cool. He was not afraid to show some skin over the course of his career, particularly in Beneath The Planet Of The Apes (1970).

In her memoir and in a recent segment on The Tonight Show, Jane Fonda remembers him as her first love…and the best kiss she ever had.


They met while working together in summer stock when she was 18 and he was 20.

“He walked me out to the end of a pier and he kissed me,” she recalled. “The stars began to whirl and the pier began to shake, and my knees gave way and I slid down to a pile at his feet…. I’ve never had a kiss like that ever since.”

As for his Yale photo, which was taken the year before…. unfortunately, we don’t get to see the full Franciscus. The image posted for the public auction has a strip of paper blocking the view. For just $1,225, the high bidder is now enjoying the unedited 8″x10″ all by themselves.

See also:
Men of St.Mary’s Pre-Flight School
Boys of Summer: St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School
Christmas At St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School, Pt. I
Christmas At St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School, Pt. II
80 Years Ago: The Men of St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School
More Men of St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School

8 thoughts on “The Yale Posture Photos: James Franciscus

  1. There needs to be some consideration of the attitude toward male nakedness during the first three-quarters of the twentieth century. Boys swam naked in public and private school phys ed classes. Boys and men swam naked at YMCA and other such facilities. I remember my mother taking me to a “Y” to sign me up for summer day-camp. The director of the “Y” told us, “We use the swimsuit that nature has provided.” My mother didn’t bat an eye. I expect that the naked posture photos taken by universities were not so traumatizing for most the students at the time as we might think today. James Franciscus’s boyhood experiences may have made him more willing to be nude for Hollywood.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just came across this article because I was search for Ivy League dress style (ironically) because my dad went to Yale in the early 50s and he said everyone wore white bucks, chino pants and a madras shirt with a sport coat. So he always tries to be the opposite with suede desert boots and a flannel shirt. He also complained he had to go to posture class he was a freshman and walk around with a book on top of his head and thought it was ridiculous. He never said anything about a photo but this is crazy. I don’t really think it would be normal to have your photo taken in the nude. Swimming was a different subject. But with a photo it can get in the wrong hands. Anyway, he got out of there by figuring out a way for Yale to give him a leave of absence for a year and go back, then he started his own business in a field he had always wanted to work in, and when it came time to go back to Yale, he thought it over, but went to California instead, and continued to grow his company. He just wasn’t a conformist. He also told me the buildings looked shoddy. No love lost for him leaving that place!


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