8 Decades of The Hollywood Reporter
Helen Gurley Brown, who died Aug. 13 at 90, was the Candace Bushnell of her day after she penned 1962's Sex and the Single Girl. Writing the nonfiction guide would eventually transform the 40-year-old wife of producer David Brown (who made Jaws and Driving Miss Daisy and died in 2010; they had no children) into the designated mouthpiece for her generation's take (as Bushnell's was with Sex and the City) on pop culture sexuality. Brown's fame reached another level when the book was turned into the 1964 Warner Bros. film, about which The Hollywood Reporter noted, "One thing that can be said for the title of Sex and the Single Girl — it describes the picture." The comedy that starred Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, for which Catch-22 author Joseph Heller wrote the screenplay, made $4.2 million domestically. It was one of the top 20 highest grossing films of the year. The film pushed Brown forward as the woman who'd discuss sex anytime, anywhere with an American public that was just exiting the straight-laced '50s and about to enter the anything-but-straight-laced '60s. There wasn't a television talk show where Brown couldn't be seen. Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner says Brown approached him after Single Girl about getting a job. She wanted to do a female version of Playboy. Unfortunately, he'd just had a flop with Show Business Illustrated and didn't have the funds to start another title. "So she approached Hearst, and they hired her to turn Cosmopolitan into a version of Playboy," says Hefner. "In the early days, they even had a little symbol like our bunny, a pussycat that appeared at the end of every article. In a parody tribute to Playboy, she even did a nude centerfold with Burt Reynolds."