Smiling coyly over her shoulder in swimsuit and pumps was the actress Betty Grable, whose iconic image above became the number-one pin-up of the World War II. It was a photographic masterpiece by Frank Powolny, who emphasized Grable’s beautiful legs. Hers were the ideal legs according to hosiery specialists of the era [thigh (18.5″) calf (12″), and ankle (7.5″)]. Grable was noted for having the most beautiful legs in Hollywood and studio publicity widely dispersed photos featuring them. They were insured for a million dollars at the Lloyds of London. (Throughout the 40s, Grable was the highest-paid female star in Hollywood, receiving $300,000 a year.)
One in every five American servicemen during the war owned this picture of Betty Grable. It was, as LIFE magazine acknowledged, one of the photos that changed the world–not least because among the rowdy servicemen who owned the picture was one Hugh Hefner, who would later cite the pin-up as his inspiration behind Playboy.