R.I.P. Yvette Mimieux, the first actress to bare her belly button on TV

By: Start TV Staff     Posted: January 19, 2022, 10:22AM

In 1951, the National Association of Broadcasters established its Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters. Amongst many other things, the regulations prohibited the display of a woman's navel. The Code stood in place until 1983, though shows had been disobeying the rules for years.

Yvette Mimieux was no stranger to a swimsuit. The Southern California girl had starred in Where the Boys Are (1960). She played Melanie Tolman, one of the four Midwestern girls coming of age on spring break in Fort Lauderdale. Her character suffered a tragic fate, but that would be a breakout year for the actress. She turned heads as Meena, one of the gentle Eloi in The Time Machine, the adaptation of the classic H.G. Wells novel. That same summer, she could be seen in Platinum High School, which despite its title, was gritty military school drama.

After making a splash on the scene, the Los Angeles native, born to a French father and Mexican mother, became one of the blonde starlets of the early '60s, garnering three Golden Globe nominations. A contract player with MGM, she landed roles in steamy dramas such as Toys in the Attic and Diamond Head. But Mimieux never truly blew up into an A-list leading lady. Still, she holds a unique place in TV history. She was the first woman to bare her navel on the small screen.

The event happened in the two-part Dr. Kildare episode "Tyger, Tyger," in 1964. Perhaps moralists allowed it because her character perished atop a surfboard in the end, dying in the manly arms of Richard Chamberlain.

Despite earning acclaim, she saw her roles dwindle a bit. Mimieux appeared just once more on television in the Sixties, though, in the Seventies, she popped up in several made-for-TV movies, stuff like the horror-western Black Noon and the yeti monster flick Snowbeast.

While acting, Mimieux studied archeology at UCLA. She found the roles on offer less than satisfying. “It's all surface. There's nothing to play," she explained to The Los Angeles Times. "They're either sex objects or vanilla pudding."

In one of her later roles, Mimieux turned up as a last-minute replacement in The Black Hole, the 1979 Disney sci-fi epic.

Mimieux passed away earlier this week in her sleep, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 80.