When X-rated movies began to creep out of stag parties and storefront theaters into semi-respectable movie houses in the late '60s and early '70s during the short-lived reign of "porno chic," Marilyn Chambers became one of the biggest and most bankable stars to emerge from the adult industry. What made her remarkable, however, was how Chambers was able to hold onto her popularity; in a business where few female stars can last five years in the spotlight, Chambers retained a loyal fan following which has kept her busy throughout a career that's spanned four decades.
Marilyn Chambers was born Marilyn Ann Briggs on April 22, 1952; she was born in Rhode Island, but spent most of her childhood in Westport, CT. In her teens, Chambers became interested in acting, and began looking for work as a model. After appearing in print ads for Clairol shampoo and Coca-Cola, a photo of Chambers holding a freshly diapered baby was chosen for use on boxes of Ivory Snow, a detergent. That same year, Chambers landed her first film role, a small part in the Barbra Streisand vehicle The Owl and the Pussycat. Chambers, however, was disenchanted with the experience, and was considering giving up acting when she answered an ad placed in a San Francisco newspaper by Jim Mitchell and his brother, Artie Mitchell. Chambers soon discovered the Mitchell brothers were making an X-rated feature, but the adventurous Chambers agreed to give the role a shot -- provided she was given a percentage of the profits, along with a flat fee. Chambers' decision proved shrewd: 1972's Behind the Green Door became one of the biggest adult hits of the decade, with Chambers' silent but rabidly enthusiastic performance responsible for much of the film's notoriety. Chambers also provided invaluable publicity for the film when it became known that she had been "the Ivory Snow girl" -- the manufacturer immediately replaced her picture on the box, but this semi-scandal made newspapers all across the country, boosting the film's box office in the process.
In 1973, Chambers and the Mitchell brothers teamed up again for Resurrection of Eve, which proved to be another major success, and in 1975 Artie Mitchell produced a semi-documentary look at her career to date called Inside Marilyn Chambers, which would be the model for hundreds of similarly titled adult films to follow. In 1976, Chambers announced she was leaving the X-rated industry to pursue other career options; she starred in David Cronenberg's horror film Rabid, appeared in a number of stage productions in Las Vegas, put together a cabaret act as a singer and dancer, and cut a record as the lead singer with a country & western band called Haywire. In 1980, Chambers made her return to adult movies with Insatiable, in which she played a promising country & western singer, appropriately enough. The film was a box-office hit, and several more adult features followed, but Chambers began making softcore R-rated adult comedies and dramas as well (beginning with 1982's Angel of H.E.A.T.), and by the end of the 1980s, she had once again forsaken hardcore adult films for R-rated efforts such as The Marilyn Diaries, Party Incorporated, and Bikini Bistro, which found a ready audience on home video and cable television.
In 1999, Chambers made a surprise return to hardcore adult films when friend and fellow adult film actress Veronica Hart persuaded her to star in Still Insatiable, under the condition that the film depict and endorse safe sex in its erotic scenes. Chambers died ten years later, just over a week prior to her 57th birthday.