Audrey Munson

Confirmed Years:   1916

Audrey Munson was born on June 8, 1891 in the town of Mexico, New York and rapidly rose to fame as an artist’s model during the early teens. To this day many New York monuments and statues of her figure can be found throughout the city.

At the height of her success, Munson was chosen to model for a series of coins and statues for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition and also starred in her first film, the five-reel "Inspiration," released by Thanhouser. This is when the American Film Company signed a contract with Munson. Although her role in Inspiration featured her posing fully nude, it did not generate the same amount of scandal and publicity as her eventual Flying A film, "Purity."

Munson had remained still in the Thanhouser production and her body was therefore simply the image of a statue on screen, whereas in "Purity" the movement of Munson’s body marks a transition from the statuesque to the corporeal. Munson’s role as a living, moving female body was a departure from the model existing as purely form.

Despite the success of Purity, Munson remained in Santa Barbara for only one year, where she also starred in the mysterious film "The Girl O’ Dreams."

Instead of portraying nude models negatively like her contemporaries, Munson’s roles exhibited the beauty of the body as performance. After leaving the American Film Company, Munson would go on to write the autobiographical "Heedless Moths" (1921) in which she performed as herself. The film was a complete failure and marked the end of her career, further cemented by her attempted suicide on May 28, 1922.

Munson was never able to escape scandal and tragedy throughout her life, and constantly being placed as an object of passivity and desire led to her own psychological trauma, as well as the dangerous obsessions of her admirers. Audrey Munson did not survive the consequences of her fame and was ultimately institutionalized at the age of 31 where she remained abandoned until her death 65 years later on February 20, 1996.

- Olivia Smith

Film & Media 181

Confirmed American Credits:


  • Purity (1916) - Purity/Virtue Brand: Mutual Masterpictures de Luxe
  • Girl O' Dreams, The (1918) - Norma Hansen Brand: Pathe-American

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