America gave birth to the popular stereotype of the bosomy dumb blonde through the likes of Marie Wilson and Dagmar. But it was a British bombshell known as Sabrina who carried the image to its ultimate extension, and indeed epitomized the absurd and wonderful sex symbols of the 1950s.
Everything about Sabrina was manufactured – her heavy makeup, platinum hair, long eyelashes, and stop-at-nothing publicity. Everything, that is, except for one of the most extraordinary figures: 42½-17-36, the “½” was vital. She did grow as time went on! Ever immortalized by pinup photographers. In the absence of any known ability other than a genius for self-promotion, she came to rely entirely upon these remarkable attributes for her fame and fortune. They proved sufficient to make her a phenomenon that could not have occurred in any other decade.
Norma Ann Sykes (born 19 May 1936), better known as Sabrina, was a 1950s English glamour model who progressed to a minor movie career. Her main claim to fame was her hourglass figure of prodigious breasts coupled with a tiny 17″ waist. Sabrina had a natural waist-hip ratio of 0.47, from the waist measurement of 17″ and her hips at 36″ when she first started modeling, although she deliberately filled out in later years when advised by several model agencies. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Sabrina was called: “The British Jayne Mansfield.”
Born in Stockport, Cheshire, she moved to London in 1952 as a sixteen-year-old, and did some nude modelling, the evidence of which she later tried to destroy. In 1955, she was chosen to play a dumb blonde sidekick in Arthur Askey’s new ITV series, Before Your Very Eyes, and this soon made her a household name. The Goon Show scripts are littered with references to her bosom such as “by the measurements of Sabrina!” and “by the sweaters of Sabrina!” British aircrews of the 1950s Royal Air Force dubbed some versions of the Hawker Hunter fighter plane, “Sabrinas” due to two large humps on the underside of the aircraft.
In the late 1950s the British truck manufacturer ERF produced a semi-forward control HGV with a short protruding bonnet – those vehicles were also nicknamed “Sabrinas” because they had “a little more in front.”
She made her motion-picture debut in Stock Car, in 1955. She then appeared in a small role in the 1956 film, Ramsbottom Rides Again. In her third movie role, Blue Murder at St Trinian’s (1957) she had a non-speaking role in which, despite sharing equal billing with the star Alastair Sim on posters and appearing in many publicity stills in school uniform, she was required only to sit up in bed wearing a nightdress, reading a book whilst the action took place around her.
Her penultimate movie role was in the horror movie The Ice House (1969), as a replacement for Jayne Mansfield who had died in a car crash two years before. Her last film was a year later in the western, The Phantom Gunslinger (1970) where she starred alongside the late Troy Donahue.
In 1967, she married Dr Harold Melsheimer, a Hollywood plastic surgeon though they divorced ten years later. She currently lives in Hollywood.
In 1974, US auto safety regulations mandated sturdier impact protection. British Leyland engineers added two large protruding rubber bumper blocks to the front and rear of the MGB, MG Midget and Triumph TR-6 sports cars. These appendages were quickly dubbed “Sabrinas” by the British motoring press, and the nickname stuck.