As Joan Tumblety noted in her work on early twentieth-century physical culture, the French have long displayed an interest and an affinity for exercise. Indeed, on all sides of the political spectrum, French athletes, politicians and schoolteachers have often sought to improve the physical lot of French men and women through purposeful exercise.
For some this took the form of sport while for others, physical culture would prove to be ‘salvation’ of France. The following documentary, entitled ‘The Most Beautiful Man in the World’ sought to demonstrate the importance and practicality of physical culture for the average French citizen.
In the clips shown below we are given numerous types of physical activity, ranging from wrestling and gymnastics to good old fashioned weight lifting. The film, conceived in two parts, documented the bodybuilding contests held at a theatre in Cannes, August 15, and August 16. The August 16th competition, quite significantly, featured a Mr. World competition won by the legendary US bodybuilder Steve Reeves.
On August 23rd, 1948, French movie goers were shown these clips in the hope of stimulating an interest in exercise. For those wishing to see Reeves at the height of his prowess, check out the second video around the three minute mark.