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X-rated star Marilyn Chambers dies at 56

Marilyn Chambers, the pretty Ivory Snow girl who helped bring hard-core adult films into the mainstream consciousness when she starred in the explicit 1972 movie "Behind the Green Door," has died at 56.

The cause of death was not immediately known. A family friend, Peggy McGinn, said Chambers'17-year-old daughter found the actress' body Sunday night at her home in the Los Angeles suburb ofCanyon Country. Chambers was pronounced dead at the scene, the county coroner's office saidMonday.

Chambers and fellow actresses Linda Lovelace and Georgina Spelvin shot to fame at a time in theearly 1970s when both American social mores and the quality of hard-core sex films were changing.

For the first time, films like "Behind the Green Door" and "Deep Throat" (also released in 1972 andstarring Lovelace) had decent acting and legitimate if fairly thin plots. As the audiences for themgrew to include couples, they also began to take on higher production values and to be seen in placesother than sleazy theaters.

But "Behind the Green Door" brought something more in Chambers, an attractive young womanwho had begun her career as a legitimate actress and model.

While the film was still in theaters, the public learned that its star was the same young blondesmiling and holding a freshly diapered baby on boxes of Ivory Snow laundry soap (which the companytouted as "99 and 44/100 percent pure"). The manufacturer quickly replaced her, but it was laterdiscovered that she also had a small role in the 1970 Barbra Streisand film "The Owl and thePussycat." "She was the first crossover adult star. She was the Ivory Snow girl and when she decidedto make an adult movie that was big news," Steven Hirsch, co-CEO of adult filmmaker VividEntertainment Group, told The Associated Press on Monday.

"It was the first adult movie that was more than just a bunch of sex scenes," Hirsch said of herbreakthrough film. "She was an actress and she brought that ability to the set of 'Behind the GreenDoor.' That's part of what made that movie so successful." In an online chat with AdultDVDtalk.comin 2000, Chambers attempted to explain what caused her to take such a radically different careerpath after "The Owl and the Pussycat" and her modeling work.

"Back then in my naive brain I was thinking that something like 'Behind the Green Door' had neverbeen done before and the way our sexual revolution was traveling I really thought it was going to bea stepping stone which would further my acting career," she said.

She learned afterward, she said, that wasn't the case.

"There will always be a stigma on people who do adult films," she said. "It's unfortunate that that'sthe way society has made it." She followed "Green Door" with the hard-core films "Resurrection ofEve," in 1973 and "Inside Marilyn Chambers" in 1975.

Then she announced in 1976 that she was giving up adult films to pursue other interests. Shestarred in the 1977 horror movie "Rabid" and put together a song-and-dance show that played LasVegas and elsewhere.

She returned to adult films in 1980 in "Insatiable" and through the rest of her career went back andforth between explicit movies and R-rated ones.

"She was a pioneer, and an amazingly secure woman. I admired her for being at the forefront of anindustry that was so taboo when she started," said Jenna Jameson, currently one of the industry'sbiggest stars.

Hirsch noted that one of the most striking things about Chambers' career was its longevity in abusiness where stars quickly fade. She still has a photo gallery on the Web site Adult Video Newsand the Internet Movie Database credits her as recently completing a film called, "Porndogs: TheAdventures of Sadie" with Ron Jeremy.

Although Chambers was quick to point out in 2000 that she had done more R-rated films thatX-rated ones, she made no apologies for the latter.

"I have to say that the adult films have been a total pleasure," she said. "They were like getting paidto live out my greatest fantasies. The rest of the stuff ... sometimes got to be a real grind." Chambers,born Marilyn Ann Briggs, on April 22, 1952, grew up in Westport, Conn. She got her start in adultfilms after answering an ad placed in a San Francisco newspaper by pioneering adult filmmakers Jimand Artie Mitchell.

Married and divorced three times, she is survived by her daughter, McKenna Marie Taylor; herbrother, Bill Briggs; and her sister, Jann Smith.

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