Finding Mr Universe. One of the contestants at the Mr Universe contest at the Royal Hotel , Woburn Place , London. 1953. Mediadrumimages / TopFoto

By Mark McConville


STUNNING retro pictures have offered a glimpse inside the Mr Universe competition in 1953, with a pre-James Bond Sean Connery finishing third.

The incredible images show the contestants lining up for the judges with the then-milkman Sean Connery wearing number 24 and white trunks.

Finding Mr Universe . The winner Bill Pearl of the US Navy at the Mr Universe contest at the Royal Hotel , Woburn Place , London. 7 July 1953. Mediadrumimages / TopFoto

Other striking shots show a US Navy soldier who won the amateur class, contestants limbering up back stage and contestants having their biceps felt by judges.

Finding Mr Universe. Contestants line up for the judging of the 1953 Mr Universe contest. Mediadrumimages / TopFoto

The remarkable photographs show the 1953 Mr Universe contest which took place at the Royal Hotel, Wolburn Place, London on July 7th of that year.

The Universe Championships are annual worldwide bodybuilding events organised by the National Amateur Body-Builders’ Association (NABBA). Originally promoted as the Mr. Universe contest, the event was expanded to include women’s classes in 1968. Notable previous winners include bodybuilder, actor, and former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, and bodybuilder and actor Steve Reeves.

Finding Mr Universe. Contestant Bill Pearly (number 38 , left ) of the US navy and eventual winner of the Amateur Mr Universe contest. 7 July 1953. Mediadrumimages / TopFoto

Arnold Dyson won Mr Universe (Pro) in 1953 while the amateur Mr Universe was won by Bill Pearl who would go on to win the contest five times, and was named “World’s Best-Built Man of the Century.”

Finding Mr Universe. Judging begins at the Mr Universe contest at the Royal Hotel , Woburn Place , London. Sean Connery , then a milkman from Scotland ( later to be actor and James Bond ) is number 24 second from right wearing white trunks – came third in the competition. 7 July 1953. Mediadrumimages / TopFoto

Connery’s beginnings in acting can be linked back to the Mr Universe contest in 1953. One of the competitors mentioned that auditions were being held for a production of South Pacific, and Connery landed a small part as one of the Seabees chorus boys. By the time the production reached Edinburgh, he had been given the part of Marine Cpl Hamilton Steeves and was understudying two of the juvenile leads