Sunday, 29 May 2011

Simple pleasures

Couture and naked men...

...courtesy of Messrs Dolce and Gabbana!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

One hundred years of that voice

As we head towards the centenary this weekend of the birth of one of the most magnificently-voiced actors who ever lived - Mr Vincent Price - I have discovered a gem.

There is little I could post here in the Dolores Delargo Towers Museum of Camp that could quite compare with this most comprehensive of collections...

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Vincent Price Exhibit is open - enjoy it!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Not a closet supporter

Paul Newman by Leo Fuchs

"I'm a supporter of gay rights. And not a closet supporter either. From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being... by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant."
Paul Newman

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia - read more on my other blog Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle

Monday, 16 May 2011

A significant Nancy

And Beauty walked alone there
Unpraised, unhindered
Defiant, of single mind
And took no rest and has no epitaph.

(Nancy Cunard, Parralax)

Nancy Cunard by Man Ray

In the words of Carla Kaplan:
If you were looking for a paragon of the flapper, Nancy Cunard would seem to be an ideal candidate. The daughter of British aristocrats, Cunard was a stylish, rail-thin beauty, alternately celebrated as an icon of rebellion and reviled as a sexual adventuress. Harold Acton claimed she inspired (and probably slept with) "half the poets and novelists of the 'twenties.'" As much as anyone, she embodied the sexual freedom of the 1920s; indeed, her slick-haired, smoking, dark-eyed image became synonymous with that decade. (Cunard herself could not have cared less: "Why the smarming over 'The Twenties'?" she would later sneer. "To hell with those days! They weren't so super-magnificent!") Yet she also fought tirelessly for other kinds of freedom ("equality of races ... of sexes ... of classes" -- the "three things that mattered"), taking up the cause of workers, black Americans, anarchists, Spanish Republicans, anticolonialist revolutionaries and avant-garde artists.

The New Yorker's exacting Paris correspondent, Janet Flanner (aka Genêt), judged her to have "the best mind of any Anglo-Saxon woman in Europe." You wouldn't know any of this from Cunard's reputation: She is mainly remembered, if she's remembered at all, as a rich white girl who crossed the Atlantic to sleep with black men. Not that Cunard would have been surprised. As she once remarked, "Reputations are simply hell and there's nothing -- or little enough -- to be done about changing them."
Nancy Cunard biography

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

"Pleased to meet you, hope you get my name"

From the National Portrat Gallery website:
Mick Jagger: Young in the 60s documents the singer’s early rise to become one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the era. This display coincides with the British edition of the Arles publication Mick Jagger: The Photobook, being published by Thames and Hudson in May 2011.

Sir Michael Philip (‘Mick’) Jagger was born in Dartford in 1943 and educated at Dartford Grammar School and the London School of Economics. Jagger formed the rock and roll band The Rolling Stones in 1962 with Keith Richards and Brian Jones. Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts joined soon after. They had their first chart hit with Come On in July 1963, the first of 15 hit singles in the 1960s. In the same decade, Jagger started an acting career with roles in Performance and Ned Kelly.

The Gallery’s holdings of portraits of the group started with a gift in 1972 from Cecil Beaton of his portrait of Jagger taken in Morocco in 1967. New acquisitions in the display include portraits of the singer by Gered Mankowitz, including one with his prized Aston Martin DB6, and another from 1968 that shows the influence of pop art and psychedelia on Jagger’s clothes and surroundings.

The display will include an image from the Rolling Stones’s first official photo shoot by Philip Townsend. Other key images are a previously unexhibited colour photograph by Colin Jones (1967), Michael Cooper’s study of the Rolling Stones for the cover of their album Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967) and Michael Joseph’s supremely decadent image of the group posing with a large menagerie of animals for the gatefold of their album Beggar’s Banquet (1968).
But will it have this one I wonder?

Or, indeed, this one I featured on my other blog Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle back in 2009?

Mick Jagger: Young in the 60s is on at The National Portrait Gallery 3 May - 27 November 2011 - visit their website.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Who wants to go to Hell with Madam Satan?

Madam Satan 1

When, in 1930, the master movie producer Cecil B. DeMille was instructed by MGM to make his first (and only) musical, his was a typically dramatic response. For there is no film quite like Madam Satan!

Starring Kay Johnson (as the eponymous anti-heroine), Reginald Denny (as her alter-ego's errant husband) and Lillian Roth (as the vamp who steals him), this is a remarkable extravaganza indeed. Even the plot description on IMDB is camp:
Angela and Bob Brooks are an upper class couple. Unfortunately, Bob is an unfaithful husband. But Angela has a plan to win back her husband's affections. An elaborate masquerade ball is to be held aboard a magnificent dirigible. Angela will attend and disguise herself as a mysterious devil woman. Hidden behind her mask, and wrapped in an alluring gown, Angela as the devil woman will to try to seduce her unknowing husband and teach him a lesson.

Madam Satan 2

Art Deco stylised to the extreme, never quite knowing whether it was meant to be farce, epic or Busby Berkeley-esque spectacle, Madam Satan nevertheless has gained a place in the camp "cult movie" pantheon - it features a masked ball, terrible acting, glittering gowns, and (badly) choreographed dance routines on board a dirigible for heaven's sake!

Madam Satan 3

Critic Richard Barrios sums it us thus:
"The second half of Madam Satan is one of the great examples of weirdness in American pop cinema: a twilight zone wherein musical comedy meets disaster epic, all designed and costumed (by Adrian) with the farthest out Art Deco affectation."

Madam Satan 4


Read more about Madam Satan

Friday, 6 May 2011

Farewell Mr Laurents

And so we bid another sad farewell, this time to stage writer and producer Arthur Laurents, who has died in New York aged 93.

Mr Laurents was not just any old theatrical, you know! He was the man who, with those other great luminaries Bernstein and Sondheim, created some of my all-time favourite classic stage musicals including West Side Story and Gypsy.

The "West Side Story" gang in 1957: Sondheim, Arthur Laurents, Hal Prince, Robert Griffith (a co-producer, seated), Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins.

He worked with everyone who is everyone in theatre, including Jerry Herman (for whom he wrote the "book" for La Cage Aux Folles), Kander and Ebb, Betty Walberg, Adolph Green and Betty Comden, Richard Rodgers and Jule Styne. He ventured into movies, worked with Hitchcock, and wrote the movie The Way We Were for Barbra Streisand.

Born into a radical family who had turned their backs on Orthodox Judaism, the young Arthur was taken by his father to see the musical No, No Nanette, and he was smitten. "All the girls were twirling their parasols and I thought that was just wonderful. That's when I got hooked. My dream was that some day I would walk down the aisle of a musical I had written, while the orchestra was playing. And I did, and it was Gypsy. That was the high spot of my life."

Equally fascinating is the story of how those three great gay men of theatre - Laurents, Sondheim and Bernstein - first met. Read my blog about it over at Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle from back in 2009.

Always waspish about actors and acting methods, Arthur Laurents once famously criticised Ethel Merman's acting and was attacked on the street in the gay West Village by a man who recognised him and shouted "Outrage! Outrage!" He described Lee Strasberg's sacred Actors' Studio - home of the controversial "method acting" style - as a place where "neurotics and alcoholics were mistaken for geniuses".

Even contemporary stars were not outside the reach of his acid tongue. He described Graham Norton, in his recent role in the West End production of La Cage Aux Folles, as "a sweet queen, who's totally earnest, totally untalented and unskilled. I thought oh, you poor man".

Facts about Arthur Laurents:
  • In the 1940s a disciple of Freud's tried to "cure" him of homosexuality.
  • At one time he was in, of all things, a Marxist study group with Shelley Winters; he was black-listed during the communist witch-hunt of the 1950s, when his passport was confiscated.
  • He was a lifelong friend of Gore Vidal, and had affairs with stars such as Farley Granger before settling down with long-term partner Tom Hatcher.

The last line of Arthur Laurents's memoir, Original Story By, refers to Tom Hatcher, with whom the author lived for more than 50 years. "As long as he lives," he wrote in 2000, "I will."

Hatcher died in 2006. Mr Laurents outlived him by five years.

RIP another of the backbones of musical theatre.

Here is a fascinating interview with Mr Laurents from Out at the Center, a TV show of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of New York City:

Arthur Laurents obituary in the LA Times

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Dames et des Modes

From The Costumer's Manifesto website:
There is very little information to be had on George Barbier as a person. Writers repeatedly mention his beautiful drawings and designs, but pass over the man himself with breathtaking consistency. (Perhaps when contrasted with his more exotic contemporaries, he seemed rather dull). Whatever the reason for this omission, this leaves us with only a poor understanding of his personality, and a great many drawings.

This, perhaps, is the better half of the bargain, since Barbier's work speaks for itself better than anyone could speak for Barbier. Barbier's career did not "take off" until he was thirty, but his drawings were so exceptionally good that his career could never said to have stopped going, even after his death.

George Barbier's career "started", for all practical purposes in 1912. Three important new Paris fashion magazines began publishing in that year and Barbier was made the principal illustrator for two of them. One of them, the Journal des Dames et des Modes lasted only two years but served to establish Barbier as a designer, since the illustrations in the magazine were not copies of couturier models but designs Barbier did himself. This allowed Barbier to exert an influence on fashion without actually running a couturier house himself.

A most influential and yet remarkably unsung artist, George Barbier had a fortunate career, emerging during one of the most exciting periods of fashion history - the inter-war years of the 20th century.

He worked on Diaghelev's Ballets Russes and the world-famous Folies Bergère; was a major player in the emergence of Art Deco, working alongside other major artists as Erté; provided illuminated images for elegant books of poetry by Verlaine and Baudelaire (among others); was commissioned by Rudolph Valentino and his wife Natacha Rambova as costume designer for their movie Monsieur Beaucaire and designed many of Josephine Baker's incredible costumes to boot!

Barbier died in 1932 at the height of his success, aged only 50, but his legacy still lives on in numerous reproductions on posters, greetings cards and ceramics.

More about George Barbier