Saturday, November 28, 2009

40's Beauties

The November issue of US Vogue (the one with the badly photo shopped cover featuring the stars of Nine) has a story in its nostalgia section about 1940's Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr. Novelist Dana Spiotta's first person account of her obsession with Hedy Lamarr, arguably one of the most stunning Hollywood's actresses ever, got me thinking about the number of extraordinary beauties inhabiting the silver screen in the tumultuous 1940's.
So following my beautiful men earlier this week, how about some gorgeous ladies?

Back in the 1940's the Hollywood studio system discovered beautiful young women rather like the modelling industry does now, and trained them to become actresses. Obviously very few would become superstars, but Ava Gardner was one actress who, after many years languishing in bit parts in B grade movies, did manage to hit the big time. She was also originally given a studio contract based solely on her astounding good looks, after a poor upbringing on tobacco farms and in boarding houses in North Carolina. Ava signed with MGM in 1941 but didn't hit the big time until she was cast in The Killers in 1946. By the time she appeared in Showboat in 1951, she certainly had the acting chops to match the looks. I absolutely love her in that movie ... a heartbreaking performance.

Gene Tierney's face is truly one of the most perfect I've ever seen. Gene pursued an acting career after a Hollywood director told her she should become an actress. Gene was from an entirely different background to the lovely Ava - she went to finishing school in Europe and was a society beauty - but they did share a friend in Howard Hughes (+ Gene also shared a husband with Hedy!).

The lovely Ingrid Bergman was a seriously popular international movie star in the 1940's who actively pursued a career on the stage and screen in her native Sweden before being brought to Hollywood by famous producer David O. Selznick. Ingrid is definitely my favourite 1940's star ... I loved her in Intermezzo, Casablanca, Gaslight and Notorious ... I could go on.

Vivien Leigh's fame making turn in Gone With the Wind was released in 1939 and she went on to make films and appear on the stage until her death in the 1960's, but I think of her as a 40's star. I watched Gone With the Wind again recently and as usual I was struck by Vivien's delicate beauty, but also by her tremendous skill in playing Scarlett O'Hara. A truly great performance. LOVE her.

And what would a post on 1940's beauties be without the drop dead gorgeous pin-up and versatile actress Rita Hayworth.
Every one's story ultimately has a sad ending, but it must say something about Hollywood and celebrity that many of these lovely ladies had a sadder ending than most.
Dana Spiotta's article says of Hedy that "despite breathtaking beauty and a sterling mind, [Hedy was] tremendously unhappy. She wasn't just unhappy in the cliche Hollywood ways - although she was that, with six divorces - she was unhappy in lonely, grotesque ways."
Although much of Dana's story appears to be conjecture gleaned from looking at photographs of the actress, it does make for sobering reading. But instead of finishing on a glum note, I think I'll make plans to revisit some of my favourite 1940's films over the holidays, and allow myself to revel in the glamour.


Anonymous said...

wonderful post

FrivolousFlapper said...

such fragile beauties with amazing gifts. Great post

Hannah said...

They're all so glamorous, makes me want to put on lipstick.

ruby may said...

Mmmm gorgeous, my mum had a huge old book of hollywood starlets that I would pore over whenever I could.