Tag Archives: Betty Grable

My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

I wouldn’t compare myself to Marilyn Monroe, but I did wake up on Monday morning looking as puffy as she does in this photo (presumably from her Actors’ Studio period) – especially around the eye area. Why? Because I’d just had my second night of virtually no sleep – at the Norwich Jazz Party. The “jazz party” format involves round-the-clock music until 12.30am, followed by the obligatory “hang” at the bar. For me, it also involved trying to cram in some writing, and some sleep – in a room which made very strange noises (room 211 of the Holiday Inn Express, Norwich, I’m talking about you!).

Despite all this, I was told I looked fresh-faced on Monday morning – the result, I’m sure, of a four-pronged attack on the signs of knackeredness. I used an eye mask (one of the discontinued Chanel ones) to reduce the puffiness round my eyes, exfoliator – Elemis Gentle Rose Exfoliator  – to brighten my skin, and Clinique Redness Solutions Daily Protective Base SPF15 to counter any high colour caused by late-night libations. And of course, the old reliable Guerlain Precious Light …. Never leave for a jazz fest without it!

TUESDAY

Knowing that some sleep was going to be lost in Norwich, I had planned to take the new Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel (£32.50; available from May 20; for stockists call 020-7493 3836) bronzing powder with me – to perk up my pale skin.

Luckily, I forgot to pack it: when I got home from Norwich and brushed some of the Rose palette on to my face, I realised that it’s not for me. The colours are beautiful, and I love the healthy glow a good bronzer/blusher can impart, but I am just too fair-skinned for even the lighter of the two colourways. It’s even a little too dark for me to use purely as a blusher (which is how I use the equivalent compact from Guerlain).  To paraphrase the Gershwins, s’wonderful – but not for me…

WEDNESDAY

Any help I can get in the eyelash department is always welcome and I love to experiment with any mascara that promises to beef up my featherweight lashes. So I was delighted to be given a tube of the latest from Dior, whose Extase I already love.

DiorShow Extase Flash Plumping Mascara (£22; www.houseoffraser.co.uk) may have a particularly daft name but it does the biz – not so much, I’ve been finding, with “plumping” up the lashes, but more in terms of lengthening and curling them. Ten out of ten for battability..

THURSDAY

I was thinking about how much my legs are currently worth, on Thursday morning. It’s not that they’re anything special – and I’ve not had them insured a la Betty Grable (left) – but I’ve certainly been investing in them recently. Let me explain: I’ve been testing out one of the pricier cellulite creams over the last few weeks.  Sisley Phyto-Svelt Global Intensive Anti-Cellulite Contouring Body Care (£123; www.sisley-cosmetics.co.uk) is the latest wonder cream from the French botanical company, and it has made a difference to my thighs – which is where I’ve been using it (might as well give it a challenge!). It has, as it claims to be able to do, improved the texture and tone of cellulite-afflicted areas and there’s a tautness to the skin that I’m pretty sure wasn’t there before. I’m not saying that the cellulite is a distant memory but it’s certainly not as obvious as before.

FRIDAY

Having finally caught up on my sleep, I met the PR for Aveda and Darphin – the charming Cemo – on Friday morning at the Hotel du Vin in Glasgow. I’ve yet to try out the new Darphin samples she gave me, but I had to point out that I’m already a convert to the conditioner and conditioning treatment she brought from the excellent Damage Remedy range.

As I have a few more trips coming up, I was very keen to hear about the Aveda Travel Size Collection (from £4; www.aveda.co.uk) of 50ml bottles of shampoo and conditioner, plus various hair styling and body products. Unfortunately, the Damage Remedy items don’t come in these plane-friendly sizes but at least you can continue using Aveda when travelling – and decant some Damage Remedy into the bottles when they’re empty!


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Happy Birthday Ms Bacall

Today is the 85th birthday of one of the last great movie stars of the golden era: Lauren Bacall. She may have been among the sexiest screen goddesses, but she was born plain-old Betty Joan Perske in New York City in 1924. Her mother was Romanian-German and her father was Polish. Bacall’s parents divorced when she was six years old, and she was brought up by her mother and grandmother.

When she left school she won a place at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in her home city. However, lack of funds and the refusal of the academy to grant scholarships to women meant that she had to abandon her studies at the end of the first year. Desperate to get an acting job, Bacall frequented theatrical hang-outs and earned her crust by working as a model in the bustling “garment center”, where girls were hired to model gowns for buyers. Her first modelling job ended when her boss found out that she was Jewish.

After months of pavement-pounding, Bacall made a breakthrough of sorts into Broadway when she landed the job of usher in a chain of theatres. She made her Broadway debut – as Lauren Bacall (Bacal had been half of her mother’s maiden name) in March 1942, in a tiny role in an ill-fated production entitled Johnny 2×4. Later that year, Bacall modelled for a fashion shoot for Harper’s Bazaar. When the magazine came out, it changed her life.

Slim Hawks, Mrs Howard Hawks, saw the cover photograph of this sexy and sullen-looking newcomer and brought it to the attention of her director-producer husband who immediately arranged for Bacall to have a screen test. The result was a role in Hawks’s To Have and Have Not (1944), an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s book, with the action transferred from Cuba to French Martinique and cracking dialogue by William Faulkner and Jules Furthman.

As Marie, nicknamed Slim, the girl who suggestively teaches Humphrey Bogart’s bemused but beguiled character how to whistle, Bacall was an instant hit – a new kind of tough femme fatale, with a deep, manly voice and a masculine way of pursuing her romantic quarry. She smouldered as, with a knowing smile, she traded suggestive dialogue with Bogart. And her habit, which he taught her as a way to stop her nerves from showing, of keeping her chin down when she was on camera was a crucial part of what became known as “The Look”.

Their chemistry was immediate – and very obvious. Bacall and Bogart, who was 45 to her 19, fell in love and began an affair – he was married at the time – which led to their marriage in 1945.

Bogie and “Baby” went on to work together in several of what were the best films of both their careers – notably Hawks’s archetypal film noir The Big Sleep (1946), in which she exuded even more cynicism than in her first film. Other Bogie-Bacall collaborations include the thriller Dark Passage (1947) and the atmospheric melodrama Key Largo (1948).

Bacall had her first child, Stephen (“Steve” was the nickname Slim gives to Harry Morgan, Bogie’s To Have or Have Not character), in January 1949, but was back at work soon afterwards – in the 1950 melodrama Young Man With a Horn, opposite her teenage beau Kirk Douglas. Other notable 1950s films included the colourful comedy How To Marry a Millionaire (1953), in which, as the brains behind an apparently fool-proof gold-digging operation, she has to babysit dumb blondes Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, and the all-star soap opera Written on the Wind (1956). However, Bacall – who gave birth to a daughter, Leslie, in 1952 – spent much of that decade caring for Bogart, who had lung cancer.

Shortly after Bogart’s death in 1957, Bacall moved to New York and the stage, and was absent from the screen for five years. In 1961, she married Jason Robards Jr and during their eight-year marriage, she had another son. She then divided her time between Broadway and Hollywod, winning a Tony award for her performance in the show Applause in 1970 and, in 1996, an Oscar nomination for her role as Barbra Streisand’s mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces.

Bacall, who has emerged as a feisty, no-nonsense grande dame of the showbiz world, continues to work – she has three films in post-production at the time of writing – and to terrify interviewers with her frankly expressed opinions on everything from ageing (“Your whole life shows in your face – and you should be proud of that”) to being a “legend”. Her two volumes of autobiography are among the best published by anyone in the movie business. A striking woman, even in her mid-80s, she stands for an era in which stars had personalities and principles – they certainly don’t make them like her anymore. Her forthcoming Honorary Academy Award is well-deserved and long-overdue..

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