Fan Letter

How Vintage Movie Stars Became Glamorous

Marilyn Monroe with re-worked nose and chin. Image: Shutterbug

Dear Reader: We were recently tagged by Realweegiemidget Reviews and Thoughts All Sorts to list our top “Five Flaming Hotties” from film and television.

This had us wondering about glamour in Hollywood, and whether vintage celebrities were always blessed with impossible* good looks.

*Impossible being the operative term here, because who on earth looks that good all the time? No one – not even the celebrities themselves.

Errol Flynn had work done. Image: AFS Viewfinders

Look at the above photo of Erroll Flynn. The camera shows us flawless skin, sculpted hair (with artful tousle),  and a sweater that probably cost more than a month’s rent.

Flynn gazes towards Infinity. Indeed, the tilt of his head tries to suggest he’s a man of Lofty Ideals, one who could make the world a Better Place. (Cough cough! Sorry, something got stuck in our throat.)

This photo was designed by one of Hollywood’s premier portrait photographers, George Hurrell, who gave us enduring images of the classic Hollywood pantheon.

As you know, a photograph like this doesn’t happen by accident; it’s a careful study of subject and lighting. Here’s an example:

Lighting diagram of Jean Harlow’s photo (right). Image: Darkman’s Darkroom

See? Glamour is Hard and Tedious Work. And that’s just the photography! We’re not even talking about wardrobe that hides unpleasant figure “defects” or makeup.

(Note: Since we [as in, yours truly] are the least-qualified person on the planet to dispense Beauty Advice, we don’t have Tips on how to be more photogenic, e.g. how Carole Lombard drew a white stripe down the centre of her nose to make it appear thinner, or how Jean Harlow [above] used contouring to enhance her cheekbones.)

Oftentimes there was more than makeup involved. According to Rebel Circus, Gloria Grahame felt her upper lip was too thin, so she would “stuff cotton between her upper lip and teeth to add fullness.”

Gloria Grahame’s cotton-enhanced pout. Image: Rebel Circus

Then there was electrolysis, used to raise and even out a person’s hairline. According to Marie Claire, this was a painful procedure involving “a thin metal probe to ‘shock’ the follicle and permanently remove the hair.”

Perhaps the most famous example of electrolysis is Rita Hayworth‘s hairline:

Rita Hayworth’s hairline, Before and After. Image: Marie Claire

Sometimes the procedures were even more drastic, such as rhinoplasty, a.k.a. The Nose Job.

According to Lipstick Alley, Dean Martin had his nose done when he was 27, before he became half of the Martin & Lewis comedy team.

Dean Martin’s nose job. Image: Lipstick Alley

Rudolph Valentino had surgery to change the shape of his ears. The cheeky website, Her Beauty, says, “Apparently [Valentino] couldn’t get any good parts because he was always told his ears stick out weird. So he corrected that tiny, seemingly insignificant detail, and suddenly he started getting multiple parts offered to him.”

Rudolph Valentino’s ears. Image: HerBeauty

Even Clark Gable underwent the Hollywood Transformation Process.

Clark Gable, Before and After. Image: Pinterest

Please understand, Dear Reader: Our goal isn’t to diminish these celebrities by dishing about their reconstructive secrets. After all, who among us is born with a flawless appearance?

Although each of these celebrities had cosmetic alterations, it’s really their onscreen presence that makes them legends. It’s what they brought to their roles – intelligence, compassion, humour – that we admire.

This is why they are some of our favourite classic Hollywood icons.

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “How Vintage Movie Stars Became Glamorous

  1. This was so interesting! And so true. One of my uncles had a huge crush on Jayne Mansfield, and when she did a personal appearance in Concord, California he went to see her. He was very disappointed that she didn’t look anything like her pictures. She’s still a legend, though. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think he did–I’ll have to ask him! My mom said it was in San Francisco, actually. Mansfield was there for the opening of a new Safeway. Apparently she went to the grand opening of every new grocery store between LA and SF to try and keep her name in the papers. My uncle worked in a Safeway warehouse and that’s how he found out. So, it’s an interesting little story. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fascinating and informative article, Ruth: many thanks indeed for it. In my innocence and naivete I’d never really thought that much of this might have been going on — Harlow, yes, but not Monroe and most of the others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ditto. My words exactly. The illusion starts with the actors. This was & is an interesting post. Clark Gable was the most dramatic change. What a remarkable before &after.

      Liked by 1 person

Start Singin', Mac!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s