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.
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:
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.)
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:
Sometimes the procedures were even more drastic, such as rhinoplasty, a.k.a. The Nose Job.
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.”
Even Clark Gable underwent the Hollywood Transformation Process.
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.