Due to the fact that I’m constantly alluding to my love for old Hollywood, and the fact that I live down the street from the disgustingly touristy (AND FUN!) part of LA, I figure I might as well write about it.
I love old Hollywood stars, clothing, and history. I’ve read a million biographies of classic Hollywood stars (Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, and Elizabeth Taylor-who died the day after I started the book so I got a little weirded out.) I had a great collection of old movies until my mom came to my apartment and stole them back, and I have three incredible coffee table books featuring leading ladies, men, and couples. Clearly, I’m obsessed. Like, to the point where I’m planning on decorating my apartment with framed posters from movies like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Vertigo. My boyfriend just bought me a Lucille Ball movie collection, which I have yet to break in to, but oh man am I excited!
So here’s why old Hollywood was so incredible:
Glamour was everything. Literally, everything. The women wore lavish diamond necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, tiaras, fur, silk…I could go on for hours. When I think of a truly glamorous moment in a classic movie, I think of Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa. There’s a scene that takes place in a casino; she’s wearing a strapless pink gown, and she is stunning. But it wasn’t just in the movies that women dressed glamorously. Even their day-to-day outfits consisted of belted dresses with full skirts, high waisted jeans and heels, and beautifully fitted suits. There’s a reason I died over Zac Posen and Dior this season, their shows were utterly reminiscent of 1940s and 1950s silhouettes. Unlike many of the styles today, women dressed to look elegant, to enchant those around them. It may have been more artificial, and it was definitely a time when women relied almost solely on their skills in entertaining and charming, but it just looked so damn good. We broke out of that in the 1960s, women stopped wearing bras that accentuated their shapes, and stopped conforming to societal roles. Obviously, it’s really important that we did do that, but I’m a little sad that we lost some fundamental femininity along the way (and I’m happy that it’s coming back!)
The elegance of old Hollywood is also perfectly personified in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in the very beginning (and very famous) scene where Audrey Hepburn is walking by Tiffany’s at 6 in the morning wearing a fabulous Givenchy dress. Fun fact: Audrey hated filming that scene because she absolutely detested the pastry she was eating =). Hatred for pastries aside, her elegance in the opening scene beams out from the screen. I’ve seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s hundreds of times, and it never ceases to amaze and inspire me. The pearls delicately lining the beautifully structured back of her dress, her statuesque stature, her up-do, the black gloves, and of course, her sunglasses, all come together to paint a picture of grace and style. Not fashion, but style. Maybe that’s what I ultimately love about classic Hollywood. People were, of course, jumping from fad to fad, but generally, dressing well was about doing so with class and style. Audrey Hepburn and Ava Gardner never would have worn flatforms, for the basic reason that they’re ugly.
Besides the clothing, both in and out of movies, I love old Hollywood because it was a legendary time. The films were undeniably better, and even the little joke actresses who were really only there to be pretty could act. Have you seen Lana Turner in Imitation of Life? She’s incredible, and she was known for being gorgeous yet only marginally talented. There was much more mystery surrounding the magic of movies, too. Sure, there were paparazzi (named after Paparazzo, the photographer in La Dolce Vita) but they didn’t have nearly as much access to the stars. There was no internet, and the movie business was hush-hush.
It was also a really, really dishonest and illusory place. But that’s what I like about it. It had this shiny, glamorous exterior covering up all sorts of manipulation, substance abuse, and sadness. Marilyn Monroe suffered from severe stage fright, was never taken seriously, and wanted nothing more than to be seen as better than a blonde bimbo with doe-eyes and big tits. Judy Garland was on amphetamines (at her mother’s hand) from a tragically young age, and her habit turned from an attempt to stay skinny to the addiction that eventually killed her. The irony is the beauty that both women portrayed on the outside, physically and through song, respectively. They’re both legends, and they both embodied precisely what Hollywood was: a glossy exterior masking inner turmoil. Eventually, Hollywood’s glossy exterior imploded with the dissolution of the studio system, and classic Hollywood ceased to exist. That’s also what makes it so legendary; along with its stars, it will never be that way again. Hollywood is far more transparent now, with the advent of the internet and hundreds of paparazzi following even the least important of celebrities. Old Hollywood was mysterious and magical, and that magic can never be replicated.
Just like I love lace and leather together, I love the contradiction that old Hollywood inevitably was. It was glamorous, and almost seemed shiny. The women were pristinely dressed and made up, they were elegant and classy, but I think they lived relatively difficult lives. Everything they did, wore, and portrayed brought with it a sense of drama – from their breathtaking gowns to their tragic demises. Maybe I’m just being morbid, but I love it.
P.S. Did I mention this is ONLY ONE reason that I love old Hollywood? I’ll probably write about it again in the future, and it probably won’t be as depressing. =)
P.P.S. I wrote this because “Moon River” has been stuck in my head all. day. Like, I haven’t even seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s this month, what is going on??