There is a reason why they were called stars. There was a time when movie stars were bigger than life. Their presence was so powerful, their films transcended the moment of their making, they were quintessentially glamorous, on-screen and off. Classic films and silver screen legends are no strangers on this blog, but what prompted me to bring this into discussion was a recent blog post of Garance Doré’s.
She wrote about the recently released book Audrey in Rome and, at one point, she says: “One of the reasons the myth persists is because she gives such a real feel to being stylish. Scott (Schuman) was noting that today, we are used to seeing celebrities being dressed “off” and “on”. In sweatpants during the day walking their dogs in LA, and over the top, dressed by stylists for red carpet events. It creates such a disconnect in their style that it’s difficult to keep up the dream.” I am sure I am not the only one who has thought the same thing.
The terms star or style icon shouldn’t even be used anymore in their classical sense. Stars were seen as heroes, they made people dream, they even inspired a kind of divinity, a type of religion. Their films helped people go through trying historical times, their style changed fashion and, in some way, all those women stars contributed to the emancipation of women. The world changed with their films, with their far-reaching and enduring style. They were beautiful, glamorous, daring, unconventional. Their style and glamour were consistent and that was inspiring for women, even if they could never quite replicate it. The booming film industry may have made them stars and the costume designers and couturiers may have helped them shape their personal style, but it took something a little more than that to become an icon, a living legend.
Nowadays so-called celebrities are decreasingly divine. Movie stars were the antithesis of today’s Hollywood actress or fashion
victim icon, who is eager to be seen and is eager to be seen as an every woman. And this is not only because of the Internet and because of the amount of information we have access to in almost no-time. Yes, it’s true that there is no longer the indispensable dose of mystery needed to nurture a myth.
But that’s not the only reason why we will never find out if Marilyn really slept naked with just two drops of Chanel No.5 or why we won’t see pictures of Grace Kelly in sweatpants and with her hair messed up while running errands. It was about keeping things private. It was about following their own unique and daring fashion vision. It was about respecting themselves and the others by paying attention to the way they looked before leaving the house. It was about their own values and different lifestyle principles. An aura of being unreachable helps someone become an icon, but it’s not enough in itself.
There are plenty of photos of Marilyn and Grace and Audrey and Ava dressed casually too, even in beach- or sportswear. But style never leaves them, whereas actresses today are easily declassed by what they wear off-screen. But I think this only reflects the times we live in. Maybe it’s nor bad nor good. Maybe I am an old-school idealist who regrets how real values are betrayed, seeing how compromise has become a norm in any given aspect of life. People are of less quality, of fewer standards morally, socially and intellectually. I think the whole film industry reflects that. And I think my blog is my own way of rebelling against it.
photos: 1-Lisa Larsen/Time Life Pictures (Grace Kelly, New York, smiling at the photographers)/ 2-© Interfoto/Archivi Alinari (Marilyn Monroe, 1950) / 3-Elio Sorci © Camera Press / Photomasi (Audrey Hepburn, Rome, 1968) / 4-source unknown (Grace Kelly, 1954) / 5-John Kobal Foundation (Marilyn Monroe on the set of “Clash by Night”, 1952) / 6-© Hulton Archive via Vanity Fair (Ava Gardner, 1940s)