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allied-movie-poster

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest for tickets to the movie ALLIED, on Monday, November 21, 2016!

I used an online list randomizer to select the winners from the people who correctly identified Nancy Wake as the female spy who killed a Nazi SS sentry with her bare hands.

Now <drumroll> I will announce the winners:

FIRST PRIZE: Free admission for two people to see an advance screening of the movie ALLIED, on Monday, November 21, 2016, AND a Moscow Mule cocktail set.

The winner is: LOLA B!

SECOND PRIZE: Free admission for two people to see an advance screening of the movie ALLIED, on Monday, November 21, 2016.

The winner is: WILL JZ!

Congratulations to the winners!

allied-movie-poster

Thanks to Paramount Pictures, I have two wonderful prizes for Vintage Powder Room readers.

FIRST PRIZE:  Free admission for two people to see an advance screening of the movie ALLIED, on Monday, November 21, 2016, AND a Moscow Mule cocktail set.

SECOND PRIZE: Free admission for two people to see an advance screening of the movie ALLIED, on Monday, November 21, 2016.

About the movie: ALLIED is the story of intelligence officer Max Vatan (Pitt), who in 1942 era North Africa encounters French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Reunited in London, their relationship is threatened by the extreme pressures of the war.

Sounds great — right? Well, read on for details on how to enter the drawing to win a prize.

To enter the drawing email me at: joan@vintagepowderroom.com  with the answer to the following question:

Which of these female spies killed a Nazi SS sentry with her bare hands?

a) Anna Chapman

b) Nancy Wake

c) Mata Hari

 

RULES: Entries must be received by 12:00 MIDNIGHT PACIFIC STANDARD TIME on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2016. Winners will be selected by random drawing from those people who correctly answer the question. One entry per person, please. Results of the drawing will be announced on this website by NOON on Saturday, November 19, 2016.  Winners must be able to get to the Hollywood Arclight Theater by 7 pm on Monday, November 21, 2016.  I will contact the winners via email and include all instructions for claiming your prize.  GOOD LUCK!

double-harness

Welcome to the Vintage Powder Room Cinema!  Tonight’s feature is DOUBLE HARNESS starring Ann Harding, William Powell, Henry Stephenson, Lilian Bond, George Meeker and Reginald Owen.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

After her extravagant, irresponsible sister Valerie marries Dennis Moore, Joan Colby sets her sights on John Fletcher, a notorious San Francisco playboy. Joan’s old-fashioned father, Colonel Sam Colby, complains that John, who inherited his father’s shipping business, is so lazy that he is driving his company into bankruptcy. In spite of the colonel’s disapproval, Joan pursues a romance with John and announces to Valerie that, while she does not love John, she intends to marry him. Joan explains to her sister that marriage is the business of women and that love is a complication to be avoided.

edna_h

All about the L.A. actress who turned having a facelift into a beauty brand

The first facelift was performed on a Polish aristocrat in 1901 and by the 1920s many Hollywood actors were having cosmetic surgery to correct crooked noses, big ears, and non-existent chins, but they kept their procedures quiet. Edna Wallace Hopper changed that.

In 1922 Edna was nearing 50 and her career as an actress appeared to be over. Long admired for her beauty, at the half-century mark Edna felt her looks were fading, so she did something about it: she had a facelift and filmed it!

The Los Angeles Times reported that prior to the surgery Hopper was regarded as “an elderly person, eligible for an old ladies’ home,” but following the procedure she was described as being “…blessed with the bloom of eternal youth.”

Edna’s surgery was performed by a woman who called herself Dr. Gertrude Steele. Steele wasn’t  a medical doctor—she was a registered naturopath and a so-called beauty doctor whose license to practice had been temporarily revoked in 1919 when she caused the death of her son-in-law during a procedure to remove freckles from his face. Nevertheless, the work she did on Hopper seems to have been a success.

Post operation, Edna forged a career out of personal appearances, where she shared her beauty secrets, showed the film of her facelift, and preached a gospel of rejuvenation to middle-aged women longing for youth. Hopper admitted that she had inherited her good looks from her mother, but said that she maintained them by taking care of her health and her skin. According to Edna her surgery combined with her strict beauty regimen made her feel decades younger.  When queried about her taste in men Edna was as giddy as a teenager and gushed: “No age limit!  I love ’em all — from 19 to 90!”

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Edna’s tours and timeless good looks soon caught the eye of an advertising man, Claude C. Hopkins, who worked for American Home Products. Hopkins approached Edna with a proposition: a line of cosmetics and beauty treatments bearing her likeness and name. Edna was an astute businesswoman who recognized the opportunity as a potential goldmine, and she was right; her line of cosmetics and treatments continued to be sold well into the 1940s.

Hopper had taken the very public step of filming her facelift, yet she would remain coy about her age.  She said: “People have been guessing my age since 1918. I just let them go ahead.  All records of my birth were destroyed in the San Francisco fire.”

When she died in 1959 people didn’t know if she was in her 80s or 90s—she had remained coy about her age—but the detail wasn’t important. She was eternally youthful where it counts: in her spirit.

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Welcome to the Vintage Powder Room Cinema!  Tonight’s feature is THREE GIRLS ABOUT TOWN starring Joan Blondell, Binnie Barnes, Janet Blair, Robert Benchley and John Howard.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

As the Merchants Hotel readies for a morticians convention and the mediation committee meeting of a group of aircraft manufacturers and workers, hotel manager Wilburforce Puddle worries about a newspaper editorial critical of the hotel’s policy of employing hostesses. Angered by the editorial, head hostess Hope Banner storms into the hotel press room to confront her fiancé, reporter Tommy Hopkins. Tommy denies that he had prior knowledge about the editorial, although he would like Hope to resign as hostess and find a “regular” job. Hope, however, argues that she needs the extra money to send her younger sister Charity to private school. After Hope leaves, Charity appears in the press room looking for her sister, and Tommy escorts her to Hope’s room. There, Charity announces to Hope and her other hostess sister Faith that she intends to quit school and follow in her sisters’ footsteps. Both Faith and Hope oppose her decision, asserting that she is too young and innocent to leave school.

beach_motor_hairnet

No other item in my collection captures the feeling of Southern California during the 1920s as well as this West Electric Beach & Motor Hair Net envelope.

In addition to producing hair nets, West Electric, based in Philadelphia, manufactured hair curlers and shampoo. The company patented one of its hair curler designs as early as 1909 and ads for their products appeared in magazines such as The Ladies’ Home Journal.

The sandy beach and graceful palm trees depicted on the package are evocative of any location offering surf and sand, but the car is a dead giveaway of the L.A. life—no other place has embraced car culture with such frank enthusiasm and unconditional love as Southern California.

 As soon as I saw the hair net package I was drawn into 1920s Los Angeles, and the birth of modern styles in swimwear.

Prior to the 1920s women’s bathing suits were more concerned with coverage than with comfort. Imagine jumping into the surf at Santa Monica Beach in a black, knee-length, puffed-sleeve wool dress. Following WWI everything changed. Women painted their faces and bobbed their hair, and bathing suit designs started to reflect their new freedom. No right thinking flapper would show up at a beach party in anything that covered her knees or her arms.

In 1921 a local fashion show introduced inflatable bathing suits, which were described as pretty and practical because they allowed the wearer to float in the water, just like she was using water wings. The style sank without a trace.

Following the discovery of King Tut’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922 people were consumed with all things Egyptian, and of course Egyptian themed bathing suits briefly became the rage on local beaches. What made the water wear Egyptian themed? Why the hand-painted hieroglyphics representing inscriptions from the Pharaoh’s tomb, of course.

Bathing suit designs then changed forever in 1925 when Fred Cole entered the swimwear business. Cole had been a silent film actor, an occupation his parents thought thoroughly disreputable, during the early 1920s, so they were pleased when he suggested that they start a swimwear line at their knitting mills in Los Angeles, and the staid sounding “West Coast Manchester Knitting Mills” became “Cole of California.” Cole would bring Hollywood glamour to the swimsuit industry.

In 1936, Cole hired Margit Felligi, who served as Cole’s head designer until 1972. Felligi was an inspired innovator and in 1943, during the wartime shortage of rubber, she created the first side-laced swimsuit. It was called the “Swoon Suit” in honor of popular crooner Frank Sinatra.

She continued to make fashion history over the years with her significant contributions to fabric and design, including the 1964 “Scandal Suit,” which was considered to be one of the most overtly sexy bathing suits of all time.

Cole still exists as Catalina-Cole, and in 1997 the company launched another winner, the “tankini.” I think Fred Cole and Margit Felligi would be pleased.

lady-of-burlesque1

Welcome to Vintage Powder Room Cinema!  Tonight’s feature is LADY OF BURLESQUE starring Barbara Stanwyck, Michael O’Shea and directed by William Wellman.   I think this film makes a nice companion piece for tonight’s post about the La Cherte face powder box.

Enjoy the movie!

Wikipedia says:

In 1941, Lee authored a mystery thriller called The G-String Murders, which was made into the sanitized 1943 film, Lady of Burlesque starring Barbara Stanwyck. While some assert this was in fact ghost-written by Craig Rice, there are those who claim that there is more than sufficient written evidence in the form of manuscripts and Lee’s own correspondence to prove that she wrote a large part of the novel herself under the guidance of Rice and others, including her editor George Davis, a friend and mentor. Lee’s second murder mystery, Mother Finds a Body, was published in 1942.

 

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During the late 1920s La Cherte face powder claimed to be “The World’s Most Exquisite Face Powder.” Its ads even promised “it will endure through hours of dancing,” and the woman on this powder box from my collection seems to be testing the veracity of the company’s claim by strutting across a stage beneath a single spotlight.

It takes a woman with uncommon panache to take the stage alone, and that is why the La Cherte face powder box reminds me so much of Betty “Ball of Fire” Rowland, one of the most famous burlesque dancers of her era.

Betty was originally known as the “littlest burlesque star” because of her small stature, but her spirited performances earned the gorgeous titian-tressed dynamo the nickname “Ball of Fire”.  Betty wowed audiences for years at the New Follies Theater on South Main Street downtown in revues such as “Panties Inferno,” “It’s Wicked,” and “Julius Teaser”.

A few years ago I met the Betty Rowland and it was a treat for me. Of course I had dozens of questions for her but I didn’t want to overwhelm the fragile nonagenarian, so I settled on one I didn’t think she had been asked a thousand times before: Did she have a signature scent? She paused for a moment before she responded.

Betty told me that her favorite fragrance had been L’Aimant by Coty.  L’Aimant debuted in 1927 and it was the first perfume created by Francoise Coty. The scent is elegant and sophisticated, just like Betty.  She told me that she wore it in her daily life and also on stage as a part of her act.

Before each of her appearances Betty would spray a liberal amount of L’Aimant all over herself so that when she “worked the curtain” her perfume would waft over the gents seated in the first few rows.  I was awed by the anecdote. To incorporate the power of olfactory memory in her act was sheer genius. A large number of men must have seen Betty perform and carried with them the memory of her perfume. I wonder how many wives and girlfriends received gifts of L’Aimant from those men over the years; and I also wonder if the men knew why they’d selected that particular perfume at a counter crowded with choices.

As my conversation with Betty came to an end she lamented that Coty had long ago discontinued her favorite scent, but if you know where to look you can still find a vintage formulation of the famous floral.  I sent a bottle of L’Aimant to Betty, and I hope it transported her back to her glory days on the stage of the New Follies Theater.

 Here is Betty in action:

 

NOTE:  Betty ‘Ball of Fire’ Rowland recently celebrated her 100th birthday!

A STAR IS BORN

Welcome to Vintage Powder Room Cinema!  Tonight’s feature is A STAR IS BORN in glorious Technicolor. It has an all-star cast: Janet Gaynor, Fredric March, Adolphe Menjou, May Robson, Andy Devine, and Lionel Stander.

Enjoy the movie!

From TCM:

 A screenplay entitled “A Star Is Born” is stamped with the words, “Final Shooting Script,” then opened to reveal the following story: Esther Blodgett returns one winter evening to her home, an isolated farmhouse in North Dakota, after seeing a movie with her little brother Aleck, which starred her screen idol, Norman Maine. Esther’s Aunt Mattie disdains Esther’s obsession with the movies, and her father and grandmother Lettie are surprised to hear that Esther wants to be a movie star. After Mattie berates her, Esther runs to her room in tears. Lettie then tells Esther of her own past dreams of coming across the country in a “prairie schooner,” and although she cautions Esther about the heartbreak that always comes to those who pursue their dreams, Lettie encourages Esther and gives her money to take a train to Hollywood.

 

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Before her face appeared on this beauty ad, Betty Burgess was a screen actress hoping for fame

One of my favorite events is the Vintage Fashion Expo which is held a few times annually and alternates between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I’ve been to both venues in search of vintage treasures, but it was in L.A. that I found this Hollywood Curler card (c. 1935). After some haggling, I paid five dollars apiece for two of them.

The image of an actress, Betty Burgess, appears on both cards, so naturally I wondered who she was. She was gorgeous enough to have been a leading lady, yet I’d never heard of her. I concluded that she had never “made it big.”

During the Great Depression films often featured a young woman with no place to sleep, nothing to eat, and only pennies in her handbag. Ah, but the girl always had a dream that shone as brightly as a theater marquee, and in the movies those dreams invariably came true.

 In the 1937 drama A Star Is Born, for example, Esther Blodgett (Janet Gaynor), a North Dakota farm girl, leaves home after seeing a movie at the local Bijou featuring her screen idol, Norman Maine (Fredric March). Painfully naive, as only a small town girl in a 1930s film could be, Esther hops a train to Hollywood where she meets her screen idol and, yes, realizes her dream of stardom.

The career of real life starlet Betty Burgess took a different path. I discovered that unlike Esther, Betty didn’t have to hop a train or board a bus to get to Hollywood. She was born in Los Angeles on February 15, 1917. Also unlike Esther, Betty’s break didn’t come through a meeting with one of her idols—she was discovered by a talent agent who was scouting local acting schools for potential clients. In 1935, after beating out forty other actresses, she won the lead role in the musical Coronado.

Betty’s performance was positively reviewed and I imagine it was because of that success that her photo turned up on my Hollywood Curler cards. Betty didn’t become a household name though; she only acted in a handful of films between 1935 and 1939, then her career abruptly ended.

Betty was talented, so I believe that she voluntarily abandoned her acting career to pursue something, or someone, she wanted more than fame. Her image on the Hollywood Curler cards reminds me that life evolves, and so should one’s dreams.

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