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A redheaded Lana Turner advertises Max Factor lipstick and her role in the MGM film “Cass Timberlane”

 

Lipstick has been around for centuries. The women of ancient Mesopotamia crushed gemstones and applied them to their lips, and Egyptian women colored their lips using crushed carmine beetles. But arguably the most important lipstick innovation was made by Max Factor when, in 1930, he created lip gloss.

Factor began his incredible career by creating makeup specifically for film, so it is not surprising that many of his ads featured Hollywood stars. The Max Factor ads were frequently a clever cross promotion highlighting not only the cosmetics, but a popular actress and her current project, too.

butterfield 8 elizabeth taylorI know I am not alone in believing lipstick to be the perfect cosmetic; It is small enough to tuck into an evening bag and most women will not leave home without a tube of their current favorite color in their purse. Applying lipstick may have become second nature for those who wear it, but it is a uniquely feminine and extremely intimate act—perhaps that is one of the reasons people during the 1920s were scandalized when women first began to use it in public (this despite the beauty preferences of the women of ancient Mesopotamia).

Then and now, a delicate pink lipstick was as sweet and innocent as a girl’s first kiss. In deep, luscious red it can be seductive, lustful and, quite frankly, a home wrecker. The wicked little cosmetic leaves tell-tale traces on clothing and skin, and it’s famous for lingering provocatively on a cigarette smoldering in an ashtray and smeared cocktail glasses. And it has other applications, too. Lipstick has been used to write love letters and ransom notes, and even to spark romantic connections in films. (Butterfield 8, in which Elizabeth Taylor used lipstick to scrawl NO SALE across a mirror—her message to a lover who thought he could possess her soul, and The Postman Always Rings Twice, in which a tube of rolling lipstick creates the sexual tension between John Garfield and Lana Turner come to mind.)

On screen and off, I believe that a woman watching herself in a mirror as she touches up her lipstick is far sexier than the lowest cut dress or the highest heels. The next time you apply your favorite lip color, pause and reflect on the history of the beauty essential, then send up a silent thank you to the many innovators who’ve put work into perfecting your pout—Max Factor included, of course.

that wonderful urge

Welcome to the Vintage Powder Room Cinema!  Today’s feature is THAT WONDERFUL URGE [1949] starring Gene Tierney, Tyrone Power, Reginald Gardiner, and Arleen Whelan.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Sara Farley, a madcap grocery store heiress, is the subject of a series of articles published in the New York Chronicle by Thomas Jefferson Tyler. Duffy, Tom’s editor, wants him to produce more quotes from the heiress, so he follows her when she goes on a skiing trip to Sun Valley with her fiancé Count Andre de Guyon and her aunt Cornelia, posing as Tom Thomas, a small-town newspaperman. When Sara goes dogsledding with Tom as her driver, they have a minor collision with a tree, lose the dogs and have to spend some time in an emergency ski cabin. After Tom asks her to read and comment on a phony, complimentary story he has written about her, the unsuspecting Sara agrees to tell him her life story.

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The vibrant colors and Art Deco design of this Holdfast Hair Pin card didn’t catch my eye until I saw it listed in an online auction. The woman’s bobbed hair is typical of the flapper era, and it was easy for me to envision her in a short dress and rolled stockings, stopping by her local five-and-dime to pick up a card of Holdfast hair pins to keep her newly shorn locks in place.

I can’t conceive of life without bobby pins, and it is my contention that they are the unsung heroines of a woman’s beauty tool kit. I wear my hair short, so I don’t often use them, but I keep a few stashed in my bag anyway. A recent purse search turned up my wallet, cell phone, a handful of loose change, a lipstick I had been searching for since last week, and three bobby pins.

The spare change may come in handy, and I’m glad the lipstick finally turned up, but I tossed the bobby pins right back into my purse because I find the ingenious metal clips are as useful—or even more useful than—any multi-purpose knife. They can be used to create a halo of face framing curls or as an improvised paper clip, bookmark, screwdriver, fishhook, cherry pitter, or lock pick. Unconvinced of the bobby pin’s superiority? Just try holding your hair in place with any of the objects listed above.

Given their usefulness, it is no wonder that at least half a dozen people have sought to take credit for the bobby pin’s invention. First was an imaginative 15th century fellow, the eponymous Robert “Bobby” Pinsworth. According to some sources, Mrs. Pinsworth was having a bad hair day when she asked her husband for something to hold an errant strand in place. Bobby came through with a uniquely designed clip that changed Mrs. P’s life.

In March 1990, Luis Marco, a 1920s San Francisco cosmetics manufacturer was eulogized in a local newspaper as the originator of the bobby pin. His daughter said that he had toyed with the idea of naming it the Marcus Pin, but named it after bobbed hair instead.

The only historical consensus about the humble little clip seems to be that it was created during the Roaring 20s, like the Holdfast Hair Pins, for flappers coping with their newly cropped dos; but whether the clever ribbed metal device was the brainchild of Bobby Pinsworth, Luis Marco, or someone else altogether, its true creator remains a beautiful mystery.

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Welcome to the Vintage Powder Room Cinema!  Today’s feature is THE LEMON DROP KID starring Bob Hope, Marilyn Maxwell, Lloyd Nolan. It’s a different sort of holiday tale.

Enjoy the movie!

The New York Times said:

The Screen in Review: Bob Hope as Hapless Racetrack Tout in ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’ Opening at Paramount

By Bosley Crowther

Published: March 22, 1951

 Damon Runyon’s old story, “The Lemon Drop Kid,” which, was about a race track tipster who leaped from the frying-pan into the fire, has been given a pretty thorough shakedown under the capable hands of Bob Hope in the slapstick farce of the same title that came to the Paramount yesterday. The consequent entertainment, populated throughout by Mr. Hope, may be a far cry from Mr. Runyon’s story, but it’s a close howl to good, fast, gag-packed fun.

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Having lived in Southern California for most of my life I have a soft spot for the car culture that is woven into the strands of the area’s DNA. I had a classic fire engine red 1965 Mustang that was totaled in an accident years ago and I still mourn the loss. When I discovered this Mi-Lady Hair Net package in an online auction recently, I knew I had to have it; the little roadster is irresistible.

The automobile has had a profound effect on L.A.. While these days we have a tendency to focus on the negative impact of cars on the city–traffic, traffic, and more traffic–during the 1920s and 1930s, cars inspired a trend in architecture that would have made what Alice saw down the rabbit hole seem mundane.

Programmatic, mimetic, and novelty are terms that describe the whimsical style of architecture that was at its peak during the 1920s and 1930s. Structures were built to resemble the products or services they offered, the buildings were designed specifically to attract the attention of people as they passed by in their automobiles.

Even though the 1920s era auto depicted on the Mi-Lady envelope is a European model with right hand drive, I envision the couple tooling around Los Angeles in it. They could be newlyweds on a daylong excursion of dining and shopping in various novelty buildings.

Let’s tag along:

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The pair begins their day by grabbing a cup o’ Joe and a pastry in a building shaped like a giant coffee pot. Later in the morning they find themselves craving freshly squeezed orange juice, so they pull into a café shaped like, what else, a giant orange!

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The newlyweds long to find a sweet California bungalow to call home; so they are ecstatic when the salesmen at the Sphinx Realty Company, located in a replica of the Egyptian icon, help them track down their dream house.

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After making a down payment on a cozy cottage, the couple decides to purchase a piano—just the thing for evening sing-a-longs with family and friends. With a colossal piano marking the entrance to the showroom, the California Piano Supply Company is the ideal place to shop for a baby grand. 00068648_tamale

Following bowls of chili at The Tamale in East L.A., the couple fire up their little sports car and speed off into the warm Los Angeles night.

Photographs courtesy the Los Angeles Public Library 

 

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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.

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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.

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