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Being in vogue in the 1910s

Doesn’t everyone want to be in vogue? Women in the 1910s certainly did, and one of the face powders they counted on to enhance their beauty was Vogue.

What’s playing at the Bijou?

The earliest ad I found for Vogue Face Powder appeared on July 12, 1914 in the Daily Review, which was a local paper in Decatur, Illinois. According to the advertisement, the purchase of a $.35 ($7.44 in current USD) box of the face powder would get you a free ticket to the Nickel Bijou! No right thinking woman could have passed up an opportunity like that. And what would have been playing on the big screen? The extremely popular serial, “The Perils of Pauline”, which debuted in 1914 and made Pearl White a star. There was a time when Pearl was even more popular than “America’s Sweetheart”, Mary Pickford!

The “Perils of Pearl”

Pearl White not only cheated death and escaped disaster in each of the films in the “…Pauline” series, she did a pretty fair job of cheating biographers out of the true story of her life. She had a flair for story telling, and she never let the truth get in her way. She told whoppers about her early life, at one point even telling reporters that there hadn’t been one natural death in her family in three generations and that except for herself, only her mother and one sister remained alive. It’s not clear how, or if, Pearl explained that story to her father and one of her brothers; both still very much alive at the time she told the tale! 

Another story that Pearl loved to tell was how she ran away from home at a young age and joined the circus, becoming both a trapeze artist and a bareback rider (undoubtedly another of her fabrications).

Pearl didn’t really need to manufacture any drama; her real life had plenty. She was married for the first time at age 18 (in 1907) to a fellow actor, Victor Sutherland. The couple divorced a few years later.

In 1919 Pearl met and married Major Wallace McCutcheon, Jr., a WWI vet. Wallace was an occasional actor, mainly on the stage and in light comedic roles; however, the war profoundly changed him. He was one of the many young men to return to their homes suffering from shell shock (i.e. psychological trauma). Only a couple of months following their divorce in 1921, a heavily armed Wallace vanished from a private club in New York. He was found many months later, and then spent the next several years drifting.  On January 4, 1928 Wallace was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a Los Angeles rooming house. Allegedly found near his body was a bottle of bathtub gin and a note that read: “Have a drink”.

And if there wasn’t enough excitement in her personal life, there was the day-to-day excitement of shooting action pictures in New York (Pearl never worked in Hollywood), as well as performing many of her own stunts.

Pearl’s later years

Like many artists and performers, Pearl was drawn to Paris in the years following World War I. She was offered film roles, but she preferred to perform on the stage. She did make one final film in 1924 — and then starred in a few stage reviews at the Montmarte Music Hall in Paris before retiring from performing.

One true thing about Pearl was that she knew how to hold on to a dollar. While in France she invested in a successful nightclub, a resort hotel and casino in Biarritz, as well as a stable of thoroughbred race horses.

At some point she became romantically involved with a Greek businessman, Theodore Cossika, with whom she travelled around the Middle East and the Orient.

As a result of injuries she sustained during stunt work, Pearl was in chronic pain. In order to ease the pain Pearl began to drink excessively. She was hospitalized in 1933 and was given opiates, to which she became addicted.

Pearl died of cirrhosis at age 49 on August 4, 1938 in the American Hospital in Neuilly, France. She was buried in the Cimetiere de Passy.


The roles that women played during World War II were as complex and contradictory as at any time in history. On the home front they were wives, mothers, sweethearts, factory workers, and taxi drivers.  War time propaganda encouraged women to keep the home fires burning, while simultaneously raising children and driving rivets into the hull of a destroyer or the fuselage of a bomber.


I have noticed that one phrase appeared consistently in wartime articles on make-up and fashion, and that was “morale is woman’s business”. It was made clear that in addition to any other responsibilities she may have had, it was a woman’s patriotic duty to look her best at all times. The business of morale was taken seriously, and countless articles were written to advise women on how to be competent, effective war workers, and yet remain attractive and cheerful companions.


While the women of the home front were keeping things on track, servicemen needed to be reminded why they were fighting, and what they were fighting for; and nothing sent a clearer message than a gorgeous pin-up picture.  Hollywood stars Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell and Betty Grable were the three most popular pin-up girls of the era, and their photos accompanied soldiers in their footlockers around the world. Five million copies of Rita Hayworth’s picture were sold; that number exceeded only by Betty Grable’s iconic photo.


Photos from home were crucial to a fighting man’s morale, but sometimes a candid snapshot wasn’t good enough. I found an article in the Los Angeles Times from October 1943 entitled “Send Him Your Picture”. The article described in detail how to apply make-up for a professional portrait, and it also provided tips on what to wear and whether or not to apply whitener to your teeth. This all speaks to the significance of the pin-up photo during the war. The pin-ups weren’t merely masturbatory tools for lonely troops, but they were a necessary, if idealized, connection to home.


 Not surprisingly, the focus of home front culture was on victory. There were victory gardens, victory pins (to wear on your sweater or jacket), and there was victory lipstick.  Victory lipstick came in tubes made of paper, plastic, or wood because metal was required for the war effort.


Jergens wasn’t alone in using patriotic themes in their advertising, but they put an imaginative spin on it when they hired world class pin-up artist Alberto Vargas to create both a package design and an ad that urged women to “be his pin-up girl”. And of course it was Vargas, among other pin-up artists, who inspired some truly glorious nose art (art that graced the fuselage of many of the aircraft during the war).


It’s plain to see that Jergens grasped the relationship between pin-up art and the woman’s business of morale and used it masterfully to their advantage.


The pin-up girl ad campaign appears to have run during 1944, and the face powder box with the Vargas art turns up in ads for about a year following the end of the war in 1945.


The Lady Conceta face powder box was a lucky find (an antiques mall), and I believe that it dates from the late 1920s to the early 1930s.


Whenever I attempt to date a face powder box that has no manufacturer information on it there are a couple of preliminary steps that I will take.  I’ll look at the back of the box, because sometimes the font used in describing the contents can be a clue to the era. The Spanish shawl which is draped so charmingly over the woman’s arm with the design spilling onto the sides of the box is what made me think of the 1920s/1930s.


It’s also helpful to have a general knowledge of popular culture during different decades because the graphics on the box very often reflect popular themes of a specific era.  Spanish shawls were a popular fashion accessory during that period. I’ve seen them in old films and photographs; although I’ve never been able to make a distinction between a Spanish shawl as an accessory, and the virtually identical piano shawl (also popular during the 20s and 30s) which was used to protect the top of a piano from scratches. They may have been one and the same (if anyone knows for sure, drop me a note).


Another popular culture clue in dating the Lady Conceta box was the woman depicted in the design. During the silent movie era the screen was often dominated by exotic looking men (e.g. Rudolph Valentino, Ramon Novarro) and women. Of the women working in film during those years two came to mind: Delores del Rio and Lupe Velez. The woman on the box seemed to me to be Lupe.


Lupe was born Maria Guadalupe Velez de Villalobos on July 18, 1908 in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Her father was an army officer, and her mother was an opera singer.  Lupe was educated in a convent in Texas, however she once said in an interview “But can you imagine a girl like me – all the time so happy – in a convent?” She found her calling and a place for her manic energy, when she first appeared at the Teatro Principal as a teenager. She was lovely, vivacious, and she wowed audiences in Mexico City.


When Lupe arrived in Hollywood in 1927 she was spotted by Hal Roach who cast her in a Laurel & Hardy comedy. She’d made an impression, and was selected as one of the WAMPAS “baby” stars in 1928. Even though Lupe’s big break would be in a dramatic role in “The Gaucho“, co-starring Douglas Fairbanks, Lupe had a flair for comedy. In 1933 she made the switch to comedy full-time.  She won the role of Pepper in “Hot Pepper” and she would shine.



Lupe’s role in “Hot Pepper” provided her an easy segue into the “Mexican Spitfire” films. The Spitfire series was written specifically for Lupe to showcase her talent as a comedic actress. Lupe’s exuberance and sparkle would draw audiences to her. Of course it didn’t hurt that she was as madcap off screen as on.


Nearly every article written about Lupe described her as fiery, tempestuous, and the petite star did have a volatile personality. She was once at an airport, ready to board a flight, when she realized that her tickets had gone missing. She hurled her hat, handbag, and gloves to the tarmac and proceeded to stomp her hat into a pulp.


Her affairs were legendary, and she always had something provocotive to say about love. Her most famous quote is: “The first time you buy a house you think how pretty it is and sign the check. The second time you look to see if the basement has termites. It’s the same with men.”


She had a well publicized Hollywood romance with Gary Cooper in the late 1920s, but when it blew up the two bickered and took potshots at each other in the press. About Gary, Lupe said that he may have been an idol to his mother, but that to her he was less than nothing. The statement lends credibility to the rumor that the relationship was torpedoed by Cooper’s mom.


By early 1933 she was linked with Olympic champion swimmer, and star of “Tarzan, the Ape Man”, Johnny Weissmuller. On January 12th of that year she was quoted in the Los Angeles Times explaining that “Love is not for such as me, and anyone who says I am in love with Johnny Weissmuller is crazy”. It turned out that the rumors were true. Lupe and Johnny were married ten months later.


All of Lupe’s relationships seemed to have been turbulent on and off again affairs – and her marriage to Weissmuller would be no different.  On August 13, 1938 the Los Angeles Times suggested that if only Weissmuller had “confined his warfare on the animal kingdom to tying knots in the tail of Numa the lion” perhaps his marriage to Velez wouldn’t have been on the rocks.  During their divorce hearing in 1939, Lupe told the judge that “Johnee wanted to kill my little dog”. According to her Weissmuller would scare her Chihuahua so badly that it would turn tail and run, yipping, to hide in her lap.


A few years following her divorce Lupe became involved with French film actor Harald Ramond Marecsh. By Thanksgiving 1944 local newspapers were reporting that the two planned to wed. Only a couple of weeks later, on December 14th, Lupe Velez would be dead by her own hand.


Lupe was pregnant with Harald’s child, and he was very reluctant to get married. It may have been his suggestion of a mock marriage that pushed Lupe over the edge. The note she left for him (which was reprinted in full in the papers) said as much. She wrote: “How could you Harald, fake such great love for me and our baby when all along you didn’t want us”.


Lupe carefully staged her final scene in her home on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  She was discovered by her maid “sleeping peacefully” in her all white boudoir, on ivory satin sheets, wearing blue silk pajamas.  On the nightstand was an empty bottle of Seconal and two notes, one for Harald and one for her secretary.


A rumor has persisted for years that Lupe didn’t die of a barbiturate overdose and that instead she was feeling very sick after ingesting the Seconal, got up out of bed and went into the bathroom where she stuck her head in the toilet to vomit and subsequently died by drowning.  I’ve never found any credible source for that story.


When I think of Lupe I remember the life and energy that radiated from her in her films, and in the interviews that she gave. While re-reading Raymond Chandler’s great novel, “The Little Sister” I’ve found a character who seems like a deviant twist on Lupe’s public persona. The woman in the novel is Dolores Gonzales. Like Lupe she’s vibrant and sensual; but unlike Lupe she puts on a phoney accent and hails from Cleveland, Ohio. And Dolores is a very a bad dame.


One side note — I think that the woman on the cover of the Black Lizard trade paperback edition of “The Little Sister” is burlesque queen Dita von Teese. Anyone agree with me?

I love the image of the woman on the Richard Hudnut Deauville face powder box. I’ve always thought of her as a courtesan dressing for her paramour — she’s just the right combination of innocence and decadence.  The face powder box dates from the early 1920s, but the image of the woman recalls an earlier time. While I love the blues and  rock ‘n roll, I’m also a fan of opera, and to me the woman in the design represents the beautiful but doomed Violetta Valery from Verdi’s  1853 opera La Traviata. Verdi based his opera on the novel Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas (the younger — it was his father who wrote The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo).

Marie Duplessis

Marie Duplessis

Dumas was born in Paris in 1824, and he was the illegitimate son of novelist Alexandre Dumas and dressmaker Marie-Laure-Catherine Labay. Dumas often tackled complex moral issues in his writings , such as the life of his fictional courtesan Marguerite Gautier. Dumas didn’t have to rely solely on his imagination to tell the story of Marguerite because she was a thinly veiled depiction of Dumas’ former lover Marie Duplessis.

Alexandre and Marie had a relationship that lasted only one year, and their affair was an open secret in Paris. It wasn’t until after Marie’s untimely death that Dumas began to write the story of the lady of the camellias.  Dumas was typical of the time in which he lived, he seemed to have no qualms about taking a mistress, nor about appropriating her life story for his fiction, yet he would write frequently about the evils of prostitution. In fact, Dumas went so far as to propose to the government that all street prostitutes be deported to the colonies — out of sight, out of mind. Not exactly an enlightened approach to public policy and social ills.

Marie’s life story was much different than Dumas’ romanticized version. She was born Rose Alphonsine Plessis in Normandy, France in 1824. Marie’s parents weren’t a good match, and when they split up Marie’s mother abandoned her own family and became employed as the maid to an English family living in France. Marie was left in the care of her father, who shipped her out to the boonies to live with relatives. She lost her virginity at age 12 to a farm hand, and by 13 she’d been returned to her father who began to pimp her out. Despite her earning potential Marie’s father shipped her off again, this time she went to stay with relatives in Paris who owned a grocery. She worked as a clerk in a hat shop and saved enough money to get her own apartment in the Latin Quarter. Because she was vivacious and pretty she soon came to the attention of wealthy men who could buy her a better life than she could afford on her own.

Her first benefactor lasted only as long as his money held out. Marie’s subsequent lovers were wealthier and more powerful in turn, and she was finally able to move out of the Quarter and into a sumptuous apartment on Boulevard de Madelaine. If spending money was an Olympic event,  Marie would have won multiple gold medals. She easily spent 100,000 francs per year on her personal upkeep, not including her staff. By the age of 20 she may have been the queen of the demi-monde in Paris — but she was also dying. Marie had consumption (tuberculosis) and it was destroying her. She knew she didn’t have long to live, and that knowledge, coupled with her deprived upbringing, undoubtedly fueled her compulsive spending and gambling habits.

Heroin Chic redux? An ad from c. 2007

Heroin Chic redux? An ad from c. 2007

Consumption has been common throughout human history. Ironically, during Marie’s lifetime women emulated the visible symptoms of the disease for fashion! People believed that the symptoms of the disease enhanced senstive, artistic dispositions. It was a kind of “TB chic” (just as the so-called “heroin chic” would have its day in the mid-1990s). The white skin, flushed cheeks, and luminous eyes were frequently achieved by using extremely dangerous substances. Among the potions used were compounds containing lead (many women died as a result of lead poisoning) and belladonna. Belladonna (the juice of the poisonous nightshade plant) was used to make a woman’s eyes bright as if she had a fever.

Greta Garbo in Camille

Greta Garbo in Camille

Marlene Dietrich may have presented a tragically romantic vision as she died in Robert Taylor’s arms in the 1936 film version of Camille (one of the many films based upon La Dame aux Camellias)  but Marie’s end was excruciating. Shortly before she died she had met and fallen in love with the composer Franz Liszt. The love may have been reciprocated, but Lizst didn’t take Marie on tour with him. This would have been the time when so-called Listzomania was sweeping Europe, so perhaps he thought better of taking a lover on a tour during which women fought over shreds of his hankies and gloves. Lizst left on tour, and soon afterwards Marie spent her last days in agony before death released her.

Theda Bara

Theda Bara

Marie was deeply in debt when she died, and her belongings were sold at auction — even her pet parrot! The auction drew crowds of people who were mostly interested in the vicarious thrill they could derive by handling the possessions of an infamous courtesan.

Among those in the crowd at the auction was author Charles Dickens. Of the crowd he said: “One could have believed that Marie was Jeanne d’Arc or some other national heroine, so profound was the general sadness.”

Marie’s life was brief, but she achieved immortality through Dumas’ work. Her story has been told many times in film and on stage, and she has been portrayed by actresses such as: Greta Garbo, Eleonora Duse, Lillian Gish, Theda Bara, and Sarah Bernhardt.

Marie’s funeral was reported to have been extravagant — drawing a crowd of hundreds. She is interred in Montmarte Cemetery.



Here comes the bride, all dressed in white – and surrounded by art deco geometry. The bride on the Nupcial face powder box is dressed for a wedding in the late 1920s or early 1930s. She’s wearing a cloche style headdress, her hair is bobbed, and her bee-stung lips are painted a vivid crimson.

She represents a typical bride of the time, and she is obviously wearing make-up.  Commercial cosmetics were a recent phenomenon in the 1920s and 30s. Prior to that time women had passed recipes for kitchen cosmetics and skin preparations to one another. The recipes were often contained in cookbooks which were given as gifts, or handed down from mother to daughter. When the Nupcial bride was walking down the aisle, whether or not to “paint and powder” was still the subject of contentious debate.

The bride in the photo looks radiant and deliriously happy, or maybe just delirious; but what about the darker side of brides? For the noir side of brides we need only to look at the 1935 film, “Bride of Frankenstein”.  Elsa Lanchester may have been one of the most reluctant brides ever. She took one look at her intended mate, Boris Karloff, and let out an ear piercing shriek of terror.  Not exactly an “I do”.

Bride of Frankenstein

Bride of Frankenstein

I always feel sorry for the monster – look at his face, he was obviously smitten, and you can see why, Elsa made a lovely bride – even with the lightening bolt of white in her hair, and the extensive scarring on her neck.

“For her fifth wedding, the bride wore black and carried a scotch and soda.”

Phyllis Battelle, journalist

They may look benign in their beautiful gowns; with their hair perfectly coiffed and their makeup flawlessly applied, but brides can also be serial killers! The bride in Cornell Woolrich’s novel was widowed on her wedding day. She was not about to let the murderers escape justice, and the novel tracks the homicidal nearlywed as she lures, ensnares, then bumps off the five men who ruined her life. What the homicidal bride doesn’t know about the death of her groom is revealed in a contrived twist at the novel’s end.

Although he was not the same caliber of writer as either Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett, Cornell Woolrich was one of the fathers of the 20th century crime novel. He penned the story Rear Window which became the great Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.

 Woolrich was a profoundly unhappy man. He was a self-hating homosexual and was a groom one time only. He may have been even more hesitant to walk down the aisle than Frankenstein’s intended.  On a whim, he married the daughter of a movie mogul. The marriage was not consummated, and after a desperate phone call from his mother who claimed that she couldn’t live without him, he moved in with her and never left again.

Even in these enlightened times, wearing white and walking down the aisle with the man of your dreams seems to be a national obsession. There are TV shows devoted to brides behaving almost as badly as the woman in Woolrich’s novel. These women are the notorious “Bridezillas”.  Nothing makes them happy – neither the dress, nor the catering, and perhaps not even the groom. They roar and stomp, and generally make life miserable for all those with whom they come in contact. I’d rather face a starving raptor.

I think that the preoccupation with over the top weddings is a component of the nation’s other reigning mania – the desire for fame.  It seems as if everyone wants to star in her or his own movie, or share space with a “celebutante” on the cover of a supermarket tabloid.

My groom and I opted for a small retro style wedding. The elegant vintage cake topper was a flea market find and suited the theme of my wedding perfectly. I will always cherish it.


I can recall seeing a photograph of the As The Petals face powder box (manufactured by the Lazell Company) in Laura M.  Mueller’s book “Collectors Encyclopedia of Compacts, Carryalls, and Face Powder Boxes”. I thought it was one of the most beautiful boxes I’d ever seen – and I hoped that someday I’d add one to my collection.  When the box finally popped up for bids on eBay I was determined to win it, and I did. At that time (several years ago), it was the most expensive face powder box I’d ever purchased (it was a little over $100). It dates from the 1910s, is in remarkable condition, and I’ve never regretted buying it.

The design on the box has always reminded me of the dancer Isadora Duncan, considered to be the mother of modern dance. Just as the woman on the powder box, Duncan had a fondness for long flowing scarves (more on this later) and she danced in her bare feet.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Isadora was the inspiration for the design on the box.

The dancer was born in San Francisco in 1877. Her family moved to London in 1899, and it was there in the British Museum that she and her brother Raymond immersed themselves in every aspect of the culture of ancient Greece.

“To bring to life again the ancient ideal! I do not mean to say, copy it, imitate it; but to breathe its life, to recreate it in one’s self, with personal inspiration: to start from its beauty and then go toward the future.” (Isadora Duncan, The Art of the Dance)

By 1910 Isadora had borne two children – Deirdre (with theater designer Gordon Craig) and Patrick (with Paris Singer, one of the heirs to the Singer sewing machine fortune).  On April 19, 1913 the children, accompanied by their Scottish nanny, were being driven from Isadora’s townhome in Neuilly-sur-Seine to the Trianon Palace Hotel in Versailles.  The car stalled after narrowly avoiding a collosion with another auto.  The chauffeur got out to crank the machine back to life, but he’d neglected to set the hand brake. The car rolled across the Boulevard Bourdon and plunged into the Seine, where tragically the children and their nanny perished.

Isadora was devastated by the loss and fled to Corfu to spend time with her brother and sister. It wasn’t long after her trip to Corfu that she traveled to Viareggio with the actress Eleonora Duse. Duse had been involved in a lesbian relationship with Italian feminist Lina Poletti, and so the rumor mill ground out stories about the nature of the friendship between the two women.  Because some of the correspondence between them has survived, it appears that the rumors were true.

Isadora was a free spirit who refused to accept the status quo for women. In her quest for a life unfettered by conventional expectations she was drawn to post revolutionary Russia, and moved to Moscow in 1922. Conditions in the new Soviet Socialist Republic were bleak, and when the government failed to make good on their promises to her she returned to the West after only two years.

During her time in Moscow Isadora had become a Soviet citizen due to her marriage to the poet Sergei Yessenin – who was 18 years her junior.  Isadora spoke few words of Russian, and Sergei spoke no foreign languages, so it must have been chemistry that drew the two together. Yessenin was a talented and popular poet, but he was addicted to alcohol and when he was intoxicated he was inclined to rages that frequently ended in violence.  It was no surprise to anyone when Sergei left Isadora and returned to Moscow. Sadly, he soon suffered a mental collapse and was institutionalized. He was released in December of 1925 and attempted suicide by cutting his wrists (and writing a farewell note in his own blood!). When that attempt failed, he succeeded the next day in hanging himself from some heating pipes in a hotel room. Sergei was only 30.

Earlier, I had mentioned that Isadora had a penchant for wearing long flowing scarves – in fact it was one of the reasons that the As The Petals face powder box reminded me so much of her.

On September 14, 1927, Isadora wrapped a long hand painted silk scarf around her neck and got into a car with Italian mechanic, Benoît Falchetto. As the car pulled away Isadora waved to a group of friends, reportedly saying “Adieu, mes amis,  Je vais à la gloire!” (“Goodbye, my friends, I am off to glory!”). The scarf fluttered dramatically behind her, but as the car picked up speed it became entangled in the spokes of one of the wheels and tightened around Isadora’s neck.  The dancer was yanked out of her seat and over the rear of the car, and then dragged along the cobblestone street to her death.

In the years following her demise, the quote attributed to Isadora was revealed to have been false.  Because Isadora had been driving off with a handsome (and much younger) mechanic, the friend who had supplied the quote thought that the truth would be embarrassing.

Isadora’s actual last words were “Je vais à l’amour” (“I am off to love”).

Isadora was a rebel, and so she appealed to the so-called second wave of feminists during the 1960s. For an interesting take on Isadora Duncan see the 1968 film, “Isadora” starring Vanessa Redgrave [You may need an old machine — I believe that the film is available only on VHS].

Duska Face Powder Box c. 1925

Duska Face Powder Box c. 1925

The face powder box shown above is called Duska. You can tell that the box was created during the 1920s because the fountain design was borrowed from Rene Lalique’s crystal fountain, which had been a feature at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris during 1925. It was the exposition that introduced the moderne style, later dubbed art deco, to the world.

Lalique Fountain

Lalique Fountain

Lalique’s fountain had a structure reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower, but the water flowed out in way that gave it soft undulating curves, much like those of the Paris Metro signs. 

The expo had originally been expected to open in 1914 – but WWI intervened. It wasn’t until 1921 that the financing and location were settled, and the expo finally opened in 1925. 

The moderne style grew out of several styles, including art nouveau. While art nouveau reveled in sensuous curves and muted tones, the moderne style was vibrant in color, and its shapes were geometric.

The design of the Duska face powder box borrows elements from both Art Noveau and Art Deco.

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

If I could time travel, I’d like to spend a while as an expatriate in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s.  Following WWI, the “War to End All Wars”, Paris was inhabited by artists, writers, and some of the physical and emotional causalities of the horrors of trench warfare. 

Many of the people who came of age during the years following WWI rejected 19th century values, and its art, and earned the moniker the “Lost Generation“. Some of the Americans who gravitated to the expat’s life in Paris would become international literary superstars: Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos. Others of them were artists and performers, like Josephine Baker.

I visualize myself at a sidewalk café (where else?) watching the passing parade of literati.  Maybe I’d be involved in a steamy assignation a la Anais Nin and Henry Miller.

Anais Nin

Anais Nin

It would have been an exciting place to be, with a cast of characters one can only dream about.  Fortunately, there are ways in which to vicariously experience life in Paris during the 1920s/30s – you can read Hemmingway’s novels, Anais Nin’s diaries or erotica, Henry Miller’s novel “Quiet Days in Clichy” (which I loved) or rent the 1988 film “The Moderns” or the 1990 film Henry and June” , which was based upon a portion of Nin’s diaries.

Until time travel becomes an option, we’ll have to use our imaginations – so mix yourself a gimlet (gin, please!), slip into vintage clothes, and curl up with one of the aforementioned books,  watch one of the movies, or listen to le jazz hot.

And ladies – don’t forget to powder your nose.

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