Quote Du Jour: Virginia Postrel on Glamour

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

For theatrical grace, the audience must not know, or must be willing to overlook, the effort behind the effortlessness. Sprezzatura is an illusion. Even in the naturally gifted, it requires cultivation. “She’s disciplined,” said Humphrey Bogart of Audrey Hepburn, “like all of those ballet dames.” To turn Sean Connery’s natural physical grace into James Bond’s social polish, director Terence Young took the young actor to fine restaurants, taught him to evaluate wines, had his suits and shirts custom-tailored, and made Connery sleep in one of the new outfits so that Bond’s clothes would feel natural. Grace Kelly achieved her mellifluous voice only after rigorous coaching, which mellowed her vocal tones and eliminated her nasal Philadelphia accent. Cary Grant spent his youth training as an acrobat, acquiring control over his movements. He achieved his “effortless” appearance by measuring the collars of his shirts and the lapels of his custom-made suits, returning them to the tailor if they were a tiny bit off. “It takes 500 small details to add up to one favorable impression,” he said.

By depicting the practiced or choreographed as natural and spontaneous, glamour makes the ideal feel attainable and the observer feel transported and at ease. “Each time Fred Astaire won over the heart of a reluctant Ginger Rogers by sweeping her up in a flurry of pivots, dips, and syncopated time steps, audiences forgot (since the film never showed) how many shoes were bloodied in the studio to create the appearance of impromptu courtship,” writes the dance scholar Juliet McMains.

These movies don’t invite us to imagine ourselves as real-world dancers, struggling through difficult rehearsals to create a great performance. Instead, we project ourselves into an effortless celebration of courtship and love. Astaire and Rogers labored mightily to create those dances, but the characters they played did not.

Virginia Postrel, The Power of Glamour

About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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4 Responses to Quote Du Jour: Virginia Postrel on Glamour

  1. peterike says:

    What a great clip. Those two were the best.

    Seeing Astaire always reminds me of when back in the 80s Michael Jackson first broke really huge with “Billy Jean,” the moonwalk and the rest of that. Putatively serious articles were published wondering “Is Michael Jackson a better dancer than Fred Astaire?”

    Ummmm….. no! Jackson’s entire career of crotch-grabbing, pelvis thrusting, finger snapping vulgarity doesn’t equal this single two minute routine. The decline of dance from the grace and class of Astaire/Rogers to the crass muscular sensationalism of today is as good a canary as any in the cultural coalmine.

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  2. Tarnished says:

    What a great quote. It reminds people that even those who “have such an easy life” because they’re movie stars have to work as well. They must have good bodies, memorize their lines, know their routines, and practice constantly just to stay relevant to the audience. Recent example was when Angelina Jolie had her double mastectomy, and various fans were saying that they wouldn’t bother watching her movies now. It’s sad that someone would feel so strongly about a piece of an actresses body…These are the types of things that actors and actresses need to consider at all times: how will my audience react to X.

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    • The most distasteful part of that whole Angelina brouhaha was the jerks saying they felt sorry…for Brad.

      Re: her breasts, I’m sure she had access to the best reconstructive surgery money could buy. I can understand people feeling passionate about beautiful bodies, but blame the cancer, not her, for what happened! She made a decision with medical guidance, based on the presence of a gene that she inherited that predisposed her to breast cancer (and in fact her mother died relatively young of the disease). She, in fact no woman, would be sanguine about removing a part of one’s body, especially one that is so bound up with sexuality and attractiveness. I’m not as intimately familiar with her bosom as perhaps I ought to be, but you can be sure that if the same fate were to befall Kate Upton or Veronica Zemanova or one of the other busty ladies who is a favorite around here, there would be much sadness. I would feel profound regret at the loss of such beauty…and I would 100% support her decision.

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