Beyond Beauty

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2021 at 3:36 am

There is beauty, and then there is BEAUTY, of the type so distinctively unique, unexpected and refulgent, that transcends the mere flawlessly pretty, taking the concept of comeliness into another stratosphere of legend, fable, the surreal, and the sublime.

When you think about it, few women have ever really possessed it and one who did, Ava Gardner, came as near as anyone ever did, trying to describe it, in a quote I pray is not apocryphal, when she once observed, “Elizabeth [Taylor] is pretty. I am beautiful.”

Of course, there will be an army of dissenters who will want to argue that point. In terms of who really had that ineffable, supernatural kind of beauty beyond beauty, I don’ think anyone would disagree with me about Garbo, Dolores del Rio, Hedy Lamarr, Vivien Leigh, Carole Lombard, Valerie Hobson, both Hepburns, Katharine and Audrey, Lena Horne, Ann Harding, Sophia Loren, Loretta Young, Anita Louise and Fredi Washington. Joan Crawford -particularly between 1930 and 1946. Marlene Dietrich, the Aga of Artifice, especially as bedizened by Josef von Sternberg in their series of films, in which no woman was ever more glorified onscreen. In more recent years, one could include Lupita Nyongo, Dominique Sanda, Angelina Jolie, Cicely Tyson, Diahanne Abbot, Lonette McKee, as well as certain supreme supermodels like Iman, Christy Turlington, Yasmeen Ghauri, Rene Russo, Katoucha, Sayoko Yamaguchi and Pat Cleveland, who had a progenitor, the 1930s mannequin, Toto Koopman, also mixed race and utterly divine.

And then there was the absolutely exquisite Merle Oberon, born today, who, in three films in 1934-35, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Private Life of Don Juan and Folies Bergere, especially, swept all the other beauties aside with her hypnotic Eurasian enchantment. This was all just before Hollywood had done a complete renovation on her, downplaying the exotic for -it was thought – the more universal appeal of a typical – if faux – English rose.

with Oliver Messel during The Private Life of Don Juan, one of the most brilliantly costumed films in all cinema, wearing one of his opulent Goya-inspire
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as Marianne St. Just in The Scarlet Pimpernel 1934, gowned by Oliver Messel

by Oliver Messel, her brilliant costume designer for The Scarlet Pimpernel 1934

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