Our latest blog comes from Stipend Holder Cathy Lomax, an independent scholar and artist. Cathy looks at how female stars were presented in the new Hollywood era by studying items from the time in our collection.

My PhD, which I completed last year, was on Hollywood star makeup in the 1950s and 1960s. Although makeup is still central to my interests, my research more broadly examines how female stars look on and off-screen, and how this is received by, and influences, audiences, and society more generally. This is also key to my parallel career as an artist in which my output, mostly painting, is dominated by film and most particularly star imagery. In my time at the Bill Douglas Museum (made possible by the Museum’s visiting researcher stipend) I wanted to focus on the late 1960s and 1970s – ‘New Hollywood’ – a fascinating period in which the breakdown of the studios afforded new freedoms to filmmakers. For stars it meant they were no longer constrained by studio contracts or had to adhere to the identikit style of studio wardrobe and makeup departments. This New Hollywood era also introduced more liberal attitudes to sex and race, and with the film production code a thing of the past this all fed into how women looked on-screen.



Stars of the Sexual Revolution

In my three days at the museum I was determined to look at as much as possible. To prepare I searched the collections for material relating to stars Faye Dunaway, Carrie Snodgress and Tuesday Weld (who I am collectively calling stars of the sexual revolution for an upcoming talk), alongside anything relating to women in New Hollywood. My second area of focus was the later career of Elizabeth Taylor, especially the flamboyant films she made in Europe in the 1970s. To this cocktail I added some additional treats that deal more broadly with stars and fashion.


The boxes of material that I found waiting for me in the reading room were dominated by stacks of fan magazines such as Modern Screen and Photoplay. These magazines, produced for film fans, were arguably at their height in the 1930s when they were fed material and access to stars by the studio publicity departments. By 1960 very few of the magazines survived and for those that did the film content was diluted with TV and music, and overwhelmingly dominated by gossip. It’s also notable that the turbulent lives of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton appear to have kept these late fan magazines afloat, if the number of covers and features on their breakups, reconciliations, illnesses and extravagant lifestyles are anything to go by! Despite these failings this last hurrah of the fan magazines gives a fascinating insight into the era and there is much of interest to be found in terms of star image.







Modern Screen (July 1961), Modern Screen (September 1961), Modern Screen (August 1965), Photoplay Annual (1965), Photoplay Annual (1966), Photoplay Film Monthly (May 1971), Films Illustrated (October 1972), Modern Screen’s Yearbook (1972), Films Illustrated (August 1973)


 Take Tuesday Weld, whose screen debut was at age 12 in Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man (1956), transitioned into teendom in titles such as Sex Kittens Go to College (1960), before migrating to more serious fare like Play it as it Lays (1972) (of which more later). Along the way she was infamous for her unpredictable behaviour and scandalous love life. In Photoplay Album for 1965 she is one of their ‘Pinups of the year’, the accompanying full-page head and shoulders shot, shows her smiling, wrapped in a towel, with short tousled blonde hair and noticeably long false eye lashes. The text says:


"Today she is in a scraggly-hair-black-stocking mood, but tomorrow, who knows? She believes in the old-time Hollywood glamour and, having been a pinup princess at 14, could go on being one at 19 – if she didn't find it more fun to be a character instead."



Photoplay Album (1965)

In October 1965 South African magazine, Stage and Screen (a title I hadn’t come across before), features Weld on the set of The Cincinnati Kid with the headline, ‘Ex Kook Tuesday’:


Miss Weld is considered by co-workers to be hard-working, industrious, sincere, one of the quietest of beings, and even shy! She arrives on the set on time and knows her lines […] ‘I have grown up and it's about time,’ she asserts. ‘I am 21 years of age and l have come to terms with myself. I am dedicating all my energies to proving l'm a good actress and with it a good professional on the job.’


In 1966 coverage of Weld oscillates between nubile blond pin-up and aspiring, serious actress. In the March issue of Stage and Screen, she is described as ‘shapely and agile’ in her role as a drum majorette in Lord, Love a Duck. While in ‘The Girls Most Likely’ a double page in Photoplay Album for 1966, Weld is included alongside Suzanne Pleshette, Jane Fonda and Angie Dickinson, and positioned as a rising star with attitude:


'[Weld will] never be described as another Monroe or Turner or anyone else. She's an original, a kookie blonde teenager who has outlived her headline-making proclivities and is now making the big pitch to be considered an actress.'


Although the studio star-making machine is a thing of a past by the late 1960s, there is still a visible jockeying for position in the star firmament. However, the decline of fan magazines meant that stars had to look to a broader range of media to boost their profiles. In the 1960s, a period when the ‘it girl’, as exemplified by swinging 60s models, was the vogue, fashion became associated with youth, and stars regularly appeared in fashion magazine spreads in an attempt to boost their appeal. In a fascinating short article in the October 1965 issue of Stage & Cinema Simone Williams attempts to define a variation on this theme, ‘The In Girl’:


'everyone wants to be IN! This ethereal state is practically impossible to define, but basically it means being in the right places at the right time, and looking distinctive but at the same time part of the "IN" crowd you are seen with. Clothes are the obvious clues. Subtle accessories are very important, it may just be the heel of a shoe, the clasp on a handbag or the colour of a string of beads, but it's never too blatant... Anything which is hard to achieve either by money, distance or ingenuity is admired by the "IN" crowds... "IN" girls have glamour jobs, modelling is the most popular, publicity work, coffee bar waitress, travel agency receptionist or better still air hostess, are also very "IN"" careers. […] Masculine pants, usually men's Levis jeans, and boots with cowboy heels make up their leisure wardrobe, together with skinny rib jumpers, or check shirts, again from the men's department or boutiques. But for evenings and dates they can conjure up glamour from a plain, well cut shift dress. If they expose decollete, it's so ladylike that no one oggles.'


In opposition to the starry glamour of classical Hollywood, these more-casual clothes, often with a distinct everyday fashion focus, also became more visible in films in the New Hollywood era. For example, Faye Dunaway’s stardom was supercharged by her role as Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), a film often considered to have initiated New Hollywood. Dunaway’s 1930s inspired, eminently copyable costumes in the film, designed by Theadora Van Runkle, were and continue to be influential. This simple elegance is often seen to be reflected in the actress’ own clothes. In ‘What Happened to You Faye Dunaway’ in Photoplay Film Monthly, July 1968, Henry Gris muses on what Dunaway talks about in her many press interviews:


"That you love beautiful clothes but you buy most from Donald Brooks and Geoffrey Beene in New York rather than from the haute couturiers in Paris. That you don't care for diamonds […] That you think minks are boring […] and you catch sight of yourself in the mirror, and there you see that blonde young woman, so immaculately coiffed, her clothes simple but elegant, and she is a star."


Photoplay Film Monthly (March 1968)

In the March 1968 issue of Photoplay Film Monthly, ‘Reflections on the Bonnie Runaway Dunaway’ describes Dunaway as a ‘groovy, blonde actress’ – and goes on to offer the following assessment: ‘It is refreshing to find a beautiful girl who looks like being a very big star, who, as well as being curvaceous and wearing extraordinary clothes is intelligent and, most important, CAN ACT.’ This comment about the importance of acting is particularly interesting because the focus of the issue is on-screen nudity. The cover and 12-page supplement titled ‘The Naked Screen: How far dare the cinema go?’ features images and lascivious descriptions of actors (predominantly female) in various states of dishabille, with no mention of the importance of acting ability!



Photoplay Film Monthly (March 1968)



The third of my three ‘sexual revolution’ actresses had a relatively short career which included an Academy Award nomination for her role in Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970). Her fierce ambition to be an actress, which led to her securing the role in Housewife, appears to have rapidly subsided after the film was released. Although she did appear very sporadically in other films she retreated from Hollywood and didn’t even attend the Academy Awards ceremony. This rejection of ‘the system’ is reflected by her non-appearance in fan magazines.


Screen World Film Annual (1971)



A review of Housewife by Arlene Kramborg in the serious-minded Films in Review (October 1970) describes Snodgress as ‘not a good looking girl, the gentlemen tell me, and what she displays when nude isn’t my idea of what turns gentlemen on’. Could it be that it is this kind of appearance driven criticism that made her lose her appetite for film stardom? Marilyn Beck in her 1973 book Marilyn Beck’s Hollywood describes meeting Snodgress, and paints her as a woman in tune with the times, but a Hollywood outsider:


'dressed in blue jeans and a cotton work shirt several sizes too large, her hair hanging loose and unstyled against a face devoid of makeup, she was a picture of the unwashed Madonna of the Seventies.'


Advertising and Self Image




ABC Film Review (November1967)



Alongside features and editorials, magazine advertising gives an insight into the climate for young female film fans in the 1960s and 1970s. The interplay between the ads, and coverage of female stars, is also illuminating. November 1967’s ABC Film Review carries an ad for Sylvakleer – ‘vitamised tablets’ that purport to ‘treat acne spots and pimples’. The ad features a black and white image of a young woman wearing large dark sunglasses and proclaims, ‘Once Upon a Time I Hid From Men […] I was afraid men wouldn’t like me’. Over the page three small film stills, all of which feature an impossibly stunning Faye Dunaway (alongside her male co-stars), is accompanied by a text that appears to link success with visibility and confidence:


'Hailed by the film critics as 'exciting', ‘sensual',' subtly sexy with acting ability as a bonus', Florida-born Faye was discovered by film producer Sam Spiegel when she was acting on the New York stage. Sam signed her on the spot. Three very different roles in three films opening in three successive months in London: such is life for the film world's latest find in the ceaseless search for new talent.'


Positioned next to this is an ad for a ‘free’ book about gaining more confidence (more research is needed here to find out what the rational was in distributing this free book).


Despite the demise of studio control, little had changed in terms of the expectations on women in New Hollywood to adhere to prescribed beauty standards – a rationale that was broadcast to female film fans via fan magazines. Take Henry Gris’ feature on Dunaway in the July 1968 edition of Photoplay Film Monthly which ends with the following:


'She took a cigarette out of the gold cigarette case on the table and I picked up the gold lighter and flicked it. She inhaled the smoke, deep. She looked tired. But then it was late and she had attended conferences all day long. She had had no dinner and was not going to have one now. She had to watch her figure anyway. Every star does.'


The magazine of course includes an advertisement for a ‘slimming’ product later in the issue!


Elizabeth Taylor’s frequent exposure in magazines provided a wonderful opportunity for advertisers and luxury brands to align themselves to her fame, luxury lifestyle, and the problems she seemed to continually overcome. In Photoplay Film Monthly, May 1971, ‘The Incredible Change in Elizabeth Taylor’, written from the set of her new film X Y and Zee, gushes: ‘She looked terrific. Slimmer, healthier, more vibrant than I've ever seen her. The change is quite incredible’. The accompanying images show Taylor running through a hallway, dark hair flying behind her and a fringed top riding up to expose her underwear and legs. Alongside these images a full colour close-up shows her looking thoughtful, with a slight smile across her coral-coloured lips. Her eyes are heavily made-up, with greenish grey eyeshadow and darkly mascaraed lashes, and her hair flecked with grey. The article tells us that:


'Before starting work on X, Y & Zee, she fought and, at least partially, won the battle of the bulge. Her hair, once jet black, is now going grey and she's doing nothing to prevent it. But there's always those eyes - pools of liquid violets. Another interesting focus point for audiences will no doubt be the costumes which Beatrice Dawson designed for Elizabeth. They range from brightly- coloured kaftans, a fringed poncho top and beaver fur top hat worn with conventional riding breeches and boots, a dramatic hand-painted lilac and mauve felt cloak teamed with matching skirt and mauve suede boots; and a tiered organza maxi gown in shades of smoky blues. She also wears a Dior black velvet suit; suede knickerbockers and kaftan from Belinda Belville; and three dramatic hats from Simone Mirman.’



Photoplay Film Monthly (May 1971)



Interestingly Taylor’s (arguably) most often discussed physical asset, her bust, is not mentioned in the article. However, one notable advertisement in the issue, situated at the bottom of page 60, tells us: ‘I have added 4’ to my bust […] Petnote gives you the secrets of an attractive and shapely bustline, for a figure that men admire…Our famous London Beautician can help’. Once again a free publication is provided.



Photoplay Film Monthly (May 1971)



Ephemera, such as magazines, can provide clues to vital aspects of history – in this case attitudes to women (those working in film and film fans). These advertisements for weight loss, and weight gain, are some of the most frequent in the fan magazines I looked at. Their placement alongside covetable images of beautiful, successful, wealthy women is not an accident. It is also telling that although sexual freedoms are referred to, as in the special supplement on screen nudity in the March 1968 issue of Photoplay Film Monthly, the women’s liberation movement is not mentioned by any of the magazines I looked at.


Play it as it Lays (1972), a riff on the futile existence of Maria, an ex-actress (played by Tuesday Weld), who drifts around the Los Angeles freeways, is described as ‘a noxious movie’ by Hubbrell Robinson in the December 1972 issue of Films in Review. Co-written by Joan Didion and based on her own novel this is a film which merits a critical analysis from Joan Mellon in Women and their Sexuality in the New Film (notable for being written during the New Hollywood period):


[Didion’s] image of women is so rooted in the very values that demean them. Her portrait of Maria, a helpless and passive recipient of life's blows, is presented as an inevitable, indeed transcendent, image of what woman can hope to be. No writer or director who endorses values which oppress and is herself steeped within them can hope to offer an image of a woman as a recognizable human being. Nor can she imagine or create an existence granted meaning by a woman's own will and creative effort.


It's perhaps no surprise that this film with its dark existential take on women in Hollywood marks something of a full-stop for Hollywood glamour as modulated by the subculture of fan magazines and feels like a natural place to end my round up in which I’ve set out just a fraction of the fascinating material I found during my short time at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum. The rich holding of books and magazines from the 1960s and 1970s, a less documented and studied period of film history, is indicative of the wide range of material devoted to cinema, from its very beginning to the present day, that is held by the museum. The time and space to look at and analyse these magazines, books, posters, press books and scrapbooks from the collection has been invaluable to my research and will feed into papers and publications and new lines of research for years to come.







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